With mid-winter break just around the corner, we know vacation is on your mind. While you can always count on Seattle families heading to sunnier skies, many are looking for the perfect winter getaway. Located within driving distance from Seattle, there is a magical winter wonderland that should be on the top of your travel list: Whistler, BC. With so much to explore, both on the mountain and in the vibrant Village, you’ll find something for everyone, from your littlest tikes to your biggest adrenaline junkie. To make planning your vacation hassle-free, we’ve rounded up the best places to sleep, eat and play that will leave you dreaming of those beautiful slopes, snow-covered trees and the bustling, whimsical Village.
Editor’s note: The CDC has recently advised against travel to Canada, although as we’ve seen with COVID, this can change quickly. Families can stay up-to-date with BC’s COVID response and guidelines in an effort to plan a safe vacation in the area. You’ll find information about COVID testing requirements at the border at the end of this article.
Where to Play
Whistler abounds with winter sports and activities for the whole family. We’ve rounded up a couple of our favorite options for adventure seekers and tiny explorers alike. But you can find more unique experiences throughout the resort using curated guides developed by Tourism Whistler and the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
Ski Whistler Blackcomb
If you’re making a trip to Whistler, you probably want to ski or snowboard while you’re there. So we’ve compiled some of the best options for ski lessons and kid-friendly ski areas on the mountains. Whistler is a great place for both beginners and advanced adventure seekers, so don’t worry about the terrain. You’ll be able to find the best slopes that suit your style and skill level.
Multi-Day Ski Camp
It doesn't get any better (or easier to learn) than Whistler Kids Adventure Camp. The camps are offered for kiddos ages 3 and up, and are a great option for weekday, multi-day lessons. Kids get to be with the same instructor and group for the entire week. The camp also offers other fun activities, like coloring and themes. They’ll make friends and have tons of fun. The instructors are patient and experts on snow. Hot chocolate, lunch and snacks are also included, so when your little mountaineers need a break, they can warm up with yummy food!
Camp runs Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. –3 p.m. Plan to drop off your little rippers at the designated drop off location around 8:45 a.m. and pick them up between 3-3:15 p.m. Pick-up and drop-off are conveniently located in Skiers Plaza at the bottom of Whistler Mountain. Bright blue signs will tell you where to check in for your child’s age group.
Insider tip: Get there early on your first day of camp. You’ll need to sign a couple forms and get their safety voucher. Make sure your child has pockets, or a place to fasten their ski pass and voucher. It’ll stay with them all week.
Single Day Lessons
If a full week of camp seems like a bit too much, you can also book child group ski and snowboard lessons or private lessons for the family. Space is limited, so we recommend booking in advance.
Insider tip: Set you and your kiddo up for success. Be sure to wear lots of layers, a helmet and goggles. On really cold days, pack hand warmers as well. If you’re renting equipment, be sure to pick it up the night before to alleviate some of the morning drop-off chaos.
Covid Info: Children ages 12 & up will be required to show proof of vaccination if you’re planning on ski camp or lessons. Proof of vaccination will need to be shown at drop-off at the ski and ride school.
Go Ice Skating
If outdoor ice skating is a family favorite of yours, Whistler village has a beautiful ice rink located on the north end of the Village at Whistler Olympic Plaza. It’s brightly lit with colorful luminaries, and the music will have you moving and grooving (and maybe falling a couple of times) while you skate. It’s great for tots and beginners alike. They offer plenty of skate aids for newbies who aren't so sure about gliding across the ice.
Insider tip: Adjacent to the skating rink is a snow park for kiddos in a big open field. There is also a playground close by. The park isn’t maintained in the winter, so play with caution.
Cost: $2/person; $8/person with skate rental; Free helmet rentals
Hours: 11 a.m.–8:30 p.m.; closed for maintenance between 1:30-2:30 p.m. & 5–6 p.m.
Play at Parks
There are so many hidden gems to explore when trekking around the mountains. Look out for areas specially designated as family zones. The enchanted forest and Tree Fort on Whistler Mountain and Magic Castle of Blackcomb Mountain are also areas that will delight your little adventurers. The outdoor play areas are a fun way to get outside and seek out a little magic.
The Bubly Tube Park is fun for both kids and parents, who are young at heart. It operates into the early evening which makes it a great option for an after-skiing activity or on a day you need a break from the slopes. It offers about 1,000 feet of sliding and multiple lanes, and no training or equipment is required—a conveyor belt takes you back to the top when you’re ready for another run. The Tube Park is easily accessible from the Village via the Excalibur Gondola, located at the bottom of Whistler Mountain.
Hours: Weekdays, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Weekends & holidays, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Ride the Gondola
One of the most spectacular things you can do while in Whistler is to sit back, get your camera ready and ride the gondolas to the many mountain peaks. If you’re interested in sightseeing, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola is an experience you won’t forget. Filled with 360-degree views of the Village, surrounding mountains and picturesque peaks, the ride is a heart-racing adventure and modern marvel that connects Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains. While you’re sightseeing, be sure to stop in one of the many dining options at the peak. Book a reservation before arriving, and don’t forget your photo ID and proof of vaccination.
Insider tip: Download the Tock app to easily book a time slot to dine.
Cost: $74/adult; $58/youth (13–18); $35/child (7–12); Free, kids 6 & under
Explore Rich Cultures
Whistler offers a great way for families to immerse themselves in beautiful, rich cultures. The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) is a wonderful place to explore stories, music and art of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations. Guided tours occur every hour on the hour, and you won’t want to miss the drums and opportunity to connect with a Cultural Ambassador. Don’t forget to swing by the Thunderbird Café for lunch or a snack while you’re there. The menu offers a unique selection of Indigenous-inspired options, all made with fresh and local ingredients. The café is located on the lower level next to the gift shop, a great place to stop and buy local.
Hours: Tue.–Sun., 10 a.m.–5p.m.
Cost: $20/adult; $15/young adult (19-25); $5/child (6-12)
Plan a Date Night
If you need a night out, Babysitting Whistler offers childcare needs for your kids so you can plan a night out on the town. The service is super convenient (they come to you), and all their nannies are certified in first aid and CPR and have passed rigorous background and reference checks. The nannies are all incredibly friendly and personable, and they can care for kiddos as young as newborns up to 14 years old. To book a sitter call 888-906-2220 or email: email@example.com.
One of the biggest perks offered in Whistler is the free shuttle services. BC Transit operates shuttles that connect visitors to Whistler Village and surrounding areas. It makes getting to the slopes hassle-free (we practically lived on Route 5 during this trip). From the Upper Village it can easily and safely cart everyone to ski school. Just remember that masks are required on all buses, so be sure to put them on before hoping aboard. Be sure to thank your driver and follow all the rules outlined on the buses. Pack up your crew, gear (skis, poles, gloves and all) and grab the next shuttle. Next stop, a great day on the mountain!
Where to Eat
There are quite literally hundreds of dining options in the vibrant Village—the heart of the mountain community. Whatever your tummy is rumbling for, you’ll find it here! From après snacks to fine dining options, the selection is sure to please any picky palate. Here are a few of our can’t-miss, kid-friendly spots.
Located at the base of Whistler Blackcomb, Milestones is a great place to relax after lapping the green Magic chairlift with your kiddos. They offer brunch until 3 p.m., a big draw for many families (how can you resist an afternoon Eggs Benny?). Kids hot chocolate with a towering dollop of whip cream will warm those little fingers and put a smile on their faces, and coloring pages and crayons were a big hit as well. The kid’s menu offers a variety of great selections including pasta, chicken fingers and salmon.
Location: 4555 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, BC
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 1–8 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., noon–8 p.m.
Sushi Village is another popular spot in the Village for families. The Japanese cuisine is delicious, and the environment and welcoming staff make the experience great when you've got young kids. Avocado sushi and Chicken Karaage are two items we recommend for kids. For parents, they offer world-famous sake margaritas (you can ask for a virgin margarita for the little ones or yourself!). Whether you’re in the mood for specialty rolls, tempuras, noodles or sashimi. Another thing to love about the restaurant is the private dining options. For larger groups, they offer quaint nooks for dining. Take off your shoes, sit back and get ready for a truly amazing meal! Sushi Village’s selection won’t disappoint.
Insider tip: The bathroom is a bit of a trek down a long corridor attached to the restaurant. Be prepared to walk (not quite a mile) to get there.
Location: 4340 Sundial Crescent, Whistler, BC
Hours: Mon.–Thu., 4:30–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sun., noon–2:30 p.m. & 4:30–10 p.m.
Mountain High Brewing Co.
We’re going to be honest, the food and beer selection here are great, but we whole-heartedly love this place for the train that delights children as it makes its way around the restaurant. For about 20 seconds every 10 minutes, the train will have your little engineers cheering “choo, choo!” as it chugs by. The restaurant is near the ice skating rink in the Olympic Plaza, so it’s a great place to stop for a quick bite after slipping and gliding to your hearts content. Menu pleasers include the pizza and chicken strips.
Insider tip: It’s a very popular dining option in the Village, so try to get there a bit early before the rush. Operations were also impacted by staffing, so call ahead or check the website to make sure they are open before you go. They don’t currently offer reservations, so it’s first come first serve. Underground parking is super convenient if you plan on driving.
Location: 4355 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, BC
Hours: Mon.–Thu., noon–9 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., noon–10 p.m.; Sun., noon–9 p.m.
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
If you’re looking for a sweet treat for your little sugar lover, look no further than the chocolate haven of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. You can practically smell the chocolate from the Whistler Gondola! From fudge to caramel apples–with literally every topping imaginable–they have it all!
Where to Stay
Fairmont Chateau Whistler
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is a gorgeous luxury hotel plucked straight out of a fairytale. It sits just at the base of Whistler Blackcomb and is host to an array of amenities that will make you never want to leave. The 519-room resort offers various dining options in the hotel, a spa, health club, pools, fitness center, concierge, ski valet, even daily yoga classes. The hotel also offers activities that are geared toward families, and the décor in the hotel is wow-worthy. Located just behind the Fairmont Chateau Whistler is a great sledding hill for little ones. Wind around the back of the hotel, and you'll see an open area for kiddos to have some fun in the snow.
Location: 4599 Chateau Blvd, Whistler, BC
The Westin Resort and Spa, Whistler
If you’re looking for a hotel that offers convenient luxury in the heart of the Village, the Westin Resort and Spa is a great fit. Just feet from the hotel is the Whistler Kids drop-off location for ski school and adventure camp, so if you’re worried about getting the kids out the door and to camp on time, you can take that worry off your list. The hotel offers amenities that make vacationing with kids easier, including valet parking, ski concierge, restaurants, spa and an indoor and outdoor pool. What more do you need?
Location: 4090 Whistler Way Whistler, BC
Airbnb, Vrbo and VacationRenter
You don’t have to stay at a 5-star resort to enjoy Whistler. There are so many great options available through vacation rental sites like Airbnb, Vrbo or VactionRenter. Many offer all the things a family needs to stay comfortably, including hot tubs and ski-in/ski-out access. If lavish amenities aren’t must-haves, search through hundreds of vacation rentals until you find the one that fits your family the best!
photo: Kathryn Mueller
Crossing into Canada
They say traveling is about the journey and not the destination. If you’re traveling to Whistler, we promise the destination will certainly be worth crossing the border. If you’re traveling from Seattle, there are two places you can cross—the Peace Arch Border Crossing or Pacific Highway Border Crossing—and Surrey is home to both. Check the webcams before you go for approximate wait times, which can be as long as two hours. Be prepared with lots of snacks and things to keep your Littles busy. Waiting is hard, and if your little one catches the wiggles, you’ll need some distractions.
Before making your way to the Canadian border, there are a few things you’re required to do prior to entry. Crossing is a little bit more complicated than it used to be, but we’ll walk you through what you need to know. These conditions may change, so please double-check information before you go.
1. Travelers ages 5 and up will need to get a COVID-19 test before going. Proof of a COVID-19 negative molecular test result is required to enter Canada, or you can provide proof of a previous positive test result taken between 14 and 180 days ago (starting January 15, 2022, between 10 and 180 days ago).
2. You are required to submit information regarding your trip through an app called ArriveCAN. It’s pretty easy to use, but make sure you don’t miss anything along the way, or you could be denied entry. Using the app is mandatory and all information must be submitted within 72 hours. Use the ArriveCAN app (available on iOS, Android and online) to submit information about each traveler, proof of vaccination status, as well as where you’ll be staying and where you’ll quarantine in Canada if you test positive for COVID-19.
3. Don’t forget your passport and information about your littles ones—birth certificates, social security cards, etc.
4. Don’t be surprised if you get randomly selected at the border to take a COVID-19 test. If you are randomly selected, the border crossing agent will provide you with a self-swab kit. Simply use the instructions in the kit to complete it within 24 hours of entering Canada and arrange for it to be picked up as directed—likely by FedEx pickup services.
Indoor COVID-19 Safety Protocols at Whistler:
1. Guests ages 12 and are required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations to dine at restaurants. Adults 19 & up also need to provide a valid government photo ID with the name matching the name on the vaccination card.
2. Reservations are required for dining, but it’s easy to make one using the Tock app. Select a dine time at one of the many restaurants on the mountains. Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain and Rendezvous on Whistler Blackcomb are great options with spectacular views!
3. Face coverings are required indoors, including on gondolas, so bring your favorite masks on the trip.