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

Whale Watching in Victoria

Imagine zipping along the ocean in a zodiac when suddenly, the boat slows down. A couple hundred meters ahead, you watch the massive outline of a whale’s tail break the surface before dipping down into the depths of the ocean. Above, eagles are screeching and soaring and you’ve just waved goodbye to your new sea lion friends as you headed out farther into the Pacific. Whale watching and wilderness excursions are a top activity out of Victoria B.C. – below are a few key points to keep in mind while you plan your day on the ocean!

Best Time to Go:

Technically, whales can be seen at any time out of Victoria. A steady population of Transient Orcas mean they’re around all year. That being said, May – November is considered “peak season” and is when companies have a higher success rate at spotting whales. Depending on the day and season, you can also spot Gray, Minke and Humpback Whales, along with Seals, Sea Lions and Porpoises.

What to Wear:

Zipping around on the ocean can get pretty nippy, even on a hot summer’s day. Be prepared and dress in layers. Flat, close-toed shoes are the way to go when you’re working on getting your sea legs as well. Be prepared with sunscreen and sunglasses, too.

What to Bring:

Be sure to bring along a camera or video camera (with straps!) and, depending on your tour departure, some snacks and drinks for along the way. Bring along some extra layers if you tend to get cold and don’t forget the sunscreen on a sunny day.

What to Expect:

Expectations may vary depending on the time of year and company you book with, but below are some of the most common features of any Whale Watching excursion out of Victoria:

  • 3-4 hour long tours
  • Skilled Guides and Captains at driving the boat safely and locating whales.
  • Do not expect to approach closer than 100m to the whales.
  • Within 400m, the boat will slow down to less than 7knots to reduce the impact of the boat on the marine mammals.
  • Guidelines are part of the Be Whale Wise Guidelines and are to help reduce impact of the vessel on marine mammals.
  • Expect to see not only whales, but also plenty of other marine life along the way!
  • Each type of boat will provide a different kind of experience.
  • Sea sickness is a rare occurrence – if you’re worried about it, take your favorite motion sickness medication beforehand
  • Expect to share the boat with others on the tour

Good Things to Know:

Finally, before you go, there are a number of questions you may want to ask the company so that you can be full prepared for your day!

  • What type of boat?
  • Are there washrooms on board?
  • Are there snacks/beverages available?
  • When do the trips leave?
  • How much earlier should you arrive at the area of departure?
  • Are floater suits available/do you need to wear one?
  • Is there a hydrophone on board to listen to the whales?
  • Is there a Whale sighting guarantee?

For many, spying these humble giants in their natural environment is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is always humbling and mind blowing to see their tails disappear below the waves or hear the spray and see the mist of the whales along the horizon. Follow these guidelines and embark on the adventure of a lifetime, there’s so much to see out there!

Laurissa Cebryk

Witty’s Lagoon

Some might say Witty’s Lagoon is a pretty well kept secret just outside of Victoria on Metchosin Road. With a bit of sunshine finally gracing the as-of-late grey horizon, I was more than excited to take up the opportunity to explore.

I was taken aback at just how beautiful the area really was! Sitting Lady Falls is easily accessed and takes no more than 15 minutes along the soft, forest trail to find. The viewpoint gives you an excellent vantage point from which you can watch it tumble gracefully into the lagoon below. Branching left takes you through a network of trails to explore, while branching right snakes you along to the beach where there are convenient bathrooms and picnic tables. As I looked at the map before entering the trails, I thought, “Man, this place must be dog heaven.” Neither I, nor the plethora of dogs met along the way were disappointed. Once on the beach, every last ounce of sand and grass was fair game for the happy dogs that bounded around the area as I ate my picnic lunch in the sun.

Since my afternoon had started later than expected while waiting for the sun to come out to play, my day’s exploration had to be cut a bit short. However, with the 5km of trails promised by the map that go through various terrain and lead you to stumble upon numerous, beautiful west coast sights, it’s pretty much a guarantee I’ll be back sometime soon. I have the feeling that the glorious beach and cascading waterfall are just the tip of the iceberg this little green emerald of a park has to offer.

5 Man-Powered Water Activities to do in Victoria

Oceanside and riddled with various freshwater features as well, Victoria is a go-to destination to experience numerous activities on the water. From exhilarating adventures to a casual float and paddle, below are 5 of the multitude of water-based activities to be found in Victoria, BC.

1. Diving

Vancouver Island has been rated one of the top cold-water diving destinations in the world. Rich kelp-forests with playful otters, scores of salmon and numerous nudibranchs are just the beginning of the stunning and intriguing wildlife that live beneath the waves. As you stroll the Ogden Point Breakwater, more often than not bubbles ascend to the surface from a diver’s tank. There are plenty of dive schools in Victoria and Sidney, as well as charters that will take you out to all the hotspots. Plenty of man-made reefs are available to discover, and you can even explore plane crashes and nearby wrecks.

2. Kayaking

This adventure is pretty much a given for a coastal city. Taking a peek at Victoria from the water offers an incredibly unique vantage point. Aside from seeing the intriguing heritage buildings from afar, there are also the Gulf Islands nearby that offer plenty of paddling exploration. Kayaking can be as relaxing or energetic as you desire, and plenty of sea life lives around the harbour and islands. You’ll no doubt meet a lot of “locals” along the way in the form of seals, sea lions, marine birds, and if you’re lucky, whales at a distance.

3. SUP Boarding

The balanced art of SUP Boarding is another awesome water-based activity to give a go while visiting the city. A paddle through the Harbour is a fun way to check out the boats up close and the buildings from a distance, as well as putting your balance to the test. Once you have the hang of it, scooting around the area is a breeze. You can even do a mini booze-cruise via paddleboard, making pit stops at a couple water-accessed pubs. Alternatively, if freshwater and no audience is a bit more your style, SUP Boards are a great thing to take to the lakes to explore the shoreline.

4. Thetis Lake

Located just outside of the city in Langford, Thetis Lake is a perfect city escape. Besides the two main lakes, Upper and Lower Thetis Lake, the 834-hectare park boasts multi-purpose trails for hiking, horseback riding and biking. The lakes themselves each have a boat launch, sandy beaches to lounge on, picnic areas and change rooms. Hot summer days sometimes mean a crowded beach, but the lake itself is usually relatively empty and open for a serene float. There are also a few cliff-jumping spots that are a local favourite, although it’s important to be aware that there is no lifeguard on duty. Be sure to check out the area before jumping and try to go where you’ve seen others jump before you.

5. Sooke Potholes

Naturally carved into the bedrock of the Sooke River are the Sooke Potholes, another local favourite and bustling summer destination. Unique due to their splendid curve and stunning aqua-green colour, the drive out of the city to spend the day here is a worthy cause. Explore the sets of cascading waterfalls in the park and find a swimming hole to call your own for the afternoon. With about 5km of swimming areas that consume plenty of the pools, you should have no trouble staking claim to a slice of rock. Again, cliff-jumping is a common activity, but be wary with your selection of jump location.

Summers on the coast are calling with these water-based activities, so dive in! Getting to know the variety of activities the city has to offer, all while keeping cool is just one of the unreal advantages of spending some time in Victoria.

Top Outdoor Activities in Victoria BC

Victoria boasts temperate climates that allow for outdoor experiences nearly 365-days a year.Alongside the perfect combination of mountains, forests, oceans, lakes and beaches, it’s a safe bet that Victoria is a mecca of outdoor activities. It’s hard to not take advantage of it; the city makes it so easy. No matter your pace, skill level or interests, there’s bound to be the ideal outdoor activity waiting for you in Victoria. Check out some of the top selections below.

Kayaking or SUP Boarding

Seeing Victoria from the water gives a unique vantage point of the beautiful, heritage cityscape that makes up the downtown core. Plenty of kayak rental companies are scattered around various locations including the Inner Harbour and Fisherman’s Wharf. For those seeking a bit more adventure, tours go out to the Discovery and Gulf Islands and in around Victoria’s different waterways.
If you like to test out your balance or find the idea of sitting on your butt all day a little daunting, SUP Boarding might just be the activity for you! A unique sport that has been slowly incorporated into the West Coast, it can be a challenging and extremely fun way to take to the seas. There are even companies that will deliver boards to your location.
Regardless of which suits your pace, there’s nothing more satisfying than that slight shoulder ache of a day well spent paddling around the waters of Victoria.

Photo by: Marijke Clabots

Photo by: Marijke Clabots

Whale Watching or Fishing

Victoria is quite famous for two ocean-based activities, Whale Watching and Saltwater Fishing. If you want to get out on the water with a little bit of motorized power, either is an excellent choice.
Whales can be seen nearly any time of year in Victoria. Pods of Transient Orcas hangout pretty much 365-days of the year, while Minke, Gray and Humpback Whales can also be spotted depending on the season. Aside from whales, most tours also spot Seals, Sea Lions, Porpoises and a multitude of marine birds. Cutting through the Pacific waves in search of a whale tail or two makes for an exhilarating day out on the water.
If you’d rather have something to show off at the end of the day other than photographs, try your hand at catching dinner for a day. Seafood is a major staple for this west coast capital of British Columbia, and for a good reason. Salmon is a priority, but you can often haul up Lingcod and Halibut as well.

Beaches

Landlubbers can rejoice at the option of keeping both feet on dry land while still basking in the sound of the crashing waves of the sea. Due to its coastal location, Victoria has a number of beaches. Pat on some sunscreen, grab a picnic, some towels and the umbrella, and head out for a day ocean-side. Many of the beaches have nearby parks for a shady stroll to break up the afternoon, as well as playgrounds. Some of the local favourites are Willows Beach, Cadboro Bay and Gonzales Bay.
Ps. If freshwater is more your style, check out Thetis Lake Regional Park and Elk/Beaver Lake Park – there are sandy lakeside beaches and crisp, fresh water to swim in.

Hiking

The landmass that makes up Vancouver Island is riddled with all types of different terrain. Within and just outside of Victoria itself are plenty of hills, forests and trails that allow for some superb hiking. Visit Witty’s Lagoon for easygoing paths that still payoff with a waterfall and beach reward. Inside the boundary of the city are Mount Doug and Mount Tolmie, which both give you the eagle-eye overview of the city, while surrounding you with delightful greenery and a modest incline (although you can always just drive to the top parking lot…). Goldstream Provincial Park is a convenientfavouritelocated a mere 20-minute drive North of the city. There you can explore the trestle bridge and take in the stunning Niagara Falls, or continue on your way to more heady hikes like Mt. Finlayson. There’s also GowllandTod nearby, which shows off with some stunning views of Finlayson Arm, the Gowlland Range, Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountain Range.

Scenic Strolls

For something a little slower paced than a hike, there are plenty of perfect destinations right in Victoria for a casual stroll. Choose between urban or a little more rural to set the scene and you’ll be on your way. Some of the best urban sites to explore on foot include the Inner Harbour and Fisherman’s Wharf, as well as Ogden Point for a visit to the lighthouse and its extending Dallas Road Walkway. If grass and path is more your style, check out Beacon Hill Park – there are 81 hectares of space to delve into, with more than a few hidden surprises to stumble upon. If you find yourself checking out the quaint Sidney-by-the-Sea, the sculpture and historical walk along the waterfront is an easy-going and easy-on-the-eyes delight.

Biking

Those who prefer two wheels to two feet are in luck: Victoria is not only the capital city of British Columbia, but is also the biking capital of Canada. There are hundreds of kilometers of bike lanes, bike routes and bike paths that wind their way in, throughout and around the city. The most extensive and scenic are the Lochside and infamous Galloping Goose Trails, which connect the region all the way from Sidney to Sooke. The trails will take you through all types of terrain, from scenic, coastal pathways, to trestle bridges and stretches of forest. There are plenty of Mountain Biking trails, as well as a BMX Track for those who seek a bit more adrenaline. Food and brewery bike tours are also available for an immersive exploration of the city.

Camping

Camping, of course, is the ultimate outdoor adventure. Luckily, there are plenty of areas surrounding Victoria for those who seek to spend both day and night away from the commodities of home. The solitude of the forest waits at Goldstream Provincial Park Campground, where you can combine your campout with day hikes in and out of the park. Another favourite option is the Sidney Spit campground, which is accessible via a short boat ride from the Sidney-by-the-Sea harbour. From there you’ll be immersed in a coastal and forest environment within a unique, provincial park. Of course, those are only two of the closest options. Don’t be afraid to venture a little bit farther to hunt down the park and campground that appeals to you most – there are plenty to be found nearby the city.

These activities are just the tip of the iceberg. Honorable mentions include diving, visiting Victoria’s numerous gardens, canoeing in the lakes and nearly anything else outdoorsy you could imagine. After all, there’s a reason Victoria’s MEC store thrives.