Seasonal Travel Highlights in Vancouver and Whistler, BC
Whistler’s notoriety as a leading ski destination certainly helps to sell this Canadian resort to travelers.
But aside from skiing and snowboarding, the resort has plenty to offer. Located just a two-hour drive from Vancouver International Airport, many travelers opt to double up their visit to British Columbia with a stay in Vancouver.
The new winter season in Whistler launches on November 28th, coinciding with the launch of a number of festive and winter related activities in Vancity.
But first, Vancouver
The Vancouver Christmas Market runs from late November until late December in Downtown Vancouver offering up amazing food and drinks stalls, an abundance of Christmas gift vendors and activities for all the family. It’s worth highlighting Vancouver’s walk-in Christmas tree too.
Each year, the Vancouver Goh Ballet Academy put on a special performance of The Nutcracker. Taking place from December 20-22, this is a family-friendly way to kick off Christmas celebrations in style.
The New Year is another great time to visit Vancouver, and Spirit Cruises offer arguably the best seats in the house for those wanting to enjoy the fireworks and dance in 2020. Guests can opt for a traditional dinner cruise with a gourmet buffet or a cocktail and canape cruise.
New Year’s Day in Vancity sees locals and tourists alike taking part in the Polar Bear Swim, something of a bizarre annual tradition. Around 2000 people take part in the swim each year, jumping into the icy Pacific waters at English Bay. Brr.
If staying indoors is more appealing, a Vancouver Brewery Tour is the perfect way to spend three hours this winter. Taste some of British Columbia’s finest beers at three different breweries, escorted in a 14-seater van and enjoying behind-the-scenes tours eat each. There’s even a Craft Beer & Food Tour for 2019/20.
2019 has seen a constant stream of new restaurant openings in the city, and two of the newest additions to the downtown lineup come highly recommended. Dediko, a Georgian restaurant in the Vancouver Marketplace building, and Six Shooter, a self-described country dive.
Dediko is the result of a lifelong dream for Ella Bakh, who grew up in Georgia and moved to the United States in 1996. The restaurant takes its name from the word Deda, meaning “mother” so unsurprisingly the menu is catered to family dining. In true Georgian style, dumplings, marinated grilled meat and cheese bread are popular dishes.
Six Shooter was co-created by a team of four Portland bar industry veterans. Serving up burgers, chicken strips, wings and other home-style favorites, this bar has brilliantly captured a honky tonk vibe with a dash of Pacific Northwestern hospitality.
There are plenty of accommodation options in the heart of the city. Granville Street continues to see extensive development and Hotel Belmont is one of the new hotels in this area. This colorful boutique style-hotel is ideally placed for those looking to enjoy Vancouver’s entertainment district. Equal parts hotel and house party, Hotel Belmont opens this spring and promises to be a space for the open-minded and the experience-driven. The hotel even has its own branded VW hippie van!
Another newbie, the Exchange Hotel Vancouver has already become pretty iconic. Located in the heart of the financial and high-end shopping district, this four star hotel is located in the former home of the original Vancouver Stock Exchange. It’s an eco-friendly option too with each room featuring LEED™ certified Harbinger Sherlock flooring, a recycled and reusable material made locally in Canada.
On to Whistler
The road to Whistler, the Sea to Sky Highway, offers up some of Canada’s most breathtaking views. The Vancouver to Whistler shuttle departs several times a day, and is the ideal way too enjoy the sights. Click here to see the shuttle schedule for 2019/20.
At a time when environmental factors are at the forefront of travellers minds, it’s worth noting Whistler’s planet-friendly credentials.
In an effort to neutralize Whistler’s energy consumption, the Fitzsimmons micro hydro renewable energy project built a hydro plant to produce enough electricity to match the total annual energy consumption of the resort’s winter and summer operations. To put that into perspective, that’s enough to power 18 restaurants, 269 snow cannons and 37 ski lifts!
Whistler Blackcomb is a sustainable employer too, named as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers thanks to initiatives such as an electric vehicle rollout and a commitment to zero waste to landfill and zero impact to forests and habitats by 2030.
Millennials are much less excited by booze-fueled apres-ski than previous generations. This has no doubt contributed to a rise in active and cultural apres alternatives. While the restaurants and bars in this town are plentiful (there are 18 restaurants on the mountain alone), it’s worth reminding clients of these fun apres activities.
The quintessential Canadian pastime of axe throwing has its roots in these parts so it’s perhaps not surprising that Forged Axe Throwing is one of the most popular indoor activities around. This bachelor and bachelorette party favorite sees participants hurl axes at a wooden target with the hope of hitting a bullseye. The team at Forged Axe Throwing will show you the ropes and even teach a trick shot or two along the way.
The Whistler Night Walk or Vallea Lumina as it’s also known is a top winter attraction after a day on the slopes. The experience consists of 1.5 km of mysterious trails through an enchanting coastal rainforest. This luminescent journey is perfect for kids of all ages and has the feel of a real-life fairy tale. The winter show runs from November 28th. Overall, it takes between 50 and 80 minutes to complete but visitors should allow around two hours to make time for transportation to its hidden location.
Whistler’s cultural scene continues to grow at a rapid pace and the new winter season launches at the end of the resort’s annual “Fall for Arts” campaign. Many of the Whistler museums and galleries offer an interactive and intuitive experience showcasing the region’s colourful history. Recommend the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, the Whistler Museum and the Audain Art Museum and always advise travelers to check out the impressive calendar of events, speaker series’ and live performances that take place each week during the season.
Ice cave dining is a very different apres-ski but one worth mentioning to clients. This spectacular addition to the Whistler dining scene was something of a surprise when first announced in the autumn of 2018. As the result of an exciting collaboration between the Four Seasons Resort and Head-Line Mountain Holidays, the Blue Room Package sees guests travel to an ice cave by helicopter before enjoying a guided tour of the natural ice sculptures. Once the tour is over, a five-course menu in the ice cave is swilled down with Krug champagne. Think caviar served on snow and delicious oysters sourced locally from Vancouver Island.
Non-ski snow fun
With a snowfall average of 38.4 ft per year, it’s no surprise that snow-filled fun tops activity lists during the winter months. Away from the slopes, here’s this season’s pick of frosty fun.
Whistler was home to the sliding events of the 2010 Winter Olympics and bobsleigh and skeleton experiences return for 2019/20. The Whistler Sliding Centre is home to the world’s fastest track delivering the acceleration of up to four G forces around the final and famous Thunderbird Corner in a bobsleigh. Skeleton participants take off from the Maple Leaf starting point, passing through six corners and clocking speeds up to 100 kilometers per hour.
While the highest backcountry trails are largely impassable during the winter months, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a little sightseeing. Ziplining in Whistler is perhaps one of the most exciting forms of sightseeing with guests negotiating a labyrinth of boards and trails before hurtling down Cougar Mountain attached only to the zipline. There’s even an option to fly side-by-side on two ziplines, meaning couples and friends can share the experience together.
Who doesn’t love a sleigh ride? Horse-drawn sleigh rides through some of Whistler’s snowiest backcountry trails remains a firm favorite with visitors. The rides take place throughout the winter season although unsurprisingly are most popular during the holidays.
Ice skating in Whistler Plaza is another top activity for families and couples. With cafes, bars and restaurants all close by, warming up with a hot chocolate or something a little stronger is easy once the skates come off.
While accommodation in Whistler tends to get booked up fast, there are hotels and hostels to suit every taste and budget.
For a comfortable stay that won’t break the bank, the HI Whistler is ideal. This custom-built hostel was originally part of the athlete’s village for the 2010 Winter Olympics and has quickly become one of the best budget options in town. With close proximity to the lifts, it’s a great choice for skiers and boarders. Trails, brewery tours and a wealth of fun can be found on the doorstep too and each room boasts an impressive view of the mountains.
For romance this winter, the Nita Lake Lodge is a perfect choice. This intimate lake-side haven is a well-established wedding venue and it’s not hard to see why. Comfy king-sized beds, cosy décor, a double soaker tub and dreamy views across the mountainous landscape come as standard. The Aura restaurant located onsite is also a culinary favorite among foodies in the know.
Where price isn’t so much of an issue, the Four Seasons Resort is a luxurious choice. While the hotel is a must for anyone wanting to live the high life during their stay, a warm and friendly Whistler welcome is assured. It’s worth remembering that the Four Seasons Resort is the only one in Whistler awarded the Forbes 5-star service award. The spacious walk-in closet in most rooms easily fits in enough outfits for every conceivable occasion and toasted marshmallows on the decking area during the winter is a local institution.
The Pangea Pod hostel is one of the newest kids on the block when it comes to accommodation. The concept has redefined shared accommodation targeting solo travellers who seek the leading-edge design of a boutique hotel with the social vibe of a hostel. The Pangea Pod offers affordable and comfortable accommodation with eight custom suites alongside 88 independent sleeping pods.