by Alexa Harder | Vancouver’s a sweet place to call home, but taking a break from city life and heading somewhere a little more relaxed is often necessary in the summer. Whistler undeniably fits the laissez-faire bill, plus it’s one of the most beautiful natural playgrounds around, conveniently located just an hour and a half away from the city with a ton of cool stuff going on. To get you excited and up there, Scout has curated a list of Whistler’s most awesome summer larks. So hop on a bus, get in your car (less preferable), or hitch a ride (least preferable) and do some (or all) of the cool stuff we’ve listed below…
1. ARAXI LONG TABLE SERIES | Araxi is a fantastic restaurant in Whistler with a beautiful dining room and patio, but the operation reaches new heights whenever it picks up sticks and takes it outdoors for their annual Long Table Series. The dates this summer are Saturday, August 3rd at Lost Lake (wines by Quails’ Gate and spirits by Pemberton Distillery) and Saturday, August 17th at the stunning North Arm Farm up in Pemberton (wines by Le Vieux Pin and LaStella, plus spirits by Pemberton Distillery). Chef James Walt and his crew table the best ingredients of the region every night in the restaurant, but on these white linen-draped tables in the fresh air it all just feels (and tastes) a little more magical. Tickets are on the high end at $175, but it truly is a once in a lifetime dining experience. Details here.
2. LUNCH WITH THE LOCALS | Didn’t get up in time for brunch? Worry not, the Whistler lifestyle more than warrants this type of dilemma. So stay out late, sleep in, skip lunch and head over to one of these local gems for some greasy eats. The burgers at Splitz Grill are legendary. The Classic Splitz Burger is a must try, but you can also create your own custom burger with locally sourced meats and extravagant toppings like guacamole and grilled pancetta (don’t forget the special Splitz sauce). Zog’s Dogs is another local favorite. Located at the bottom of the Whistler Gondola, this unassuming food stand is pretty much always radiating reggae, delicious aromas, and good vibes. Zog’s is home to what many locals call “the best poutine” in Whistler, as well as fried onions galore and kick-ass hot dogs, like their jalapeño cheese smokie. Aside from lunch, Zog’s is a great place to find after hours food and hilarity courtesy of the local and foreign drunkards whom inhabit the city year round.
3. TOONIE THURSDAYS | Toonie Thursdays is a weekly event organized by the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA). Their mission is to “foster the use of bicycles in the community,” which is a pretty great one in our opinion. This particular event is the opportune way to become familiar with the bike trails and bars of Whistler while simultaneously supporting the community and socializing with bike-loving locals. For a toonie, you can participate in a casual bike race (open to all ages and stages), then hang out in the village for a beer and a bite supplied by local sponsors. Bonus, the trail and location for après race change weekly and all proceeds go toward trail maintenance and supporting top riders training for events in the Whistler community.
4. JUMP IN A LAKE | In case you weren’t aware, Whistler gets HOT in the summer, and we all know beautiful days are best spent laying or playing in the sun. Seeing as it’s nowhere near the ocean, the best and only relief from the summertime heat is to plunk your ass in one of Whistler’s three lakes: Alta Lake, Lost Lake, or Alpha Lake. If you’re lucky, you might even get invited to board of the infamous motor-powered docks that peruse around Whistler’s lakes with plenty of beer and chill Whistlerites in tow.
5. ARTWALK | The Whistler Art Council is hosting their annual Artwalk from July 1st to August 31st. Artwalk is a two-month long walking tour that brings local art to the forefront of the Whistler Cultural scene. During the event, artwork of all genres is placed in high traffic areas around the city so that locals and visitors can engage with artists and learn more about the Whistler Arts community. One of the highlights is the Function Junction Block pARTy on July 25th pieces and activities to partake in, there will be loads of local entertainment and food to enjoy like at any other good block party.
6. SLOW IT DOWN | The 8th annual Slow Food Cycle is happening on August 18 from 8-3PM in Pemberton (Whistler’s neighboring town). We thought farm to table cuisine was impressive, but this affair brings a whole new meaning to the word fresh; you can quite literally consume your food at its source, from “farm to mouth.” Who needs the table anyways? The event is a 25km (ish) bike tour through the “natural buffet” of the Pemberton Valley. Along the way, participants will visit several farms and interact with farmers whilst enjoying their fresh produce and products. The aim of the event is to emphasize the importance of supporting local farmland, as well as to provide an opportunity for consumers and farmers to connect with one another. It’s free to participate in the ride and approximately $30 will cover snacks and lunch to nibble on along the way. Besides plenty of local artists to chat with and various interactive art
7. GET FESTIVE | Throughout the summer season, a plethora of diverse festivals inhabit the Whistler Valley, so it’s likely you’ll stumble upon a celebration of something cool no matter when you visit. Larger festivals include Wanderlust (pretty much yogi heaven) and the renowned Crankworx Free Ride Mountain Bike Festival in early August. If finding inner peace or hurling yourself down a hill at high speeds isn’t for you, the Bull’s Eye Canadian National BBQ Festival also happens around the same time. Here you can get your fix of chili, burgers, ribs and BBQ sauce—heck, you can even ride a mechanical bull and watch an Elvis tribute performance. If you like cheese more than barbequed meat, the Canadian Cheese Rolling festival is fortunately another Whistler tradition. This last one is pretty self-explanatory and unexpectedly dangerous. Basically, participants chase an 11-pound wheel of cheese down a hill in hopes of winning the entire wheel, plus two ski seasons passes to Whistler Blackcomb. Needless to say, Whistler obviously has a festival catering to your interests going on at some point this summer.
8. HAVE A BREW | Whistler Brewing Company is 100% BC owned and has been producing hand crafted artisanal beer in Function Junction since 1989. They believe more flavour means more character when it comes to beer and we definitely agree. Function Junction is about ten minutes south of Whistler so you should probably stop at WBC on your way up the hill to grab a growler of their coveted seasonal creation, the “Pineapple Express Wheat Ale.” If you’ve got a little more time on your hands you can partake in a tour and tasting at the brewery or just hang in the tap house and appreciate some nachos with your brew. Once you’ve safely arrived in Whistler with your newly acquired growler, we advise pairing a pint with a sunny deck or a Stanley Cup hockey game (weather and timing dependent).
9. LISTEN TO TUNES | Every summer, the community of Whistler hosts a free outdoor concert series in the Whistler Olympic Plaza. It doesn’t get much better than listening to great local music (for free) while enjoying the surrounding beauty of Whistler’s mountainous peaks and greenery, not to mention the musicians headlining the concert series this summer are formidable. With artists like Matt Dusk, the Boom Booms, Hey Ocean! and the Trews headlining, you’d be silly not to make it out for at least one of these free shows. We recommend grabbing a pint on the patio at Dublin Gate or Tapleys before sauntering over to enjoy a show.
10. HUNGOVER BRUNCH | Okay, you might not be hungover, but if you go to one of these local brunch hangouts it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll run in to someone who is. In Function Junction you’ll discover Purebread, which is hands down the best bakery in Whistler. They have heavenly pour over coffee and an extensive assortment of freshly baked rustic breads and sugary goodies for you to choose from (there’s even gluten free options). If you have a sweet tooth, we recommend trying the “Adult’s Only Cookie,” a Morning Glory (killer sugary donut creation), or a Pecan Sticky Bun. If you’re the more savory type, go for the Cheddar Jalapeno Corn Bread or one of Purebread’s famous “Pudgy Pies.”
A little further up the road in Creekside you’ll hit Southside Diner (directly across the Husky gas station—classy right?). Southside is your quintessential greasy spoon diner with offerings like “the Southside Slam,” “Miss Piggy,” and the noteworthy “BELTCH.” As the aforementioned menu items suggest, it’s not the classiest of restaurants, but local reviews have been nothing but positive, and it’s probably the best brunch option if you actually are hung-over.
Even further up the road and past Whistler Village in Alpine Meadows resides the quaint Alpine Café. The atmosphere at Alpine is totally chill and it’s always bustling with locals. The food is simple, but good, and their toast (thickly sliced from freshly baked bread) is the best. Encouraging fact: before fulfilling their long-awaited dream and opening the café in 2004, it’s founders, Martini Bart and Kevin Wood, worked together at Araxi.
11. RAINBOW PICNIC | The Whistler Farmer’s Market is the best place to find a huge selection of fresh produce and artisanal products from the surrounding Pemberton Valley area in the summertime. Some of our favourite vendors include: Rootdown Organic Farm, Lucia Gelato and the Japanese savory cabbage pancake stand (sound weird, but they’re tremendous), Jeggs Okonomiyaki. In addition to awesome local food, there’s live music, lots of great craft vendors and a token kettle corn stand with a perpetual line.
We suggest you start your Sunday off at the market gathering culinary treasures, then moseying your way along the valley trail until you hit Rainbow Park, once the site of the historical Rainbow Lodge on Alta Lake. It’s a great spot to post up for a picnic and relax, plus it has everything you need for a perfect Sunday afternoon: picnic tables, beach volleyball courts, outdoor BBQ’s, a lake…you get the point.
Alta is on the west side of Whistler and boasts three parks that will surely fulfill your swimming needs: Rainbow, Lakeside and Wayside. Rainbow Park is best for those who enjoy a little beach volleyball, whereas Wayside and Lakeside are more attuned to water loving souls who want the option of renting a canoe or kayak. Lost Lake is located just off of Lost Lake Road. It’s well known for being home to the only dock in Whistler where you can quite literally lose your clothes i.e. get naked and jump in. The nudie dock is a short jaunt up a trail located off to the side of Lost Lake Park. Moreover, the more family oriented park has a great sandy beach you can enjoy sans nudity if that’s more your speed.
Alpha Lake has only one park, Alpha Lake Park, and is situated in Creekside. If you have a pet, kids, or enjoy sports like tennis and volleyball, Alpha is the place for you. It’s dog friendly and has outdoor tennis and volleyball courts where you can work up a sweat before hopping in the lake.
Alexa Harder is the social media manager @ScoutMagazine. She recently received her Bachelors of Commerce from McGill University and has returned home to study Communication Design at Emily Carr University. She enjoys collaging, reading, cooking, and exploring the neighbourhoods of Vancouver for inspiration and good food.