With school going back mid-September, there’s still time for a getaway
I was shocked to read that flying, as it turns out, is not a huge transmitter of COVID. Is it risk free? No but with all the precautions that airlines (Air Canada in particular) are taking to ensure optimum safety, it is not as bad as you might have thought and by giving airlines the summer to get their safety act together, now is actually a great time to fly within Canada. Let’s be honest, it is in their interest to make sure flying is as safe as it can be.
With seat sales to Vancouver on right now, I bit the bullet, and brought my daughter to BC. I couldn’t be happier that I did.
You still have time for a quick getaway, especially now that the kids aren’t going back to school until at least mid-September. You can do a whirlwind road trip in 4-5 days. For an amazing time with diverse activities, we focused the trip on Whistler.
For COVID-19 nervous travelers, just follow the same COVID-19 protocols from home and you should be just fine. Physical distance and wash your hands. BC monitors exposures via phone logs for added protection.
Getting to Whistler
Rent a car so you can be on your own schedule. It is only a 2.5- hour trip from Vancouver to Whistler but you want to take your time on the stunning Sea-to-Sky highway. You get the mountains and sea views as promised but there are a few amazing stops along the way.
Driving through Vancouver proper is a giant pain because of traffic so leave yourself an additional 45 minutes just for that.
Before hopping on the highway and crossing the Lions Gate Bridge, drive through Stanley Park, a beautiful oasis within the city. It is 400-hectares of stunning views of water, mountains (on a clear day) and majestic trees. Better yet, get out and walk around part of the Lions Gate Bridge is worth it.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
When you cross the Lions Gate, you can hit the highway for Whistler but there is a fun experience to be had a mere five minutes out of your way.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge (a First Nations name belonging to the Squamish Nation and originally spelled Kia’palano, meaning “beautiful river”) is a fun visit for kids and parents alike.
The bridge is 450 feet (137 m) long and hangs 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River. What awaits you on the other side of the wobbly bridge is amazing. You walk in rainforest, above the trees, and learn about ecology, history, engineering too (it is a master construction after all.) You feel like you have wandered into the set of Avatar, with the towering evergreens, cedar-scented rainforest air. Treetops Adventure is seven suspended footbridges offering views 110 feet above the forest floor.
Every summer, Raptors Ridge Birds of Prey hang out in the Park and there is an education stop along the route. The Ridge is home to 28 hawks, owls, and falcons. There are two people who train and rehabilitate the raptors and give you the chance to see a couple of the birds up close.
There are nature walks and history tours as well if you have time.
Without the guided tours, this is a two-hour visit to take everything in.
Back on the highway, make it a leisurely drive because the journey to Whistler is stunning.
As you approach the Village, and the mountain peaks of the Coast Mountain Range come into sight, you will be blown away by their majesty, and that is just the beginning of your Whistler experience.
While Whistler is known for its top-notch skiing, (it was the host mountain resort for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games after all) summer offers countless opportunities for making memories with your kids. (The testament to that is my daughter didn’t even want to go on social media while she was there.)
There is also a long human heritage here that dates back thousands of years. The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre tells the story of the Indigenous Peoples in the area. To really geek out on Whistler info, visit whistler.com. It is a phenomenal site.
Needless to say, adventure in Whistler is unparalleled. There are two summer day activities that are musts: ziplining and the Peak 2 Peak Gondola.
Ziptrek Ecotours is an award-winning zipline company founded in Whistler.
Right now, there are two options: the Sasquatch which is a mind-blowing distance of over two kms and 7,000 feet of pure eco-exhilaration. That is for the full-on adventurous spirit.
There is a second option, the Falcon tour, which involves three zipline experiences, not as high and perfect for those who want a little less adrenaline but still have the thrill.
All three ziplines are different and in between are suspension bridges along a path high above the ground and the Fitzsimmons Creek, (named after the glacier in the area) which runs between the two mountains. There is a nature walk and outdoor ecological information boards to boot. From time to time you see mountain bike adventurers racing down their paths which reminds you there is a lot going on here. (Maybe you will even see a bear but these guys are used to people. Still, you don’t want to cozy up for a selfie or anything.)
The Ziptrek staff are all phenomenal and help prepare you for your experience but still, truth be told, I had an unfounded fear and was more scared to zipline than I was to board a plane during a pandemic. It was truly needless fear. It is worth everything and once you take that step off the platform and slide down, more like fly down, fear is replaced with exhilaration.
Peak to Peak Gondola
Breathtaking and awesome barely describe the incredible experience of heading to the top of the mountains.
There are gondolas at the base of Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb and you can take either. Face the village on the ride up, to see the beauty of the mountains across from the village and as you rise in altitude you see more and more of their splendour. You also realize how minuscule we are compared to these natural giants.
After a 20-minute journey to majestic paradise, there are hiking paths to greet you to take you to see stunning sights. Both mountains have them and in total there are 50 kms of trails.
Restaurants too are at the top and they provide the best view you will ever have for lunch and the perfect opportunity to be completely awed by 100 million years of history.
The hikes are worth it. This is another savour-the-moment kind of visit because you are on top of the world with panoramic 360- degree views. Words can’t adequately describe the beauty, majesty and size and no selfie can capture it either, but it is fun to try.
There is a summer mountain biking culture in Whistler that looks exciting. Definitely something to try, some day. . .
It gets chilly at night but patios have gas heaters and you can hang out in the vibrant Whistler night vibe, but there is another experience that is phenomenal and unique: Vallea Lumina, which is a multimedia night walk with an immersive light show set in the forested surrounds of Cougar Mountain.
Created by Moment Factory (who produced illumination experiences in Ottawa for Canada 150), you know going in you are in for a visual and sensory treat. This one delivers in spades and you get to walk 1.5 km doing it. (However, it is not for those with mobility issues as there are stairs).
Countless opportunities are here in Whistler, but somehow staying at a well-known brand hotel during COVID-19 felt reassuring.
Not only was safety paramount at the Delta Hotels Whistler Village Suites by Marriott, the hotel was incredibly comfortable, was close to everything and the beds are the best. Every room has a fridge and a microwave if you want to save a bit of coin on food.
The pool has reopened with social distancing in place (limited number of people allowed). It is both indoors and outdoors, is 88 degrees and is cleaned every day. It is a fantastic oasis within an oasis and because of limited numbers, it isn’t crowded. The pool deck is a great spot to relax. There are also hot tubs.
As always, the service at the Delta is amazing, warm and hospitable.
The gym is not open because of COVID-19, but then again, you shouldn’t be in a gym when you are surrounded in all the outdoor beauty of trails that will provide ample opportunity for exercise.
Walking, Hiking and Nature Walks
Speaking of exercise, there is roughly 40 km of trails to choose from to meander, run or to take a stroll. There is golfing too.
You can rent bikes or just walk everywhere. Running paths are fantastic and everywhere you look, again, sounding like a broken record, but you are surrounded in beauty.
A summer visit to Whistler allows you to focus on the magnitude of nature in many of its manifestations, and even though it is just a taste of the splendour of BC, it will make an environmentalist out of anyone and with our borders closed to travel to others, now is the perfect time to go to avoid crowds.