Where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when visiting Squamish with your kids
I don’t know about you, but I always considered Squamish that place where you stop for gas and coffee on the way to Whistler. I had honestly never really ventured much beyond the side of the highway.
Well, all that changed for me recently when I got to spend a weekend in Squamish, Canada’s Outdoor Recreational Capital. There was, in fact, so much for my son and I to do, that we didn’t get a chance to do it all, and are now planning another trip back later this summer.
If you are thinking of doing a quick getaway up the mountain this summer with your kids, Family-Friendly Squamish is a great choice. The drive is short (about 40 minutes from downtown Vancouver), and the Sea-to-Sky highway is one beautiful vista after another.
Once you’re there, you are surrounded, in 360 degrees, by mountains. They frame everything with their omnipresent beauty. But you don’t have to confine yourself to activities related to mountains–options abound.
Where to stay
While there are loads of great campgrounds in Squamish, my son I chose the less rustic option and stayed at the Squamish Executive Suites Hotel and Resort. It’s located far enough off of the highway to give you the feeling of being in the quiet woods, but still close enough to amenities. There were two main things I loved about this hotel (other than the view from our balcony): it had a separate bedroom that you could close the door to, and it had a real kitchen with a full fridge, a dishwasher, and a Keurig for your morning coffee. Having a full kitchen is a big money-saver. I also loved that it had a separate bedroom, as I was able to put my son to bed and then chill out in the living room and watch TV without worrying about disturbing him.
You could go to Squamish, stay at the Executive Suites, never leave the property, and still have a really great time. There is a 9-hole golf-course on site, a full-service restaurant (where we had a really great breakfast), and a pool and hot tub that my son never wanted to leave. Rafting trips also leave from this location. The hotel offers access to bikes, and there are tons of trails nearby to pedal along.
What to do
Squamish abounds with family-friendly fun. Start your day at the Squamish Adventure Centre, where you can get some advice on where to go and what to see.
As is to be expected from the Outdoor Recreational Capital of Canada, fun outdoor activities like hiking, boating, rafting, and mountain biking abound. Start your day at Shannon Falls, a short and easy hike over paved ground in to ooh and ahh at the spectacular 335 metre falls. From there, head just up the road to the brand new Sea to Sky Gondola. This 15-minute ride takes you 800 metres up in the air to the summit, where there are hikes of varying degrees of difficulty, amazing views, and a suspension bridge. There are also hikes at Alice Lake, and if your kids are more seasoned hikers, you may want to try The Chief.
Stop at the Britannia Mining Museum. There is tonnes (get it??) to do here–take a tour of the underground mines and learn what life was like for the miners over the years, watch films about the mine’s history, and pan for gold (kids love it!). It’s a fun and accessible piece of BC’s history (and celebrates its 110 year anniversary this year).
Shopping and Artisan Markets
If your family’s definition of “sports” includes shopping, then head into the actual town of Squamish. Take the turnoff at Cleveland Avenue, and drive down until you get to the main townsite. At the corner of Cleveland and Winnipeg, there is a toy store and lots of other kid-friendly shops, and ice cream. If you happen to be in Squamish on a Saturday, make sure to visit their very lively Farmer’s Market, with tons of vendors (both food and artisan crafts) food trucks, and live music. If you are there on a Friday check out Downtown Summer Nights. They shut down Cleveland Avenue from Winnipeg to Victoria, from 5-8 pm, and turn it into a street festival with live music, buskers, and street food. I also really loved On the Farm Country Market, which is just off the highway, behind the Canadian Tire. Everything they sell in the store is grown within 200 km of this location, and there are local food trucks, crafts, and ice cream, too.
If your offspring are crazy about wildlife, then check out the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery to learn more about salmon, or the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, where you can get up close and personal with the majestic Bald Eagle.
Trains and Mini Golf
If one of your sprouts is obsessed with the Island of Sodor, make sure to visit the West Coast Railway Heritage Park for some serious train action. We also really enjoyed playing a round at Whistle Punk Hollow mini-golf.
Where to Eat
For breakfast, Chef Big D’s is legendary. Food is fresh, delicious, and the portions are big. There is also the Sunflower Bakery if you just want to grab something quick. For lunch, check out the Zephyr Cafe. They have loads of raw, vegan, vegetarian, organic, and gluten-free options. The Howe Sound Brew Pub is one stop that will make the whole family happy. For the grownups, there are locally-brewed, seasonal beers, and lots of homemade pub favourites like fish and chips, burgers, fish tacos, entree salads, and pizzas. They have a separate kid’s menu with pizza, burgers, and mac and cheese. If BBQ is your thing, hit The Campfire Grill for ribs, pulled pork, BBQ chicken, and some super funky poutines. A little bit further down the highway, Sushi Sen serves up beautiful fresh rolls and sashimi. Although they don’t have a specialized kid’s menu, it’s very kid-friendly, and your bill comes with Pocky instead of the usual mints.
After years of ignoring Squamish, I’m now a huge fan, and I can’t wait for my next opportunity to go back. I hope you get the chance to explore Squamish yourself this summer, it’s well worth getting off the highway for.