The 10 Coolest Things to do in Whistler in Summer with Kids
Whistler in Canada is one of the outdoor adventure capitals of the world. It is best known for being a winter sports destination after hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, but there are also lots of great things to do in Whistler in summer. With it’s convenient location close to Vancouver, it’s a definite must-do on your west coast Canada holidays.
We took a road trip from Vancouver to Calgary and stopped in Whistler for a weekend. In terms of the ideal place for an outdoor adventure with kids, it’s up there with the incredible Banff National Park. So if you were thinking that Whistler is just a premier winter sports destination, think again.
Things to do in Whistler in Summer
As we said, Whistler is an outdoor adventure playground and even though the weather was so-so during our visit, we still got on with all of our outdoor activities. These are things that we enjoyed with two boys aged 5 and 6 (with a couple of ideas for older kids that we didn’t try).
1. Take a Gondola Ride up the Mountain
An absolute must when you visit Whistler is to take a gondola ride to the top of Whistler or Blackcomb Mountains or both! With the introduction of the Peak2Peak Gondola in 2007, you can actually visit both peaks now in one day.
Whistler Village gondola
The Whistler gondola will take you from Whistler Village to the Roundhouse restaurant on Whistler Mountain. You are not quite at Whistler Peak yet. To access the peak you will need to take a bit of a hike (10-20 minutes) from the Roundhouse to the Peak Express Chair Lift.
One thing to note about the Peak Express Chair Lift is that children must be over 1 metre to ride it and must be accompanied by an adult.
Whistler Blackcomb gondola
The Blackcomb gondola station is located in the Upper Village and is usually less busy than the main Whistler Village gondola.
Whistler Peak to Peak gondola
Whistler Peak 2 Peak Gondola will take you from Whistler Peak to Blackcomb Peak (or vice versa). If you have time, wait for the glass bottomed gondolas. There are only two in service and there’s a separate queue for these. At busy times, there is quite a long wait.
Whistler lift tickets
Adult $69 ($75 on the day)
Teen/Senior $61 ($66 on the day)
Child $35 ($38 on the day)
Children under the age of 6 are free if you book in advance or $15 on the day.
Two-day passes work out cheaper and an annual pass is even better value if you are there for more than a few days.
The Whistler lift pass gives you access to Whistler Mountain, Blackcomb Mountain, the Cloudraker Skybridge and the Peak2Peak Gondola.
Tips for taking the gondola
- go early to avoid the crowds
- queue up to get your ticket FIRST and then queue to get on the gondola. You don’t want to make the mistake of queueing for the gondola without a ticket as you’ll have to queue all over again
- It’s a little cooler on the top even in the height of summer so take an extra layer
- note the minimum height for the chairlift to the Cloudraker Skybridge is 1.1m
- take the Whistler gondola up and the Blackcomb gondola down so you can visit the Family Adventure Zone in Blackcomb (see below)
2. Walk the Cloudraker Skybridge
As if the views from Whistler Peak weren’t spectacular enough, they go and build the Cloudraker Skybridge and the Raven’s Eye and the views take on a whole new dimension.
The 130 m suspension bridge and viewing platform were built in 2018. To get up to there you need to take the Peak Express Chair Lift (included in your Whistler lift pass). The views on the way up are stunning but as it is a chairlift, it can feel quite exposed.
In peak summer there is still snow around and the temperature is a lot lower than in Whistler Village so remember to bring an extra layer with you.
If you are in any way disturbed by heights, you may want to sit this one out. Both the chair lift ride and the walk across the bridge made me feel a little uneasy and there’s a definite sway to the bridge!
3. Biking in Whistler
Whistler is a Mecca for biking enthusiasts who come for some extreme mountain biking terrain and the Whistler Bike Park. The kids were absolutely fascinated watching these daredevil bikers but there was no way we were going to try this. Not content with watching them hurtle down the hill at breakneck speed all day, we decided to look at a more suitable solution for our little biker kids.
Thankfully, Whistler has a huge network of (mostly paved) cycle tracks that are extremly family-friendly. We stuck to the White (Paved & Easy) and Green (Beginner) routes and were out for most of the day. We recommend working out a route on the Whistler Valley Trail. The Valley Trail is a 40 km long trail of paved track. We did a loop around Alpha Lake, Nita Lake and Alta Lake and added on Lost Lake but this did make it much longer.
Bike rental in Whistler
There are lots of bike rental companies but as we were staying in Whistler Creekside, we hired our bikes from Can-Ski. One of the advantages of staying in Whistler Creekside is that it is a lot less busy than Whistler Village. We arrived at the shop at 9 am and were the only customers there. The rental process still took a while because we were a group of 8 but they were very efficient.
We stayed at Legends Whistler Creekside and they gave us a discount voucher for the rental shop.
Whistler bike trails
The Whistler bike trails are colour coded by difficulty. Our hotel (see details below) gave great advice on which routes would be more suitable for us. Take a look at the Whistler Mountain Bike Park Trail Map.
White – easy, paved
Green – easy
Blue – intermediate
Black – advanced
Red – extemely difficult
You should receive a map with your rental bike. If not, ask for one. The routes are not always clear and you don’t want to take a wrong turn and end up miles away from your starting point.
Tips for biking with kids in Whistler
- Take lightweight waterproof jackets (ideally ones that pack down into a small bag) as the weather can change.
- Take a little travel first aid kit with you in case of a fall. The paved and smooth tracks are great for kids but can get slippery when it rains.
- Make sure to ask for a bike with brakes for the kids as there are some slightly steep sections on some of the routes. The smallest bike in the rental shop didn’t have brakes so we put him on a slightly larger one and thankfully he was ok on it.
- Take plenty of snacks and water with you as there are no shops on many of the routes
- There are several rail crossings on the Green Lake bike trail so you will need to stay close to the kids to make sure they don’t try to cross on their own.
- Whistler is in bear country and there may be bear activity on your route. Ask at the rental shop before you head off and be bear aware. This is another reason to keep the kids close to you.
4. Hiking in Whistler
Whistler is one of the best areas in Canada for hiking because the lift network makes so many routes more accessible. And it’s incredibly scenic! As with the bike trails, there are different levels. For families, the Lost Lake trail is probably the easiest as it is accessed straight out of Whistler Village.
It’s an easy 1.5 hour, 5 km loop around Lost Lake. If you don’t feel like going that far, head to the lake and back again. There’s a lovely sandy beach at the lake where the kids can swim. When we were there in August, there was a section of the path where we had to take care because of thousands of baby Western Toadlets crossing.
There were lots of volunteers out there trying to help the baby toads to the other side, some of them children. You could roll your sleeves up, grab a cup and some gloves and help to move the toadlets too. We decided against this because as fascinated as the kids were with the sight and as much as they wanted to help, we thought they might be a bit heavy handed.
6. Spend a day at the Whistler lakes
If you’re not into watersports, you can still go and enjoy a day by the lake on a lovely summer’s day. Some of the lakes mentioned above have sandy beaches, bbq facilities, picnic tables and kids’ play areas. We had a lovely picnic and a swim at Alpha Lake. It’s a lovely thing to do in Whistler in summer.
A little further afield but worth the drive is the stunningingly beautiful turquoise Garibaldi Lake in between Squamish and Whistler.
7. Family Adventure Zone in Blackcomb
The Family Adventure Zone is located in the Upper Village next to the Blackcomb gondola. There are loads of rides and attractions to keep the kids entertained, but at a price.
It is $12 per ride, 5 rides for $50, 10 rides for $90 or 20 rides for $150. There are bouncy castles, electric karts, the Westcoaster Slide (a mini version of the summer bobsleigh – see below), mini golf, zorbing on water and more.
Note that the Family Adventure Zone will not open in summer 2020.
8. Whistler Summer Bobsleigh
Whistler Summer Bobsleigh – from the end of June to the beginning of September, adrenaline junkies can give the bobsleigh a go. After a tour of the Winter Olympic Park, hop into the bobsleigh and let a trained pilot guide you down the bobsleigh track.
We did not do this because the minimum age is 12. Children between 12-18 are free with an accompanying adult and the adult ticket price is $99.
Make sure to check out the Westcoaster Slide in the Family Adventure Zone for a similar experience for younger kids.
9. Whistler Zipline Tours
Whistler Zipline Tours – there are lots of companies to choose from and they vary in price and duration. The minimum age also varies by tour, but is around 6 or 7 years old for most of them (although the Sasquatch Tour is a minimum of 10 years). Younger children can accompany you on the tour for free but cannot participate.
10. Whistler Farmer’s Market
From the end of June to mid October, visit the Whistler Farmer’s Market for some wonderfully fresh, locally grown produce. Held in the Upper Village next to the Adventure Zone on Sundays from 11 am to 4 pm. It’s also open on Wednesdays from 2 pm to 7 pm from July 1st to August 26th.
As well as the fresh produce, there is entertainment for the family.
Where is Whistler?
Whistler is located in western Canada in British Columbia. It’s about 120 km from Vancouver to Whistler and with a decent highway most of the way, it should take you about 90 minutes to drive.
How to get from Vancouver to Whistler
The easiest way to get to Whistler from Vancouver is by car. We hired a car from Avis through Canadian Affair because we we needed a one way rental and this was one of the only companies we found that offered this without an excessive charge.
We picked the car up in Vancouver and dropped it in Calgary after an epic 1500 km road trip taking in Whistler, the waterfalls, glaciers, mountains and lakes (see our post on Lake Louise) of Banff and Jasper National Parks and culminating with a visit to Drumheller, the dinosaur capital of the world.
From downtown Vancouver, you drive through Stanley Park, over the Lion’s Gate Bridge and up past Horseshoe Bay on the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99). Make sure to stay to the right as you’re going past the Horseshoe Bay turn off as you don’t want to head down to the ferry terminal.
The road is great but you do need to watch out for falling rocks from the cliffs on your right. We had an incident just past Horseshoe Bay when a rock hit us and we got a flat tyre. We changed the tyre and headed to Avis in Whistler who changed the car over for us.
There are a number of Vancouver to Whistler bus services. Some only operate during the winter months but these are the ones that operate during the summer.
Epicrides – 4 departures from Vancouver (Burrard Station) daily (5 during the summer months). The journey takes 1 hour 50 minutes and $24 one-way or $35 return.
YVR Skylynx is the official partner of Vancouver Airport and transports you from the airport via Vancouver to Whistler. If you’re already in Vancouver, you can pick the same bus up outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel near Burrard station. There are 4 departures daily (3 from the airport) and there is a stop in Squamish.
The journey takes 3 hours from the airport or 2.5 hours from Vancouver. The cost is $61.95 from the airport (one way) with children 6-12 being half price. A return from the airport costs $103.95. It is considerably cheaper to take the bus from Vancouver at $21 one way for an adult or $31.50 for a return. Children 6-12 are half price.
However you choose to do it, a round trip ticket offers more value for money.
There is no train from Vancouver and Whistler as such, although the Rocky Mountaineer runs the Rainforest to Gold Rush route from April to October. There is an overnight stop in Whistler on the 3-day tour and the cost of the hotel is included in the ticket price. The ticket price (inclusive of food and hotels) starts from around £1450 per person.
Flying from Vancouver to Whistler by float plane (seaplane) would be the most spectacular way to travel. The terminal in Whistler is on Green Lake, about 3km from Whistler village but there is a shuttle transfer included in the ticket price. Prices start at around $120 one way.
Legends Whistler Creekside
Our Whistler hotel recommendation is the Legends Whistler Creekside. We could not fault anything about the hotel. Check-in was easy. We had secure underground parking (for an additional cost). We had an enormous apartment with 3 bedrooms and balconies that overlooked the slopes so we could watch the mountain bikers coming down.
There was a washer and a dryer and a well equipped kitchen. Facilities-wise there was a games room, outdoor pool, hot tub and fitness centre and the front desk and concierge were friendly and helpful. We did go out to eat lunch and dinner, but having the self-catering facilities was a huge plus because we could have a big breakfast and make picnics for our days out.
If you are going to stay in self-catering apartment in Whistler, we would recommend stocking up on your groceries before you reach Whistler. The supermarkets are very well stocked but they are a lot more expensive than elsewhere.
The only negative for some may be that it is located in Whistler Creekside, 5 km from the main Whistler Village. For us it was not a problem. We actually chose Creekside because it has all the conveniences you need like supermarkets, bike and ski rental and it’s great for families because it’s much quieter than the bustling Whistler Village (which is a bit of a party town).
If you want to stay in Whistler Village, here are a few options.
Four Seasons Resort Whistler (£££)
The Four Seasons is possibly the most exclusive hotel in Whistler. It’s a beautiful lodge-style hotel in the Upper Village
Fairmont Chateau Whistler (££)
The ultimate of the Whistler hotels has to be the Fairmont Whistler. The is an imposing building at the base of Blackcomb mountain.
The Westin Resort & Spa Whistler (££)
The Westin Resort & Spa Whistler – all-suite hotel and almost as close as you can get to the Whistler Village Gondola. With outdoor pool and hot tub.
Whistler Village Inn & Suites (£)
The Whistler Village Inn & Suites is located just next to the Blackcomb Excalibur gondola. With outdoor pool, hot tub and sauna facilities.
If none of the above grab you, check out Booking.com for a huge range of options.
There are just so many great restaurants in Whistler and you will be spoiled for choice. The thing to bear in mind though is that Whistler is predominantly a tourist town and prices are inflated. You will get great food, but we found it pricey which is why we opted for a self-catering condo. We did eat out a few times though.
Obviously food is such a personal preference but we have a couple of great recommendations. We had outstanding food, great service and there was something for everyone, including fussy 5 year olds.
Sushi Village Whistler – my favourite Japanese food ever. Nowhere has ever come close. Unsurprisingly it is very popular so book ahead, or turn up and ask to be put on the wait list and kill some time wandering around the village, but this is not usually a great option when you have hungry kids along for the ride.
Creekbread – an amazing pizzeria in Whistler Creekside. But not just any pizzeria. They use organic, local ingredients. Even their pepperoni is nitrate free. The pizzas were delicious and a huge hit with the kids. It was just a few minutes walk from the Legends hotel.
As we mentioned before, Whistler is in bear country. There are many black bears in and around Whistler. Whilst we never saw one on any of our bike rides or walks, we were always cautious. Here are some brief guidelines on being bear aware, but if you want to read up more on this matter, click here.
Try to avoid a bear encounter
- stay in groups
- make noise to deter the bear
If you encounter a bear
- remain calm and back away slowly
- do not try to approach it for a photo
- do not try to feed it
- carry bear spray