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Whistler is the premier ski resort in Canada and many might discount it as a winter-only destination. However, Whistler has just as much to offer in the summer with its world-class mountain bike culture, awesome natural environment and quality resort facilities. In this post, we will highlight the Whistler family activities that we enjoyed most. You might notice that quite a few of them involve bikes!
Located less than 2 hours from Vancouver, along the Sea to Sky highway, Whistler can be visited in a day, but we recommend at least a few days. In fact, Whistler is full of domestic and international travellers that came and never left. Even in the Covid 2020 summer, you couldn’t walk far without hearing an Aussie or Brit accent.
This post has been fully updated for Summer 2021 – all activities mentioned here are open.
Things to Do in Whistler in Summer with Kids
Check out the Village
Whistler Village is Whistler’s central neighborhood located at the base of Whistler mountain. This pedestrian area should be your first activity on any visit to Whistler. Loaded with shops and restaurants and a charming resort feel, the Village is the centre of Whistler life.
Kids will love checking out the Olympic rings in the Olympic Plaza in the Village and there is a great playground here for younger kids.
If you eat at only one restaurant in the Village, make it Sushi Village. Our kids love sushi and the mixture of traditional with innovative rolls was a huge hit for our family. What is a summer day without ice cream and Lucia Gelato sells yummy handcrafted artisan-style Italian gelato that is so good! Purebread is the place to go for yummy pastries and treats.
Get Oriented on Bikes
Whistler may be home to the best downhill biking park in North America, but you don’t have to be an adventure junkie to enjoy the Whistler bike scene. Whistler is incredibly bike friendly and a great introduction to Whistler is to get on bikes and explore the Valley Trail that runs all around the town.
If you don’t have your own bikes with you, you can rent bikes just about anywhere in Whistler. These paved trails are perfect for families and allow you to get anywhere in Whistler.
Hike the Train Wreck
I had read about a cool hike in the lush old-growth forest surrounding Whistler where a train had derailed and the graffiti-decorated cars sit littered throughout the forest. While half of the family was off exploring the Whistler Bike Park, the other half went off to explore this unique hike. Located just south of Whistler at Cheakamus Creek, this 2 km hike is perfect with kids.
The hike begins through the lush rainforest, crosses a suspension bridge and brings you to the first of the colourful train cars. The train derailed here in 1956 and the cars were left in the forest. Kids will be fascinated by the combination of the old cars with the new colourful art work, and the colours of nature contrasted with the bright colours of the painted cars. There are 7 cars in total with the last few spread farther from the main area; kids will have fun trying to find all 7 throughout the forest. This was one of our favourite things to do in Whistler in summer with kids.
Visit Lost Lake
Lost Lake is a 20 minute stroll from the Village and can also be accessed on the Valley Trail by bike. Set in a beautiful forest there is walking trail around the lake that also extend in every direction. The trail is paved and then gravel so very easy walking.
This is also a great place for mountain biking with a variety of cross-country trails suitable for all. There are west-coast features like ladders and other woodwork that you can try out. Lost Lake is the perfect place for families to gain experience mountain biking in a beautiful setting. Bikes can be rented anywhere in town. Afterwards, cool off in the lake or hang out at the beach.
Spend a Day at a Lake
One of the best things to do at Whistler in summer is pack your gear and a picnic and head to one of the lakes located around town. The most popular lakes are Lost Lake and Alta Lake – both have great parks with swimming docks that you can access via bike with the Valley Trail or by car. At Alta Lake’s Lakeside Park, you can rent canoes, paddleboats and SUPs. Alta Lake’s Rainbow Park is the most popular swimming spot and offers epic views back at Whister-Blackcomb. Lost Lake is just a 20 min walk from town and a great spot for walking and biking, which you can then combine with a swim in the refreshing lake.
Hike to Parkhurst Ghost Town
If you have any reluctant hikers on your hands, a hike to a ghost town will surely capture their attention. Parkhurst was a logging community located on Green Lake from the 1920s-1950s. In addition to walking through lush forest, the great views of appropriately named Green Lake, you will come across old artifacts of the community. Our kids loved finding the “old garbage” in the forest – a stove, vehicles, and even a building still standing.
The 6 km hike has several routes that you can take; Hiking in Whistler has great information about routes and more information about Parkhurst.
Whistler Bike Park
The Whistler Bike Park is world class and the downhill bike scene is the best in the world. However, even novices and families can try downhill biking at Whistler, which has built a number of green and blue trails to cater to beginners. You can rent a downhill mountain bike which includes a full face helmet and armour at the mountain. They have a wide variety of bikes for kids and teens. If you are new to downhill biking, signing up for a lesson will allow you to gain confidence on the mountain and ensure a safe and fun day.
Our 10-year old Gavin and Paul spent a day at the Bike Park and couldn’t stop talking about it. I will have a full post coming with tips and suggestions to make the most of your first visit to the Bike Park with kids.
Peak to Peak Gondola
Whistler-Blackcomb offers three great gondolas, packaged into one great experience. In addition to travelling to the top of Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain, the record-setting Peak to Peak Gondola connects the two mountains. Kids and adults will be impressed that the Gondola travels over 3 km unsupported!
There is over 50 km of wonderful alpine hiking opportunities at the top of both mountains where you can see wildflowers and ancient glaciers. Tickets cost $75/adult, $68/youth, $38/child and tots are free (no family pass available).
Visiting one of Whistler’s museums or galleries is a great way to learn more about the area and also makes for a great Whistler rainy day activity.
The Whistler Museum is located right in the Village and is a great place to spend an hour. It is a very compact museum, but there are excellent displays about the history of Whistler, the geography and wildlife of the area and its role in hosting the 2010 Olympics. Entry by donation. Open daily 11 am – 5 pm (Thursday until 9 pm).
The Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre is located in a stunning building that showcases artifacts and contemporary pieces. Cultural ambassadors share their knowledge and stories and drum songs are shared every hour. Adults $20, Kids $5, Youth $7, Family Pass $45. Open 10 am – 5 pm daily.
The Audain Art Museum is in another stunning building on the edge of the Village. Here you can experience art from across British Columbia and best of all, entrance is always free for under 18s. Adults $20, open daily 11 am – 6 pm.
Bike Skills Park
Fitzsimmons Creek Bike Park located in the Village where you can practice your skills or watch some of the ripping Whistler kids show off. There is a beginner skills area suitable for every one, a more intermediate skills area, a pump track and jumps course. It is located right beside the Skate Park, another fun place for people-watching.
Just remember that a lot of the features are built for experienced riders. Paul had a pretty good wipe out on one of the jumps courses after the boys challenged him.
Play Disc Golf
Our family is just discovering disc golf and are loving trying out new courses throughout BC. Whistler has a fantastic 27-hole course that is completed FREE and makes for a great family activity. We have a 13-year old that doesn’t love hiking and biking, so this is a great way to get outdoors all together for us.
If you are new to disc golf, you will need a frisbee per person. You can use any old frisbee, but there are special discs used for this up and coming sport that you can pick up at many sports stores. Disc golf works just like regular golf: using your disc, you are trying to get it in the basket in the least amount of throws.
The Whistler “Powerline” course is located right behind Riverside RV Park and Scandinave Spa. Don’t forget to bring a cold drink – it wouldn’t be disc golf without one in hand!
Whistler has a number of great waterfalls in the area, accessible by short hikes, making them perfect for families. Visit one of them or spend a whole day waterfall sightseeing. While the waterfalls are great in any season, the high flows in the spring make them especially exciting.
Nairn Falls, 20 minutes north of Whistler, just before Pemberton, was a favourite with our kids for its swirling whirlpool at the bottom and great viewing platform. It is 1.2 km to the Falls, making this a great Whistler hike with kids.
Rainbow Falls is another great choice (1.3 km loop), 15 minutes from Whistler. Brandywine Falls, south of Whistler is another short walk (0.8 km roundtrip) and located right off the Sea to Sky highway.
There are many wonderful hiking opportunities around Whistler from short-toddler friendly walks around Lost Lake to adventures further into the backcountry. We have mentioned a few of our favourites in this post, but there are unlimited options.
A great family-friendly longer hike is Cheakamus Lake (16 km). The trail doesn’t have a lot of elevation gain and takes you through old growth forest to a beautiful lake. This trail can also be biked – classified as a green, it is wide and mostly flat. One of the most popular hikes in all of BC is to Garibaldi Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Located 24 km south of Whistler, this 19 km takes you to beautiful turquoise Garibaldi Lake with glaciers as a backdrop.
Whistler is an adventure-seekers haven and families will enjoy rafting and ziplining. You can find float trips for families with young kids or white-water rafting for families looking to get the adrenaline flowing. There are a number of companies that offer zipling over Whistler’s creeks and rivers and through the forest.
Explore Nearby Squamish
Fourty-five minutes down the Sea to Sky highway you will come to Squamish and Howe Sound, your first view of the Pacific Ocean. Squamish may not have the world-recognized name that Whistler does, but it is incredibly popular with locals. There are many fantastic hiking and biking opportunities and kite boarders love the windy Sound.
We loved the Squamish Sea to Sky Gondola with epic views of Howe Sound, the coastal forest and of course, the mountains. Once at the top you can enjoy family-friendly hiking, a fun suspension bridge, restaurant and instagram-worth lookouts. Family tickets cost $119 (2 adults, 2 kids 6-18 years old, 5 and under are free). This was one of our favourite Whistler kids activities! Note: after being vandalized again in 2020, the Gondola is planning to reopen Late Spring 2021.
Where to Stay in Whistler
Whistler has lots of accommodation options to choose from. We recommend staying in Whistler Village so that you can park your car for your holiday. Technically there are two Villages – Whistler Village and Blackcomb Village, although you can walk between them. Whistler Village is more happening and Blackcomb Village is quieter.
Fairmont Chateau Whistler – enjoy the luxury and Village location (Blackcomb) of this visitor favourite. Kids will love the hot tubs and indoor/outdoor heated pool and parents will appreciate the luxurious rooms. Click here to check the latest prices.
Summit Lodge Boutique Hotel – offers great value right in the Village (Whistler) with rooms that can accomodate families. You even get a pool and rooms with balconies. Click here to check the latest prices.
Riverside Resort Cabins and Camping – we think this is the best camping location in Whistler – close to the Village. The cabins are cute and provide a great alternative to staying in a hotel and the campground has nice shaded sites with good amenities. We spent a number of weeks here in Spring 2021 and were really impressed with the campground and of course, its great location. Click here to check the latest prices.
We loved visiting Whistler in summer with kids in 2020 so much that we spent 2 weeks there again in Spring 2021. There are so many great outdoor opportunities for adventurous families, many of them free or low cost. We hope this has provided you a good list of things to do in Whistler with kids to start planning your summer travels. Have you been to Whistler? What did your family enjoy? Let us know!