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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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