British Columbia, Canada has always been known for it’s majestic natural beauty and abundance of outdoor activities but it’s close proximity to the US makes it a fantastic kid-friendly destination to try international family travel for the first time. A short 78 miles North of Vancover lies Whistler, home to the world famous Whistler/Blackcomb Resort. With 8171 acres, Whistler ranks as North America’s largest ski area, (54% larger than Vail), and is sure to have a little something for everyone.
ARE WE THERE YET?:
The mere thought of toting toddlers on an international flight strikes fear in the heart of even the most seasoned road warrior parent. But with an hour flight from Portland, Vancouver is a perfect way to introduce the kids to the concept of Customs and Immigration. As of 6/1/2009, everyone arriving in Canada by air, land and sea must have a valid passport. TIP: Getting your first passport can be a family fun activity. Make an appointment at a local USPS location and the additional photo fee might include a bonus tour of the mail sorting room!
Whistler can be accessed with a quick 2 hour drive along the spectacularly scenic Sea to Sky Highway. A small detour on Marine Drive will take you to the lower coast road and out to the beautiful Horseshoe Bay. TIP: Stop briefly at Whytecliff Park to look out over Howe Sound and Georgia Straight. Keep your eyes peeled for whales and dolphins which are often spotted playing in the water nearby.
Don’t feel like getting behind the wheel? Whistler can also be accessed by a variety of convenient shuttle transports. The Whistler Express provides direct bus service and the comfortable ride can be a kid-favorite in itself! Under 5 travels for free in an adult lap or half price in their own seat. Really want to live like a rock star? A private helicopter with room for 5 will whisk you over jaw dropping scenery while creating a memory that is sure to last a lifetime. Shouldn’t we all be so lucky!
WHERE TO STAY:
With it’s heated walkways and local transportation options, navigating Whistler Village on foot or with a stroller is a snap. There are also an abundance of family and kid-friendly lodging options in the heart of village allowing you to leave the car parked or even behind.
The Pan Pacific Whistler Village has studio to 3 bedroom suites with full kitchens. Starting at $212 a night, it’s excellent location 165 yd from the base of the gondolas can’t be beat. TIP: A grocery list can be emailed or faxed in advance saving you the trouble of having to scramble to feed hungry little ones upon arrival.
Need more space? Private rentals like this kid-friendly townhome on VRBO offer easy lift access and all the creature comforts of home as well as video games, sleds, and a hot tub for mom and dad.
GET THEM TO EAT:
With so many dining options it’s a challenge to not find a restaurant nearby that the kids won’t love.
Splitz Grill is a local secret offering “any way you like it” gourmet burgers and with 20 topping choices even the pickiest of eaters will be pleased with! We all know nothing says Apres-Ski like dipping your dinner in chocolate and cheese!
It’s hard to go wrong with the kid-favorite Bavaria Restaurant where fondue is always fun. TIP: Need an early morning cup of Joe before you hit the slopes? You won’t have to walk far. The Village is home to four Starbucks within a 1/2 mile.
Weather it’s double black diamonds or gentle greens, kid-friendly Whistler has something for everyone. First timers will find a large beginner area with double wide magic carpets and an array of kids ski school and camp programs.
If you have little ones not quite ready for the slopes, fully licensed day care is available for ages 18-48 months. Pagers are also provided giving you peace of mind so you can enjoy the day.
The village also has an amazing variety of off the slope kid-centered activities.
The Core is an underground kid haven and the perfect place to let them bounce off of something besides the walls of your hotel room. Supervised activity for the 3 to 9 crowd is available on a drop in basis for $25/hr or have some fun with your little ones in their Yeti-Land which is especially designed for crawlers to toddlers for $8/hr. Parents can make use of the full gym, yoga studio, and indoor and outdoor climbing walls. The Whistler Public Library boasts an amazing kids section offering story time, music, and arts and crafts. Make a splash at Meadow Park Rec Center complete with an indoor kiddie pool and lazy river! For an over the top experience (literally) ride the Peak2Peak Gondola across the incredible 1,427 ft drop. TIP: Call ahead, 2 of the 28 gondolas have glass bottoms for families ready for a real thrill!
MISC PARENTING NEEDS:
Need a night out? Nannies On Call offers child care providers that are CPR qualified, background checked, and all over the age of 20. Newborn care is also available.
Leave the portable crib behind! From breast pumps to BBQ’s, Babies On The Go brings the baby gear so you don’t have to.
Stock up! Nester’s Market and Pharmacy is known for it’s amazing culinary selections as well as below village prices. Local delivery is also available.
— Drea Lester