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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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