Spending a weekend in Whistler is one of the best Pacific Northwest vacations to go on. No matter what season it is, there’s always something fun and active to do in the area.
I’ve been going to Whistler since 2009 at least once a year, if not more, and look forward to this trip each year. Sometimes I stick to my old favorites, while other times I explore new places during my Whistler weekend. My last trip was in April 2019, and I still could find different restaurants and things to do than before.
This guide will give you tips on taking a Whistler vacation, some of the best things to do in Whistler, and a sample itinerary for 3 days in Whistler.
Tips for Planning a Whistler Weekend
Here are a few things to know before spending a weekend in Whistler.
How to Get to Whistler, BC
Whistler is in British Columbia, Canada, so if you’re taking a weekend getaway from Seattle or anywhere in the United States, you’ll need your current passport. The most common recommendation is to make sure it doesn’t expire within six months of you visiting so they’ll let you back in the country. That means everyone traveling in your car needs to have a current passport as well.
The Whistler area is only about two hours from the border, 1.5 hours from Vancouver, or four hours from Seattle. However, this can vary significantly if you run into traffic at the border or in Vancouver.
Friday evening is a tough time to head up, as it can take you a few extra hours. If that’s the only time that works, just take that into account and maybe plan on stopping in Vancouver for dinner while you let traffic die down. I personally prefer to leave as early as possible on Friday morning to make the most of my Whistler weekend.
As of March 2021, the Canadian border is currently closed to U.S. residents who wish to travel for leisure, so use this post to plan your trip for when it opens if you’re an American. I’ll update this as soon as the restrictions change.
Weather in Whistler
How you pack for Whistler depends on what season you go. Winter in Whistler usually brings the first snowfall around October or November, and it melts by April. That means if you plan to ski in Whistler, you should bring all your essentials from your ski trip packing list. The weather in the winter typically stays in the 30s.
However, the village doesn’t always have snow during this time. In fact, I’ve spent many trips in April walking around in town with only a light jacket when it’s in the 50s. During the summer in Whistler, you can enjoy weather up into the 60s and 70s.
Where to Stay in Whistler
There are plenty of accommodation options in Whistler, whether you want a hotel or a vacation rental.
- Pinnacle Hotel Whistler Village is located right in the village and has a pool you can enjoy during the summer months. (rates start at $76 per night)
- The Sundial Boutique Hotel is a newer hotel I had the chance to visit when it first opened and lets you enjoy a view of the village from the hot tub. (rates start at $165 per night)
- This ski-in and ski-out vacation rental is in Blackcomb village and only 500 feet from the base of the mountain, which is a rare find. (rates start at $104 per night)
- This modern townhouse sleeps four and has an outdoor deck to relax on after a long day outside. (rates start at $127 per night)
The Best Things to Do in Whistler on the Weekend
There are endless activities to do when you spend a weekend in Whistler. Here are some of the more popular ones to check out.
Mountain Bike on the Trails
Mountain biking is a very popular activity in the spring and summer when you’re looking for what to do in the Pacific Northwest. You can bring your own or rent from one of the multiple bike shops in the village. I’ve gone on the trail around Lost Lake that was moderately challenging.
Many flatter trails are paved, which are popular with families with young children. Alta Lake is another short drive from Whistler that provides a bigger lake and trail. For more of a challenge, you can take the chair lift up Whistler mountain in the summer and ride all the way down during your Whistler weekend.
If you prefer some guidance when you mountain bike, you can also join a group tour so you’ll get instruction.
Get Out on a Hike
If there isn’t snow on the ground, there are plenty of trails to hike, making it one of the best Whistler summer activities. Some you can just walk on straight from the village, while others you might want to drive to. People tend to be pretty active in this area, so you’ll constantly see people running around the village.
While not usually a problem, this is bear country, so be on the lookout. I’ve only seen one bear in the many years I’ve been to Whistler, and it was on the side of the road as we were driving. The only wildlife I saw here were deer and a coyote.
Some of the best hikes in Whistler that I’ve done include the following:
- Train Wreck
- Lost Lake Loop
- Rainbow Lake
There are many more hikes around Vancouver to choose from if you feel like getting out.
Head to the Mountains to ATV
When looking for things to do in Whistler this weekend and you crave adventure, you’ll want to rent a quad with a tour group. You can go to the heart of the village where they sell multiple outdoor excursions and go on a 3-hour ATV tour.
We had a group of about six and about 45 minutes of practice using them, and then we were off. We went fast on small flat areas, slow on some very steep hills, and even up to the snow line. You can book your tour online so you’re ready to go for your weekend in Whistler.
Zipline Through the Forest
Ziplining is such a fun way to see Whistler besides hiking or skiing. The same place that sells the ATV tours has a desk that sells the ziplining tours. There are a few different options depending on how many lines and how long you want to be gone.
You get to literally go over the river and through the woods on the zipline. There’s a little bit of hiking involved from each line, and then with the guide’s help, you’re off zooming through the trees. Every time I bring new friends here, I always recommend that they book a ziplining tour right away.
Wine and Dine
There’s a wide variety of restaurants, from cheaper chains like the Old Spaghetti Factory to fine dining steakhouses. You’ll find a mix of different cuisines, including Indian, Italian, French, seafood, and more. You also find plenty of dessert places such as Cows Ice Cream to stop at if you’re still hungry.
There are various cafes and bars as well, and one of my favorite parts about spending a weekend in Whistler is seeing all the outdoor happy hour options after a day on the mountain. Apres-ski is very popular in town, and even in the winter, you’ll be warm with the outdoor heaters.
For live music, head to Dubh Linn Gate during your 3 days in Whistler. Irish bars are one of my favorite places to spend an evening, but it’s hard to find an “authentic” Irish bar if you’re not in Ireland.
This pub does an excellent job of making you forget you’re in Canada with the lively atmosphere and live music almost every night. The menu has plenty of traditional Irish fare, and they have Guinness and other Irish beer on tap.
Bundle Up at an Ice Bar
The Ketel One Ice Room in the Bearfoot Bistro restaurant is in Whistler Village and one of my favorite experiences. You get a parka to wear, as it’s the world’s coldest vodka tasting room at -32 degrees C.
Even if you don’t like vodka, there will be plenty of people on hand willing to take your samples. The ice room is a unique way to sample vodka and, if anything, provides you with a fantastic photo-op!
I recommend making a reservation at their restaurant afterward, as the food is incredible. You can also join other experiences such as champagne sabering, eating at the chef’s table, or dining in their massive wine cellar.
Ski to Your Heart’s Delight
Skiing is one of the most popular activities to do in Whistler, so I recommend spending a few days on the mountain. They have two mountains to choose from – Whistler and Blackcomb.
You can ski on one mountain during the morning and head over to the other in the afternoon to see if the conditions are better. There are over 200 runs, so there’s plenty of different ways to go down the mountain. They also have a terrain park and offer ski lessons for all ages if you’re a little rusty.
You can walk to the base of either mountain on the morning you want to ski to buy your tickets. However, I always buy my tickets at the 7-11 in town, which will give you a discount.
Have a Pint of Local Beer
If you’re willing to drive about 10 minutes south of Whistler Village, you’ll be able to try two local breweries. Whistler Brewing Company has various beers, so I recommend getting a sampler to try a bunch of them. My favorite is the Bear Paw Honey Lager. They also have a few ciders and gluten-free beer to choose from as well as non-alcoholic beverages.
Just a few minutes’ walk is Coast Mountain Brewing, which is open seven days a week and has an outdoor covered patio. They have a variety of beer but specialize in oak barrel and sour beer.
Ride the Peak 2 Peak
If you don’t ski but still want the experience of being on the mountain, the Peak 2 Peak 360 Experience is the perfect activity to do. The gondola connects Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, making it easy to go back and forth. You can buy your ticket at the bottom of Whistler, take the gondola up halfway to the top, and then walk across the snow to get on the gondola going to Blackcomb.
The first time you take the gondola across the valley is a little frightening, but you’ll soon realize how strong the cables are. I don’t think there’s a better way to get a view of the valley and see just how large the area is besides these mountains.
Enjoy a Caesar on Top of the Mountain
While you’re on the Peak 2 Peak, make sure to stop at Christine’s on Blackcomb. This fine-dining restaurant has beautiful views of the mountains while you eat. It’s also a great place to go for just drinks, especially Bloody Marys! You’ll have a stunning view of the top of the mountain and can walk over to the gondola when you’re ready to go back down.
Go on a Shopping Spree
There are so many shops in Whistler that you could easily spend a few days going to all of them. They have Lululemon, The Gap, Eddie Bauer, Columbia, and more as far as clothing goes. I always stop at Cool as a Moose, Roger’s Chocolate, and David’s Tea to stock up each time I’m there.
While you can shop for fun, they also have plenty of stores that will give you all the supplies you need if you forget any of your skiing clothes. They also have a pharmacy and two grocery stores to purchase any last-minute supplies that you may need during your weekend in Whistler.
Relax at the Scandinave Spa
To soothe your sore muscles after a day on the mountain, head to the Scandinave Spa. They have traditional Scandinavian baths to soak in, which feels amazing, especially in the winter. You can add on other services as well, like getting a massage. Many Canadians take a Vancouver weekend trip to Whistler just to be able to enjoy this fantastic sanctuary.
You will want to book your reservation for the day and time you want in advance, as it can fill up. This is a “quiet spa,” meaning they discourage talking when you’re outside so everyone can fully relax in the different baths.
Learn About Whistler’s History
The Audain Art Museum is full of artwork from the local First Peoples, as well as some contemporary artwork. The building it’s housed in is a beautiful wooden structure with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. You’ll enjoy art from the 18th century into the current day with a variety of Northwest Coast First Nations masks, art by post-war modernists, and contemporary British Columbia artists.
A Weekend in Whistler Itinerary
Here is a sample itinerary for your weekend in Whistler.
Day 1 – Explore Town
For your first day in Whistler, check into your hotel and then get ready to explore the town. You can visit some of the shops or enjoy happy hour for appetizers and a drink. I always recommend walking through the main village when you first get there so you can understand where everything is, check out potential restaurants for dinner, and see where you’ll get on the ski lift the next day.
Some of my favorite places to have dinner include 21 Steps Kitchen + Bar and Il Caminetto. You’ll likely need to make reservations in advance if you’re looking to eat at a particular time, as it can get crowded. If you feel like a nightcap after your meal, head to Tapley’s Neighbourhood Pub or Dubh Linn Gate.
Day 2 – Hit the Mountains
I recommend waking up early to make the most of your second day in Whistler for the weekend. If there’s snow on the mountain, you can grab a quick breakfast and coffee as you walk through the village on the way to the chairlift. You’ll get to enjoy the entire day going between the two mountains, as your chairlift ticket includes a Peak 2 Peak pass.
Alternatively, if you’re visiting during the summer months, get out on a hike in the area. There are some you’ll need to drive to, but you can also walk through trails in town and explore on your own. This is also a perfect day to go mountain biking or zip lining if you prefer that.
When you’re done with your activity for the day, freshen up and head to Whistler Brewing Company. This is a great place to get a snack and try the local beer. After that, you can go back into Whistler Village and see what sounds good for dinner.
Day 3 – Brunch
The next morning, sleep in if you’re sore from your previous day’s activities and head to Crepe Montage for some of the best crepes in British Columbia. This is a small restaurant and there is often a long wait, so going as early as possible is advisable.
You could check out of your hotel and visit the Scandinave Spa if you’re looking for a relaxing morning before you go home. If you have a long drive, you may also choose to get on the road and stop in a city such as Squamish for lunch on the way back.
No matter what season you visit in, you’ll love spending your weekend in Whistler. There’s a reason so many people go year after year, myself included!