The Top Things to See and Do in Whistler

A key attraction, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola in Whistler, Canada, is the world’s largest and highest lift
A key attraction, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola in Whistler, Canada, is the world’s largest and highest lift | © Cavan Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Savka Andic

Hungry for a taste of the wild but wary of ditching home comforts? Whistler serves up the best of both. Come sunshine or snow, Canada’s most popular resort town is full of activities for every kind of traveller. Spend your days enjoying picnics by the lake, hiking to towering waterfalls, taking to the slopes or delighting in Whistler’s culinary scene. If you’re still undecided, here’s our guide to the best attractions in Whistler.

Scandinave Spa

An unforgettable highlight of any Whistler experience, Scandinave Spa offers a variety of relaxing, Nordic-inspired spa treatments, in spectacular surroundings. Enjoy the authentic Scandinavian Spa baths experience – beginning with the eucalyptus steam room, Finnish sauna or wood burning sauna, before moving onto a cold bath or waterfall and then relaxing on the terrace in a hammock or indulging in your choice of massage. After you feel duly pampered, enjoy a light lunch in the bistro overlooking swathes of cedar forests in the Whistler and Blackcomb valleys.

Ziptrek Ecotours

Whistler Sliding Centre

Operated by Whistler Sport Legacies (a non-profit organization responsible for the legacy of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games), the Whistler Sliding Centre is the site of the 2010 Winter Olympic bobsleigh, skeleton and luge competitions and currently houses the world’s fastest ice track, reaching nearly 1mi (1.5km) in length. If you’re feeling adventurous, test your skills riding the bobsleigh and skeleton, reaching speeds of up to 78mph (125kph). There’s also a summer version, the bobsleigh on wheels, which runs from June to September. Book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

The Whistler mountain resort may be relatively new, but it sits on the ancient ancestral lands of the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations peoples. Together, they conceived the idea of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to share their culture and traditions with the world, while at the same time respecting the natural environment. A local guide will be on-hand to answer any questions as you explore the center’s range of visual exhibits and interactive events, including the chance to meet artists and learn traditional craft-making techniques. The center itself is inspired by the architecture of the First Nations longhouses and traditional earthen pit houses.

Peak 2 Peak Gondola

Sweeping views of Whistler Village and its mountainous landscape are the pot of gold at the end of a journey on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Traveling 2.7mi (4.4km) between the mighty Whistler and Blackcomb mountains – the longest unsupported span for a lift of this kind – these glass-bottomed containers give you a bird’s-eye view of the valley floor. Pass towering volcano peaks, coastal rainforests and ancient glaciers along the way.

Whistler Film Festival

Established in 2001, the Whistler Film Festival is held every year on the first weekend of December. It has since become a favorite cultural celebration in Whistler and one of Canada’s premier film events. Each year, the line-up includes a selection of new feature films and short film programs, in addition to filmmaker and talent talks, industry initiatives and other special events. Canadian and international filmmakers are invited to submit films of all lengths and genres, with the best being showcased at the festival.

Whistler Tasting Tours

The brainchild of friends and gastronomic enthusiasts, Skai Dalziel and Joe Facciolo, Whistler Tasting Tours was founded in 2008 as a way for visitors to experience the best of local dining, and was recently designated a Canadian Signature Experience by the Canadian Tourism Commission. Lunch, dinner and dessert tours invite you to experience the best restaurants in the area, sampling menus across a range of venues and introducing you to their owners and chefs, adding a personal touch to the experience. The dining experience also features local beers and Okanagan wines.

Whistler Mountain Bike Park

Feel the wind whistle through your helmet on the ultimate downhill biking experience. With 70 expertly crafted trails spread throughout four mountain zones, the world-renowned Whistler Mountain Bike Park attracts visitors of all levels and abilities. Although it sounds daunting – spanning 50mi (80km) in length and 4,900ft (1,494m) in elevation – beginners are more than welcome here. The park can be accessed from Whistler Village via the Fitzsimmons Chair and the Whistler Gondola, or from Creekside via the Creekside Gondola.

Après-Ski

Whistler boasts a range of activities to enjoy after the ski runs close. Even if you haven’t been pounding the trails all day, you can still join in the dining and merriment at local favorites such as Dusty’s – Whistler’s first après-ski bar, founded in 1965 – or Merlin’s Bar and Grill in the Upper Village. Better yet, sit back and enjoy a sparkling beverage of your choice in a hot tub (practically every resort and accommodation in Whistler features one) while watching the snow fall over the pine-clad mountains.

Helicopter Park Whistler

For a spectacular aerial view of Whistler’s coastal mountains, ancient glaciers and hidden lakes, Culture Trip highly recommends a helicopter excursion. Soak up the area’s incredible scenery on a short flight, or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, take your pick from the likes of heli-sightseeing, glacier landings and fly-in picnics. Although one of Whistler’s slightly pricier activities, it’s truly the experience of a lifetime and a unique way to experience this incredible natural landscape. Helicopter tours run year-round and are weather-dependent.

Vallea Lumina

For an unforgettable evening adventure, explore the old forest of Cougar Mountain while enjoying an immersive light show. Vallea Lumina is a magical night walk, suitable for all ages, which brings Whistler’s natural landscape to life using a combination of video, lighting, sound and special effects. As you walk along a brightly lit pathway in search of a hidden valley, a story filled with unexpected enchantment unfolds. Excursions run Thursday to Monday, every 30 minutes from sundown. The experience takes place whatever the weather, so dress appropriately.

Ski at Whistler Blackcomb

There’s a reason Whistler’s 8,100 acres (3,278ha) of snow-covered slopes are recognized as the best place to ski in North America. Not only did the city host the 2010 Winter Olympics, but it also has some of the best powder – with an average yearly snowfall of 39ft (12m). It’s also got a thriving après-ski scene; reward your hard work on the slopes with mountain-high nachos and a famous Jester Caesar at Merlin’s in the Upper Village.

Horseshoe Bay and Shannon Falls

British Columbia boasts numerous seaside towns, but Horseshoe Bay is surely among its prettiest. As well as providing visitors with access to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island via ferry, it’s a great place to walk along the wharf and grab a bite. The fish and chips at Troll’s is arguably the best you’ll eat this side of the Burrard Inlet. En route to Whistler, stop off at Shannon Falls, where an easy trail leads you to the area’s best viewpoint.

Audain Art Museum

In between your days on the slopes, enjoy local culture at the Audain Art Museum. Patkau Architects — the geniuses behind Winnipeg’s impressive Millennium Library — took inspiration from Whistler’s forests to design the unique museum, which is elevated a full story above ground level. The museum’s permanent collection includes historic First Nations masks and some of Emily Carr’s best paintings, while several special exhibitions also run each year.

Snowmobile through Callaghan Valley

While a strong black coffee and pastry might be enough to get you through a regular morning, snowmobiling requires a little more stamina. Once you’ve carved your way through the winding trails of the Callaghan Valley — the site of the 2010 Winter Olympic events — make your way to the top of Mount Sproatt for a traditional Yukon breakfast. Cooked on an old-fashioned wood stove, this mountain-sized feast includes Canadian back bacon, Yukon gold potatoes, pancakes, real maple syrup and cowboy coffee.

Whistler Olympic Plaza

You may know Whistler Olympic Plaza as the epicenter of celebration during the 2010 Winter Games, but this attraction has much more to offer than just photo opportunities. If you visit during winter, make sure to skate on the plaza’s exclusive rink surrounded by thousands of twinkling lights. The area also hosts some of the town’s best New Year’s celebrations, and it’s best known for its jam-packed schedule of free outdoor concerts and performances in the summer.

Cycle the Whistler Valley Trail

With so much to see on the Whistler Valley Trail, including the city’s best neighborhoods, lakes and viewpoints, it’s best to go at your own pace. Spanning over 25mi (40km) from Function Junction in the south to Emerald in the north, the trail is open year-round and offers a car-free way to see the sights. We recommend stopping off to see Green Lake with its unbeatable mountain views and Whistler Golf Course, which is an unsuspecting hangout for black bears.

Whistler Brewing Co.

When you’re feeling a little worn out, take a break from sightseeing and make a pit stop to sample craft beers from Whistler’s many breweries. Whistler Brewing Company will have you know that the town’s summertime temperatures are best remedied with a cold, crisp beer. Situated in Function Junction, which is known as Whistler’s coolest neighborhood, this brewery is surrounded by miles of bike trails, making it the perfect end point for your ride. It’s also within easy reach of the popular Train Wreck hike.

Hike to Brandywine Falls

Sandwiched between Whistler and Squamish, this 70m (230ft) waterfall is a little-known attraction to visitors of BC. Starting at the car park, which is conveniently home to washrooms and a picnic area, make your way across the Brandywine Gorge Boardwalk and tackle the 1km hike to the falls’ main viewing platform. Thanks to its flat terrain, you don’t need to be a pro-hiker to complete this one, but if you do fancy a challenge, visit during winter and bring your snowshoes.

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