Christmas seems to sneak up a little bit earlier every year. November 1st? Get those Christmas lights out, it’s only 2 MONTHS away! Now, with Christmas just a few days out, those of us who still find ourselves muttering, “Bah humbug” under our breath might require a little bit of help to get in the holiday mood. Read on for ten things you can do in Victoria between now and Christmas to get that jolly smile back on your face.
- Winter Wonderland in Centennial Square
Live music, toasty, holiday-themed drinks, twinkling lights, a polar bear and the jolly old man himself – Winter Wonderland in Centennial Square is the Cindy Lou Hoo to anyone’s holiday Grinch. Better yet, taking a ride on the Ferris wheel, surrounded by the crisp winter air and holding on tight to a loved one gives a bird’s eye view of the amazing lights and displays downtown. Sit on Santa’s lap to make your Christmas request, and then skip on over to a food truck for a pick-me-up. The vibe is contagious, the joy – undeniable. Winter Wonderland is the perfect evening to shake off the Grinch inside.
- The Parliament Buildings
Although always dazzling with its 3,600 light bulbs, visiting the Parliament Buildings around the Holidays means you’re in for a special treat. Strings of red and green adorn the dome and front entrance in a delightful splash of holiday cheer. If you opt to peek inside, TV screens flickering with the Yule Log and a robust, decorated fir stretching up the center alcove of the building add a warm welcome. Outside, another massive Christmas tree shines its festive light onto the Inner Harbour, which is lined with shimmering snowflakes and other displays. The lit up walkway and boats are an absolute delight. If you’re not one for holiday crowds, checking out the Legislative Buildings at night are the perfect way to catch a quiet moment of stunning, holiday beauty.
- The Magic of Christmas at the Butchart Gardens
Twisting through branches and intertwined through festive displays, the already enchanting Butchart Gardens are even more magical as the holidays approach. Bask in the glow of thousands of twinkling lights as you hunt down the 12 Days of Christmas Displays. Then, spin through sound of carolers in the night on the Rose Carousel and cozy up with a mug of hot chocolate. Although Victoria hardly drops below 0 degrees, you might even be lucky enough to have a dusting of snow create a sparkling pathway for your extravagant, light up wander. To top it off, pull the ultimate Canadian maneuver and go for a skate at the rink in Waterwheel Square. With two months of installation time, the breathtaking displays will steal your breath and replace it with holiday cheer.
- Visit a Christmas Market
If the prospect of finding the perfect Christmas gift for those special people in your life has you struggling to shake the holiday stress, look no further than the Christmas Markets that take over Victoria during the season. Right up until Christmas Eve, spend a delightful afternoon in Bastion Square’s Holiday Pop Up Market. Perfect presents line the area, waiting to be picked up, wrapped up and placed under the tree for Christmas Day. Of course, the Victoria Public Market can be counted on for the perfect Christmas Market as well. Gift wrapping, wreaths, fantastic food and plenty of baked goods to fuel the present search await – finally, you can shake the shopping stress and sink into a chair with a Rum and Eggnog knowing that everyone on your gift list has been accounted for.
- Festival of Trees
Not even Scrooge could deny the beauty of a Christmas tree. There’s something about the garland and the glow of lights twisted through sweet scented branches that is contagious. So, why not go see 100-or-so at once? The Festival of Trees, which is shared between the Empress Hotel and the Bay Centre, ensures that no one goes without basking in the glow of at least one Christmas tree during the holiday season. Shimmering, typically according to a theme, are business and vendor-decorated trees that are available for visitors’ viewing pleasure. Better yet, spread the love of Christmas spirit by voting for your favorite, while making a small donation to the Children’s Hospital to bid your ballot.
- Gingerbread Showcase
Personally, my gingerbread house attempts never quite turn out like the picture on the box or in the recipe. Luckily, there’s a place to go to indulge in the sweet sight of perfectly constructed mansions of ginger, goodies and icing. Every year, the Inn at Laurel Point showcases the tasty work of professional and amateur bakers from across Canada, all in the spirit of supporting Habitat for Humanity. Far from typical box-house constructions, the cookie creations follow a theme and, well, are something that needs to be witnessed first-hand. The scent itself is guaranteed to have that stomach grumbling in preparation for a joyful, holiday feast. Just try not to drool on the displays.
- Free Horse-Drawn Holiday Trolley Rides
Is there anything more “winter” than a horse-drawn trolley ride that winds its way through Christmas light wrapped streets as delicate flakes twist through the sky? What if it were free? Until Christmas Eve, take a break from walking through the markets and holiday crowds to take a seat on a trolley and enjoy a festive classic. Surrounded by the mesmerizing clip-clop of horse’s hooves, the weariness of a busy day can melt into the sounds of holiday crowds, jingling bells, carols and laughter. Although you’ll have to share the trolley with more than just your loved one, the festive horses and candy-striped trolley are still a delightful and unique way to get yourself into the Christmas mood, all while seeing downtown Victoria in a new, twinkling light.
- The Ghosts of Christmas Past Walking Tours
Now for something a little less… Traditional. Like “A Christmas Carol,” Victoria is haunted by a number of Ghosts and gruesome stories that took place many years ago during the holiday season. Join in on 90 minutes of Yuletide hauntings that involve numerous locations of Victoria. Casting an entirely different glow on the holiday lights, after the tour, it will be hard to tell if you’re shivering from the cold, or from something else entirely. Of course, there are also the joyful stories in the Christmas in Old Victoria tour should you need to warm up a little post-tour.
- “A Christmas Carol” at Craigdarroch Castle
Speaking of “A Christmas Carol” and spooky locations, popping by the Craigdarroch Castle for a showing of Charles Dickens’ story is a great way to shake the Bah Humbug in you. The elegant, Victorian mansion sets the scene and the one-man show takes you back through the holiday classic story. Built in 1887 by coal baron, Robert Dunsmuir, the mansion seems to truly welcome in the ghosts of Christmas past and bring the tale to life.
- The Polar Express at the IMAX
All aboard the Polar Express! Taking a trip to the North Pole has never been so easy. A one-man show like no other, The Polar Express quickly stole the hearts of the many who watched it. Now, it can do it in a bigger and better way. Why not take in a favorite Christmas movie on the big screen, the REALLY big screen? It also plays in 3D! A touching, holiday tale about Christmas spirit, you’ll lose your holiday Grinch ways once and for all as you join in the journey, popcorn in hand, to meet the Jolly guy himself. There’s nothing like a wholesome, holiday tale to remind us what Christmas truly is about.
So, there you have it! Kick those Bah Humbug blues by experiencing Victoria in true, holiday style. Remember, Christmas only comes once a year, so take advantage of the fun and beauty while it lasts.