There are so many things to do in Whistler, BC that you’ll need at least two seasons to really experience it all. While Whistler is famous for its epic ski hills on both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, there are also plenty of things to do off the slopes when the weather is balmy and warm. This year-round vacation destination offers endless possibilities for adventure and excitement and visiting it only once is not an option. As many people say who live in Whistler “Man
Best Things to do in Whistler, British Columbia
The moment you arrive in Whistler, you will take a huge breath and feel the laid-back mountain vibe as the fresh mountain air enters your lungs. Everyone in the village is friendly and welcoming and their happiness is contagious. When planning your next mountain escape, Whistler in British Columbia should be at the top of your list, and here are all the reasons why.
Where to Stay in Whistler
When planning a trip to Whistler, we suggest staying in Whistler Village. We loved staying on the slopes of Whistler when snowboarding in the winter and exploring the hiking trails and village during the off-season. We have stayed in many places in Whistler in the villages. When staying in the village we could walk to many of Whistler’s popular attractions and be close to many of the trails.
Hotels in Whistler.
We’ve been to Whistler three times in recent years and we used to live in British Columbia. Whistler has long been our favorite ski and snowboarding resort but it wasn’t until we moved away from BC that we realized just how much it has to offer outside of skiing on the mountain. That’s not to say, skiing isn’t still the number one thing to do in Whistler in winter. It is! Skiing in Whistler is second to none. It’s no wonder it was host to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, plus countless World Cup events. So when planning a “things to do in Whistler” list, we have to start with snowboarding!
1. Ski and Snowboard Whistler Blackcomb Mountains
Whistler Blackcomb is the largest ski resort in North America with 200 runs, 36 lifts including high-speed gondolas and chair lifts, and 16 alpine bowls spread over 8171 acres of terrain. When hitting the slopes in Whistler, there is a lot of terrain to cover. Even if you are not an avid skier, it would be a shame not to get on Whistler Mountain to do some skiing. There are runs for all levels and it has the longest ski season in Canada with a top elevation of 2,284 meters (7,494 ft ).
When planning a ski trip to Whistler, make sure to set aside more than one day of skiing. We recommend at least a three-day pass. Between Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain, there are so many trails, it can be overwhelming to do it all in one day. Even if you are visiting Whistler in the summer, you can still ski the mountains. Horstman Glacier is open year-round.
2. Peak 2 Peak Gondola
Even if you are not a skier, get on this gondola for amazing panoramic views of the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Make sure to take a ride on this state-of-the-art gondola. The ride offers breathtaking views connecting the two iconic mountains spanning 4km. The gondola runs pretty much year-round with only a short hiatus in the fall for a week or two.
In the summers your ticket will take you up to the Cloudraker Skybridge, a breathtaking suspension bridge that spans 130 meters 426 feet out from Whistler Peak crossing the massive Whistler Bowl. There is also the Raven’s Eye Cliff Walk that extends from the West Ridge dangling 12.5 meters (41 feet) over Whistler Bowl.
3. Fresh Tracks
When snowboarding in Whistler, be sure to pay the extra money to be first on the hill! Fresh Tracks gets you first up the gondola where you enjoy a buffet breakfast before the ski hill opens. You then have the chance to ride the slopes before everyone else. It’s a great way to stay ahead of the crowd at least for a few runs in the morning. When doing Fresh Tracks, makes sure to arrive early so you can be in the first gondola. First Tracks is open to the first 650 people and if you are first up you won’t have to stand in line for breakfast.
Find out when the gondola opens for Fresh Tracks at the Whistler Blackcomb ticket office and arrive at least 45 minutes early with a coffee in hand to pass the time.
4. Backcountry Snowmobiling
Whistler has great snow conditions for snowmobiling. You can take a tour into the backcountry to rev your engines in the snow. Snowmobiling in Whistler is a great way to explore the wilderness while having a bit of a thrill ride! This tour wasn’t a lazy tour if you felt confident you could really rip it up in the drifts and zip along the trails. It was a thrill ride for sure.
When doing anything in Whistler, it’s important to go with a guide and snowmobiling is no exception. Conditions can be dangerous in the wilderness and mountain backcountry on your own. If you don’t already have survival skills, hire a guide, the guides in Whistler are skilled and passionate about their jobs. Plus, you’ll have a much better time than having to figure things out on your own.
5. Bobsleigh or Skeleton at Whistler Sliding Centre
Home to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler is still a working bobsled track that allows visitors to go for a spin. Try your hand at bobsledding and reach 125 km per hour or if you are really brave, give the terrifying skeleton a try. The Whistler Sliding Center also offers, the skeleton is a tiny sled that you lay on and zip down the Olympic bobsled tracks at breakneck speeds. It was one of the most thrilling things we’ve ever done. You can feel the G-Force pressure on your head as you ride down the track with a professional guide. Read more about our bobsledding adventure in Whistler
6. Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
We normally spend our time outside when visiting Whistler, but a tour of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is one of the best ways to connect with the culture and people of the area. The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is operated by the First Nation’s People who have lived on this land for centuries. The Squamish and Lil’wat Peoples have opened this cultural center up to welcome visitors to their ancestorial land. Learn about the Squamish history and ways by watching the welcome video showcasing their culture and be sure to catch the welcome song.
The center is here to introduce people to the culture of the First Nations People in this area. The staff are very friendly and open, so make sure to talk with them when you explore the gallery and ask questions about indigenous culture. Take your time to examine the artifacts and art and make sure to go outside to walk the meditative trail.
7. Go On A Bear Safari
Whistler is known for its black bears and during the summer months. We took a 4X4 tour to the Whistler Olympic Park where black bears love to hang out in the wide-open spaces. Even if you don’t see a bear, (which is what happened to us) it’s a very cool tour because you get to go to the top of the Olympic Ski Jumps and get a bird’s eye view of what it feels like to stand a the top of these mammoth slides. Book your bear safari through www.whistlerphotosafaris.com
8. Relax at Scandinave Spa
Most hotels have hot tubs and spas. After a day on the slopes, make sure to take advantage of this. There is nothing more nordic than sitting in an outdoor spa as the snowfall. While we love sitting in the hot tub at our hotel by the slopes, it’s even better to spend an afternoon at Spa Scandinave located just 5 minutes from Whistler Village.
There are shuttles that will take you from your hotel to the spa and you can slip away for a few hours while basking in their saunas and steam rooms. A Scandinave Spa is a unique experience where there are hot and cold pools set outside in the forest. Visitors are given robes to walk around the grounds and immerse in the spa cycle of hot, warm, cold, and rest. See what it’s like to visit Scandinave Spa at our guide to Nordik Spa Nature.
9. Hike the Whistler Train Wreck Trail
The Whistler Train Wreck Trail is an easy hike to the Cheakamus River that takes hikers over a picturesque suspension bridge before reaching the wrecked boxcars from a 1056 Train derailment. Make sure to do this hike at sunrise or as early as you can in the morning as the trail can get very busy.
Since the opening of the Sea to Sky Trail, this has become a top attraction in Whistler where visitors seek out the graffiti that transformed the wrecks into works of art. There are seven boxcars to view all sitting in the middle of the rainforest creating picture-perfect Instagram photos.
10. Whistler Hiking Trails
In the summer, Whistler turns into a hiking mecca with great hiking trails throughout the mountains. The Ski to Ski Trail is part of the Trans Canada Trail and runs from Squamish to Whistler. For summer months it is used for cycling and hike and in the winter it’s used for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. But there are plenty of other hiking trails to explore. Stop at the visitor’s center for trail maps and get outdoors.
Best Whistler Hiking Trails:
- Ascent Hike
- Cheakamus Lake – Easy hike to the Train Wreck Trail
- Ancient Cedars Trail
- Black Tusk (one of the hardest and longest trails in Whistler)
- Blackcomb meadows
- Cougar Mountain – An advanced hike to
- Lost Lake Nature Trail – Easy access from Whistler Village
- Read: 14 Best Hikes in Vancouver to Enjoy the Great Outdoors
11. Cross Country Skiing at Whistler Olympic Park
Nordic Skiing is just as big in whistler as downhill skiing. There is 160 km of trails and Whistler was host to the cross country skiing events at the 2010 Olympics. No matter what your skill, there’s a cross-country ski trail for you. And a very cool fact is that Olympians come to Whistler to train at Whistler Olympic Park because of its long season. Each year, Whistler buries snow in the spring and stores it over the summer so that they can spread it out and start skiing early in the fall as soon as the temperature falls.
Whistler Olympic Park also has snowshoeing trails where you can enjoy a day outdoors. It’s a dog-friendly park and there is a cafe, day lodge, and rentals. You can even take guided tours and lessons. What we love about snowshoeing is that you can do it yourself. There are so many hiking trails around Whistler that you can strap on a pair of snowshoes and head out on the trail to do some exploring. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a lot of fun.
13. Take a Sleigh Ride
Nothing says winter more than taking a sleigh ride with Clydesdale horses. A shuttle bus will pick you up and take you to the Fairmont chalet where hot chocolate or hot apple cider is waiting for you by a campfire.
14. Have Vodka in the Ice Cave
There are some amazing bars and restaurants in Whistler, but one of the most unique experiences for us was to go into the Belvedere Iceroom at the Bearfoot Bistro. Here was donned Canada Goose Parkas and stepped into the coldest tasting room in the world. We continued to taste shots of vodka from around the world served in ice-cold shot glasses sitting on a frozen ice sculpted table. Going to the Ice Cave is one of the most unique things to do in Whistler.
15. Audain Centre Art Museum
If you like art galleries, you’ll love the Audain Art Museum. Located in the heart of Whistler Village, the Audain Centre is a wonderful cultural experience. Set in a wooded backdrop, the entrance is in a serene setting that sets the tone to browse art. There are permanent and rotating exhibits. The most fascinating to us was the First Nations Art exhibits.
16. Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding
If you want to try one of the most quintessential things to do in Whistler, try backcountry skiing. Whistler offers backcountry courses that teach you how to read the conditions, use your emergency beacon, dig someone out of an avalanche and enjoy unforgettable powder skiing.
There is a very real danger of avalanches and getting lost when backcountry skiing so if you don’t have extensive experience make sure to book a tour with a professional. If you want to try backcountry skiing, join a tour that introduces you to everything you need to know.
17. Apres Ski
There are so many more things to do in Whistler in the winter than just skiing and snowboarding. One of the best things about skiing is enjoying Apres Ski. Even if you aren’t a skier, you can still partake in this popular after-ski tradition. Everyone visiting Whistler is friendly and sitting on the patios (even in the dead of winter) is common.
Fires are burning and people are bundled up as they sip hot toddies or local craft beers on the patios. Whistler village is full of restaurants and cafes, so be sure to stroll through the pedestrian paths to find a place that is right for you. Our favourite place for Apres Ski was Bearfoot Bistro for champagne and oysters. Now that’s classy!
18. Explore Whistler Village
There’s always something going on in Whistler Village. So be sure to walk around the experience it in full. You don’t have to do all the adrenaline activities in Whistler to have a good time. There is plenty of shopping in the village and a lot of hiking trails in the summer and snowshoe trails in the winter.
19. Whistler Valley Trail
If you want to go cycling from the village, hop on the Valley Trail. This network of trails is 45 km long and passes through viewpoints and other neighborhoods in Whistler. What’s really cool is that it is open in winter too for fat biking and even cross country skiing.
20. Whistler Free Guided Tours
When skiing Whistler/Blackcomb, don’t stress yourself out about deciding where to go. Instead, join a free guided tour. Every day at 11:30 on both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountain at the top of the high-speed gondolas are free guided tours offering a fantastic introduction to the mountain.
Taking a guided tour of Whistler’s slopes will help you get your bearings and know where to start. Plus the fabulous guides take you to trails that are gems and not as busy as others. Getting this introduction gave us insider tips to make the most of our time in Whistler. We knew how to avoid the crowds and find the runs that suited our ability and whenever we were in doubt, we just went back to the trails our guide took us on because we knew it was going to be a great ride! Read about our Snowboarding adventure in Whistler.
21. Mountain Biking and Whistler Mountain Bike Park
Any ski community has mountain biking in the summer and Whistler is no exception. The Whistler Mountain Bike Park is one of the best mountain biking parks in the world and it is beginner-friendly too! Mountain bikers can access the trail via Whistler Village by taking the Fitzsimmons Chair, the Whistler Gondola, or Creekside to get to the top of the mountain.
There are 70 bike trails spanning 80 km with routes for every level. If you want to play in the park, intermediate and advanced riders will love The Gatorade Skills Park. Be sure to rent all the gear you need and know your limits before setting out. If you haven’t tried downhill mountain biking, you are going to love it! We tried it for the first time in Revelstoke and are hooked.
22. Bungee Jumping and Zip Lining
Adrenaline Junkies will want to try their hands at Bungy Jumping or Ziplining in Whistler. It’s the most extreme activity in Whistler. Open winter and summer, Whistler bungee lets you leap from 50 meters (160 feet) over the Cheakamus River. A very cool tidbit of information is that the Whistler Bungee Jump is touted as one of the most scenic bunjy jumps in the world. Love bungee jumping? Read 8 Great Places to Go Bungee Jumping in New Zealand
23. Whitewater Rafting
There are definitely a bunch of great whitewater rafting places around Whistler. From the Green, Squamish, Lower Cheakamus, and Elaho Rivers, there’s rafting to suit any level of comfort. Water melt runs down from the mountains creating some very fast-moving waters that create perfect conditions for whitewater rafting.
24. Via Ferrata
Dave and I first discovered via ferratas in Europe a decade ago. We love them! If you have ever wanted to rock climb but don’t feel comfortable buying all the gear and learning the important techniques, this is a great alternative. A Via Ferrata is an adventure along ladders and bridges made of metal rungs clinging to the side of a mountain. Whistler’s Via Ferrata takes intrepid travelers up to the summit of Whistler Mountain. There’s rock climbing and ice climbing in Whistler as well.
25. UTV Tour
Take an all-terrain tour of Whistler’s backcountry on a UTV. You’ll bump your way up to Whistler or Blackcomb Mountain and explore old logging roads as you go deep into the Canadian wilderness. I love going out on dune buggies and UTVs, there’s something very exciting about being strapped in while off-roading through mud and water.
26. Explore the Sites of the Sea to Sky Highway
If you have taken a bus to Whistler, be sure to rent a car for a day to explore the views of the Sea to Sky Highway. There are so many amazing viewpoints and hikes along the route that it’s worth exploring. There are many things to see and do on the Sea to Sky highway. Even though it is just a 90-minute drive from Vancouver to Whistler, we suggest taking a day and spending a night in Squamish to really take in all the sights. Read our full post on What to See on the Sea to Sky Highway
Top things to see on the Sea to Sky Highway are:
- Britannia Beach Mine- open year round and a great tour of the mine with an amazing interactive multimedia display
- The Chief – is a massive rockface popular with rock climbers in Squammish. There are also hiking trails to take you to the top for spectacular views
- Shannon Falls
- Brandywine Falls Provincial Park – Amazing hiking trails and a 70 meter (230 feet) high waterfall dropping into a horseshoe canyon.
- Squamish – A fantastic community that is worth spending a night in located just 45 minutes from Whistler.
- Eagle Watching at Sunwolf Riverside Lodge – When visiting Whistler, BC head to the Squamish River in search of Bald Eagles during the months from November to February.
- Helicopter Tour with Sea to Sky Air – This amazing float plane and scenic flight takes you over the Coast mountains and Howe Sound.
27. World Class Golfing
Golfers will love the Nicklaus North Golf Course was designed by famed golfer Jack Nicklaus. It is one of only 5 courses in the world that bear his name! Located just minutes from Whistler Village, Nicklaus North golf course is considered one of the premier places to golf in North America. We never did this, but we’ve talked to people who say it is fantastic. But Jack Nicklaus wasn’t the only famous golfer to design a course in Whistler, Arnold Palmer designed the Whistler Golf Club. And another place to golf in Whistler is the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club. That’s a lot of world class golfing.
We put The Bearfoot Bistro as one of the best things to do in Whistler because it is so much more than just dining. It is an experience. From having vodka in the ice bar to Apres Ski with champagne and oysters, it is an excellent place to spent a few hours in Whistler. There is also a wine cellar where you can see the hanging bobsleigh and to ask about sabring a bottle of Champagne. Make sure to order the 5-course dining experience complete with ice cream made right at your table. Be sure to go into t
30. Fondue at Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Our suggestion for the Fairmont Chateau Whistler is to have a fondu dinner. This winter food menu is warm and delicious. Start with a cheese fondue for your appetizer, then move on to broth to cook fresh meats for your main course and finish it off with a chocolate fondue. It’s a perfect romantic evening to share chocolate while dipping fruit, cakes, and marshmallows.
Where to Eat in Whistler
There are many places to eat in Whistler from small coffee shops and chain restaurants to classic bistros and fine dining establishments. The possibilities are endless, but here are a few of our favorites.
It may not have all the bells and whistles as Bearfoot Bistro but Araxi has regularly been named the best restaurant in Whistler, so it has to be included! For award-winning dining in a quiet atmosphere, we suggest Araxi, voted the best restaurant in Whistler 10 years running. Araxi prides itself on its farm-to-table menu created by award-winning chef James Walt. It has become so popular, they have opened a second establishment in nearby Squamish.
21 Steps is a popular eatery in the heart of all the action. We were last in Whistler on the offseason and made the mistake of not making a reservation here. It was packed and we ended up eating at the bar. The food was excellent and the portions are huge! Note, if you are ordering the ribs, be prepared to bring home a doggy bag. The bartenders were going crazy making signature cocktails. If you love a cocktail, this is the place to go in Whistler for a drink.
Read more things to do in Canada
Getting to Whistler
Airport Buses – Whistler has direct airport buses from the arrivals to your hotel and once you arrive at the village, there are plenty of free shuttles to take you around.
Car Rental – We find that the best way to experience Whistler is to rent a car. It gives us the flexibility to explore the area and get out of the village. There’s free parking at most hikes making it easy to get out to the more off-the-beaten-path spots of Whistler. Check out car rentals here.
How To Dress for Whistler Canada
In Canada, we embrace the cold. If you dress properly, you can have a really comfortable time in Whistler. Dress in layers and be sure to have a good base layer of clothing. You can walk around in your snow pants all day if you want! In the winter, pack your warmest clothes possible, bundle up and get outside. If you pack for it you will love Whistler even in the winter. Wear proper footwear and cozy jackets with hats and mittens and you’ll be good to go! Getting out to see the mountains is a must! Read our tips for layering for winter travel.
Even in the summers, it can be chilly in Whistler, so be sure to pack a good wind and waterproof outer layer with a cozy mid-layer to keep you warm at night and in the early mornings. See our winter layering tips to help you pack for your Whistler adventure.
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