Planning a trip to Victoria BC this year? Naturally, you’ll want to check Whale Watching off your must-do list (you can’t come all the way here and not try it – and we’re not just saying that because we’re in the biz). But, since you’ll likely be in town for more than a few hours, we at Springtide have assembled a list of Top Ten Travel Experiences in Downtown Victoria BC to check out while you’re here. And, the best thing is, they don’t all cost money!
1. A Stroll Along SongWalk
SongWalk is a fun and free activity that’s perfect for a sunny day or evening in downtown Victoria, offering stunning views of the harbour and downtown. To access the SongWalk path, cross the Johnson Street Bridge and take an immediate left, down to the water beside the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort. Walk or jog the path in the daytime, or head out at dusk for a stunning view of the sunset and city lights. Look out for Blue Herons, Sea Otters, and seabirds along the way (especially common in the early evening), or drool over the premier waterfront real estate. Stop for a snack or a drink on the patio of Spinnakers Brewpub on your way back to town.
2. Fish & Chips on the Dock
You can’t come to Victoria and miss out on fresh-caught fish, fried on the docks. There are a few great choices in and around the Inner Harbour, including Red Fish Blue Fish for the best fish ‘tacones’ in town, or Barb’s at Fisherman’s Wharf (feed the resident Harbour Seals or check out the colourful houseboats while you’re at it).
3. Visit a Farmer’s Market
Assemble a picnic to suit your fancy at one of downtown Victoria’s lively public markets. In the summertime, don’t miss the James Bay Saturday Market or the Bastion Square Market. For the rest of the year, the Downtown Victoria Public Market is located inside the city’s historic Hudson’s Bay Building just a few blocks from the harbour, where you can stock up on all your essentials for a picnic or hotel-room snack.
4. The Royal BC Museum & National Geographic IMAX Theatre
The Royal BC Museum, a beacon of 1960s architecture on the corner between the Empress Hotel and the BC Legislature, is a Victoria institution and favourite with locals, young and old. You can breeze through in an hour or so, or make a rainy afternoon of it – make sure to check out their special touring exhibits on the 2nd floor. Take in a matinée or evening show at the on-site National Geographic IMAX Theatre.
5. Afternoon Tea at the Empress or a mid-afternoon cocktail on the Empress Veranda
Pretending you’re a 19th century aristocrat or VIP is easy to do when surrounded by grandiose architecture, ornate furnishings, fine china and finger sandwiches. Indulge in the Fairmont Empress Hotel’s famous Afternoon Tea, or sip a midday cocktail on the Veranda, while taking in the best harbour views in the city.
6. Explore Fan Tan Alley
Price: Free, plus spending money
Victoria is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown (and the second oldest in North America, after San Francisco). You can almost feel the history as you wander its alleyways and poke around its labyrinth-like shops. Taste some delicious cuisine, buy a paper lantern at the Chinatown Trading Company (they pack well in a suitcase!) or shop for healing crystals at the Triple Spiral Metaphysical store.
7. Take a Harbour Ferry ride
This activity is a surefire hit with kids, and a convenient way to get from A to B if you’ve spent the day shopping and your hotel feels oh-so-far away. Choose from a Harbour Ferry Tour, perfect for sightseeing or a Water Taxi ride, which is a quick shuttle to, and from, various points of interest around the Inner Harbour. During the summer months (May-September) the Victoria Harbour Ferry offers their famous Pickle Pub Crawls, which include drop off/pick up from your choice of 3 pubs located near the Harbour. Cheers!
8. Tour the Legislature, picnic on the front lawn
A favourite activity, for locals and tourists alike, is a sunny-day picnic on the front lawn of the BC Legislature. For the history/political buffs in your group, sign up for one of the free tours, offered daily during the summer season. If you’re a real enthusiast, sit in the viewing gallery while the House is in session and watch the parliamentary debates (Note: they break during the summer months). Check out the 2014 Parliamentary Calendar.
9. Visit a local brew pub
Victoria boasts a bustling microbrew culture, with more and more craft breweries and local pubs popping up every year. Luckily, many of these are located within easy walking distance of the Inner Harbour. For great beer, check out Canoe Brewpub, Moon Under Water, and Swan’s Hotel, or visit a beer and wine store for even more locally brewed selections.
10. Beacon Hill Park
Travelling with children can be great fun, but it’s frustrating to arrive in a new city and not know where the nearest ‘open space’ is. Beautiful Beacon Hill Park is located about 2 blocks from the Inner Harbour, on 75 hectares of green space/waterfront land. Check out the lovely walking trails, Goodacre Lake (a Blue Heron nesting spot and a great place to sight these fascinating birds), and the outdoor bandshell, featuring live performances, outdoor water play area, and Children’s Farm. Check out the park map.