The view from here
"We're almost there and nowhere near it. All that matters is we're going." - Lorelai Gilmore
I love a great spa weekend as much as anyone, but i think there is so much more of the world out there that would be fun and exciting to explore with a group of your best gals. Feeling the wind in your hair atop a ski mountain, whizzing past trees on a zipline, diving head first into a cool, serene lake... you get the idea.
I think there’s a serious lack of inspirational vision out there for women looking to get away from it all and have some intrepid fun while doing it, which is why we have decided to create an adventurous girl’s guide for a stunningly beautiful place, internationally renowned as a traveller’s hot spot.
Whistler in British Columbia, Canada is a magnet for those who love the mountains, outdoor excitement and social fun. People from all over the world flock there to ski and snowboard in the winter, and camp and explore during the summer. So without further adieu and a little help from our local Travelhers, here are our ideas for a one-of-a-kind girls weekend in Whistler.
Where to stay:
How to get there
It’s approximately 2.5-3 hours from Whistler to Vancouver Airport, and there are plenty of ways to get there. Pro tip: Find a seat on the left side of the bus for the trip, as the Sea to Sky Highway is one of the most beautiful in the world - but best seen from the left.
How to get around
For the most part, you can get around on foot - Whistler village is just 15 minutes from one end to the other (and 15 minutes walk to the smaller Upper Village). Another option (summer only) is to rent or buy bikes, which will get you around the valley trails and to the lakes in no time. Be sure to join the local Whistler Facebook page, as locals regularly buy and sell cheap bikes on here.
If it’s too cold or your feet are worn out, the local bus system is excellent. It’s free on weekends and $2.50 per adult ride on weekdays.
And even if you want to ‘splash out’, a taxi will rarely cost you more than $20, so it’s a cheap option if you’re in a group.
At Travelher, we absolutely love hiking. The fresh air, the physical challenge. It is super rewarding to successfully complete a trek and it’s that much better when you can do it alongside your friends. Always bring a small bag of seeds or a granola bar as it’s likely you’ll meet Canada’s friendly and official bird - the Whiskey Jack - who will be more than happy to land on your hand and nibble on your snacks. Here are a few fantastic hikes to do around Whistler:
Joffre Lakes: About an hour north of Whistler, incredibly scenic, three lakes, 4 hours return, need a decent level of fitness as it’s uphill the whole way.
Black Tusk: A skyline stalwart - easily visible as you approach Whistler from Vancouver (looks literally like a Black Tusk). It’s possible to do this in a single day (7-8 hours return trip), but many camp overnight and take two days. A lot of uphill, quite tough, freaking phenomenal views. The final part is literally a rock climb/scramble onto the tusk itself - not for the faint of heart.
The Chief: The Chief is the second-largest chunk of granite in the world, a huge monolith that overpowers Squamish (45 mins south of Whistler, you pass through it from Vancouver). It’s an hour to the top but it’s steep with lots of steps the whole way up.
Ascent Trails: Walk to the top of Whistler mountain on an ascent trail. It’s roughly 2.5 kilometres up, and you can buy a pass and take the gondola back down to save your knees. Very pretty views over Whistler village - may see a few black bears along the way.
Train wreck: Only a 15 minute walk from Function Junction but a very cool ‘hidden’ spot. Take a picnic and a can of spray paint.
Really getting to know a place and having the time of your life often means pushing yourself a little outside of your comfort zone. You and your gals have a plethora of choice when it comes to finding new and exciting ways to challenge yourself in Whistler. Here are but a few:
Ladies Ride Night: Intro to mountain biking for women. Pre-book for $95 and get a pass, gear, and a guide to learn the ropes of biking with a supportive group. Each night ends with a few drinks and giveaways at the bar. Note that it’s only on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Frolfing: Buy a frisbee for $15 from Nester’s Liquor Store or Source For Sports and bus/taxi/walk to the frolf course just north of the village. It’s free to play, and will take roughly three hours. Awesome outdoor activity with beautiful scenery and a good bit of walking. Best to take a 4-pack of your fav cold bevvy. Ideally, find a local to show you around or follow a group so you know how to get to each hole. The course is right next to the Scandinave Spa, so you can head there afterwards for some relaxation and pampering.
Forged Axe Throwing: New outfit down in Function Junction (10 mins south of the village). Indoor venue so good for rainy days, you get an introduction to the skill and pay by the hour.
Ziplining: There are two places in town that do this - on Whistler/Blackcomb and a little north of the village on Cougar Mountain. Ziptrek has the Sasquatch, which is the biggest zipline in the world, and TAG (the adventure group) has side-by-side lines so you can race.
Treetops Tour: Awesome tour not to be overlooked for more ‘adrenalin pumping’ options, takes a couple of hours, surprisingly difficult and challenging. Also Cougar Mountain. Note that TAG provides regular shuttles to and from the village for all their tours out here.
RZR tours (summer): Race around in a lil dune buggy on Cougar Mountain. Lots of fun and feels a bit safer than the ATV (quad bike) tour as the vehicles have roofs. Also very scenic.
ATV tours (summer): Head down to Brandywine for an ATV tour. Really long tours with lots of terrain covered so you can zoom along flat, wide tracks, or take on more technical terrain over rocks on hills. Good place for bear spotting, and you get to go through sweet puddles. Ladies, word to the wise, wear a sports bra for this one.
Snowmobile: Another Brandywine tour from Canadian Wilderness. Great fun and very scenic. If it’s cold enough they’ll take you up to the lake at the top, and they’ve now got heated handles on the ATVs so it makes it a lot more comfortable!
Bungee jump: Open year-round, perfect safety record, 15 mins south of the village. Can jump in tandem (combined weight must be under 350 pounds)
Cross-country skiing (winter): Gorgeous trip around Lost Lake, quick walk from the village
Geocaching: There are tons of geocaches around Whistler village. Really good way to learn your way around and it’s not too strenuous if you need a break from too much adventure.
Ebikes: Hire ebikes to get around the valley trails (smooth concrete paths that cover the entire village and surrounds, absolutely gorgeous) and visit the lakes. There are a few hills and the trail system is pretty extensive so an electric bike can be a big help.
Lakes and the River of Golden Dreams: The River of Golden Dreams is a bit of a local rite of passage. You float down it on inflatable boats, many of them deflate and pop, a lot of people end up in the water. You finish up at Alta Lake, take a few drinks with you, also take duct tape to deal with holes and don’t drink too much because you’ll need to fix your boat if you’re in a blow-up one. You can purchase ‘explorer’ boats from the supermarket (IGA) or backroads Whistler rent out real ones that won’t pop. This company also rents SUP and kayaks so you can head out for a cruise on Lost Lake. Tons of fun and of course, all very scenic.
Via Ferrata: Amazing rock climb and scramble on Whistler mountain. Several hours, actually quite challenging. Take a look at the history of the Via Ferrata because it’s very cool too. This tour includes a ‘glissade’ down the mountain at the end, so I would NOT recommend taking the glissading tour (same company), but rather do this and get waaaay more for your money.
Top places to eat
Hungry? Take a walk up the village stroll - it’s filled with bars and restaurants, and they’re all geared towards the starved skiier/snowboarder/hiker/biker/adventurer.
La Cantina: Cheap and cheerful, this taco and burrito bar will fill you up and leave enough cash in your wallet for dessert. Recommended: Tofu mole verde burrito.
The Brewhouse: The only brewery within Whistler village, also serves awesome pub meals and has a great laid-back atmosphere and awesome sunny patio. Recommended: Mac ‘n’ cheese.
Elements: This urban tapas bar is ideal for groups and offers the best breakfasts in town. Voted the best restaurant in Whistler, it’s also open in the evenings for extremely delicious fare and tasty cocktails. Recommended: Porcini gnocchi.
The Furniture Warehouse: Locally known as ‘Furnys’ and beloved by all, this restaurant serves all meals for $4.95. There’s usually a line, but have patience as it moves quickly and is worth the wait. Recommended: Chicken quesadillas.
Alta Bistro: A fine dining option on the pricier end of the scale, Alta Bistro is a little hidden gem of Whistler and will serve you some of the most delicious food you’ve ever tasted. Recommended: Elk tartar
The Garibaldi Lift Company: The ‘GLC’ to locals, this newly renovated bar is perfectly situated on the edge of the mountain, so is ideal for watching skiiers and riders come down from the slopes in winter and bikers in summer. You’ll often find live music here and the beer flows freely. Recommended: Nacho platter* to share (add chicken and beef)
Mongolie Grill: Healthy and extremely filling, the Mongolie Grill is a ‘fill-your-own-plate’ stir-fry style restaurant where you pay by weight and they cook up your bowl on a hotplate the size of a truck tyre in front of you. Note: Pick a small bowl, you’ll want to eat it all but it can get pricey very quickly. Recommended: Everything
The Keg: The Keg is at heart a steakhouse, but offers plenty of seafood and vegetarian options as well. The cocktails are worth the visit alone, and the desserts are nothing short of divine. Recommended: Billy Miner Pie (it’s a dessert).
Ingrid’s: For those days where you’re just passing through and want a delicious and filling sandwich. Ingrid’s is tucked away next to the hardware store so is easy to miss, but it will become a fast favourite for go-to lunches. Recommended: The chickwich
Hit the town
A town of the young and young at heart, Whistler is a non-stop party. From lively bars to nightclub raves, you won’t be short a spot to dance (and shot) the night away.
There are a collection of nightclubs in town, and hitting any one of them is known as ‘going underground’ as they are all below street level to help with noise control. While you can enjoy a boogie and a drink or nine any day of the week, each club has its own ‘day’ for special deals and events such as foam or glow parties.
Sunday: Moe Joe’s
Monday: Maxx Fish
Tuesday: Tommy Africa’s
Wednesday: Buffalo Bill’s
If there’s one thing Whistler is not short of, it’s bars. Even though they’re not ‘nightclubs’, you can still easily enjoy a big night out at any of the hot spots such as The Dubh Linn Gate, Longhorns Saloon, the Crystal Lounge, Brickworks, or the Amsterdam Pub. If you’re looking for something that’s open as late as a nightclub, make your way to Brandy’s (under The Keg restaurant), which is open until 2am.
Now you're ready to grab a group of your best girls and head to the west coast of Canada for a trip of lifetime. Ever been to Whistler? Did we leave anything out? Let us know in the comments.
Author - Meghan Advent
Meghan is head editor and co-founder of Travelher.org. She is currently experimenting with nomadic working while traveling in Europe, with plans to head back to New Zealand for southern summer.