Insider’s Guide to Family Activities Off the Slopes
Whistler might have made its name as a ski resort, but it’s far more than that. It has a ton to offer families—with kids of all ages—on and off the famous ski runs. Here’s a sample of activities divided by approximate age group that you can do off the slopes.
Babies, Tots and Preschoolers: 0 – 5 Years
Your Chariot Awaits
Wrap little tots up warm and take them Nordic skiing. You can rent a chariot for one or two children over 12 months old at Whistler Olympic Park, Callaghan Country or Lost Lake Park, and pull it behind you while you do classic or skate skiing. Preschoolers can do a little skiing themselves, then relax in the cozy chariot. Whistler Olympic Park also has a toboggan hill, and the food in their Day Lodge is tasty and affordable.
Go for a Ride
Take in the views on Whistler Blackcomb’s gondolas. The new Blackcomb Gondola (opening on December 14, 2018) allows you to travel up from the Upper Village to the Rendezvous Lodge (for a bite to eat), take the record-breaking PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola over to the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain (another chance to eat), then download on the Whistler Village Gondola. Choose a clear day and soak in the incredible views.
Insider Tip: Once up the mountains there will be some very short walks on snow, so wear winter clothing and bring young children in a carrier if they can’t walk by themselves. You can fit a stroller in the gondola, however be aware that you’ll have to push it over a bit of snow so unless it’s got big wheels, a carrier might be the best option.
If the weather outside is frightful and your little ones have serious energy to burn, Meadow Park Sports Centre has swimming and indoor ice skating. The drop-in rate starts at $8.75 for an adult (kids three and under are free) or $17.50 for a family. There’s a warm kiddy pool, and a big pool with water toys and a slide for older kids. There are basic eats at the skating concession stand and you can grab a veg-filled vegan meal from The Green Moustache’s vending machine. The sports centre also has a large skating rink, with push bars for new skaters, and strollers are actually welcome on the ice so you can push the little ones around.
Whistler Public Library has a busy schedule of fantastic free programming running through the week:
- Mondays: Music & Words from 10 to 10:30 AM for 2 – 5 year olds.
- Tuesdays: Rhyme & Song from 10:30 to 11 AM for toddlers (ages 1 – 3).
- Wednesdays: Preschooler drop in Book & Craft Club from 10:30 to 11:30 AM (ages 3 – 5) .
- Thursdays: Parent Infant Drop-In from 11 AM to 12:30 PM for parents and babies (0 – 12 months).
- Fridays: Preschool Story Time from 10:30 to 11 AM (ages 3 – 5) .
- Saturdays: Singing with the Babies from 11 to 11:30 AM for parents with infants from birth to walking. Then drop in Family Together Time for all ages from 3:30 to 4:30 PM, with crafts, board games and a story corner.
Grade Schoolers and Tweens: 5 – 12 Years
Now where do I start? If you’re looking to burn off steam in the great Canadian outdoors, try a family snowmobile tour where kids aged 5 and above can go tandem with a paying adult. Some tours offer the opportunity to try a “mini-z” where the kids can have a go at riding their very own machine, while others include a ride to an igloo on Blackcomb Mountain!
Snowshoeing is another option to get the kids exploring, and Blackcomb Snowmobile’s new tour features a trip to their Teepee for hot chocolate. Note that walking in snowshoes can be a bit daunting for the little ones so it’s definitely for the adventurous. If you have a younger child that you can carry in a backpack that’s an option too, but consider that walking through snow is definitely tougher than on solid ground.
The Tube Park (scheduled to open December 12 this year) is another great idea, where kids big and small can try sliding downhill on a tube (like a donut ring). There’s a conveyor lift, so there’s no climbing uphill. It’s open every day and you get there by taking a quick ride on the Excalibur Gondola from the base of Whistler Mountain (free to ride to the Tube Park). Children must be at least three (min height is 36 inches / 91 centimetres) and anyone under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. There are designated kiddie lanes for the little ones, washrooms, a snack hut, and fire pit all up there so you can hang out for as long as they want to slide.
Feel like flying through the air at high speed on a zipline? Superfly offers tours for ages seven plus (minimum weight is 60 pounds / 27 kilograms); and Ziptrek Ecotours offers twilight tours where kids ages six and up can tandem if needed (minimum weight is 65 pounds / 29 kilograms).
Fun in the Village
Keeping the activity options within Whistler Village, you can go outdoor skating at Whistler Olympic Plaza, and on Mondays and Wednesdays (starting December 17) you’ll find Family Après here with live music, dancing, entertainment, crafts and hot cocoa from 3 to 6 PM. While you’re checking out the shops, make it more interesting for the little ones with a Whistler Village Scavenger Hunt – you can download the map, or grab one at the Visitor Centre.
Indoor activities for this age-range include indoor rock climbing at The Core, which offers guided climbing sessions for kids aged four and up. Also, Whistler Public library has a free Lego Bricks 4 Kidz program on Sundays from 3:30 to 4:30 PM for ages 5 – 12. You do need to register ahead at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604-935-8436.
Soak in the Action
There’s so much action, that sometimes it’s nice to throw in a few activities that allow the kids (and you) to simply sit back and take in the sights. For thrills, you can head up to the Whistler Sliding Centre and watch the athletes train on bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton – take a look at their “This Week on Track” schedule to see what’s happening.
Whistler also offers magical sleigh rides with giant Percheron horses that weave up Blackcomb Mountain with the sparkly lights of the Village glowing below. Kids under two are free and you can request a private tour for the wow factor.
On Sunday evenings, head to the Fire & Ice Show (starting December 23) at 7 PM to watch athletes flip through rings of fire at the base of Whistler Mountain. Or, you could always spend a cozy, lazy evening at Village 8 Cinemas watching a kid-friendly movie.
Feel like staying warm? The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre offers workshops in making cedar rope (ages five plus), cedar paddle necklaces (ages 5 – 7), buckskin medicine bags (ages eight plus), cedar paddle rattles (ages eight plus), miniature hand drum ornaments (ages 8 – 12), dreamcatchers (ages 10 plus), or they have a scavenger hunt (ages eight plus). On Sundays, the Audain Art Museum has Family Studio Sundays from 12 to 4 PM, where families can try a variety of art activities inspired by the current exhibits and monthly theme. Ever carved stone? Fathom Stone offers soapstone carving classes for ages eight plus, where they can make bears, whales, or Inukshuk figures to take home.
It’s also worth taking a look at the Arts Whistler events page for programming as they often have kid-based art afternoons where kids can get their craft on.
Teens: 13 – 18 Years
Upping the Ante
In terms of outdoor adventures, the options are pretty incredible – with ziplining over the valley, snowshoeing in the wilderness, and bungee jumping over a glacier-fed river, just to mention a few. Ever tried target practice? Combine cross-country skiing with shooting when you try the biathlon experience out at Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley. There are also options for lessons if this is something that piques your teen’s interest.
For indoor activities, The Core has climbing classes for ages 14 plus. Whistler Racquet Club has indoor tennis, and there’s squash at Meadow Park Sports Centre (reserve your court at 604-935-PLAY(7529). For an activity with a Canadian spin take a look at Forged Axe Throwing. As the name suggests, it involves wielding a few sharp things so it’s definitely an adult-supervised option for kids ages 10 plus. It’s located in Function Junction so you will need to drive, catch the bus, or grab a taxi. FYI – there’s the Coast Mountain Brewery right next door for an after-game beer for you, and soda for the kids!
Did you know there’s a pirate ship at the base of Whistler Mountain? Well, there is. It’s one of Escape! Whistler’s puzzle rooms where you have to solve clues to get out in time. Your family will have to work as a team to beat the clock – good luck!
Time to Chill
For a quieter activity, teens can get their creative juices flowing at Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre workshops in Salish wool weaving (ages 12 plus) or Salish hand drum making (ages 15 plus). The Youth Centre, located at the Maury Young Arts Centre has a mini skate ramp, video games, movies, pool, foosball and activities on Fridays (3:30 – 11 PM) and Saturdays (6 – 10 PM). Or, they could always head to Village 8 Cinemas to catch the latest flick.
P.S. One more idea for any age with a sweet tooth! Head out on a treat hop sampling goodies from Purebread, The Great Glass Elevator, Cows, Anne of Green Gables Chocolates, and Rocky Mountain Chocolate.
Dressing Kids for Winter
New to Canadian winters? As a UK transplant, I was nervous about how to dress my young son for the cold. For infants, keep things simple with warm under-layers and then a snowsuit that folds over their hands and feet, topped with a hat that covers their ears. For toddlers and older children, a snowsuit or winter jacket and pants with sturdy winter boots, snow gloves, neck gaiter and a hat will keep them warm when playing in the snow. Consider packing a few spares of the essentials, bring blankets, and have mittens on a string! Whistler does have a baby-gear rental service and clothing rental service if luggage space is a bit tight!
Whew! That’s quite the list, and it’s hard to cover everything there is to do for families in Whistler but this should give you some ideas. For more activity suggestions, family fun over the festive season, and general info on visiting Whistler give the Whistler.com team a shout.