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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.