Most of my recollections of a "good time" in Whistler are sans kids. Some combination of a hike, a bike ride, or skiing, Araxi, la Bocca or apres, followed by some good decisions and the occasional bad one... like buying a ridiculously expensive fur hat... sigh.
This was one of our first trips to Whistler where the kids were both very vocal about being entertained for large portions of the day. Leading up to the trip I was, anxious, as always. How? I wondered, would we spend all of that time... Turns out, we ran out of time. Here are a few of the things we tried, discovered and recommend:
Firstly, we always arrive early. We always plan to spend a bit of time in the room to acclimate the kids (learn proximities to the nearest bathroom ;) and become familiar with the trek to mom and dads room - there is nothing like hearing your kid get laid out by a 'new' wall in the middle of the night and the ensuing wails from both now very awake children, but I digress...).
Checking in to the Whistler Westin Resort and Spa was amazing. We received a mountain-side (read: quieter) 1 bedroom suite. The deck and room offered a gorgeous view over the Whistler Golf Course driving range and the mountains that surround it. A perfect respite for after the kids are sleeping.
The other amazing offering is the full kitchen. It's true that most private rentals in Whistler have full kitchens but many hotels do not. We planned to eat breakfast and lunch in the room each day which worked out well. The room had pots but no pan, a simple call down had one delivered.
Our first day in Whistler, contrary to the forecast, we received some pretty aggressive rain. So, we broke out the play-doh, the magic pen activity set, the bubbles, and a $2 fishing game that I purchased pre-trip at the local Dollarama. In the afternoon we explored the hotel. Ample space for running around on the second floor (perhaps not great for conference goers in session), but this is also where the Kids Mountain Club is located so I felt like it was okay to hang out there. We also explored the main floor lobby which had tonnes of couches to roll on and climb over, again, it was a quiet part of the day, so I didn't see the harm in it.
The hotel has some shops on the main level, a sushi restaurant, the resort's main restaurant called Grill & Vine, a quickie snack-bar and cafe and the Firerock Lounge. We tried all except for the Grill & Vine on this trip. Too bad because the modern redesign looked very inviting since the last time we dined here. We did snack at Firerock and we loved the service, food and ambiance, especially when the oversized rear patio was open and quiet. We found this to be a terrific spot at the end of a busy day to let the kids explore and play while we made a plan for the evening or next day while taking in the view.
Once the sun came out we had an abundance of choices. We decided to hit the nearest playground first in order to burn off some pent up energy. Located in the North Village at the Olympic Plaza there is a large treehouse playground with many unique features. A slide made of steel rollers, a water pump, a treehouse with at least five or seven exits.
On its face, it looks awesome. This playground ended up offering one of the most traumatic parental experiences of my life. If you are going to bring more than one child to this playground, bring more than one parent. Period. I did not, I made the mistake of taking the kids while Jordan was in session at his conference.
The sight lines at this playground are abhorrent. The worst I have ever experienced. The designers of the park got carried away with their dream state tree-house design and forgot completely about safety and parental sanity. One moment Henry was making a friend inside the oversized treehouse as he exited the tree to the opposite side of where I was standing, I turned to get Alexa and when we got to the other side he was gone. Gone. Like not on another part of the play structure, not at another feature of the park. Gone. I ran at least four laps, dragging Alexa by the arm, both of us becoming more frantic and loud, calling his name. He was GONE. Other parents starting searching, asking what he looked like. I can't explain how hopeless and helpless this immediately feels. I could hardly breathe and I was not able to 'keep it together', not even for Alexa's sake.
About 3.5 minutes, maybe 5 minutes passed. A really long time in a hugely populated place with a toddler that breaks land speed records on a daily basis. I found him. Chasing a bird, about 200 yards down the Olympic Plaza fence line, which I couldn't see because again, it was obstructed by oversized adirondack chairs, rock formations and planted trees. A seemingly nice feature but awful in this moment. When I reached him, I lost what little remaining sanity I had, completely folding into my kids and crying for fear, relief, and more gratefulness than I'd ever felt before.
So again. Don't bother visiting this playground, unless you have one parent for every child OR your kids are more than 6. Huge Whistler fail.
The second and greatest playground we visited was Meadow Park. Now this is a park. A fantastic play structure situated in sand, surrounded by a huge green space with a mountain backdrop that echoes for lifetimes. We played here for 1.5 hours. Then we hit the neighbouring water park (about 15 feet away) which turns on daily at 10 am. In order to activate the water, hit the red button on the blue whale. ;) ;) locals secret. Immediately the kids faces lit up as they had the power to create W-A-T-E-R. So many fun squirty things and obstacles to run through and over. It even had a water slide.
I have always wanted to stop at this BC Museum. What a great afternoon of exploration for all of us. The layout and exhibits allowed you to move at your own pace and gently guided you through different phases of learning. The turn of the century buildings have been restored and house very different but interesting exhibits. The new museum entrance and main exhibit hall is modern and is a beautiful counterpoint on the museum's landscape.
Highlights were the mining cart guided tour and the gold panning exhibit. We even found some nuggets! And yah, we kept it.
The guided portion offered interesting and memorable talking points. The mine is just over 100 years old, the conditions were pretty cray cray, I mean I also don't want to ruin it for you... so I'm not going to tell you all the learned details. What I can tell you is that Britannia did an incredible job offering a hands on learning experience for kids for most of the exhibits, while also engaging adults. There aren't a tonne of mine experiences that offer a train ride deep into a dark (albeit seemingly safe) mine shaft. Awesome.
One caveat. We visited the coffee shop at the end because I so desperately wanted a coffee. My husband made a comment joking about how the coffee looked like it had been sitting there all day... and the young man at the counter, didn't counter.... :| We skipped the coffee.
I don't know. We started off with great intentions. A 55 minute walk to the lake from the resort along the Valley Trail and I soooo desperately wanted to get there. About 2 km in Alexa and Henry were knackered. It turned out to be our walk to no where. Sorry. I wish I could offer more than I heard it's amazing. Perhaps if you've been you can weigh in here and convince me to try again next year. I can offer that the portion of the Valley Trail that we did take gently undulated, easy to walk with a double stroller and you just can argue the fresh air and ample greenery that surrounds any walk in Whistler.
Surreal. You must do this. Pack up the family right now and go there. We took the gondola up and down. There is an option to just buy a ride down after you hike up, but given Alta.... The kids were speechless on the ride up. In fact I could have just rode up ALL DAY LONG with them. I'd estimate it was 8 minutes and 25 seconds of silence. Just smiles. I mean parents, let's all buy season passes!! Once you reach the summit there is a suspension bridge and a few great options for hiking, including hiking with a stroller!!
We opted for the Panorama Trail. It was a lovely 1.6 km loop hike / walk on the top of a mountain with a stroller! At the pinnacle, it offered a surreal view of Squamish, Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains. Life itself was created for these moments. The observation deck had a view of the people who climbed the Chief and were taking in their smaller, less significant view. Just kidding. I've climbed the Chief and I suppose there's an argument to be made for earning your views. Still, having the opportunity to expose our near 4 and 2 year old to such an experience was on a similar plane.
Most places have high chairs. Dublin Gate. Oh yes they do!!! La Bocca, the Brewhouse, Teppan Village, Merlins(?!), Milestones (obvs, same as here), and the Mexican Corner.
Teppan Village has 20% off on Mondays. I mean that means you can eat Lobster for less than their standard chicken and steak dinner. An amazing offering. Not cheap, but you have incredible entertainment. My kids didn't ask to watch my phone once. The chefs and service staff are personable and want to ensure you have a good time. It's not a cheap dinner, but it's a delicious and memorable one. Go.
The Mexican Corner was new for us, it was incredible. The food felt very authentic...but how could it not. The atmosphere; I felt like maybe, maybe we were in Cabos. The kids devoured their "kids" chicken quesadillas. Packed with chicken, one order was more than sufficient for both kids, we even had leftovers. The authentic tacos echoed the vibrance only a Mexican celebration could deliver, as did the home-made habanero hot sauce. The margaritas were delightful, like a little amor in a glass ;). The service was top notch and super helpful.
Still on our list:
Blackcomb Family Fun Zone: an offering of bungee trampolines, mini-golf, oversized gerbal wheels on water, along with several other crazy, zany activities. It looks like a great place to spend some money and create some memories.
Alta Lake: Sigh... One day.
Whistler Bounce Acrobatic Academy: TripAdvisor offers mixed reviews, but a friend I trust said it was amazing. Next time we will try to fit it in.
Peak to Peak and Gondola: I wasn't overly certain the kids would enjoy this longer excursion and how accessible it all would be by stroller, so we opted out this trip. Given our successful trip on the Sea-to-Sky Gondola, I will definitely aim to make this trek next trip.
All in All:
It was a nearly a week of peaks and valleys, emotionally and geographically. It was truly a #blissfulruckus. I hope some of these recommendations prove beneficial on your next trip up the mountain.
Wishing you more peaks than valleys, but always a blissful ruckus.