There are plenty of reasons to visit Whistler; the mountain landscapes, pristine lakes and all sorts of adrenaline-fuelled activities. But there’s also a thriving arts and culture scene, an ever-growing exhibition of food, wine, and beer, family-specific gatherings and a selection of special interest events. Variety is what this mountain town is about, as shown right here in the Ultimate Whistler Festivals Guide.
See you on the Village Stroll!
Whistler Festivals Monthly Breakdown
Looking for the Whistler festivals hosted in a specific month? Click on a month below to jump ahead:
Arts: Whistler Writers Festival
The Whistler Writers Festival was born out of the Whistler Writing Society, now a charitable organization comprised of over 150 members in the Sea to Sky corridor. For years the group has championed the literary arts, supported a forum for local writers to develop their craft and sponsored literary events for readers and writers in the region. The Writers Festival has been growing since 2002 with workshops for every level and discipline of writer, hosted guest authors from across Canada and organized the coveted writer-in-residence program since 2007. Every year there’s something new at the Whistler Writers Festival, so be sure to check out their ever-evolving programming.
Food: Fungus Among Us Mushroom Festival
Fall is mushroom season in Whistler, so what better way to celebrate this earthy food than by walking through some of the valley’s prime mushroom habitat? Join a foraging session with knowledgeable local mushroom experts held October 18th-19th and learn about the different varieties of wild mushrooms. Then check out the display of different fungus species at the Myrtle Phillip Community School, where local chefs lead cooking demonstrations and tastings. There are also demonstrations for other uses of mushrooms such as dyeing fabric and yarn. A popular local festival with kids and adults alike (tickets are required).
Culture: Vallea Lumina
Okay, you caught us, this isn’t exactly a Festival but with shorter days and often discounted rates, it’s the perfect time to visit Vallea Lumina before it closes for the winter. It is a new addition in Whistler this year brings life to the night for all. A family-friendly evening activity, take a magical walk through the forest and watch it come to life with light. Learn more about Vallea Lumina and purchase tickets for this must-see.
Known as “Whistler’s Celebration of Food and Drink,” Cornucopia has slowly but surely expanded to well beyond wine tastings into what is now one of the most sought out events in the Whistler festivals portfolio. Food and wine pairing events, extravagant ballroom parties, educational seminars, chef’s table luncheons and so much more fill out this 11-day culinary celebration (the 7th-17th). The beverage scope also goes beyond the wine list with craft beer breweries and distilleries present at many of the tasting events. For the health nuts, look out for Nourish; a health and wellness micro-festival with everything from yoga to cooking demonstrations.
Arts: Whistler Film Festival
Celebrating independent film since 2001, the Whistler Film Festival (WFF) continues to cultivate diverse cultural experiences that connect people through the art of cinema. For film fans, this five-day festival (taking place December 4th to 8th), is packed with dozens of film screenings, gala events, artist spotlights, live music performances and parties. But the WFF has also forged a strong reputation as an industry festival with filmmaker summits, talent programs, awards, mentorship programs and plenty of opportunities for film professionals to network and collaborate. Be sure to book your tickets early as many events and screenings do sell out.
Culture: Whistler NYE Celebration
This may be the shortest Whistler festival on this list, but New Years Eve (NYE) in Whistler is a party worth attending. There are two sides to NYE in Whistler; the family celebrations and Whistler’s rocking (and adult only) nightlife. The official Whistler NYE Celebration belongs to the families with two separate venues throughout the evening with live entertainment, games, crafts, activities and early NYE countdowns for the young ones. There’s also a special edition of the weekly Fire & Ice show in Skier’s Plaza, where ski and snowboard athletes jump through a ring of fire followed by fireworks at midnight. For the adults, every bar and club venue in Whistler will host their own NYE parties. Mind that many of these events are ticketed, so don’t arrive at 10 p.m. expecting entry.
Culture: Whistler Pride and Ski Festival
One of the world’s biggest pride ski weeks, Whistler Pride is a celebration of diversity and acceptance of not just Whistler, but all of Canada. Many attendees have been returning for a decade to ski, dance, party and hold the pride flag high. Events include DJ performances, live music, comedy, on-mountain guided tours, daily après sessions and a massive closing party to rule them all. Every year attendees gather at Olympic Station for the Whistler Pride Ski Out and March, where hundreds of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender skiers carry a giant rainbow pride flag down the mountain and through the village. Whistler Pride week is January 26 – February 2nd 2020.
The ultimate backcountry festival that gives ticket proceeds back to schools in and youth in the community, is takes place mid-January annually. You can sign up for a variety of different clinics, listen to presentations. Tickets for clinics are already selling out, so make sure you purchase your tickets soon! Then wrap it all up on the last evening with beer and a backcountry loving crew at escape route.
Culture/Sports: World Ski Snowboard Festival
The mantra of “party in April, sleep in May” has long been the MO of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival. A full 10 days of art, culture, mountain sports and after-parties is what you can expect, so throwback another energy drink and strap in for the ride. The most coveted events include the Pro Photographer Showdown and the 72hr Filmmaker Showdown, State of the Art, Intersection and Multiplicity, all of which gather world-class athletes, artists and media makers. On-mountain skiing and snowboarding competitions are the roots of the festival and continue to this day, so make sure to bring your sliding gear to see the season off in style. We (for sure) are a bit biased, but we love this time of year, it’s a time to celebrate an incredible winter! Last year’s Gibbons Big Air competition was a blast (we might be biased), don’t miss what we have in store for next year!
Sports: GO Fest
Whistler’s Great Outdoors Festival aka GO Fest takes place every year on Victoria Day long weekend when the winter and summer seasons converge. There are competitions and clinics in all kinds of sports from tennis to cycling to skiing to sailing. There’s also a big art and culture movement with photography workshops and galleries, GO Pro competitions, an adventure film series, and Whistler’s Mountain Bike Heritage Week. Throw in some free live music and you have everything you could ask for on a long weekend in the mountains.
Culture: Whistler Multicultural Festival
A one-day festival hosted by the Whistler Public Library, the Whistler Multicultural Festival is run by locals, for locals. The large array of cultures that make up Whistler’s population come together to for a celebration of food, music, dance and more. The beautiful setting at Florence Petersen Park is perfect for the whole family and attendance is free.
Culture: Canada Day Celebrations
The official kick-off to the summer season in Whistler always begins with Canada Day. On July 1st, the village transforms into a cavalcade of street entertainment, free concerts and special events including an all-Canadian parade through Whistler Village. One of the most popular concerts of the summer – the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra – performs at Olympic Plaza on both the Saturday and Sunday night of the long weekend. Most folks stay for the entire weekend, so remember to plan your accommodation and transport accordingly. For the kiddos be sure to check out the parade that takes over the village stroll in the morning. Fire bans permitting there is usually an opportunity to see fireworks from the top of Whistler Mountain too.
Family: Whistler Children’s Festival
Taking place around the second weekend of July, the Whistler Children’s Festival is about fun for the whole family. Entering into its 37th year, Arts Whistler continues to fuel this longstanding summer festival with performances all weekend and imagination-expanding workshops for all ages. Make sure to book tickets for all workshops ahead of time as many of them do sell out.
Sports: Arc’teryx Climbing Academy
A four-day festival held in Squamish, (August 22th-25th, 2019) encompassing all things climbing. Take a climbing clinic during the day and carry on the climbing vibe well into the evening, with different speakers, photography and music. Created by a backyard brand and keeping things to its roots with routes, Arc’teryx knows how to through an outdoor-inspired festival.
Food: Canadian National BBQ Championships
While its name Canadian National BBQ Championship suggests that it’s a competition, this is Whistler’s unofficial festival of meat. Braising, broiling, roasting, smoking, stewing… You’ll find delicious meats cooked by every method imaginable at the BBQ Champs. Grill Masters from all over the Pacific Northwest descend on the Creekside Village to compete for such titles as Backyard Burger Champion and King of the Grill. Samples are available for spectators in exchange for a small donation to a local charity. The Dusty’s Patio has an animated atmosphere all weekend with local live musicians and plenty of beverages to wash down all that delicious food.
Beer: Clover Valley Beer Fest
The bumping day festival will be returning August 10, 2019. A sold-out event for 2018, this event has great beer, music, and activities. This is a great way to get a taste before Gibbons Whistler hosts their annual September Beer Festival.
Wellness: Wanderlust Whistler
Since Wanderlust first came to Whistler in 2012 it has grown to encompass so much more than yoga. There are dozens of yoga and meditations programs, yes. But there’s also a series of musical performances from acoustic mountaintop meditations to DJ-powered yoga classes to live main-stage acts. There’s also a slew of outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and paddleboarding, thought-provoking talks and healthy farm-to-table dinners. Find your true north at Wanderlust.
The biggest freeride mountain bike festival on the planet, Crankworx is also Whistler’s most popular summer event and one of the biggest Whistler festivals. The best riders in the world descend on Whistler for a full 10 days, with racing and judged events taking place every day in the Whistler Bike Park and the village and trails throughout the valley. The Redbull Joyride draws tens of thousands of spectators around the base of Whistler Mountain as slopestyle riders perform death defying tricks on their bikes. There’s also tonnes of evening events and parties, most notably the Deep Summer Photo Challenge and the Dirt Diaries short film competition. Don’t plan on sleeping too much.
Interested in more mountain biking? Check out our post dedicated entirely to events of the two-wheeled variety.
Beer: Whistler Village Beer Festival
Summer may be in its twilight, but there’s never a better time to enjoy the nectar of the Gods. The Whistler Beer Festival now runs its Main Event at Olympic Plaza over both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, allowing Saturday workers to partake in the festivities as well. There’s also a string of satellite events such as cask nights, sip and stretch yoga, and beer dinners taking place at venues throughout Whistler from Thursday evening onwards. Make sure to organize a sober ride home from the event, or better yet, stay the night in Whistler. Cheers to beers in the mountains! Mark your calendar, the Whistler Village Beer Festival is on Sept. 10-15 2019.
Check out our post Surviving the Whistler Village Beer Festival to get the inside scoop on everything WVBF and experience the day like a local.
Sport: RBC GranFondo
Take part in the RBC Granfondo 122km road cycle up the stunning Sea to Sky. Have family and friends join you for the celebrations in Whistler afterward and make a weekend out of it! There are also clinics hosted for young aspiring riders during the day.
A Year’s Worth of Whistler Festivals Fun
With fun and entertainment to be had 12 months of the year, there’s never a shortage of things to do in Whistler. The events attract a wide range of visitors and everyone is always welcome. As many Whistler festivals occur on the weekend, consider taking transit within town to help reduce the number of cars on the road. And most importantly, have fun while you’re here. Whether your trip focus is educational, adrenaline pumping, team building or soul searching, connect to the beauty that maks up Whistler and celebrate – you deserve it!
*written by Vince Shuley 2017, updated internally in 2019.