Welcome to your guide to the Best Things to do in Whistler! Nestled amongst British Columbia’s impressive southern Pacific coast mountains is the legendary resort community of Whistler. With a population of only 12,000, Whistler was determined long ago to put itself on the map, and that’s exactly what it did. The number of things to do in Whistler defies imagination, so whatever your getaway goals are, we can assure you this something-to-please-everyone resort has you covered.
Best Things To Do in Whistler, BC
Although Steve and I are not skiers, Whistler is famous for the sport, with its world-class village and incomparable alpine terrain. Therefore, if you’re a snow bunny, you probably don’t need us to tell you that state-of-the-art trails are at your fingertips in this picturesque holiday destination. With 32 lifts and an hourly lift capacity of just under 70,000, you can’t go wrong in this location.
Maybe you’re not a skier, however, and instead are looking for paddleboarding or fishing excursions. Your goal may also be quite simple, such as the rejuvenation of body and mind in a top-notch spa. Whether you’re a mountain biker in search of reality-defying landscapes, a treetop adventure fan seeking the next thrill, or a nature lover on a hunt for an unforgettable waterfall photo op, you can find it in Whistler.
We can assure you there’s something to do any time of the year here, and even the area’s arts and culture atmosphere thrives year-round. However, because of the expansiveness of the region, being armed with the best information is imperative. For example, if you’re planning to visit during peak season, put your spontaneous flair in check for a moment and book ahead. Otherwise, you may find yourself politely turned away and making the long trek back to your original destination.
On the other hand, if you’re like us, the shoulder seasons may be a perfect match. These are late September to late November, and mid-April to mid-June, as opposed to the heart of summer or ski season. Interestingly, there are just as many things to do in Whistler during these off-season weeks and months as there are during peak times, so check out all your options below. Just beware! When you see how much there is at your fingertips, you may find yourself scheduling a return visit before your first trip is over.
Best Time to Visit Whistler
Because there are things to do in Whistler year-round, choosing a time of year to visit really boils down to your preferred activities. December to March and June to August are considered the best times to visit. If you don’t like crowds or you’re partial to off-season travel like we are, though, don’t make the mistake of overlooking spring and fall. As previously mentioned, we’re not skiers, so we actually preferred autumn for our trip to Whistler.
As in many parts of the world, fall in Whistler ushers in some cooler weather, with highs around 18 degrees Celsius. Therefore, if your goal is hiking, fishing, biking, viewing fall foliage, paddleboarding, treetop adventures or general sightseeing, you will love this time of year. Whistler events are also plentiful during fall, and you can just catch the end of the May to September concert series as well.
Another option for off-season travellers is April-May. By April, the frigid temperatures have typically passed, and you can expect temperatures of -1 to about 15.5 degrees Celsius on most days. If you’re a skier but prefer a shoulder season, April is the perfect month for you. This time of year is also extremely popular for viewing waterfalls, camping, hiking, biking, and picnicking. Accommodations are in a bit less demand in April and May, so the cost of your hotel will be easier on your pocketbook during these months as well! For some things to do in Whistler during spring, consider the outdoor concert series, which begins in May, or the World Ski & Snowboard Festival, which is held each year in April.
Whistler Skiing (Courtesy of Tourism Whistler / Mike Crane)
If you’re a snowboarder or skier, you obviously want to visit Whistler during winter. Not surprisingly, you’ll find an abundance of powder at this time of year, and some of the best conditions on earth for winter sports. Average temperatures range between -12 to 7 degrees Celsius, so dress accordingly! If you’re travelling with non-skiing friends, they can still have a great time during the winter season. Other winter activities include snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or tubing, which your companions can indulge in while you hit the slopes. Popular events this time of year include the Fire & Ice Show, and the Telus Winter Classic.
Things to do in Whistler are plentiful in the summer too. June through August is prime time for essentially all outdoor activities, such as zip lining, paddleboarding, fishing, or strolling through the Village. We recommend visiting Lost Lake Park in June or July to enjoy some water sports or to bask in the sun on the beach. Temperatures range from 4 to about 29 degrees Celsius, making it a pleasant time to visit, regardless of what you choose to do.
The Whistler Half Marathon is held in June, and July is the annual Whistler Children’s Festival. If you’re a biker, consider visiting Whistler in August, for the Crankworx Mountain Bike Festival.
Where to Stay in Whistler
We realize your burning question now is, “where do we stay in Whistler?” Well, this is the least of your worries, provided you’re realistic when making reservations and keep seasons in mind when booking a room. There are many accommodation choices in Whistler, and it’s nice to have that kind of variety when planning a trip. We ultimately chose to stay at Crystal Lodge and we loved our experience.
We stumbled upon these amazing yurts at Riverside Whistler that would definitely be a unique place to stay while exploring the best things to do in Whistler.
The Best Whistler Restaurants
If you’re like us, you’ll want to savour every moment of your break in this fairytale mountain atmosphere, and a great way to do that is to enjoy an unforgettable meal created by an award-winning chef. Generally speaking, culinary adventures abound at Whistler, and food lovers won’t be disappointed with the range of choices. You can dine in remote locations by candlelight, indulge in a party atmosphere at one of the area’s clubs, or choose anything in between on the spectrum.
We checked out many Whistler restaurants, and although it was difficult choosing a favourite, we stumbled onto something heavenly when wandering around Nita Lake. The Cure Loung and Patio had an impossibly beautiful view of the lake and mountains, and we unapologetically indulged in the best burgers we’d ever tasted. Making this dining experience extra special was Brandy having her own little dog bed in the restaurant’s “dog bar.” Talk about a photo opportunity! The combination of the landscape, the food, and the hospitality extended to us and Brandy, led to an instant decision to return to Nita Lake Lodge in the future.
Things to do in Whistler
Now for our favourite part: things to do in Whistler. Fortunately, there are activities and attractions to suit any lifestyle or budget, and we have outlined the most popular and what you can expect from each experience.
Whistler’s Awesome Art Culture
Whistler Art Gallery (Courtesy of Tourism Whistler / Mike Crane)
The creative spirit roams free in Whistler, and if you’re an art fan, we guarantee you’ll be pleased with the various choices. One of the newest additions to Whistler’s art and culture scene is the Audain Art Museum. Situated in the Village, this emblematic structure houses permanent artwork collections from British Columbia, and hosts exhibitions from some of the world’s leading museums. You’ll enjoy exploring this museum as much as we did, and probably want to return again.
We can also recommend the Cultural Journey Sea to Sky. Launched in 2010, it’s an interpretive, self-guided tour celebrating the indigenous peoples whose roots are forever joined to Whistler. We were impressed with the historical detail this tour offers and are not surprised at its popularity.
Whistler Museum (Courtesy of Tourism Whistler / Mike Crane)
Located in the resort’s centre, the Whistler Museum is another establishment dedicated to the unique mountain culture of Whistler. It’s a busy, interactive museum offering various exhibits throughout the year and there’s always something new.
We’d be missing a big piece if we didn’t mention The Plaza Galleries. These galleries celebrate Whistler’s culture through the lens of contemporary fine art. Renowned for an unorthodox approach to art, it bridges modern, innovative media art to traditional mountain culture. There is also a virtually limitless number of musical performances, poetry readings, writing workshops, sculpture classes, art showings, and self-guided cultural excursions available in the area to guarantee an unforgettable art-themed holiday if that’s what you have in mind.
Chasing Whistler Waterfalls
You’d probably agree with us that the majesty of waterfalls can’t be explained, but must be experienced. We recommend that you never take a trip to Whistler without indulging in a few treks to some of its awe-inspiring waterfalls. Because Whistler is home to several of the world’s most beautiful and mesmerising falls, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include them here.
Before making any recommendations, though, let’s put first things first: any time you visit Whistler, you’ll find its falls amazing, but if falls are the primary attraction on your to-do list, consider visiting during springtime to see them in their fullest splendour. Not surprisingly, they are at their best during spring due to melting snow.
The latter creates strong torrents that enhance the stunning rush and roar of the water as it cascades over rock and tree. Of course, spring is the rainy season in Whistler, so always factor that in when making a decision. On the flip side, because of the rain, it’s less crowded at this time!
Many of the best falls are half an hour or less from Whistler Village, and our favourites include Brandywine Falls, Nairn Falls, and Alexander Falls. Rainbow Falls and Shannon Falls are solid choices as well. If you want to venture right to Squamish, we loved Mamquam Falls.
Pick one, or make a whale of an excursion and visit multiple destinations on your lively and colourful fall chase. Don’t forget, Whistler offers a hike for every ambition as well, so consider combining the two if this option appeals to you. Nairn is a great choice, since it requires a small hike to reach the falls.
Whistler Ziplinging Fun For All
Superfly Ziplines Whistler (Courtesy of Tourism Whistler / Justa Jeskova)
We hear that next question loud and clear; what about zip lines? That’s probably because you are imagining seeing all the picturesque scenery of those waterfalls from a bird’s eye view. Well, that’s only natural. Anyone spending time in this glorious part of the continent wants to experience everything from all possible perspectives.
Not many activities combine adrenaline sports with the enjoyment of viewing panoramic scenery, but ziplining does just that. If you love high wire adventures, take our word for it, flying through the forest as if you have wings is a “must” for your itinerary. Whether you’re gliding above ancient trees or tumbling streams, or learning about Whistler’s wildlife and ecology on a guided tour, you’ll feel as free as your avian friends. Are you a novice? If so, you’ll be pleased when we tell you experience isn’t required for such outings. Expert supervision and high-quality safety measures are included with virtually all zipline excursions.
Keep in mind, however, that this activity is usually by appointment only, so showing up impromptu may lead to disappointment–or even tears if you have youngsters. For everyone’s safety, the number of people utilising the lines at one time must be properly controlled. We recommend you compare all zip line tours to see which one is most appealing, but some failsafe choices include the Ziptrek Eagle tour and The Sasquatch.
Ziptrek Eagle features five different amazing zip lines, one of which boasts an incredible 30-storey descent. Another stellar choice–and one of the area’s most popular–is The Sasquatch. This establishment is proud to lay claim to the longest single zipline in Canada and the US. It reaches an impressive length of almost two kilometres, and a glide on this bad boy will never be forgotten.
Relax and Recharge at Scandinave Spa
Scandanive Spa Whistler (Courtesy of Tourism Whistler / Justa Jeskova)
We’ve always found that feeling pampered and catered for is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the holiday experience. Therefore, if you like spa services, you’ll be happy to discover that the Scandinave Spa offers more than you may at first realise. There’s a reason this state-of-the-art establishment is considered iconic amongst Whistler Village fans. Perhaps this is because it makes it easy for you to sandwich in a calm, relaxing day whenever you like, even if the bulk of your getaway centres around high-adrenaline activities.
In this earth-focused facility, you can clearly hear the sounds of nature, yet still enjoy all the modern conveniences, as well as one-on-one attention from a top-notch staff. No two spas are alike, but some are head and shoulders above the rest and Scandinave, in our humble opinion, is one of them. The spa is burrowed against the Lost Lake Park spruce and cedar forest, and offers classic Scandinavian baths and hydrotherapy, but the services don’t stop there. With everything from eucalyptus steam baths to wood-burning saunas and Nordic showers, you’ll feel like royalty once you place yourself in the staff’s all too capable hands.
Enjoy a yoga class, have some coffee and a croissant in the spa’s Bistro, or simply relax in a hammock and listen to the sounds of nature. Scandinave is also a technology-free establishment, and that’s a good thing! You can focus on yourself instead of worrying about who’s looking for you! Regardless of the services in which you choose to indulge, you’ll have an unforgettable time.
Whistler Mountain Biking
Whistler Mountain Biking (Courtesy of Tourism Whistler / Mike Crane)
If you’re an avid biker, make those spokes sing at Whistler. We can assure you that a highly diversified number of options exist for anyone who enjoys peddling. Personally, we were impressed with the sheer number of trails Whistler offers. From the outstanding variety of the trails to the quality of the dirt, it’s easy to understand Whistler’s reputation as the single best bike park in the world.
Although many professional bikers call this park their second home, it’s not a pros-only mountain. Trails are available for all skill levels. Are you a cross-country biker? Whistler has everything: trails that feature numerous technical ascents and descents through alpine meadows and rain forests, and easy green trails that are almost like a Sunday stroll on wheels. Do you like to bike casually, for a sightseeing experience and relaxation? You will be pleased to discover plenty of trails that are suitable for beginners.
There are four main areas of Whistler Mountain Bike Park: Creekside, Garbanzo, Fitzsimmons, and Peak. Each individual trail has its own unique features, meaning that you really need to explore a bit to find the one that’s right for you. Fortunately, innovative signage allows you to do just that without worrying about making any major errors.
Signs depict difficulty ratings using the standard green circle to double block diamond spectrum, and each trail is also designated “tech,” or “free ride.” The latter means there’s a smooth, flowing surface with some machine-built features and jumps, while the former indicates that the trail has roots, rocks, and is more raw and natural.
Bottom line? For the best cycling, regardless of your style preference and skill level, Whistler Mountain Bike Park is the place to be. If you’re visiting the park for the first time, though, we recommend bringing or renting the proper equipment, and taking a lesson or two from one of the park’s friendly instructors before hitting the trails.
Whistler Fishing (Courtesy of Tourism Whistler / Mike Crane)
We couldn’t talk about things to do in Whistler without mentioning that the fish are always biting. Whistler is a terrific destination for anyone interested in fishing, so if this activity is on your agenda, here is some helpful information.
The first thing you will appreciate knowing is that fishing is a year-round sport in Whistler. For this reason, don’t feel you have to tailor your holiday toward a specific time of year. Rather, base your decision on your personal preferences and budget. Naturally, if you have your heart set on catching a certain type of fish, you should take this into consideration as well.
Although you have a significant number of locations from which to choose, we definitely recommend hiring a guide to get the most out of your experience. Schedule a charter trip to the location of your choice, and spend the day–or just a few hours–trying your hand to see what’s biting and what’s not.
Follow your guide to hidden fishing holes, alpine lakes, or coastal river destinations to try for a haul of rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, char, salmon or bull trout. Don’t forget ice fishing if you want to try something new or have already participated in and enjoyed this type of fishing. Ice fishing season in Whistler is typically December to March, so get your ice cleats and waterproof boots, and follow your guide to the best place to start drilling that hole. Options abound, and one thing for sure, whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginning angler, Whistler has fishing experience for you.
Whistler Paddle Boarding
Whistler Paddle Boarding (Courtesy of Tourism Whistler / Mark Mackay)
For our paddleboard fans, the first recommendation we must make is the River of Golden Dreams. This is often called a “Whistler staple” in travel guides and it’s easy to see why. It’s a five-kilometre river flanked by banks of forests and fields of tall brush and wildflowers. You start at Rainbow Park and paddle directly to the top of Alta lake, where you’ll see the beginning of the river coming at you through some clumps of tall brush. We recommend allowing a minimum of two hours for the whole trip. Your exit is Green Lake, though, so you’ll either have to have someone pick you up on the other end, or walk back to Rainbow Lake along the valley trail.
Alta Lake itself is also an outstanding Whistler paddle boarding option. It measures approximately two kilometres and offers a wealth of things to explore for both beginners and long-term participants of the sport. There are plenty of grassy areas for inflating your board, and several places to launch your SUP.
For a warm water paddle boarding excursion, Lost Lake at Whistlers is our top recommendation. Of all Whistler’s lakes, this one is the quickest to warm up each season, as it does not typically get heavy winds like many of Whistler’s larger lakes. For this reason, it’s a favourite amongst swimmers, and in our opinion, one of the locals’ best-kept secrets.
Green Lake is a stunner of a paddle board destination as well, and one of Whistler’s most picturesque options. Here, you’ll see the panorama of Weart Mountain and its famous hanging glacier, and the highest peak of the Garibaldi National Park. As its name implies, the colour of Green Lake is a unique turquoise that comes from glacier silt. We do have to warn you, however, that because of its affinity to the surrounding glaciers, Green Lake is one of Whistler’s coldest lakes.
We can’t in good conscience let you overlook Nita Lake, which is another great option in this category. (Yes, it’s the same one at which we discovered our favourite restaurant.) In fact, you can walk behind Nita Lake Lodge with your paddle board via the Alpha Lake car park, using the valley trail. Fortunately, the boat launch is directly adjacent to the Nita Lake patio. We recommend this location if you’re looking for peace and quiet, since the valley trail mutes traffic noise from the main highway, and there are no parks or floating docks around Nita Lake.
Vallea Lumina (Courtesy of Moment Factory / Vallea Lumina)
An extension of Whistler’s magnificent art culture is the Vallea Lumina. This multimedia night walk is nothing short of bewitching, and deserves a place on your must-see list. This enchanting walk begins at “base camp,” from where you are guided onto the scenic trail. From there, delightful and mesmerising experiences surround you at every turn.
Encrypted messages are provided and your ultimate goal is to see the elusive stardust that was first spoken of by two long-ago hikers, whose presence still linger on the trail. Your final destination is a secret place of beauty and enchantment; the hidden valley where the stardust is said to fall from the sky.
First, you are “sworn in” as a deputy at base camp and continue on to the outpost to hear a hiker sing clues to send you to the next stopping point. After leaving the outpost, you’ll travel to a lookout, called the “Field Lab,” which is not as deserted as it may at first seem. We recommend keeping your eyes peeled for those two elusive hikers along the way.
After hearing encrypted transmissions from the lookout tower, you will continue along the path and encounter the glowing trees that serve as guardians of the forest, ensuring the safety of each wonder to come.
A campfire with clues in its flames then leads you to the journey’s last segment, where the hikers’ final message can be found. The Secret Trailhead is just around the corner then, and you’ll see larger-than-life constellations that practically touch the trees. At Star Landing, a spectacular explosion of light will momentarily take you from reality, as you experience the secrets of the Hidden Valley.
The forest is alive with unforgettable wonders, making you realize that the hikers were not exaggerating. If you take this incomparable journey, we guarantee it will live on in your mind forever. One last recommendation, though: it’s much better to buy your tickets in advance, even though on-site purchases are available. This experience is too fantastic to be shut out of simply for failing to plan ahead!
Whistler Treetop Adventures Abound
Whistler Treetop Adventure Course (Courtesy of The Adventure Group)
We think a genuine treetop adventure is one of the most fun things to do in Whistler. Just a short drive from the centre of the Village are the archaic cedar, hemlock, and fir trees of one of British Columbia’s most spectacular regions. These forests and unspoiled landscapes are exhilarating and rejuvenating just to see, let alone journey through. Guided interpretive tours among the treetops take you through breathtaking networks of trails, boardwalks, suspension bridges, and suspended stairways.
The old-growth forest combined with the stunning panorama of the river valley below makes this kind of excursion a truly unique adventure. We like the Treetop Adventure Course, which has an impressive 70 elements to spark a new sense of awe-inspiring activity. This is a great pick if you are looking for an adventure that moves superfast from one element to the next.
We’re also confident you’ll enjoy excursions by Ziptrek Ecotours, such as the Canopy Walk, which boasts aerial adventures and scenery you’ll never forget. They also offer a tour for beginners, called the Bear Tour. If you’ve never done a treetop adventure, we’d recommend starting with this one. For something different, try their Eagle Tour, which begins with a Gondola ride out of the village.
Whichever tour you choose, however, keep in mind that most treetop adventures have a two-guest minimum and should be booked in advance. Most also require that you wear closed-toed shoes!
Whistler Village Stroll
Whistler Village Stroll (Courtesy of Tourism Whistler / Justa Jeskova)
Take it from us, don’t leave this outstanding mountain community without at least one stroll through Whistler Village. This marvellous pedestrian promenade is one of Whistler’s best-loved features. Running through the heart of the village, this iconic landmark meanders from the Marketplace, which is found at the northern end, to the Whistler Mountain base, which is nestled at the southern end.
Affectionately referred to as the “Village Stroll,” a walk on the promenade is a celebrated activity all year long. During the summer months, flower gardens and hanging baskets decorate the route beautifully, and it becomes a winter wonderland during the ski season, with holiday decorations and Christmas lights as far as the eye can see.
We loved exploring Mountain Square, which is one of several town squares situated along the pathway. It features restaurants, and a broad range of boutiques and stores, making it the busiest and most exciting section along the Village Stroll. We recommend allowing several hours to get the most out of this fun and interesting activity.
How to get to Whistler
There are various ways to reach Whistler, but there is no airport that takes you directly to the Village. The route from the Vancouver airport is approximately 2 ½ hours. From Seattle, it’s about 4 ½ hours. Naturally, the route you choose may depend on precisely where you’re headed, as Whistler branches out into four villages, sometimes called districts. They are Whistler Village, Creekside, the Upper Village, and the North Village.
If you don’t want to drive to Whistler, you do have other options, ranging from shuttle service to an unforgettable helicopter charter or an outstanding journey by floatplane. Air routes obviously eliminate traffic, and the views are unforgettable. Scaling over glaciers, rivers, mountains, and highways will never be forgotten if these options are something your budget allows.
Blackcomb Helicopters offers wedding and sightseeing flights and provides chartered flights year-round for one to five. All you have to do is schedule a pick-up from the Vancouver International Airport or Vancouver Harbour and you’ll be surprised how quickly you arrive in Whistler.
Then there are those seasonal floatplanes! These operate from May to September, from local coastal cities like Victoria, Richmond, and Vancouver. Floatplanes are not only a transportation mode used to get to Whistler, but are one of the resort’s best-loved ways to sightsee, so do consider that as an option when planning your trip!
If you are driving, you may have already heard of Highway 99 North, which is more commonly referred to as the “Sea to Sky Highway.” This is because of its picturesque views of the Coast Mountains and Howe Sound. However, we’d have to recommend the scenic route that we took. This route went from Kelowna to Whistler via Lillooet, and was amazing, especially during autumn. Ultimately, when choosing from amongst vehicle rentals, private charters, helicopters, or floatplanes, put your money where your heart is and you will be happy with your decision.
With so many things to do in Whistler and so many experiences awaiting, start making plans now for a fantastic holiday in this unique and beautiful part of the world.