Top Things to Do this Holiday Season in Victoria B.C.

As the summer days fade away and the pumpkin spice lattes come out to play, our minds move straight into fall and the holiday season. Although Victoria is a major summer vacation spot, there are plenty of reasons to love the city, even in the depths of winter. Find out the top things to do this Christmas season in Victoria B.C. and embrace the heart of the holiday season.

 

Photo by: Mario Nonaka

Photo by: Mario Nonaka

  1. Whale Watching

Whale watching may sound like summer, but it is definitely doable in the winter. Victoria’s waters are filled with plenty of resident whales including orcas (killer whales). That means they’re around in both the summer and winter seasons. Better yet, tours are cheaper and the waitlist is shorter! Aside from whales, plenty of other creatures bask in local waters year-round, making any adventure one for the books. Just because it’s winter, does not mean you have to give up those ocean activities until summer days again.

 

Photo by: Dmitry Denisenkov

Photo by: Dmitry Denisenkov

  1. Ice Skating at Bear Mountain

But… it doesn’t get COLD in Victoria, right? Not usually, but that doesn’t stop Bear Mountain from crafting a skating rink from November to January. When the weather cooperates, they deck the place out with beautiful lights, cozy fires and quaint gazebos with stunning views. A winter skate at the rink is the embodiment of holiday charm. It’s even better as a date spot, especially with the Master’s Lounge on site with seasonal drinks for afterwards. There may even be some mistletoe hanging about within the soft glow of the twinkling lights. Call ahead to make sure it’s open before you drive over though!

 

Photo by: Erin Caldwell

Photo by: Erin Caldwell

  1. Holiday High Tea

On the cozier, indoor side of holiday things, let’s talk tea! One of the top things to do in Victoria in general is attending a High Tea at the Empress. It only makes sense that it still makes the list during the winter, especially when the holiday spirit takes over! Since afternoon tea seems to have made a comeback, it isn’t just the Empress where you can partake – check out a number of great spots such as Venus Sophia Tea Room for some more options. There’s something about a cozy cuppa tea that brings that holiday spirit to life and leaves you warm and fuzzy all day!

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

  1. Pub Hop

If tea doesn’t sound strong enough for a winter’s day, how about a beer? Downtown Victoria is riddled with delightful pubs where you can snuggle in and battle the weather one pint at a time. Old timey booths, warm lights, big chandeliers, wooden bars, plenty of taps… But why try one, when you can try them all? Within a short, wakeful walk away, you can be in the next pub. Track down your favourite winter go-to and settle in for the season.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

  1. The Magic of Christmas at the Butchart Gardens

Another famous skating rink in Victoria is featured at the Butchart Gardens during their Magic of Christmas exhibition. However, the rink is just the tip of the iceberg. From December to January, the Gardens are a delight of different holiday chronicles laced into their stunning green thumb paradise. Pay an evening’s visit to really get into the Christmas spirit. With a cup of hot cocoa in hand, the search is on for the Twelve Days of Christmas hidden within the world-famous gardens. Live music chases you through the winding paths, putting a hop in your step to classic holiday tunes. They even feature a holiday high tea, and the carousel is a favourite for younger light seekers. Magic is exactly what is found at the Butchart Gardens during the holiday season.

 

  1. Winter Wonderland in Centennial Square

Victoria doesn’t stop with the Butchart Gardens’ Magic of Christmas in terms of classic winter events. With such a charming downtown core, it’s easy to see why. Winter Wonderland in Centennial Square takes downtown and turns it into a holiday paradise. Santa pays a visit, there are Christmas trees abound and horses stamp their hooves in the brisk evenings. Tours in a classic horse-drawn carriage take guests through bewitching streets bathed in the soft glow of hundreds of twinkle lights. The highlight, however, is the bright Ferris wheel that sits at the square’s center. Enjoy a spin on the wheel with a pause at the top to take in the enchanting scene below. Soft notes of the live music might even reach your ears.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

  1. Light-Ups

The glow of hundreds of sparkling lights isn’t just for downtown Victoria, either. A number of locations have “light-ups” that will charm even the biggest Ba Hum Bug into a holiday high. Every year the Downtown Victoria Inner Harbour has a contest for best-dressed boat and float home, as well as for craziest. Last year over 5000 participants plugged in at dusk to put on the show, and you can see the display from November until the end of December.

Other light-ups to keep an eye out for include the holiday themed lights of the Parliament Buildings, Fisherman’s Wharf and Ogden Point.

 

Photo by: Jennifer Reiswig

Photo by: Jennifer Reiswig

  1. A Christmas Carol at the Craigdarroch Castle

For those who dream of Hogwarts in wintertime and the perfect castle at Christmas, catching a show at the Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria is an excellent holiday option. Tours of the four floors decked out in ribbons and bows set the scene for a one man show of A Christmas Carol in the Castle’s drawing room. Tickets need to be purchased in advance, and if you miss that show, there’s a post-Christmas follow-up performance of Radio, Mistletoe and My Man Godfrey. With displays that take nearly six weeks to set up, you can bet that the Castle is a holiday sight to see. It takes you straight back to Christmas in the Victorian era when the original owners themselves used to adorn the Castle for their celebrations.

 

  1. Holiday Specials at the IMAX

Compared to the Victorian Era celebrations encapsulated at the Craigdarroch Castle, the Royal BC Museum’s IMAX offers a new century’s twist. Take in some of your favourite holiday movies on the big, BIG screen for a short time during the Christmas season. Some, such as the Polar Express, will even be held in 3-D as a popular pastime. Pack the popcorn and a loved one and recover your holiday spirit on the big screen!

 

  1. Christmas at the Market

Naturally, Christmas Markets are a big hit and a must-do at least once during the season. The Public Market at the Hudson happens to do a fantastic job, and you can wander the aisles of artisan crafts, goods and amazing food to fulfil your shopping list. Not only will you cover all your festival feast needs, but are likely to find something for everyone on your list, including yourself. Under the tree, or on the table, the spirit is contagious at the Hudson during the holidays.

Ten Reasons to Book a Kayaking Tour in Victoria B.C.

Whether you’re an old hand at it, or want to try kayaking for the very first time, the waters surrounding Victoria have something for everyone. There are plenty of outfitters that do rentals, as well as numerous kayaking tour companies. From short harbour paddles, to overnight adventures, booking a kayaking tour will guarantee an adventure to remember. After all, it is ranked as one of the top things to do in Victoria!

 

  1. Instructions

Wary of the waves? Not to worry. When booking a tour, companies go over all the safety instructions, techniques and have plenty of safety equipment on each boat such as lifejackets and whistles. Plus, guides are typically certified in First Aid. Kayaks themselves are quite stable, so the likelihood of tipping over during a tour is very low. Kayaking tour companies usually don’t require any experience to participate in their tours, although beginners may find some longer, or overnight tours a bit tougher. If you’re unsure, just ask before you book!

  1. Safety

Paddling in unfamiliar waters with different currents, tides and traffic can be dangerous, even if you know what you’re doing. Considering the Inner Harbour is still a working harbour, there are plenty of boats, and even planes, coming and going at all times. Booking a kayaking tour through a company means your guide is going to be familiar with everything involved in navigating Victoria. Some of them have been doing it so long, they could probably find their way around with their eyes closed!

 

IMG_3714

  1. Motivation

Whether you have kayaked plenty of times before, or are doing something new, having a kayaking tour booked and on your schedule is a good motivator to make sure it happens! Not to mention, having a set route and someone telling you where to go, as well as a timeframe ensures you get to where you want to go.

 

Photo by: Geoff Williams

Photo by: Geoff Williams

  1. Equipment Included

Rather than lugging your own equipment with you on vacation, booking a kayaking tour ensures you have great equipment to use supplied by the company. Better yet, it means you don’t even need a vehicle at all, as the outfitter will take care of the tough part for you. A lot of Victoria’s accommodation is located close to where tours depart. All that’s required is for you to show up ready to paddle!

  1. Knowledge of the Area

Even if you’re a fantastic paddler, if you’re not from the area, you’ll be missing out on some great aspects of Victoria and Vancouver Island. Kayaking guides in the area are knowledgeable and often have great anecdotes and information that go along with the paddling tour. That way, you’ll have a greater understanding of what you’re seeing, where you’re paddling and of life on the west coast.

 

Photo by: Lindsey Bobinz

Photo by: Lindsey Alton

  1. Areas to Explore

Being on the coast, Victoria has plenty of coastline to explore. Not to mention, the Gulf and Discovery Islands are close enough to explore by kayak. Kayaking tours explore the Downtown Inner Harbour, the Gulf Islands, the Discovery Islands and plenty of other waterways in the area. Departures from Sidney can include an adventure out to the Sidney Spit and its provincial park, too. With so much water around, there are plenty of areas to explore and stunning views to be seen, either independently, or as part of a kayaking tour.

  1. Wildlife

While the nearby forests and parks contain plenty of wildlife, from deer and bears to various types of birds, the Pacific Ocean is a gateway to countless more animals. Jelly fish, seals, sea otters and whales are common on the coast, and being out amongst them on a boat is a unique way to get up close and personal with more than a few of them. While seeing whales may require an actual whale watching excursion (although occasional kayakers do get lucky), there are so many other sea creatures to see! Most kayaking guides are very familiar with the animals of the coast, and will be able to point them out and tell you about their role in the ecosystem you’re paddling through.

 

Photo by: Tracy and Joe

Photo by: Tracy and Joe

  1. Exercise and Fun

Spending all day paddling around is a great form of exercise. Paddling a kayak involves your arms, back, shoulders and even your abs. Better yet, it’s so fun, you’ll hardly notice you’re doing any real exercise at all! It’s surprising how much area you can cover as you zip along in a kayak and, of course, a race or two may be in order. Nothing feels better than spending a healthy day outside on the water.

 

Larry n Jill

Photo by: Jill Liedtke

  1. City View

Downtown Victoria is incredibly popular, and by the end of your trip, you’ll likely have walked its streets from top to bottom more than a few times. Booking a kayaking tour lets you see a new side of Victoria! Looking back at the city from the harbour provides a stunning view point of the city – one that relieved sailors see after days on the ocean. With the Parliament Buildings, Empress Hotel and the bustling walkway hugging the harbour seeing Victoria from the water is nearly a must.

  1. Unique Experience

When visiting a beautiful city that sits on the west coast of Vancouver Island, it’s great to take advantage of every activity you can. Depending on where you’re from, you may never have the chance to hop into a kayak and explore a working harbour, or stunning coastline ever again. Victoria is lucky enough to have so much nature and water within reach, and enjoying it first hand by kayak is a great way to appreciate the beautiful city even more.

Convinced? Great! The next step is to book your tour. To find out more about kayaking in Victoria, and tips on some things you’ll want to pack along for your kayaking adventure, visit our Kayaking page.

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

Fun Facts about Victoria’s Top Things to Do

The top things to do in Victoria, B.C. are already on the list because, well, they’re really fun and offer fantastic experiences while in the city. Aside from being the main attraction though, there are plenty of not-so-obvious fun facts that add to these top activities. Read on to find out some more tidbits about Victoria’s top things to do that make them even better!

 

Photo by: Steve Sutherland

Photo by: Steve Sutherland

Whale Watching

When visitors think of the coast, they’re often excited at the idea of heading out on a whale watching tour. Seeing these giants of the ocean first hand definitely makes for a memorable day. So, what else makes whale watching amazing? Whales on Vancouver Island, especially orcas, are some of the best and most studied in the world. Depending on the season, a whale watching tour gives visitors the opportunity to see resident orcas, transient orcas, humpback whales, gray whales, or even minke whales, along with tons of other marine animals such as dolphins and porpoises.

 

Salmon-VictoriaBC

Fishing Charters

While summer fishing is best on the west coast of Vancouver Island in Ucluelet and Tofino, the winter season is Victoria’s time to shine. With more sheltered waters, fishing charters can get out, even in less than perfect weather. There are plenty of good-sized chinook, and halibut on the menu, but you already knew that. What you might not know is that Ogden Point used to be an offloading point for hundreds of commercial fishing boats back in the 1900’s. Fishing has been a west coast staple for years, and booking a fishing charter treats visitors to yet another aspect of life on Vancouver Island.

 

Photo by: H.K. Tran

Photo by: H.K. Tran

Parliament Buildings

The Parliament Buildings are a dominating feature of Victoria’s downtown harbour. Aside from the usual facts doled out during a tour of the place, there are plenty of other lesser-known aspects to the building. For one, it’s thought to be haunted by its own architect, Francis Rattenbury. He met a particularly gruesome death at the hands of his wife’s lover back in England, and made his way back to Victoria to wander the halls of one of his best creations. The other building he’s rumoured to roam is the Empress Hotel.

 

Photo by: Victor Hugo Carrera

Photo by: Victor Hugo Carrera

The Empress Hotel

Just across from the Parliament Buildings, the Empress is another familiar, Victoria sight. Besides incredible rooms, a famous high tea and several reports of hauntings, the Empress has plenty of other fun facts and history to its name. It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada, and opened in 1908, making it one of the oldest hotels around. Fancy a cup of tea? Each year the Empress Hotel serves around 500,000 cups of the stuff – you’re in good company.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Butchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens are likely one of the first things to spring to mind when the topic of Victoria is at hand. It has six gardens that make up the stunning 55-acre area. If the incredible flowers weren’t enough, the gardens feature fireworks during the summer, and an incredible light display over the holidays. Not only are the Butchart Gardens a National Historic Site of Canada, but they also see about one million visitors every year. Amazingly, they’re still owned by the founding family, who started the gardens in the early 1900s.  No wonder they’re one of the top things to do in Victoria! By the way, considering how popular the Butchart Gardens are, it should be no surprise that Victoria is known internationally as the City of Gardens.

 

Photo by: Hannu

Photo by: Hannu

Royal BC Museum

For a dose of B.C.’s history, the Royal BC Museum is a must-see. Especially perfect for rainy days, the displays and infamous mammoth can be a ton of fun for everyone. Amazingly, aside from the full and part-time staff that run the museum, over 500 volunteers donate over 42,000 hours to the museum each year! It’s partially thanks to their dedication that the museum can remain one of the top things to do in Victoria.

 

 

Photo by: Kelly

Photo by: Kelly Powers

Dallas Road

For an easy-going day filled with plenty of beautiful scenery, Dallas Road is the city’s go-to. In fact, its breathtaking mountain vistas and cruisy road and walkways with beach access easily put it on the top things to do in Victoria list, even in the winter for storm watching. An added fun fact is that it intersects with Mile 0 and its monument. Why should Mile 0 matter? It marks the beginning of the Trans-Canada Highway, which, with 4,860 miles following that marker, is the longest highway in the world. While there, check out the Terry Fox monument as well.

 

Photo by: Jessie Thomas

Photo by: Jessie Thomas

Horse Drawn Carriage Rides

Victoria is perhaps the perfect setting for a horse-drawn carriage ride. The old downtown and stunning, older areas of town set the mood of old-time Victoria and gives visitors a historical sense of the city. Besides the classic tours of the city offered by companies, the rides can also create a romantic setting and are a popular place to pop the question!

 

Photo by: Jim Knitis

Photo by: Jim Knitis

Water Taxi Rides

It’s no surprise that a water taxi would be one of the top things to do in Victoria. For those from land-locked places, having the option to get from A to B by boat is pretty exciting! It’s also a great way to see the city from a new perspective, and some companies give round tours with plenty of information. The fun part? There’s also a water taxi that doubles as a pub crawl.

 

Photo by: Kyoshiok

Photo by: Kyoshiok

Beacon Hill Park

With 200-acres, a petting zoo, landscaped gardens, trails and playgrounds, it’s easy to spend the day at Beacon Hill Park, which is a major reason why it is one of the top things to do in the city. It is also home to the tallest freestanding totem pole in the world, which stands at 37m high. But these things aren’t all there is to Beacon Hill Park. Parts of its history are disturbing and strange, and at night, there are tales of other-worldly things occurring within the shadows. Besides the top things to do list, it’s also made the list for Haunted Places in Victoria.

 

Photo by: Alex Loy

Photo by: Alex Loy

Ogden Point

Fit with a small lighthouse at its end, the Ogden Point Breakwater is a beautiful stroll just outside of downtown Victoria. Plus, an amazing mural of First Nations art, known as Na’Tsa’Maht – The Unity Wall, is a stunning feature. The walkway used to be open to the elements, but saw the addition of railings in 2013. Aside from walk, there’s the fun fact that Ogden Point is the busiest port of call in Canada for cruise ships. While there, visitors will be able to see plenty of action from the giant boats themselves, to barges, fishermen and scuba divers, too!

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Downtown Inner Harbour and Causeway

Not only is it charming, but Victoria’s Inner Harbour is the heart of the city and is in the middle of the actions. Boats come and go; historical buildings flank every side and plenty of festivals take place in the area. A particular highlight is the presence of street artists, musicians and performers all along the Causeway. There are 24 full time musicians and 9 full time street performers. Over the holidays, a competition for best decorated boat takes place, and the tall ships adorned with twinkling lights look incredible. What’s more to the action? Despite its status as a tourist attraction, it is still a working harbour.

 

Photo by: Diana Krust

Photo by: Diana Krust

Fisherman’s Wharf

Today, Fisherman’s Wharf is a colourful display of quirky float homes mixed with boutique shops and fair-weather restaurants. Perfect for a sunny, summer day, Fisherman’s Wharf is typically filled with tourists making friends with its most popular residents, the seals. Unbeknownst to many, this top activity in the city has a history as colourful as its floathomes: it was home to plenty of fishing boats and crazy characters who created an eclectic community on the docks. Often, it was a hideaway place for characters with outstanding arrests, keeping the cops on their toes.

 

Photo by: Jacee Tan

Photo by: Jacee Tan

Craigdarroch Castle

A castle in Canada is bound to be something special – when a country is only 150 years old, they’re pretty hard to come by. That’s why the Craigdarroch Castle is one of the top things to do in Victoria. Letting guests in on what it was like to be one of the elite in the 1890’s, the rooms, décor and architecture are next to none. What’s more is the castle’s holiday celebrations, where every room is decked out how it would have been by the original owners, who reportedly had Great Gatsby-esque tendencies. The decorating is so extensive, it takes nearly six weeks to get set up. Then, guests can enjoy live music, stunning Christmas trees and live theatre with the castle as the stage. By the way, the Craigdarroch Castle is another on the list of haunted places in Victoria as well.

 

Photo by: Linny Heng

Photo by: Linny Heng

IMAX

Attached to the Royal BC Museum, the IMAX theatre in Victoria just adds to that rainy-day activity perfection. With a series of new releases and National Geographic documentaries, there’s bound to be something for anyone. Plus, visitors can bundle museum tickets with show tickets, making it an irresistible deal. They even do holiday classics during the Christmas season – some of them in 3D! The fun fact? Victoria’s IMAX screen is the largest in British Columbia!

 

Photo by: Kelly Dickinson

Photo by: Kelly Dickinson

Emily Carr House

For anyone into art, the Emily Carr House is easily one of the top things to do in Victoria. Her work, in the form of paintings, sketches and writing, are part of the backbone of great Canadian artists and history. Not to mention, her pet monkey made for quite the conversation piece. The house itself was the artist’s childhood home, and is now a museum that pays homage to her life and her work. The house itself is a highlight for its architectural style and historic touches. More fun facts include the rumours, of course, that the house is haunted. It’s also kind of fun to know that the area the house is located, in James Bay, used to be known as Bird Cage Walk.

 

Photo by: Kristine Mendoza

Photo by: Kristine Mendoza

Fisgard Lighthouse

Finding its importance as the first lighthouse on the West Coast of Canada, the Fisgard Lighthouse is still nautically quaint on the rocks where it sits. While the downstairs is now part-museum, it is still a beacon for those heading to Esquimalt and the Royal Roads moorage. For something a little new and unusual, the Fisgard Lighthouse participates in the Luminara Lantern Festival, a stunning festival of light celebrated on July 24th each year.

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

Ten Reasons to Visit B.C. Wineries and Distilleries this Fall

Fall brings out feelings of cozy coats and scarves, crisp air, pumpkins and mugs of tea, or maybe even a dash of something stronger. Once the summer crowd has come and gone, it’s the perfect time to explore Victoria and the surrounding area’s wineries and distilleries. Visiting vineyards, indulging in wine tastings, sampling spiced distilled creations and basking in beautiful winery buildings while dressed in my fall best sounds more like the change of season than anything else. As if wine itself wasn’t enough, here are ten reasons to visit a winery, distillery, or both this fall.

 

Photo by: Keith Ewing

Photo by: Keith Ewing

  1. Less People

Like many businesses in touristic places such as Victoria, wineries thrive off of the summer crowd. Tasting rooms are filled with tour groups and sometimes, it can feel like all you get is the same pour and spiel as everyone else. Once those crowds disperse and the tours thin, wine tasting becomes a top activity for locals. Having the tasting room to yourself and being able to ask questions and take your time is a nice change from bumping elbows.

 

Photo by: Peter J. Bates

Photo by: Peter J. Bates

  1. Harvest Season

Depending on the season’s weather, you may be able to witness the wineries at their harvest time. Aside from grapes, plenty of the wineries in Victoria and the Cowichan Valley are located on farms, so you can enjoy the fall scene of gourds and other cornucopia-type veggies being harvested from the rows of fields. There’s nothing like a pile of pumpkins, or loaded apple trees in a brisk breeze on a beautiful fall day to get that autumn giddiness going.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

  1. New Wines

For some wineries, fall marks the time to release the wines! New labels, new varietals and new bottles take to the shelves. Even if the wines you’re tasting are a standard production at winery, it might be a wine new to you, which is just as exciting. The sampling of any new wine is a good wine in my books.

 

Photo by: www.heatheronhertravels.com

Photo by: www.heatheronhertravels.com

  1. Fall Foods

Plenty of wineries pride themselves on featuring a bistro or restaurant onsite. Considering the Island is such a haven of home-grown goods, most prepare scrumptious meals with the produce available from local farms. That means plenty of rich and comforting fall foods, which, by the way, are good for the soul.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

  1. Warmth

Warmth is really where distilleries come in, although a good bottle of wine can certainly keep you cozy as the weather turns brisk, too. However, nothing quite ignites that inner fire like a sampling of spirits. From gin and vodka to whiskey, Victoria’s distilleries have the kindling to spark that flame and keep it going straight through the winter.

 

Photo by: Peter J. Bates

Photo by: Peter J. Bates

  1. It’s not Pumpkin Spice

While I’ll admit to indulging joyfully in a pumpkin spice latte or two over the fall season, there are plenty of other fall flavors to get excited about. Take mulled wine for example. Realistically, I’d trade in my cups of Starbucks for a pot of the bubbly red stuff any day. The way to find the best recipes and the best wines for a heady, fall concoction is, of course, by going straight to the source. The only problem here is that the wines discovered in Victoria’s local wineries might just be too good to mix with other things.

 

Photo by: www.heatheronhertravels.com

Photo by: www.heatheronhertravels.com

  1. Get Holiday Ready

Already feeling the pressure of the holiday season to come? Want to show off to your family that yes, you really are doing alright as an adult? Visits to wineries and distilleries will have you set for the holiday season. Whether you’re getting ahead on your gift list, are planning the perfect holiday dinner, or want to create cocktails for cozy nights, beautiful bottles of wine or spirits are a perfect go-to. Plus, you technically get to sample all the gifts you buy first, how fun is that?

 

Photo by: Alex Cantoni

Photo by: Alex Cantoni

  1. Fall Vibes

Imagine walking up a gravel driveway as a brisk wind catches your scarf and ruffles your hair. Surrounding you are rolling hills riddled with lush vines made heavy with ripe grapes. Beyond are fields with twists of pumpkins being pulled and picked. Trees with coloured leaves send orange spirals to the grown. Inside the large front doors is a beautiful room with round casks and stunning wooden tables and bars. Sips of perfect wines await with fresh cheese on the side. Anticipation sits on your tongue. Could it be? The perfect fall scene? Yes, and that’s why visiting wineries during the off season is the best – they get you set with that beloved, cozy fall vibe.

 

Photo by: www.heatheronhertravels.com

Photo by: www.heatheronhertravels.com

  1. It’s Good for Rainy Days

West coast falls and winters are notoriously rainy, but guess what? Tasting rooms are indoors. That makes wine and spirit sampling a perfect, rainy day activity. While you may not have the chance to wander the property and check out the vines (if you forgot your umbrella), you’ll be able to cozy on in with samples of the nature’s nectar, and maybe even tuck into a hearty fall meal if the winery has an onsite restaurant.

 

Photo by: Peter J. Bates

Photo by: Peter J. Bates

  1. You Don’t Have to Drive

Wine tasting may sound great, but what about driving to different wineries after you’ve already sampled at a few? Booking a wine tour is definitely the solution. With less crowds, you are likely to be able to snag a last-minute booking, and some companies may even have lower rates for the off season. All you have to do is kick back in those fall boots and sip the day away at multiple top wineries in the area. Sounds like the perfect autumn day to me!

So, if you needed all ten reasons to convince you that winery and distillery exploration is a must for the fall, there you have it! Convinced? Excellent, because Vancouver Island has plenty of amazing wineries and distilleries to explore. It’ll take you all season to see them all!

 

For more on wine tasting and wineries, take a peek at our wineries page.

For the top things to do in Victoria, B.C., cruise our list of things you can’t miss here.

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

Festivals Unique to Victoria

Victoria is a dynamic city where you can always find something going on – rain or shine, winter, fall, spring or summer. There’s something for everyone and there are numerous festivals that are strictly unique to Victoria. No matter what season you’re visiting, you’re guaranteed to find a unique and fun experience to join in on.

 

Winter

 

Festival of Trees

Summer is usually the best time to visit Victoria, but that doesn’t mean the winter is void of all activity. In fact, alongside the citywide holiday festivities are a couple of unique festivals that lie close to the hearts of Victoria’s citizens. One of those is the Festival of Trees, which is celebrating its 26th anniversary. The event? From November 15th – January 3rd, nearly 100 trees are decorated by local businesses and put up for display. They create magical winter walkways in the Bay Centre and at the Fairmont Empress. The presence of the trees act as an unofficial kick-off to the holiday season and all of the proceeds, which come from visitors making a donation as a vote for their favourite tree, go towards the BC Children’s Hospital.

Victoria Film Festival

A rainy winter’s day often calls for staying in and watching piles of movies. Luckily, this is exactly what the Victoria Film Festival has been giving the citizens of Victoria a chance to do. Since 1995, the festival has taken over ten days in February, screening over 100 movies from both Canadian and International independent artists. It is the largest film festival across Vancouver Island, and takes places in a series of events at multiple venues throughout the city. Can’t get enough? The Victoria Film Festival also puts on events throughout the year, much to the enjoyment of cinephiles across the Island.

 

Spring

 

UNO Fest

Although plenty of theatre festivals exist all over the world, Victoria possesses one that stands out in a field of its own. As the name hints, UNO Fest is dedicated to solo performances. Not to mention, 2017 marks the 20th year since the festival first came to fruition in the basement of the Bedford Hotel, making it North America’s longest running festival of performing arts. For eleven days, from May 17-27, ticket holders can dive into a multitude of performances and solo exhibitions of talent from all over the world. Tickets are available at the door for most performances, and there are 5 show and 3 show passes as well. As a bonus, the opening show for each act comes with a “pay what you can” price tag.

 

Photo by: Nicole Hamilton

Photo by: Nicole Hamilton

Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival

Victoria has a large Scottish population that typically slip by unnoticed with the exception of 10 days every May. Then, it’s as though the city has been taken over by tartan as kilts line the streets next to the tune of bagpipes and drums. The Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival is celebrating its 154th anniversary in what they’re expecting to be the largest celebration yet. Nearly 25,000 people are anticipated to show up to the main event at Topaz Park on May 20, 21 and 22nd. Before the actual games, there is a week of events that take place all over the city including a tartan parade, kilted golf tournament and pubcrawl. There’s even Tartan Day on April 8th. Whether you’re Scottish or not, this unique festival is bound to put a little jig in your step.

Photo by: Ron Green

Photo by: Ron Green

Swiftsure International Yacht Race

Considering Victoria is a harbour city, there is no shortage of nice boats to be seen all year round. However, if you’re visiting near the end of May, you may get to see even more yachts and sailboats than you bargained for. The 25th of the month marks the 74th annual Swiftsure International Yacht Race, where for span of four days, nine races over five courses take place in the waters surrounding Victoria. The main event takes sailors over the US border to the rounding mark, before returning to the finish line. Visit the Inner Harbour to see the boats head out on their way, and hang out near the Ogden Point Breakwater to watch the winner cross the finish line.

 

Summer

 

Photo by: Billy He

Photo by: Billy He

Feast of Fields

Nothing says summer like fresh eats outside in a sunny field. One of the most unique festivals in Victoria during the summer months, Feast of the Fields is a three-hour, wandering celebration of the bounty of our beautiful Island. Through a gourmet wine and wander, the harvest festival highlights the connection between farmers and chefs, the field-to-table movement and farm folk and city folk. August 27th marks the 20th annual festival, so get tickets while you can.

 

Photo by: foundimagination

Photo by: foundimagination

Victoria Symphony Splash

Taking over the natural amphitheater of the Inner Harbour on August 8th is another crowd favourite. Victoria Symphony Splash sees over 40,000 guests every summer. You can hardly see the ground as the thousands of spectators take over the waterway, inner causeway and even the grounds and stairs of the BC Parliament buildings. Then, the VS Orchestra takes over the floating stage and the performance begins. For 28 years, 400+ volunteers have made this incredible event come together and there is nothing like the grand finale: Tchaikovsky accompanied by an extravagant firework display. There’s no other symphony celebration like it.

 

Photo by: Karen Ng

Photo by: Karen Ng

Victoria Classic Boat Festival

There’s one last chance to get a dose of Victoria’s nautical vibe on September 1st-3rd in the Inner Harbour. Stunning traditional crafts take over the waters during the 40th annual Victoria Classic Boat Festival. Take a walk through a classic tall ship and help celebrate the city’s maritime heritage, cheer on your favourite boat during the Schooner Cup boat race and dive into the festive atmosphere of the bustling causeway.

 

Fall

 

Art of the Cocktail

Cozy cocktails might just be the perfect fall activity, and of course, Victoria has a festival just for that. Put on by the beloved Victoria Film Festival, Art of the Cocktail has become a great go-to for a fun fall’s night out. Rounding its 9th year, festivalgoers don their fanciest after-five outfits and hit the venue to sample creative cocktails crafted by Victoria’s top restaurants and newest distilleries. A drinking night wouldn’t be complete without snacks, so there are fresh appetizers from some of the best chefs of the coast to accompany the beverages. The second day is a line up of seminars designed to get you up to date on the latest of greatest of the drinking world. This year, the festival is taking place on October 14th and 15th.

Rifflandia Festival

For an eclectic musical adventure that will lead you to explore the entire city, Rifflandia is a must. 2017 marks its 10th year, and since its began, it has only grown in popularity. Not only are the day and park events family friendly, but some pretty big names have also taken over Victoria’s favourite venues. Tickets run for about $100-$200 making it an affordable fall stop-over for four days in September. Be sure to check the schedule and show up to the venue where your favourite bands are playing well in advance – last year’s line up featured bands including Jurassic 5, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Jesse Roper, Vince Vaccaro and the Zolas.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Victoria International Chalk Art Festival

For a sunny day in September, bright colours and beautiful drawings consume the streets of Victoria. The International Chalk Art Festival is a surprising delight that brings back memories of days past spent colouring sidewalks as a kid. To the sound of live bands and laughter, you can take in art by some of British Columbia and the world’s most talented street artists. There are even some who have mastered the art of 3-D chalk art. A child friendly festival, of course, you can stop by the Inner Harbour and try your hand at creating a new chalk masterpiece of your own. Each year follows its own theme, and while you may think drawing with chalk is child’s play, this festival is guaranteed to be a pleasant surprise.

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

Victoria With Kids

Newly weds or nearly dead, the largest population types of Victoria really only add up to one thing: lots of kids. Whether it’s grandkids coming in for the weekend or the summer, or new families starting up, children seem to take over the town any given day. That also means Victoria is a great place to go with kids of your own, and there is plenty to do and see.

Things to Do

Photo by: Craig Elliott

Photo by: Craig Elliott

Miniature World

With over 85 dioramas and displays, Miniature World is guaranteed to keep the kids busy. Delve into tiny versions of Camelot, explore dollhouses, read yourself into Charles Dickens’ stories and learn about the Great Canadian Railway close up.

Photo by: Kari Bluff

Photo by: Kari Bluff

The Victoria Bug Zoo

Tucked away as a two-room mini-museum, the Victoria Bug Zoo has been enthralling and educating both kids and adults alike since 1997. Over 50 species exist within various enclosures and displays, and ongoing tours ensure you’ll have a knowledgeable guide give you a walk through. You’ll even be able to get up close and personal with some of the bugs if you like, as many can be handled.

The Butterfly Zoo

Kids will love this small detour en route to the Butchart Gardens. Thousands of butterflies free soar through the facility, given visitors a first-hand experience in a tropical jungle. Besides the butterflies, you’ll see turtles, flamingoes and a number of other tropical creatures and plants. If you’re lucky and stay still enough, a butterfly might even land on you.

The Royal BC Museum & IMAX

The Royal Museum is a must for any curious kid, and is a great rainy day activity. With plenty of interactive exhibits, there’s no shortage of both fun and wonder. Not to mention the IMAX theatre is inside the museum, and you can get combo tickets to do both in the same day. There’s always a number of great shows available, sure to please any crowd.

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea

Over in Sidney, about 20 minutes outside of downtown Victoria, an underwater world awaits. Be immersed into the Salish Sea and discover the creatures of B.C.’s coast. Not only will kids be entertained and educated about the ocean, but they’ll also have the chance to pick up, feel and see up close a number of creatures in the touching tide pools.

Just across the street is Mineral World as well, which is a fun little pit stop afterwards. Kids can check out beautiful, rainbow coloured stones and explore some “caves”.

Photo by: Brie Hoffman

Photo by: Brie Hoffman

Beacon Hill Park

For a breath of fresh air, nothing beats Beacon Hill Park. Right next to the Dallas Road Walkway and the B.C. Legislature Buildings, it’s likely you’ll come across this 75-hectare green haven more than once. Especially fun for kids are the Children’s Zoo, the duck pond and the massive playground.

Photo by: Alex Skelly

Photo by: Alex Skelly

Willow’s Beach

Another great outdoor spot for kids is Willow’s Beach. Located in Oak Bay, you can explore the village and then head for the beach. Willow’s has a large grassed area with a playground, as well stretches of sand to play in. There are also washrooms and a picnic area, so you’ll have everything you need onsite.

House Boats on Fisherman's Wharf - Victoria BC Canada

Photo by: Michael Bell

Fisherman’s Wharf

During the summer, Fisherman’s Wharf is a hub of activity. Take off on a kayaking tour, or head out on a whale watching expedition from the docks. If you’d rather stay on firm ground, explore the shops and kiosks or enjoy an ice cream cone in the sun. One of the best parts is feeding the playful seals from the dock. Sometimes, they even do little tricks for the crowd.

Photo by: Roger Lockwood

Photo by: Roger Lockwood

Hippo Tours

Experience Victoria by both land and sea on a Hippo Tour! The buses are intriguing for kids and plenty of fun and when it drives into the ocean, the kids are sure to get a thrill. The amphibious vehicles are bright colours and the 90-minute tours aren’t too long and are informative yet enjoyable, even for children.

All Fun

To do it all in one day, pay a visit to All Fun. It’s a massive recreation park in Mill Bay that features batting cages, go-karting and mini golf! You can try them all in one day and the variety is sure to suit everyone’s needs.

Photo by: Raphael

Photo by: aluarts.ch

Whale Watching

Whale watching is a number one activity in Victoria – almost a must, especially for kids. There’s nothing like seeing one of the ocean’s humble giants from the water! It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, and the excitement will last all day.

Where to Eat

While there are plenty of chain places that are suitable for kids such as Red Robin, Swiss Chalet and fast food giants, Victoria is also known for having amazing restaurants. Why should you miss out just because you packed the kids? Here are a few great spots that kids will love just as much as you.

John’s Place

Dressed like a 50’s diner and with fantastic food, John’s is a hotspot for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Victoria. The pie case is a bonus that shouldn’t be missed by anyone with a sweet tooth. While the kid’s dinner menu is pretty standard, the full portions are always shareable, and the breakfast choices cover all the basics.

Bin4 Burger

For kids that love burgers, Bin4 is a must. While the menu is limited to a chicken burger, beef burger or grilled cheese, Bin4 does it well. Plus, drinks are included with the kid’s menu, and they can have their choice of side. The “big kid” menu is also great.

Photo by: David Rosen

Photo by: David Rosen

Wannawafel

Wannawafel is sure to be a crowd pleaser and will ensure your kid gets back to the hotel or to the next activity if they’re experiencing an afternoon slump. Pick a waffle type, choose your toppings and you’ll be munching on a delicious, unique-to-Victoria snack in no time.

Photo by: Tom Totton

Dog-Gone-It

Hotdogs are a notorious fan favourite when it comes to kids, so Dog-Gone-It is a great choice. It’s also convenient to downtown for those hungry emergencies. From your plain old hotdog to a number of different creations, it’s sure to fit the bill. The decorations are fun, and the banana splits at its neighbouring Soda Shoppe are always a great alternative to lunch.

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Red Fish Blue Fish

For fish and chips, Red Fish Blue Fish is a popular stop. While the outside atmosphere might be a challenge for extra active kids to sit down and eat, it also means no one is disrupted and it makes what is already finger food even more fun. All-in-all it’s a great spot on the water that makes lunch fun and allows for a dose of vitamin D at the same time.

Rebar

To sneak something healthy into your kids’ day without them knowing, paying Rebar a visit is a good shot. It has a cute and intriguing atmosphere and serves everything fresh and healthy, including an array of juices. Of course, the desserts might not be Doctor recommended, but they’re worth a shot to finish of your meal.

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

Cheap Eats

Victoria is a city that boasts one of the highest restaurants per capita in Canada. You can sample flavours from around the world and eat out every night without making a return appearance. If money weren’t a factor, testing that theory would be pretty high on a lot of people’s lists. Unfortunately, money doesn’t grown on trees. Lucky for us though, Victoria will always have places that fit into any budget, even for those keeping a stern eye on their wallet. If in doubt, ask a university student; a list of cheap eats is second nature.

Breakfast/Brunch

It might be true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your life’s savings on it. As the Brunch Capital of Canada, Victoria has some ritzy stops for breakfast’s sophisticated older sister, but none of these are it; fuel for the day, but cheaper than our current gas prices.

Photo by: Maree Shaw

Photo by: Maree Shaw

Shine Cafe

With two locations, you know it’s going to be good. Plus, if one has a line, chances are the other one won’t. Shine Café is great for breakfast, lunch, or somewhere in between. Open until 3pm, even the latest risers can make it in for a bite. $15 will get you a loaded plate with bottomless Fernwood coffee to boot.

Photo by: Jason Horne

Photo by: Jason Horne

John’s Place

John’s is a notorious brunch spot in Victoria, even without all that glamorous, Instagram-chic hubbub. In fact, John’s is more classic than classy, but the 50’s diner vibe and massive portions are merely part of the charm. The array of Benny’s, Tex-Mex breakfasts, and specialty “off the wall” breakfasts are crippling for anyone that has a hard time with decisions; and that’s before you look in the pie fridge. Nothing on the breakfast menu costs more than $14.95, and it will likely feed you for the day.

 Chorizo & Co.

While Chorizo and Co. is better known for its tapas than its breakfast, they’ve made this list for a reason – and that reason is the Breakfast Bocata. For $6.50, you can be waking up with a fresh brioche bun loaded with chorizon, pimento alioli, a fried egg and manchego cheese. It tastes like Spain, but costs local; and not that fancy artisan local, either.

 

Lunch

Lunch is probably the easiest meal to eat out, whether it’s a quick work break, or something to pick up while on the go. It also usually saves the day when breakfast wears off and you’re on the borderline of being hangry… Which is why this unsung hero shouldn’t rob you blind at the same time.

 

Photo by: Darren Darbyshi

Photo by: Darren Darbyshire

Redbarn Market Sandwiches

These hefty, hangry-curing beauties are no secret. In fact, Red Barn even had a Sandwich Selfie contest to acknowledge their popularity. So, if you don’t already know, here’s what all the hype is about: Pick your type of bread, or a wrap. Choose your protein and then load your sandwich with anything and everything – kind of like Subway, but with some finesse. Seriously though, the sky’s the limit for toppings. Soak it in sauce too, if you like. Grill it, or don’t, then wander over to the till, toss a $10 bill and then wait because despite your arm aching from the monstrous sandwich in your hand, you’ll get change for that. Local ingredients, a local market and a sandwich like you’ve never had before, all for less than $10. Nothing beats it.

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Masala Bites

Now hold on, Indian food on a cheap eats post? Really? Anyone who loves having Indian also knows that it’s likely to break the bank (but is oh so worth it). Masala Bites is coming in to change that pricy pretense with their lunch buffet. For $12.99, you can fill your plate with all the best Indian dishes, and then go for seconds. The trick? Don’t fill up on the soft warm naan bread that is served to your table first.

Yalla

Shawarma and Falafel will almost always be the ultimate cheap eat. Yalla just happens to do it with a bit of extra oomph as far as flavour and ingredients go. The Falafel, which is only $8, comes stuffed with all the best toppings and dripping in a perfected amba zhoug – same with the saucy shawarma. Plus, the pickles are homemade. As a bonus, local kombucha is available, there’s a daily hummus plate and the Kawaij Spices fries with their killer lemon mint yogurt dip are to die for – a small is only $3.

 

Dinner

Eating lunch at a restaurant is one thing, but dinner is an entirely different matter. Before you pounce to lock up the wallet and credit cards at the mention of going out for dinner, there are a few places where Victoria comes to the rescue. You just need to be the first with a restaurant suggestion.

 

Photo by: Roa Kuo

Photo by: Roa Kuo

Fujiya Sushi

Located close to UVic, Fujiya sushi is every starving student’s dream. Not only does it do all the classic rolls on the cheap ($4-6 per roll), but it also does them and numerous other sushi plates pretty darn well. Snag an order or two of California rolls for $3.75 each, then beef it up with some extra sashimi or nigiri and you’ll be set for around $10. While they close at 7pm, you can make your order online to go and wander in to pick it up. They’re also great for lunch with a grab-and-go set up. Try to get in around 11pm-1pm for peak freshness.

La Taqueria

Three. Dollar. Tacos. Or four tacos for $10.50 – and those are only the expensive ones! La Taqueria is bringing authentic Mexican taco stand-worthy tacos to Victoria and for a really great price. Choose from veggie, meat, or fish and whether or not you want it in soft corn tortillas, or flattened into a flour tortilla as a quesadilla. The meat quesadillas and Baja fish tacos settle up at $6 a pop, while Tuna, veggie and meat tacos are five or under. It’s unstoppable…At least until 8:30pm when they close.

 

Photo by: Francesca Zecchinato

Photo by: Francesca Zecchinato

Sült Pierogi Bar

Despite being branded as a Canadian restaurant, Sült is serving up what is unmistakably an Eastern European classic, but with a twist: Handmade pierogies every day with innovative new types every Thursday, traditional flavours all the time and even dessert in the form of a delicious dumpling. That all sounds great, but why are they on this list? Happy Hour. Dig into a pierogi poutine (see, they are Canadian) with a PBR or a pint for just $8, or $10 respectively. Plus, their “post-work pierogies, bacon or kraut” special runs for only $4.50. Missed happy hour? A three-pierogi order is anywhere between $3.30-$4 and without the beer, a three pierogi poutine is just $6.

Whenever

Snacks are key to fending off the return of the Hangry Monster. Usually, snacking is done on the go, which can wrack up the bill. For some quick, yet satisfying and cheap snack spots, Victoria is the place to be.

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Sally Bun

This is one of Victoria’s greatest hidden gems; again, tradition but with a twist. Similar to Chinese stuffed buns, the 5-year-running baker from Korea has been providing Antique Row with some of the greatest snacks, lunches and breakfasts to be found. Although they also have fresh baked goods including cookies and cinnamon buns, as well as made-to-order salads, it’s the savory buns that take the proverbial cake. Starting at about $3.50, it’s unlikely you’ll spend more than $10-15 here if you’re really hungry. Take it out back to the secret patio and enjoy!

Saltchuck Pies

Everyone likes pie, especially for only $6. Considering they’re personal sized, they’re even kind of cute. From savory to sweet, Saltchuck Pies has everything you need. There are even soups and salads available, not to mention some pretty intriguing pie flavors on the go. The fancy ones are still only $8.50. Perfect for any time of day, a pie is not only filling, but acts as the perfect comfort food.

Late Night

Second dinner is important, but you shouldn’t have to pay the dinner price all over again. The stomach wants what it wants, when it wants and so does the wallet: cheap eats like the rest of ’em!

 

Photo by: Gary Hoyer

Photo by: Gary Hoyer

Bin4 Burger Lounge

Every night when the clock strikes nine, a magical hour is upon us – Bin4 Burger does 50% off its burger entrees. Of course, there’s one catch: you need to order a drink, too (darn). Aside from the drink thing, you’ll be getting a gourmet burger with all the fixings, a side and some awesome sauces for around $6-8. With a pint or a cocktail, you’re still only looking at about twelve to fifteen bucks for dinner and a drink, so what’s there to complain about?

Sweet Tooth

Having a sweet tooth is not a crime, so it shouldn’t cost you like one. There are plenty of places in Victoria where it doesn’t. They understand. So, treat yourself why don’t you?

The Dutch Bakery

Unmistakable thanks to its pink overhang on Fort Street, the Dutch Bakery has been satisfying Victoria’s sweet tooth needs since 1956. To be fair, they also do coffee and have a decent lunch special, especially for those familiar with from the Netherlands. They also do a full breakfast for $9. However, it’s the baked goods that give you the most bang for your buck. Peruse the case before making your choice because there is plenty to entice you. You know it’s good because they have a service-by-numbers system for when the line gets too big.

 

Photo by: John Allison

Photo by: John Allison

The Beacon Drive-In

The Beacon Drive-In makes this list purely by virtue of having been voted Best Soft Serve Ice Cream in Victoria for 22 years and counting. $4.50 gets you a regular sized cone with a choice of dip – either chocolate or flavor burst. This spot is perfect for when you want to go on a date, but not drop all of your money on a fancy dinner you’re too nervous to actually enjoy. Plus, they’re open late.

 

Photo by: Justine Marie Photography

Photo by: Justine Marie Photography

Wannawafel

What started as a humble waffle cart in 2009 quickly became a full-time shop thanks to its popularity. Because really, who doesn’t love waffles? Not only is Wannawafel a unique-to-Victoria sweet tooth pit stop – unless you go crazy on the toppings you’ll likely only spend about $5-7.

 

Penny-pinchers and budget minders rejoice, there are more than just these few finds that help keep the food costs down in Victoria – you just need to find them. Bon appetite!

 

Things Victoria is the Capital of and Other Fun Facts

Victoria is a dynamic city that exploded over night from a small 500-person town to over 5,000 during the Gold Rush. Today, it’s a hot spot for retirees, boaters, outdoor lovers and new families; the population totals to around 370,000 people. There are plenty of other things that Victoria encompassed over the years as it grew, including a few new titles. There are also more than a few fun facts associated with the popular Vancouver Island city.

 Things Victoria B.C. is the Capital of

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

1. The Province of British Columbia

First things first, if the presence of the Legislative Buildings didn’t give it away, Victoria is the capital of the province of British Columbia. Despite Vancouver being a larger metropolitan hotspot on the West Coast, Victoria played a key part in British Columbia and Vancouver Island’s past, and has held on to its title of capital city since 1871.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

2. Brunch

Food Network officially claimed Victoria B.C. as the Brunch Capital of Canada. As a city with the second highest number of restaurants per capital under San Francisco, this comes as little surprise.

Photo by: Gary Hoyer

Photo by: Gary Hoyer

3. Cycling

Nearly 10% of the entire population of Victoria chooses to bike to work or school. This is the highest in the country and is part of why Victoria is considered to be the Cycling Capital of Canada. The other reason is thanks to the city’s extensive bike paths and routes. Not only is it home to the infamous Galloping Goose Regional Trail, a scenic, 55-km trail linking Victoria to Sooke, but there are also hundreds of kilometers of trails, paths and routes throughout the city. The mild year-round climate is also conducive to pedaling to work, even in the winter.

 

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

4. Craft Beer

Victoria is labeled the Craft Beer Capital of British Columbia: another fun provincial title, and more than understandable if you’ve ever taken a beer tour while in the city. Aside from the famous labels of Vancouver Island Brewery (VIB) and Phillips, there are plenty of low-key places to grab a perfectly crafted pint. Spinnakers, for example, or Swans, Moon Under Water, Category 12 and Canoe Brewpub are simply the first that spring to mind – all places that make their own. Hoyne is another great brewery whose darkest beer, Dark Matter, is a local favourite. Hotspots like the Drake or Churchill have numerous taps, all with local/nearby or craft brews as well.

 

A Few Fast and Fun Facts

 

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

  • Victoria has the oldest Chinatown in Canada. It is also the second oldest in North America, being surpassed only by the Chinatown in San Francisco.
  • Speaking of Chinatown, Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest alley in Canada, too.
Photo by: Gary Hoyer

Photo by: Gary Hoyer

  • There are about 70 parks in Victoria.
  • Victoria is known as the City of Gardens. According to flowercount.com, in 2017 Victoria and its surrounding areas counted a total of 25, 864,976,064 blooms.
Photo by: Gary Hoyer

Photo by: Gary Hoyer

  • Victoria is also known as the City of the Newly Wed or Nearly Dead – about 18% of the population is over 65.
  • Victoria is a popular city to visit: nearly 3.5 million people stay the night, and over 50,000 come by for just the day.

Gary Hoyer I

  • The Inner Harbour is the only working harbour in Canada.
  • About 3560 lights adorn the Parliament Buildings.

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

 

5 Day Trips from Victoria

Although you can spend days on end exploring Victoria itself, there are plenty of nearby destinations worth checking out. So, if you’re spending more than a few days on the Island, consider using Victoria as a home base to head out on any one of these 5 great day trips you can make from the city!

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Cowichan Valley

Cowichan Valley, consisting of several towns, has plenty of surprises waiting to be discovered. Not only is Duncan home to one of the best Farmer’s Markets in the province, the area is also known for its plethora of wineries and amazing slow-food scene. This comes as no surprise considering the word Cowichan means “warm lands.” Depending on how far into the Valley you want to venture, you’ll only need to spend about 45 minutes on the road from Victoria. Visit the iconic murals in the quaint town of Chemainus and catch a show at the theatre, or head to Cowichan Lake to try out wakeboarding. There’s enough in the area to keep you busy for an entire day.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Salt Spring Island

The largest and most visited of the Southern Gulf Islands, Salt Spring is only a 45-minute ferry ride away from Swartz Bay. Take the drive from Victoria to Sidney where you can enjoy a stroll on the Bevan Pier before crossing over to the artsy island. A handful of plentiful Farmer’s Markets and amazing artisan goods give those who love to shop plenty to talk about. Nature lovers need not worry though, between paddling, cycling and hiking, there are more than enough activities to keep you coming back a few days in a row. You may just want to forego your Victoria hotel for a tent or cabin and stay the weekend. For a packed day, drive to Cowichan Valley first, and take the ferry to Salt Spring from there, or vise versa.

 

Photo by: Monica

Photo by: Monica Penner

Port Renfrew

At the end of the incredibly scenic Highway 14 sits the quaint town of Port Renfrew. It’s about a two-hour drive away from Victoria. Lacking cellphone service, but with plenty of classic West Coast features to indulge in, Port Renfrew draws a huge outdoorsy crowd looking to cast of the ties of constant connection. Along the way are stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Olympic Mountain range, and nearby are the incredible Avatar Grove and Botanical Beach. So, although the drive only takes two hours if you do it in one shot, there are enough sites along the way that you could take all day. Aside from Sooke, where the main driving journey begins, you’ll see Jordan River, pass by Mystic Beach, China Beach, Sandcut Beach, Sombrio and a even few Provincial Parks to boot.

 

Photo by: Dominic Simmons

Photo by: Dominic Simmons © www.dominicsimmons.co.uk

The Kinsol Trestle Bridge

An hour’s drive outside of Victoria you can witness a major historical site. The Kinsol Trestle Bridge is located along the Cowichan Valley Trail route. Although eight other trestle bridges exist along the same trail, the Kinsol Trestle takes the cake for largest and most scenic. At 44m tall and 187m in length, it is one of the tallest freestanding timber rail trestle structures in the world. It stretches above the Koksilah River and is only a 1.2km hike from the parking lot. Even better, the trail is wheelchair accessible and is mostly flat. Originally, the trestle bridge was built as part of a line for the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway, which was later taken over by the Canadian National Railways. The Kinsol Trestle was completed in 1920 as part of the Galloping Goose rail line and ran for 59 years. After the last train crossed in 1979, the trestle was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Taken under the wing of the CRDV, rehabilitation of the bridge lasted from 1999 to 2010. When the bridge opened again in 2011, it was fully refurbished as a recreational trail. Today, it is a major highlight for tourists in the area. You can always pay the Kinsole Trestle Bridge a visit before hitting up the wineries of the Cowichan Valley.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Sidney/Sidney Spit Provinical Park

Sidney-by-the-Sea is a quaint feature on the Saanich Peninsula, about twenty minutes away from downtown Victoria. Although the town’s small size is deceptive, there is enough to do in Sidney to take up an entire day or more. If spirits are your thing, pay a visit to the distillery. Next door is an intriguing aquarium fit with touching pools and interactive exhibits, and plenty of whale watching charters depart from the harbour each day. Those in search of a bit more adventure can rent kayaks and head on over Sidney Spit Provincial Park, where numerous hiking trails await. If you’re worried about paddling there, a small passenger ferry also makes the short crossing. Once on the spit, bird watchers should take a wander to the lagoon – it’s a hotspot to spy some west coast shore birds. If you’re out on a summer Thursday, be sure to come back to town in time to visit the night market – it’s one of the best on the Island.

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

BC Parliament Buildings

The Parliament Buildings are located on the banks of the Inner Harbour in British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria. As one of the dominant features of the downtown core, B.C.’s government buildings are one of Victoria’s must-see sights, teeming with history and culture. They reside on five hectares of lush property, and were constructed on the traditional territories of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

The buildings, designed by a young, 25-year old architect by the name of Francis Mawson Rattenbury, were constructed from 1893 to 1897, with additions done from 1912-1915. With the Parliament Buildings kicking off his career, Rattenbury went on to build the Empress Hotel, the Steamship Terminal, and Vancouver’s Art Gallery (then a court of justice). Rattenbury eventually met his demise at the hand of his wife’s lover after moving back to his home country, England.

In the summer months, the ghost of Rattenbury and other key figures of British Columbia’s past often wander the grounds—with their permission, you can stop to take a picture with them. They might even pop by on your guided tour to tell you their interesting stories.

During construction, Rattenbury and his crew used many local materials from B.C. to highlight the province’s natural resources. You’ll find the foundations and stairs of the building are made of granite from Nelson Island, and the façade of the building is made of andesite from Haddington Island. Inside, much of the wood is Douglas Fir, but there are also various imported materials scattered throughout the buildings: marble from Tennessee and Italy, and Indiana white oak, for example.

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

The purpose of the buildings is to serve as the seat of B.C.’s provincial government. It is here that important decisions are made regarding the province on matters such as health, education, transportation, and housing.

The Legislative Assembly is the room where laws are proposed, debated, and passed. During the question period, these debates can get very heated, and the public galleries that surround the upper floor of the room are open to any visitors or locals interested in getting a sense of provincial politics. The rules when viewing are very strict, however, and you cannot clap, talk, write, or take photos. Exceptions are made for journalists.

The Parliament Buildings are the perfect spot to start a tour of Victoria’s downtown area, as they are very central and relatively close to most other major sights or activities. Nearby attractions include the Royal B.C. Museum, Beacon Hill Park, the Empress Hotel, various boutiques and artisan storefronts for shopping, horse-drawn carriage tours, restaurants, whale watching, and Chinatown.

Just past the front lawn of the Parliament buildings are stairs that will take you along the lower causeway of the Inner Harbour. It is a bustling walkway that hosts vendors, musicians, buskers, food trucks, and shops. Highlights include Dave Harris, Victoria’s one-man band, playing lively blues by using various limbs at the same time.

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Staying in the area until sun sets is highly recommended. The Parliament Buildings will eventually light up with approximately 3500 energy efficient lightbulbs, highlighting the striking outline of the structure, and making for a great photo opportunity.

Incredibly, the original idea for the lightbulbs was first brought to life in 1897 when the buildings were first completed. This was a time when electricity was still a novel phenomenon. While fewer than there are today, the lightbulbs were strung in honour of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, as they were supposed to look like diamonds shining brightly in the darkness. The idea was brought back in the 1960s, and since then, the buildings have been lit every single evening at dusk.

While the summer season is Victoria’s liveliest time of the year, the Parliament Buildings are open year-round, from 8:30am to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday. There are some tours offered during this time, but the buildings are also open for self-guided tours with a booklet.

As tourism season picks up in the summer, tours run from 9am-4:30pm, Monday to Friday. You can count on a tour every half an hour or so, but it varies from day to day. There is often a 5pm tour as well, but a ticket is required as the buildings are technically closed by that time. During the weekdays, the buildings are also open for self-guided tours, but out of respect for guided tours and staff, silence is encouraged. On weekends in the summer, the buildings are only open for guided tours, and visitors must stay with the tour group for the duration of the tour. Picking up a ticket from the podium near the front steps is required. All tours are free of charge, but tickets are for keeping track of numbers.

For all questions regarding tours, calling ahead to +1 (250) 387-3046 is recommended.

Contributed by Anna Dodd