Whistler - A Day Trip
Activity:It was our last summer weekend and we wanted to do something special with the kids before they went back to school. My husband suggested visiting the town of Whistler which is about 2 hours north of Vancouver. The last time we'd been there was for a romantic weekend about 11 years ago . This excursion to Whistler lasted for two nights, but you could also make it a day trip--only you'd have to pick and choose your activities.
We planned on leaving at 10:00 am, but didn't get rolling until lunchtime. If you've never been along the Sea To Sky Highway the scenery is, as Nathan puts it, "far out." The views of Howe Sound are spectacular, as are the sparkling glacial streams and Shannon Falls. Even though we were short on time we still made three stops along the way.
The first stop, was not what my stomach was telling me, but Britannia Beach. My husband wanted to look around the small craft shops and grocery store next to the Museum of Mining. The Indian artifacts store had an interesting display of masks and very old b&w photos of First Nations people. Oddly enough, the owner was also selling Pokemon cards, which got our kids' adrenaline running. He told us about selling a Charizard card for $120. Even he couldn't believe someone would pay so much money for a card, and not even give his handmade masks a second glance, which were selling for one half to one quarter the price.
Our next stop had to be lunch--at the Roadhouse Diner at Shannon Falls. I love sitting on the outdoor patio and gazing at Shannon Falls across the street. Jen and Nathe were infatuated with the rabbits hopping freely outside. I watched Jen luring one rabbit with a piece of bread, and then lunging for his neck when it least expected. Don't worry she missed it by a mile. Jen's dream of driving home with a pet rabbit sitting contentedly on her lap would have to come true some other time.
After lunch we went for a swim in Alice Lake. It was a bit windy that day, so Jen and I opted for a walk around the lake while Kelvin and Nathe plunged into the water. I got a closer look at the swimming beach across the lake. Actually it's smaller and shallower, more suited for younger children.
Once we got the swim out of our systems, it was onward and upward to Whistler. Ten years ago it was a quaint cobble-stoned village, now its five beautiful towns, with beautiful condominiums, beautiful people, beautiful stores, and beautiful lifestyles. As Kelvin said, "I dare you to find anything ugly here." In fact, that was our biggest beef--we had a hard time relating to the village experience--despite its casual ambience, Whistler was too artificial and la-de-da for us. Our other beef was with the parking. Good luck if you're not staying in a hotel supplying you with a parking stall. You can't even park at Lost Lake. For some reason the parking lot is out of bounds, and the only way you can access the lake is by foot or bike.
Don't get me wrong--the village is picturesque and you'll never get bored. Jen and Nathe got a kick out of the fire juggler, and Kelvin and I enjoyed listening to the jazz band playing on the courtyard stage. We also saw clowns and a comedian, plus the start of a roller-blading race, and, believe it or not, Tony Curtis. He was attending the opening of his art show at the gallery. Judging by the paintings I saw, I think he should have stuck with acting. Whistler has three music festivals in the summer: country in July, classical in August, and jazz in September.
On our first night we went out for dinner to The Mongolie Grill, which our kids didn't like. I drowned Nathan's dish in soya sauce, and he pronounced it "too black for human consumption." The next night we had better luck--roast chicken from IGA Supermarket and french fries from the Colonel. Whistler has a range of dining experiences from MacDonalds on the one hand to The Chateau Whistler Resort on the other. In between are a number of pub-style restaurants and outdoor eating establishments. The one place that stands out in my mind is the ice-cream at the store selling everything Cow. My peanut butter chocolate cone was delicious.
Besides eating and drinking, there's plenty of shopping you can do in the village. If you're looking for outdoor clothing, you've come to the right place. Kelvin and I were eyeing the Helly Hansen water-proof jackets, until we glanced at the price tag and that was the end of that. Unfortunately our leaking chimney at home needed repair as well. Jen and Nathe each picked out one item from The Gap Kids store. Jen's only five and she wanted bell-bottom pants with a beaded top. (God help us when she becomes a teen-ager!) Whistler also has a number of intriguing gift shops, plus a TOY store at The Marketplace Village. Kelvin and I settled on a new mat for our front door. We found it at the kitchen shop. I said to him, "I hope this doormat isn't a reflection of our personalities."
The best part about Whistler are the outdoor activities it places at your fingertips. It is one of the best golf and ski resorts in the world. You can pick from seven golf courses in the Sea to Sky Corridor--as long as you're willing to shell out $150 for a round. Believe it or not, you can even ski in the summer. If you're like us and don't know how to ski, you'll be more interested in the biking, hiking, roller-blading, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, rock climbing, fishing, or, if you're feeling tired, people watching and sun-tanning you can do. Your children may be drawn to the climbing wall, bungy trapeze, and mini-golf located close to the gondola ride. (I felt $10 per person for mini-golf on a rinky-dink course was a little steep.)
Speaking of the gondola, you can take a ride up to the alpine meadows for $21 a person. Carpets of daisies, buttercups, and Indian paintbrushes await you, to say nothing of the wildlife. Then you can walk down the same trails skiers slalom in the winter. Just remember the higher up you go, the colder it gets. Night time temperatures can dip 15C below daytime levels.
Hikers, bikers, and roller-bladers will be in their glory at Whistler. The Valley Trail meanders for miles around golf courses, streams and a chain of lakes including Alpha, Alta, Green, and Lost. We got off the beaten path and went along the Upper Panorama trail. "What are we doing here anyway?" Jen demanded. Kelvin and I were thrashing through the bushes trying to find the spot he proposed to me eleven years ago. The kids were not in the mood--too many mosquitoes.
Whistler has about four lakes you can swim in. Lost Lake has a raft, concession stand, and more importantly, a clean bathroom. Green Lake is a beautiful turquoisey green glacial-fed lake which I didn't see anybody swimming in. We didn't go to Alta or Alpha, but apparently Alpha is one of the warmer Whistler lakes, and has a sandy swimming beach, bordered by a grassy park with picnic tables and barbecue stands. The park also has tennis courts, children's activity centre with swings and swimming docks. Alta has three main swimming beaches you can pick from.
Two other places we did go to however, are Nairn Falls and Pemberton. Nairn Falls is about a 20 minute drive north. You can hike along a 1.5 km path that parallels the river, which is very pretty, but a little dicey for small children. In the brochures they describe the hike as "an easy stroll," but I'd say that was an understatement. The falls are worth seeing. The waters of the Green River funnel into a narrow gorge between volcanic rock and plunge down three tiers into a pool. Bring your fishing rods also, because we saw a few people fishing in the river. Pemberton is a sleepy town with not much going on except for growing potatoes. Apparently it's the seed potato capital of Canada. Oddly enough, we didn't see a single potato field.
Whistler is a nice weekend getaway destination, which you can do in a day as well. Two nights, however were enough for us. Although our kids were sad to leave the jacuzzi bathtub behind, and I must admit the ensuite washer and dryer came in handy. Our hotel room cost about $100 a night, which we felt was good value. If you go in the winter, however, the rates are a lot higher. You can even stay at the luxurious Chateau Whistler Hotel where rooms run from $400 per night.
Age group:All ages
Expense rating:Can be pricey, budget at least $10 per person
:Lots to do, relaxing, beautiful scenery, excitement for kids
:Expensive, too beautiful (if you know what I mean)
Details:The town of Whistler, nestled between Blackcomb and Whistler mountains, is 125 km (about 78 miles) north of Vancouver on the Sea-To-Sky Highway (Highway 99). Website: www.whistler-blackcomb.com.
Area:Squamish (Whistler is actually north of Squamish)
Educational highlights:Did you know the town of Whistler is named for the wind that whistles through the valley, or for the marmot that whistles to warn friends and relatives of impending danger.
Fun for the adult?:There's so much to do in Whistler, it's not a matter of what to do, but which activities to do and how you can cram it all in a day or two.