Before the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Whistler was a much quieter place. Since the event, Whistler has become THE place to go for locals, tourists, skiers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Its picturesque setting, eco-friendly and sustainable culture, as well as its walkable, ski town ambiance make it an attractive destination for almost everyone.
My family and I visited in the summer of 2019 and LOVED it. Since there are so many fantastic things to do here, I’m going to cover the highlights of this amazing city and dish out my list of top 5 things to do while in Whistler.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are the reason why Whistler is one of the most popular ski areas in the world. With heights of approximately 7,100 and 8,000 feet respectively, these two majestic landmarks stand side by side overlooking the city. (Because of the height of the mountains, you can ski or snowboard a mile down to the bottom!)
Visitors here will find over 8,100 acres of prime ski and snowboard ground, 16 alpine bowls, and over 200 marked runs. In addition, two of the longest vertical drops in North America are here, as well as one of the most advanced ski lift systems in the world. With over 450 inches of snowfall per year, there is never a shortage of powder.
Of course, the slopes have plenty of places to rest, shop, eat, and drink. A huge plus is that both of the runs at Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains end at right at Whistler Village and Upper Whistler Village. This close proximity to food, drink, and lodging makes Whistler an ideal place to ski.
Even if you don’t ski, you can find something fun to do in Whistler. I have never seen a town with so many outdoor activities! To be honest, I felt kind of lazy just being there to sightsee, as so many others were there to downhill mountain bike, hike, or partake in an organized race. Obviously, the outdoor choices will vary depending on when you visit, but here are the most popular activities here by season:
- Alpine and Cross-Country Skiing
- Bobsleigh (at the Whistler Sliding Centre)
- Ice Skating
- Mountain Biking/Cycling (including downhill biking!)
- ATV/Buggy riding
- Horseback Riding
Year Round Activities:
- Axe-throwing (indoor) – I recommend Forged Axe Throwing!
Take in the View
Even if you don’t ski, snowboard, or mountain bike, as long as you’re not afraid of heights, you should definitely take a trip to the top of Whistler and/or Blackcomb Mountain. The scenic lifts to get to the top are right outside Whistler Village. Whether you visit in winter or summer, you’ll see skiers or mountain bikers zipping down the mountain. (Yes, mountain bikers! I had no idea downhill mountain biking was a thing!)
When up on top, you can dine, shop, and even sit at a bar with a view! Whether it’s winter or summer, there’s always a great view from the peak.
When you are at the top, be sure to take the Peak to Peak Gondola ride. This is an 11 minute, 2.7 mile ride that connects Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains. Your ticket includes the trip to one peak and your return. The Peak to Peak ride actually holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest and highest lift, with an unsupported span of 1.8 miles, 1,427 feet off the ground. If you don’t mind heights, you can even hop onto a gondola car with a panel of glass in the middle of the floor so you can look straight down, over 1,000 feet to the valley floor!
Also atop Whistler Mountain, is the Cloudraker Skybridge, brand new in 2018. The Cloudraker Skybridge is a 425 foot suspension bridge at the very top of the mountain. Get an amazing view of the city from the Skybridge as well as from the Raven’s Eye Cliff Walk, an observation deck at the end of the bridge. Be sure to dress for the cold, windy weather at the mountain’s summit, as well as wearing good sturdy shoes. The suspension bridge was being put up for the summer season when I visited in early June, so be sure to check for opening and closing dates for these attractions. For more information on the Skybridge and Cliff Walk, click here.
In addition to the Peak to Peak Gondola, you can enjoy the views of Whistler by zip lining, taking a floatplane, or enjoying a helicopter tour.
Get Inspired at Olympic Plaza
In preparation for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, Whistler made many improvements and additions to the city. Since Whistler was the host for all alpine skiing events, as well as bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton, one of these additions was the Olympic Plaza. During the games, the Whistler Olympic Plaza was the site for athlete medal ceremonies. Every evening, spectators, athletes, families, and journalists were able to see the athletes receive their medals here. The Olympic cauldron that held the flame during the games, is also located right next to the plaza.
This beautiful plaza has a sheltered stage and a large viewing area covered in grass. Chairs and a playground are located adjacent to the plaza. During my visit last summer, people were all over the plaza, getting sun, reading, kids were playing, and frisbees were tossed. It was a nice, clean area to sit and enjoy the beautiful view.
During the warmer months from May to October, there are free concerts, festivals, as well as sporting and cultural events that happen at Olympic Plaza. During the winter months, the area is made into a skating rink. This is the main gathering place for the people of Whistler.
Dine & Shop at Whistler Village
Like other ski towns, Whistler has a very walkable town center that’s filled with hotels, shops and restaurants. With beautifully landscaped beds, plenty of seating, and live music, the village is popular with locals and tourists alike. There is a wide range of stores to choose from, including famous brands, national chains, local shops, and souvenir stores.
Good food is in abundance here! Whether your tastes are fine dining, casual, or counter service, you’re sure to find something for you. Bars, ice cream shops, coffee shops, as well as grocery stores, pharmacies, and spas are even nearby.
If you’re looking for vibrant nightlife, the village is the place for you! In addition to events at the Olympic Plaza, the bars, restaurants, and even some hotels here schedule nightly activities for active adults.
Keep in mind that Whistler Village is divided into Upper Village, Whistler Village, and Village North. Upper Whistler Village sits at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. Whistler Village is located at the base of Whistler Mountain. Village North is a smaller area just north of the main Whistler Village. The main village and Village North are connected via a walkway over Village Gate Boulevard and comprises the largest dining and shopping area in town. (Click here to see a Whistler Village map.)
Hotels and rental properties can also be found throughout all of the villages. This whole area is a well-planned, beautifully designed center that charms locals and tourists alike! Come for a day or spend a week exploring the fantastic dining and shopping here in Whistler Village.
We found Whistler to be a very clean, environmentally friendly, and entertaining place to visit. With so many things to do in such a beautiful area, families could easily spend an active week outdoors in the summer and in the winter. I highly recommend a visit to amazing Whistler!
What are your favorite things to do here? Let me know in the comments.
Related Vancouver/Whistler posts:
- Visiting Stanley Park
- Visiting Canada Place
- Exploring Whistler’s Train Wreck Hike
- Reviewing Vancouver’s Museum of Anthropology
- Your Guide to Granville Island – Vancouver, BC