Whistler has always held a special place in my heart. The first time I ever visited Whistler was for Valentine’s Day in February 2011 with my now-husband, and it was where we both realized we had fallen completely in love with each other. Ever since then, we make a point of visiting Whistler whenever we are up in British Columbia visiting family. Rain or shine, sun or snow, Whistler is just one of those places you can enjoy year round for a multitude of reasons (amazing food, gorgeous hotels, and heart-pacing activities are just a few!). There’s so much to do, see, and enjoy in Whistler that I needed to dedicate a whole city guide to this special spot. With that said, behold our Whistler City Guide.
Set in the mountains less than 2 hours north of Vancouver, Whistler was my first introduction to a Pacific Northwest wonderland of nature almost 8 years ago. Since Tor was born and raised in Vancouver and lived there until 2012, he grew up frequenting Whistler a lot whether it be a place he gathered at with his friends, his school, or his family. I am actually quite envious of how close he was to such an amazing place in his youth. He would come to Whistler for many skiing and snowboarding trips, and all that time on the slopes in Whistler got him ready for our big ski adventure in Finland (I remained on the bunny hill, of course).
This past summer, we had the opportunity to visit Whistler on our annual summer pilgrimage to British Columbia. After a week of hefty smoke cover due to the raging wildfires in the province, the rains finally came and the winds finally shifted in the mountains, giving us that clean, clear, crisp mountain air that makes us abandon hazy, smoggy Los Angeles and flock to BC for. Despite coming to Whistler so many times, we always find new treasures within the area on each and every visit. This visit was no exception.
Included in this city guide are past favorites and new favorites from our recent visit.
Things to See & Do
The main village houses most of the restaurants, shops, and hotels, but over the years we have found some incredible places beyond the village center. However you don’t just come to Whistler for the village – you come for all the activities and glorious natural sights to behold.
Cloudraker Skybridge / Raven’s Eye Cliff Walk – If you want the most epic of bird’s eye views of Whistler (as well as an IG photo that’ll scare the living crap out of your folks), this new suspension bridge at Whistler peak is the spot for it. Only open in summer (it’s already covered in snow at the end of September – that’s how high up it is!) and only recently opened a few months ago, this bridge takes sightseers even higher than the Peak 2 Peak gondola to overlook a never ending sea of mountains, clouds, and sky.
Bear watching – In summer, hop in a 4×4 and get up close and personal with some of the area’s resident bears. You may get lucky and spot a few cute cubs!
Heli-picnic – If you want to take your summer picnic to the ultimate next level, hop into a helicopter to be brought to one of the most stunning, isolated locations to enjoy a luxurious picnic lunch and private lake activities for an afternoon.
Horseback riding – Always a favorite of mine.
Mountain activities – In summer, the ski trails become mountain bike trails as mountain bikers of all ages and levels conquer the slopes. There’s also plenty of trails for hiking, and zip lining is also available.
Lake activities – Green Lake, Lost Lake, and Nita Lake are just some of the gorgeous lakes in the Whistler region. They’re also perfect for spending the day swimming, canoeing, paddle boarding, or kayaking. Bring a picnic lunch to Green Lake for a picturesque day by the water. Nita Lake might be my personal favorite for swimming and canoeing.
Vallea Lumina – The most magical way to spend an evening. A 1 kilometer trail winding through the forest becomes illuminated when the sun goes down by some of the most gorgeous lights. If you want to feel like you’re in a fairytale, this is the perfect activity.
Skiing / snowboarding / snow tubing – Tor grew up skiing these slopes and cannot recommend them enough. Meanwhile, I have fun over in the tube park because that’s what I grew up doing.
Heli-skiing – Some of the best slopes are only reachable by helicopter instead of a chairlift.
Snowmobiling – Take a guided tour through the forest and down the mountain on a snowmobile.
Sleigh ride – Who doesn’t love the sound of a horse-drawn sleigh through the snow? For those seeking the ultimate romantic excursion like us, splurge for the private sleigh ride that brings you to a cozy lodge in the mountain where a divine mug of hot chocolate by the fire awaits you.
Peak 2 Peak Gondola – Jump from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. It offers the most breathtaking, unobstructed views of nature all around you as you literally pass between the two big peaks that dominate the area. If you’re daring, wait for the glass bottom gondola (I only take this one!).
Ice cave exploration – Believe it or not, this activity can be enjoyed year round. Hop inside a helicopter that’ll take you on a scenic journey to some of the most beautiful ice caves where you’ll also enjoy a delicious lunch. You can also opt for shorter trips that focus on flying around the majestic mountains and glaciers.
Audain Art Museum – A permanent collection of artworks from British Columbia.
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre – A cultural center featuring two First Nations from Sk̲wxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation, Coast Salish) and Líl̓wat7ul (Lil’wat Nation, Interior Salish) Nations where traditional cultures are put on display.
Scandinave Spa – Nordic baths in a spa that feels your experience is best catered to you in silence (yep, there’s no talking allowed).
Where to Eat
Bar Oso – Our favorite spot for a late lunch. It’s Spanish tapas, and their rosé plus gambas ajillo makes me squeal and shimmy in my seat every time. Sometimes we ask to sit at the bar so we can watch the chefs at work.
Araxi – For a romantic seafood dinner, don your finest and head here. If the risotto is still on the menu, make sure you order it! It’s so sinfully delicious.
Bearfoot Bistro – Probably our favorite dining experience in all of Whistler. Before dining on multiple courses of the chef’s delicious tasting menu, we got to sabre a champagne bottle open with a sword down in their wine cellar! After dinner but before dessert, we also got to jump into their Ketel One vodka ice room, which is the coldest ice room in the world.
Red Door Bistro – One of Whistler’s best kept secrets. Reservations in advance are a must, as it’s extremely rare they’ll have availability for walk-ins. They only have about 12 tables, especially in winter, so it’s small and intimate but exceptionally delicious (they had a yummy Tempranillo wine!).
Cure Lounge & Patio – Located at Nika Lake Lodge, this bar was our go-to spot before dinner on our last visit. Since it was summer time, they had all the windows open and you could sit outside by a fire pit while enjoying a glass of wine. Come just in time for sunset. They also have little dishes for nibbling.
Wild Wood Pacific Bistro – You remember my banana bread French toast recipe? I got the inspiration from this restaurant! Come here for the French toast before hitting the slopes or heading out to explore.
Where to Stay
Nita Lake Lodge – A true lakeside gem. Located in Whistler’s Creekside, it’s not located within the main village but it is just a 10 minute drive away. The lodge provides shuttle service until 10 pm each day so you can head into the village for activities or dinner. Splurge for a lake view room, as there’s nothing more perfect than waking up to birds singing in the trees and the calmness of the lake helping you find some inner peace to start your day. Definitely one of our favorites.
Four Seasons Resort Whistler – A true mountainside gem. While it’s also not located within the main village, it’s just a short walk away and closer to Blackcomb Mountain (which also has its own ski lift). We splurged for a deluxe wilderness view room, and while we have only stayed at this resort in summer, we can only imagine how gorgeous that view must be in winter. In winter time, they also host nightly marshmallow roasting at the fire pit.
Mountainside Lodge – An affordable option. When Tor and I first visited Whistler together, this was where we stayed. Our room came with a kitchen, so we went grocery shopping in the main village and cooked ourselves some yummy soup and hot cocoa on a snowy afternoon.
Tor and I are planning to make another visit to Whistler this winter season, and we’ll be sure to keep adding more recommendations!
Have you been to Whistler? If so, what are some of your favorite places or activities?