Still basking in the glow of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, this easygoing West Coast village has always been a haven for thrill seekers with a taste for the good life. Whether it’s a five-star feast with a bottle of sabred champagne or a local burger and brew, you’re as likely to have a great adventure in one of Whistler’s restaurants and bars as you are on its mountaintops.
My 10 favourite places to eat, drink and experience Whistler:
Take a bite out of history
Visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre for a delicious look into the rich history of the area’s native Canadians. Stroll through the forest and learn how to forage for food, then head downstairs to the centre’s Café for some indigenous chow, such as bannock, smokies and smoked salmon chowder.
Have a market-fresh breakfast
On Sundays between June and October, bypass the hotel breakfast and head to the Whistler Farmers’ Market. Packed with tables of seasonal, organic fresh produce — all from local farms — and amazing baked goods like hazelnut-fig bread and almond croissants from local favourite, Purebread Bakery, you may opt to skip lunch as well.
Eat like a local
Drive 30 minutes north to the scenic village of Pemberton, a bustling agricultural centre. Spend the morning at North Arm Farm picking seasonal organic berries, then head over to Mile One Eating House to inhale one of their juicy natural beef burgers for lunch. And may I recommend a visit to Pemberton Distillery for a dram of their apple brandy? This impressive craft distillery uses local and organically grown ingredients to produce their award-winning spirits, including gin and vodka.
Dine among the trees
The best way to see the rainforest is with a bird’s-eye view. Ziptrek Ecotours offers the Mammoth Tour, a half-day event that will have you soaring across 10 exhilarating zip lines between Blackcomb/Whistler Mountains and over the Fitzsimmons Creek in Whistler’s temperate rainforest. Halfway through your adventure, you stop in one of their rustic cabins for a woodsy picnic lunch, made fresh from a local café — and they offer vegetarian and gluten-free options, too.
Go for a ski & tea
During the winter you can literally ski right up to The Mallard Lounge in the Chateau Fairmont Whistler and settle in by the fire pits for an alpine warmer, one of their signature après-ski bevvies. Or relax inside the Lounge between 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to enjoy their West Coast take on the traditional afternoon high-tea — scones and Devonshire cream served alongside steamed duck buns and shrimp salad.
Grab a fresh brew
If a pint is more your après-ski speed, try some local beer. The Whistler Brewing Company is a craft brewery in the village that brews, bottles and serves-up a host of on-tap and specialty seasonal beers, like the Pineapple Express Wheat Ale — brewed with real pineapple juice. While you’re there, go for a brewery tour. You’ll get to taste a few of their best sellers, like the refreshing Paradise Valley Grapefruit Ale. Their beer is also sold at bars and restaurants around Whistler.
Enjoy a feast from the sea
You can’t leave Whistler without indulging in the best seafood that the B.C. coast has to offer. Many restaurants in Whistler participate in the Vancouver-based Ocean Wise program, committed to serving sustainable seafood and keeping over-fished fare off the menu. One such restaurant is The Grill Room at the Chateau Fairmont Whistler, which dishes out a bountiful seafood platter overflowing with smoked salmon, perfect prawns, seared tuna, briny oysters, plump scallops and more!
Pop the champers
If you have a free night to splurge in Whistler, do it at the Bearfoot Bistro. Executive chef, Melissa Craig, who won the coveted Gold Medal Plates‘ Canadian Culinary Championships back in 2008, has a menu worthy of its own gold medal. Go for the three- or five-course tasting menu, but skip the wine pairings. Instead, opt for a bottle of champagne (or sparkling wine) — you’ll get to take a trip down to their amazing wine cellar and learn how to sabre your bottle!
Party at a mountain-top barbecue
On Friday through Sunday evenings between June and September, the Roundhouse Lodge at the peak of Whistler mountain hosts Mountain Top BBQs and live music. Simply ride the gondola up to the peak to enjoy a dinner spread that includes slow-roasted pork on the rotisserie and a Pacific seafood grill. And while the food and entertainment are great, it’s the breathtaking views that garner top billing.
Chill out with a vodka tasting
Whether your after-dinner style is to relax in a lounge or dance like no one’s watching (locals like to party at Buffalo Bills!), Whistler has it all. If you feel like chilling, visit the Bearfoot Bistro‘s sleek champagne lounge, where they carry a number of signature cocktails, my favourite being the Jon Sezar — their take on the Caesar — made with bacon-infused vodka, barbecue sauce and a secret mix of spices. For the more adventurous of you, visit their vodka room, Canada’s first sub-zero vodka tasting room and the coldest one worldwide at a chilling -18 degrees.
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