When Travel Is Allowed, Where will YOU go?
While travel to Canada is still closed to Americans when it opens up, Whistler is a 4-hour drive from Seattle or a 2-hour drive from Vancouver airport, and something to add to your Summer bucket list for the future. Here in British Columbia, where I live, unnecessary travel was discouraged for months due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and we were finally allowed to travel within our Province as of June 26th. Three days later, we packed up the beautiful Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 and hit the road for Whistler, a mountain tourism community well-known from the Winter 2010 Olympic Games.
Whistler is about a 200 KM (or about 125 Miles) drive for us, so it’s fairly close and the winding mountain highway is a joy to drive with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the mountains surrounding you on the other.
Whistler, B.C. Road Trip: Where to Eat, Stay and Adventure
But first, a couple of stops to make along the way. If you’re traveling from outside of Canada, and you land in Vancouver [when you’re finally able to fly for pleasure trips and cross the border], be sure to rent a car instead of taking a bus or shuttle so that you can make a few stops along the way, the route is stunning with so many spots to stop at for a bite, a view or a few photos. You can also hit up these spots if you’re ferrying over from Vancouver Island, or driving up from Washington State.
When road tripping, I always say the scenic route is the best route. And that was the case en route to Whistler. Stop for a bathroom break, the breathtaking views, and a few scenic photos in front of the Ocean and Mountains.
(Disclosure: My family was hosted for this.)
The Gondola takes you up 3000 feet to the peak for sweeping views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It’s stunning, if only we had been able to visit on a clear day! Even in the rain though, the suspension bridge and the viewpoints don’t disappoint the need for height and a little butterfly in your tummy!
There are hiking trails at the top, a coffee shop, a patio, and a full dining experience in the 9,000 square feet Summit Lodge.
The gondolas seat up to 8 people and are flat to the ground so you can take up a stroller and they are wheelchair accessible.
The parking lot is a short walk from Shannon Falls viewing area and it’s worth the stop, even just for a half-hour pitstop for photos.
The Backcountry Brewery just 10 minutes from the Gondola and/or Shannon Falls has yummy pizza and beer-to-go for you to take with you up to Whistler. Our favorite is the WidowMaker IPA and we picked up a few new ones to try during our stay in Whistler.
Let’s Hit the Road again!
Only another 40 minutes to Whistler once you leave Squamish now, and the highway is still beautifully scenic even though it’s no longer oceanside. Watch for white water rapids, bears, and other wildlife while keeping your eyes on the road!
Where to Stay
The Fairmont is our go-to because it’s truly more than just a hotel. The pool has indoor and outdoor space (and is open year-round), there are four large hot tubs, and pool-side food and beverage service. I don’t know about you, but I always feel spoiled and a little bit ‘extra’ when I order a Pina Colada by the pool, and it’s the BEST feeling!
There is also a large lawn area for the kids to burn off some energy, and plenty of common areas where we bring some cards or a board game and spend a few hours after dinner!
During a Pandemic hotel stays feel weird, or different, that’s for sure. Here are some things we experienced during our stay:
- Temperature check before check-in
- Longer wait time to check-in
- Carrying a health card with you to use any facility or restaurant to prove you’ve had your temp checked
- Pool reservations of one 2-hour time slot per day per party/family
- Staff are all wearing masks
- Physical distancing in lineups
- Encouraged to keep to your own party in elevators, so a bit of a lineup usually, but they move fast
- Less frequent housekeeping (every other day when we visited)
- Masks, sanitizer, and gloves provided in rooms
- Masks required on the hotel shuttle to/from Village
These things may change any day, who knows, but some things to keep in mind when traveling now.
Where to Eat
Family: El Furniture Warehouse (weird name for a restaurant, I know) with every entree on the menu a sweet $5.95 and lots of kid-friendly options, plus some yummy cocktails for parents, I was pleasantly surprised here on our first visit. I will say, it’s noisy and a bit messy inside, like it’s trying to be a night club or bar maybe? My girls even commented on how noisy it was. It has a huge outdoor patio space which is so nice for Summer!
Casual: Grab a quick taco at Tacos La Cantina on the go. I loved their casual and cool Mexican vibe and decor.
Pastries or Breakfast: The Portobello casual eatery is on the lower floor of the Fairmont hotel and offers a beautiful and mouth-watering array of donuts, “droissants” (donut croissants!) and other pastries – but go early, they sell out daily! Be sure to try the truly Canadian Maple Bacon donut. The filling is a custard truly worth the extra calories you’ll burn off hiking up the local trails. They also offer egg sandwiches, waffles, and breakfast bowls to please the whole family.
Date Night sans kids: Across the path from the Fairmont is a little independent eatery called Legs Diamond and while the menu is small, the food is DELICIOUS! We went two years ago and again last week. My husband says the wild meat burger is the second best burger he’s ever had (the first best only to be found in Northern Ireland) and I had the Pasta Pillows both times. They are handmade ravioli with vegetable and cheese filling and a decadent cream sauce. The truly unique addition is zucchini ribbons which had a touch of crunch, seriously my mouth is watering just writing about them.
Snacks with the kids: The Mallard Lounge in the Fairmont offers live music at night, beautiful and comfortable seating areas around a huge fireplace and beautiful fire pits outside. Not only does it have great seating, but there is also a huge grass lawn beside the patio the kids can run off some energy on complete with a giant Jenga game and a few others. They offer a kids menu and plenty of gourmet adult appies and mains.
Cocktails: The Mexican Corner; I just need to mention this little Mexican beauty – while we enjoyed our date night dinner here too (yes, we left our 3 teens twice during the week for dinner!), what I will always remember about this little colorful place is the Habenero Margaritas. I ordered one for each of us, and while I loved the heat, my hubby couldn’t take it and had to order a regular margarita, so I got to enjoy them BOTH.
Related: Is Your Car Road Trip Ready? Easy Checks Anyone Can Do – and What a Mechanic Should Look at – Before You Hit the Road
Where to Adventure
Whistler is made for adventure all year round. In the winter, it’s skiing and snowboarding and any other snowsport you could possibly wish to experience.
In the Summer, it’s all hiking, mountain biking, rafting, ziplining, and exploring the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and surrounding lakes.
Superfly Ziplines: Take an RZR (like a fun, fast off-road mini jeep) up Cougar Mountain to get to the first of four Ziplines, one spanning 1.3 KM / .8 Miles with plenty of beautiful scenery through the mountains and trees. My 14-year-old daughter and husband have done this [2.5-hour experience] twice now, and they love it! I’m afraid I’m not nearly as brave! (Disclosure: My family was hosted.)
Get 10% off your booking of any adventure with code CONNIE10 at Tag Whistler.
For the less adventurous…
Peak 2 Peak: Take the scenic gondola up to the peak of either Whistler or Blackcomb mountain and then the gondola between the two peaks – hence the name “Peak 2 Peak”. It is one of the highest and longest gondolas in the world, and you will feel like you’re on TOP of the world floating for 11 minutes between the two mountain tops! At the top of Blackcomb Mountain, there is plenty of amenities, even a very good restaurant with amazing views. Hiking and biking are both available on trails all over Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
Stroll to Lost Lake – only a 1/2 hour walk or 10-minute bike ride takes you to Lost Lake with a small beach and beautiful views.
Shopping in the village – there are plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes, and patios to enjoy in the Village. We spend hours just strolling! There are even a giant gathering place and playground in the Olympic village.
Whistler is a fantastic road trip destination year-round – it just depends on what activities you’d like to experience. If you’re coming up October through March, note that mud + snow tires are required on the Sea to Sky highway and to be prepared for any type of weather – from sun, snow to rain and sleet during those months! We had a lot of rain coming home and it’s June – so good tires, traction control, and a well-maintained vehicle for safety are key! In the Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 I felt confident and safe, it has so many tech and safety features!
Have you been to Whistler or is it on your bucket list?
*The Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 was provided by Mercedes-Benz Canada for a week to provide a [coming soon!] review.