Family-Friendly Hotels & Rentals in Whistler & Blackcomb

Allura Direct. Want to enjoy all the comforts of a separate bedrooms, a full kitchen  and a washer and dryer?  Try a vacation rental through Allura Direct, which connects Whistler vacation rentals by owner to families hoping to find a little home-away-from home. More than 400 condos, homes and lodges around Whistler, Blackcomb, Creekside and further. The booking engine even allows you to note whether you need free baby equipment, a pet-friendly rental or a private yard.

Kitchen at the kid-friendly Sundial Suites in Whistler

Kitchen at the kid-friendly Sundial Suites in Whistler

Sundial Boutique Hotel.  One of my favorite places to sleep in Whistler — I love this little independently owned boutique hotel, from the compact, fully equipped kitchens to the two-bedroom suites. A room with a view of the skiers (winter) or mountain bikers (summer) provides free entertainment year-round, and is worth the splurge. Sign up for the online e-mail blasts and find out first when the hotel offers deals and specials on the suites.

Tourism Whistler. This site connects you to hotels with availability, so you can compare prices and quality levels. Double-check your deal with a site like Tripadvisor to get some honest reviews (some of the hotels listed wouldn’t be my first choice, but might be yours). Many of the upscale hotels I’ve stayed at (below) I scored through their “Suite Secrets” deals,  which matches budget-minded travelers with Whistler accommodation inventory that hasn’t yet sold. You must book within the next 14 days, so it’s best for last-minute Whistler deals.

Kid-friendly Whistler Chateau Fairmont

Kid-friendly Whistler Chateau Fairmont

Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Amazing breakfast, lots of family activities, (including board games, complimentary bathrobes, tot fun packs), but a bit of a walk from the main Whistler village. However, if you’re planning to spend time at Blackcomb Family Adventure Center or the tubes, it’s perfect. The breakfast at Wildflower is killer (nom, those Pemberton potatoes). If you can, get a mountainside view; the kids may find that watching wildlife is better than  TV.

Westin Whistler. Tidy, tight rooms – but many have a mini-kitchenette and a sofa, and the Whistler-side ski lifts are literally minutes from your door. Check out the “typical” Junior Suites (with oven and microwave) or the one-bedroom suites. The hotel also makes jogging strollers available upon request.

Pan Pacific Whistler. Five-star luxury in two locations — one in the village, and one on the mountainside. I love the Whistler Mountainside‘s gorgeous outdoor hot tubs and spacious suites (with full kitchens). On the other hand, I like the Whistler Village Centre’s great location and free buffet breakfast .

Finding Family Whistler Hotel and Condo Rooms and Deals:

For lodging in Whistler, BC, the peak period is Christmas through New Year’s Eve, when you could pay up to $800 per night or more for a hotel room (No, there’s not an extra $0 in that number) at top properties. Less expensive Whistler accommodations are available in late spring and fall (through the second week of December), although I’ve also found great deals in the middle of summer, when you can take the Mountaineer train up from Vancouver. Winter prices are reasonable, as long as your timing doesn’t coincide with BC school spring break.

When you’re booking your room or condo, ask about noise — any hotel with windows facing certain outdoor plazas and restaurants can get loud until late at night (not good for littles and light sleepers). Construction is often done in summer, so ask about the possibility of jackhammers destroying your baby’s naptime along with outdated hotel rooms.

Have you been to Whistler? I’m always looking for new ideas for great Whistler hotels. Where did you stay, and did you like it?

10 Great Places to Eat in Whistler with Kids

Crepe Montagne: A great place to eat with kids in Whistler

Crepe Montagne: A great place to eat with kids in Whistler

1. Crepe Montagne offers beautiful atmosphere and crepe prep. I love the warm lodge-like interior, fresh juices, French-language kids books and savory crepes with egg, ham and cheese. It’s also a great dessert destination, with preschooler-friendly crepes like caramel and chocolate or that tasteful favorite, Nutella and banana.

2. Options are the name of the game at Splitz Grill, which makes it a Whistler restaurant good for kids. Pick a meat (veggie burger, beef or chicken), then pad the bun with your selections of fresh veggie add-ons, sauces and dressings. The dining area is sort of cafeteria-style, but the food is filling, cheap and served-to-order.

3. At the base of Blackcomb mountain, Nagomi Sushi, a kid-friendly sushi joint, dishes up everything from fried edamame to fresh rolls. Sushi in Whistler (IMO) is not all that different from one place to the next  (I’m ducking as I write that). Locals and visitors debate over which one is best (Sachi Sushi and Sushi Village are the other favorites). What do I suggest? Choose the restaurant you can find seats in.

Pasta Lupino: Handmade, kid-friendly pasta

Pasta Lupino: Handmade, kid-friendly pasta

4. Pasta Lupino is a solid pick if you’re not quite ambitious enough to make a full-blown dinner in room, but you don’t want to sit through yet another restaurant meal. Here, mix-and-match a pasta shape (like short radiatore, short spinach cesare, linguini, spaghettini) and a pasta sauce (like alfredo, bolognese, tomato and basil, the spicy sausage arrabiata), for fun, let the kids pick one combo, and then choose another for grown-ups.

5.  Ciao-Thyme Bistro fills your plate with shareable omelettes, wraps and griddle cakes for a hearty start to the day. At lunch, the sandwiches, melts and wraps are solid options. Dinner can get expensive (entrees $25+), so consider it a splurge. It’s a bustling, buzzing Whistler restaurant, and therefore great for kids.

6. Pizza is a cheap and delicious way to refuel — but Creekbread takes it to a new level, with lots of all-natural ingredients (free-range pork, locally grown veggies and even housemade organic olive oil) atop wood-fired dough, baked in a clay oven. Flavorful toppings, big broad wood tables, outdoor seating and a gregarious atmosphere. We loved this place so much, we visited twice. A great place to take toddlers and big kids, too.

Other options: Beet Root Café (yummy cookies), quick deli lunch at the Whistler Marketplace IGA, veggie dishes and sandwich pitstops at Ingrid’s Village Cafe in Whistler Village and Portobello for kid-friendly pizza, fresh sandwiches and homemade soups.

Bonus: The Lift Coffee Company makes a hot latte and breakfast (including great pastries and oatmeal).

21+ Awesome Things To Do in Whistler with Kids

I love Whistler resort’s Euro-village streets, where you can walk from bar to bookstore in just a few steps. I love the joyful atmosphere — it seems like there’s always a film festival, children’s art fest or apres-ski happening. I love the outdoor activities — nowhere else is it as easy to ski, snowshoe, skate, and swim within just a few miles.

Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort is an accessible, playful, family-friendly town where it feels like anything can happen — and if you haven’t yet visited, you might be missing out.

What to do with kids in Whistler, year-round:

Peak 2 Peak in summer

Peak 2 Peak in summer

  1. Hold on tight and coast from one mountain to another in a glass-bottom gondola on the Peak 2 Peak. Even if you don’t ski, a trip in a gondola up Whistler, on the Peak 2 Peak, and back down Blackcomb is a heart-pounding adventure. Don’t forget to stop for a cup of hot chocolate. In summer, you may even spot a bear from your perch inside the gondola — bring binoculars.
  2. Pick out a trinket, activity book or board game at Whoola Toys, a Whistler mom-owned toy store literally packed from floor to ceiling with great, eclectic choices. It’s a good place to pick out a special in-hotel play set or cool hand-held toy for the drive home.
  3. Browse the paperbacks and pictures books at Armchair Books, which is well stocked with both classic and brand-new titles.
  4. Hold your breath and jump into the lazy river at Meadow Park Sports Centre; the Centre also boasts a slide, a six-lane lap pool, a vortex and hot tubs for mom and dad. If your Whistler resort hotel doesn’t have a fantastic pool (or that pool is just too darn cold), head here — you won’t be disappointed.

    Candy at Great Glass Elevator in Whistler

    Candy at Great Glass Elevator in Whistler

  5. Fill your bag with candy at the Great Glass Elevator Candy Shoppe, which offers bins of jellybeans, chocolates and sweet ‘n’ sours to scare a dentist. Yum.
  6. Fly through the air with the greatest of ease at Bounce Acrobatic Academy, which boasts a giant indoor trampoline, padded walls and a foam pit. Drop-in rates available.
  7. Rainy day in Whistler? No problem. Catch a flick at Village 8 Cinemas. Visit the website to grab some coupons for this Whistler favorite.
  8. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands along with your toddler at a Whistler Public library storytime, or just sit and snuggle up with a good book.
  9. Learn to weave at Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre; this culturally rich museum is best for older kids who’d like to learn more about the First Peoples of the area.

    Whistler Inclusive Playground

    Whistler Inclusive Playground

  10. Enjoy the swings, slide and ramps at Whistler Inclusive Playground, a 13,000-square-foot outdoor play area with innovative spinning disks, swings and carved structures. I love all the smooth, formidable wood here – it’s one of the most aesthetically appealing playgrounds I’ve seen in the Pacific Northwest. Read this Whistler.com post on Whistler playgrounds for more information. If it’s cold? Just bundle up and grab a coffee, because your kids will want to play here.
  11. Let the kids climb the walls at The Whistler Core, which offers rock-climbing classes for big kids, evening climb/dinner childcare options and fun Whistler summer camps.

What to do with kids in Whistler in summer:

Farmers Market Summer

Whistler Farmers Market

  1. Nosh your way from stall to stall at the Whistler Farmers Market, where you’ll find hand-picked local berries, mushrooms and veggies. You’ll find crafts here too (although those are not nosh-able).

    Driving a mini-car at Whistler Blackcomb Adventure Zone

    Driving a mini-car at Whistler Blackcomb Adventure Zone

  2. Bounce on the bungee trampoline, drive a mini-car or walk the rope course at the Family Adventure Zone, where tickets purchase rides scaled for all ages: toddlers through teens. A super-fun summer Whistler activity with kids, and near the Blackcomb-side lifts.
  3. Ollie at the Whistler outdoor skate park.

    Family canoe trip along River of Golden Dreams

    Family canoe trip along River of Golden Dreams

  4. Navigate the waters along the grass-lined River of Golden Dreams. Bring binoculars, a camera, snacks and a sense of adventure; on calm days, lazing along the river, mountains in sight… it’s Northwest travel at its best. If you’re not sure your kids are ready for this, try paddling Lake Alta. In any case, we rented (and got great advice) from Backroads Whistler’s family self-guided tours. You could also hire a guide, but I don’t have any experience with that (and the self-guided is the less expensive option).
  5. Sing through the treetops on a Ziptrek Tour; children as young as six years old can go on these bird’s-eye-level trips through the evergreens.

    A busking entertainer at Whistler

    A busking entertainer at Whistler

  6. Watch the street entertainers — bring a Loonie or a Toonie to drop into the busking cases of your favorites. One of my favorite (free) forms of entertainment in the summer.

    Lost Lake BC near Whistler

    Lost Lake BC

  7. Hike or bike your way along some of the region’s stunning trails. See this map of hiking and biking trails in the Whistler area; I recommend trails near Lost Lake in particular.

What to do with kids in Whistler in winter:

  1. Coast on giant inner tubes down the Whistler Blackcomb Tube Park snow. Best for parents of older preschoolers and up — you must be 3 years old to ride here.

    Whistler with kids

    A gorgeous day on top of Whistler mountain.

  2. Slip along kilometres of cross-country groomed paths at Lost Lake Park, when in season; pick up your toddler-friendly chariot carrier at Cross Country Connection. Even very young children can snowshoe or ski for short distances, and Cross Country will be able to suggest good ski paths and destinations.
  3. Play Wii at the Nintendo Gaming Lounge; there are two lounges, one located on Blackcomb, the other on Whistler mountains.

    Whistler Kids Ski and Daycare

    Whistler Kids Ski and Daycare

  4. Sign the kids up for ski or snowboard school or daycare. Check the kids’ ability charts online before you enroll them, to make sure you’re signing them up for the right class. Don’t miss the children’s play areas on the mountain if you’re going it alone.
  5. Chill out on the ice skating rink (winter only), which only accommodates 150 skaters at a time.
  6. Wow even hard-to-impress teens at the Fire and Ice Show, which runs from December through March. Snowboards dive through fiery hoops and acrobats juggle flaming torches; do not try this at home.

Do you have a favorite Whistler activity, attraction or playground? Let me know!

Fleeting Moments at Whistler’s New Playground

Visitors to Whistler, BC no longer bump into Olympic athletes — but we still get to enjoy the games’ legacies. One of the coolest, most-kid friendly new fixtures is the 13,000-square-foot Whistler Accessible Playground.

This nature-themed playground, completed right before the February 2010 games, offers a true multi-sensory experience. At the playground, I took photos of my kids in action as they hid in the hollowed-out tree trunk, scrambled up onto a bobcat statue’s back and struggled to hold onto the merry-go-round disc.

It’s funny — when I started shooting several years ago, I was frustrated when photographing my fast-moving children. I wanted to stop movement, blur and action. I wanted to freeze that ruby smile instead of seeing a pink smudge across the print. I bought smart, fast, fixed lenses.

But then, as I came along, I wanted to show the action. The speed at which children approach life, and just keep going.

So here, I’ve tried to capture my son’s hesitation, even as he shoots down the slide.

Whistler BC playground

Slipping down the roller slide at Whistler’s accessible playground

But my daughter wants to swing higher and faster, and the world (mostly) keeps still.

Sled-style swing at Whistler’s accessible playground

Do you have any questions about travel photography and kids? About Whistler?

This post is participating in DeliciousBaby’s Photo Friday, which celebrates family, travel and photography.

Hiking with kids in Vancouver, BC

Writer-broadcaster Jack Christie is one of Canada’s most trusted sources on travel, recreation and sport. And he did a quick Q & A on hiking with kids in Vancouver, BC. We should consider ourselves very lucky!

As the outdoors columnist with Vancouver’s Georgia Straight newspaper (Canada’s largest circulation weekly) since 1986, he has filed over 500 reports, many of which are posted on line at straight.com. Jack, along with his partner in creativity, photographer Louise Christie, is the best-selling author of a series of 17 adventure guides, including 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver, The Whistler Book: All-Season Outdoor Guide and Best Weekend Getaways from Vancouver: Favourite Trips and Overnight Destinations (Greystone Guides).

Does he have kids? “Louise and I have two grown boys who are now enthusiastically making their way in the world on their own two feet as well as by bike, skis, snowboards, and motorcycles,” Christie says, with characteristic aplomb.

Let’s see what Jack says about hiking with kids in and around Vancouver, BC.

1. Is there a kid-friendly hike within Vancouver’s city limits that you recommend? What do you like about it?

Based on our family’s experience, a “kid-friendly hike” is an oxymoron. Our kids told us they didn’t “get” hiking until they were 14+ teenagers. Stick to walks and let kids decide how far they want to go and what they want to see and do.

In Vancouver, visit Queen Elizabeth Park, second largest next to Stanley Park with far fewer visitors, great views, neat little hiding places dotted among spectacular gardens, good picnic spots, with a big dancing fountain on top in which kids can frolic on hot days. (Note: Photo at right is the view from Queen Elizabeth Park)

2. Is there a hike within 45 minutes of downtown Vancouver, that’s good for families with toddlers? A spot accessible by public transportation?

By car: Yew Lake Trail in Cypress Provincial Park in West Vancouver. It’s a hard-packed loop trail that leads past a lovely subalpine lake, next to a grove of massive ancient evergreens

By transit: North Vancouver’s Maplewood Flats Conservation Area (run by the Wild Bird Trust of BC) on Dollarton Road. You’ll find a gentle loop trail, great spot for wild birds, a small beach, views of the inner harbour. (Read a lovely description of a visit to Maplewood Flats with children on the Outdoor Vancouver blog)

(Consult 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver for details on both locations)

3. Can you recommend a similar hike (near downtown Vancouver) that’s good for elementary-age kids — children who can go a little further without complaint?

Port Moody’s Rocky Point Park offers an ocean side approach along the Shoreline Trail which touches on five pocket parks. In summer, good swimming both at a beach or freshwater pool and water playground for kids to cool down in. Bonus: Great fish & chips at Pajo’s kiosk in the park, a must-visit to reward non-complaining kids.(Consult 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver
for complete details)

4. How about tweens and teens who can go as far as an adult? Do you have a recommendation for a close-to-downtown hike that’s still a bit challenging?

Metro Vancouver’s sprawling Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Pacific Spirit Regional Park’s Wreck Beach stretches for 5 kilometres (3 miles) and can be accessed from a variety of trails numbered 1-7. Trail 6 leads to the section informally known as “Coney Island” where the majority of clothing-optional folks hang out.

The Trail 4 approach that I recommend is naturally removed from the main action by a mile of rocky headlands and very family-friendly. Trail 4 starts with a 300-step staircase directly behind the UBC Museum of Anthropology and leads along a cobble-and-sand beach to twin gun towers, graffiti-plastered relics from World War 2. Lots of driftwood to picnic on, panoramic views of the mouth of the harbour and the Strait of Georgia. My kids loved the wild side of this section of beach.

If families are really turned off by the sight of an occasional bare bum, try downhill along Northwest Marine Drive at the park’s Acadia Beach, next to the city’s Spanish Bank West Beach. They’ll find picnic tables and washrooms and a leafy, gentler approach to Wreck Beach where a colony of blue herons stalk smelt beside net-casting fishers.

(Read a lyrical description of Wreck Beach on Jack Christie’s website)

5. What’s your favorite family-friendly hike between Vancouver and Whistler? What do you like about it? Who is it good for — which ages?

The Sea to Sky Trail, specifically the new stretch between Brandywine Falls Provincial Park and Whistler. One of the best-built, multi-use trails in the region. Starts with a stunning waterfall and leads beside the Cheakamus River. (View the video posted at www.jackchristie.com and consult The Whistler Book: All-Season Outdoor Guide for details)

6. Do you have a gentle, family-friendly hike recommendation in or around Whistler, BC?

The gentle Cheakamus Lake Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park at the south end of Whistler leads through a spectacular forest to a stunning turquoise-hued lake at the foot of Whistler Mountain, or the multi-use Tin Pants Trail in Whistler’s Lost Lake Park with its twig-furniture benches and grand views of the mountains on all sides (Consult The Whistler Book: All-Season Outdoor Guide for details on both).

Thanks for those family-friendly hike suggestions, Jack. Readers, I’d suggest picking up one of Jack’s books — he’s obviously an exceptional, detail-oriented writer who can offer wonderful things to do in and around Vancouver.

Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak with Kids

Whistler with kids

Our launch pad, at the base of Whistler Mountain. We wanted to try out the the Peak 2 Peak gondola, which travels the longest unsupported span in the world.

Whistler with kids

In the gondola, en route to Whistler Mountain’s lodge, where skiiers, snowboarders and families catch the Peak 2 Peak.

Whistler with kids

At Whistler’s main gondola station, right outside of The Roundhouse Lodge. The lodge hosts a gift shop, a speedy self-serve deli (with piping-hot chili),  and a dining room with breathtaking views.

Peak 2 Peak

The Peak 2 Peak whisks travelers 1.88 miles across the gap between Whistler and Blackcomb.

Peak 2 Peak

Did I mention that the gondolas dangle 1,427 feet (426 metres) over Fitzsimmons Creek? The Peak 2 Peak cherry-red gondolas are on the highest run in the world.

Peak 2 Peak

Those afraid of heights can choose to look at the cabin interior. Unless you’re in a glass-bottom cabin (which we were). In that case, you’ll just want to close your eyes.

Peak 2 Peak

And then, our gondola glided into a mist. The cabin fell silent until we popped back out on the other side, arriving at Blackcomb Mountain.

Blackcomb skiiers

On Blackcomb, we watched skiers swoop down the slopes, and the kids threw snowballs at dad.

whistler with kids

Kids always make quick friends, even at 6,000 feet. Here, Emmett sits steely-eyed in his snow fort, prepared for an attack from a new pal.

Whistler Mountain

We took the gondola back to Whistler Mountain for hot chocolate and more photos.

Whistler with kids

Then, back down the mountain again.

I thank Debbie of DeliciousBaby for hosting Photo Friday this week — and every week. Visit her site to check out fantastic travel memories, tips and photos!

MORE —-

To ride the Peak 2 Peak, I paid for the “sightseeing day pass” for myself and my family. Washington State and Canadian residents can benefit from the EDGE card.