Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, off the west coast of Canada, you’ll find the timeless charm of Victoria, BC. A picturesque playground for every age with show-stopping architecture, intricate gardens, grand castles, adventurous parks…and a food scene worth craving.
And the best part? It’s less than three hours from Seattle via the Victoria Clipper, making it one of my most recommended PNW destinations for a quick (or extended) getaway.
How To Get To Victoria
One of the easiest ways to get to Victoria from Seattle is the Victoria Clipper, a high-speed, passenger-only catamaran through the Salish Sea. The Clipper provides a seamless travel experience, direct downtown-to-downtown service and quick and efficient border crossings within the terminals.
When planning your trip to Victoria, make sure to check out the ferry schedule, as times vary by season, and I’ll be honest – upgrade to Comfort Class – it’s amazing!! The gorgeous panoramic views, spacious leather seats in a private cabin, along with complimentary snacks, coffee and tea…totally worth it.
Where To Stay In Victoria
Nothing compares to the Fairmont Empress…
Recognized as one of Top 21 Iconic Hotels in the World by National Geographic Traveler magazine, honoured with Travel + Leisure Magazine’s World’s Best Award for Top 10 City Hotels in Canada, and regarded as a Condé Nast Readers’ Choice and Gold List hotel, Fairmont Empress is located in Victoria, BC overlooking the city’s sparkling Inner Harbour.
In June 2017, Fairmont Empress completed a $60+ Million restoration that celebrates its proud history while moving the hotel into a new era of modern luxury; transforming this iconic property into an elegant must-visit destination for the world’s discerning travelers.
Victoria offers the most temperate climate in Canada, making it an ideal destination when traveling with little ones.
The Fairmont Empress helps you plan the perfect family-friendly trip with their exclusive ‘Let’s Take The Kids’ Package which includes:
- Newly restored, fully air conditioned, beautifully appointed accommodations
- Tea at the Empress for the family, including Prince or Princess afternoon tea for children 12 and under
- A Tigris the Empress Tiger stuffed animal for each child
- An Empress children’s activity book with scavenger hunt for each child
- Milk and cookies turn down amenity
- Children aged 6-11 dine for 50% off when ordering from the regular menu
- Children under 5 dine for free when ordering from the children’s menu
A stay at the Empress would not be complete without their world famous tea experience…served daily since 1908.
Tea At The Empress
Tea at the Empress is among the world’s best unique tea experiences. To complement our house-made signature Empress scones, pastries, clotted creams and strawberry preserves with fresh lavender from our rooftop herb garden, are 21 of the finest loose leafs teas available.
And for the kids…
Prince Princess Indulgence
Tea at the Empress is also tailored to suit the tastes of our tiniest travelers aged five to twelve years. Calling all Prince and Princesses alike to experience the grandeur and elegance of the famous Lobby Lounge and be made to feel like young royalty while participating in this coveted tradition.
The seating times, dress code, menu and direct link to book are available at Tea at the Empress.
Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Empress
Recognized by Condé Nast as a Top Resort Spa in Canada and Spas of America Top 100 Spas of the Americas, Willow Stream Spa on Vancouver Island is a serene oasis in the heart of Victoria.
And they kindly accommodate pampering for their younger guests – we recommend the mini mani!
Where To Play in Victoria…with Kids
With over a million visitors year-round, the 55-acre garden experience has proven to be one of the most impressive things to do in Victoria, especially with kids.
I recommend booking via CVS Tours, available daily, year-round, with pick up right in front of the Fairmont Empress.
While the warmer months offer plenty of bloom-filled pathways, the winter has a magic all to its own.
The Magic of Christmas (December 1st – January 6th)
While the flowers sleep, we dress The Gardens with boughs of greenery—and lights galore! The Gardens come to life with a colourful display of lights, including scenes depicting The Twelve Days of Christmas. Wander the pathways to discover each scene while you sing along to the classic Christmas carol.
Lace up your skates and step onto the rink: nestled under strings of twinkling lights, our 5,000-square-foot outdoor rink adds a little romance to a classic Canadian pastime. Breathe in the fresh air, and when you’re done on the ice, warm up by the fire in the Coffee Shop with family or friends and a cup of hot chocolate.
With traditional carollers and a festive brass band, there’s no shortage of seasonal sounds at The Gardens! Step into the Piazza and sing along to classic carols sure to put you in the Christmas spirit. The sound of the festive brass instruments and traditional carollers will follow you down the garden path, greeting you at the beginning and end of your tour.
Combining Christmas merriment with The Gardens’ renowned fare, festive dining is an experience to remember. In the Dining Room Restaurant, choose from seasonal afternoon tea or delicious dinner, or opt for the more casual fare in the Blue Poppy Restaurant. This is the time of year to indulge in the rich and sweet flavours, take in the lights display, then sit in the Piazza to listen to the music of the season.
For children 12 and under, we invite you to make your own snowflake at home from an 8×11 sheet of white paper. Bring it to The Gardens when you visit, and we will trade you a cup of hot chocolate for your snowflake at our Coffee Shop. Your unique snowflake could adorn the windows of the Coffee Shop throughout the Christmas season.
Historical Display (January 15 – March 17)
When winter falls, we open the former Butchart family residence, Benvenuto, to our visitors. Inside, you’ll find curated displays of memorabilia that chronicle The Garden’s history, from its days as a limestone quarry to today. From room to room, you’ll see original furnishings, letters and photographs from the early 1900s.
Enjoy a delicious seasonal menu with accommodations for vegetarian, gluten-free and kids available upon request. I’m going to urge you to do both the Fairmont Empress and the Butchart Gardens Afternoon Tea…they each offer a unique experience that can only be enjoyed in Victoria! Worth it, I promise you.
Just around the corner from Victoria’s Inner Harbour, Fisherman’s Wharf is a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered. This unique marine destination offers food kiosks, unique shops and eco-tour adventures in the heart of the working harbour. Wander down the docks with your lunch, buy seafood fresh off the boat, see moored pleasure vessels and float homes, and watch as fishing vessels unload their wares.
Exploring Downtown Victoria
Downtown Victoria offers over 1500 locally-owned and operated businesses, from specialty boutiques and authentic cuisine to unforgettable entertainment. A few of our favorite spots to explore are listed below.
Chinatown – The Oldest in Canada
Rainbow Crosswalks – Pandora & Broad Street
Public Art Installations
Annual Festival of Trees – Hosted by the Bay Centre
Old Victoria Custom House – Designated as a historic house in 1987…and just so pretty.
British Columbia Parliament Buildings
Where to Eat in Victoria
Located in the Inner Harbour, Milestones offers one of my favorite starter menus including crispy cauliflower bites, bruschetta flatbread, wham-bam shrimp, roasted mushroom soup…I could go on and on. It’s the perfect place to stop in for a quick bite or a leisurely lunch. And definitely kid-friendly!
It’s impossible to visit Canada without enjoying a meal at Earls. The food is always delicious, the cocktails are perfectly crafted, and the service is unparalleled. I recommend the Charred Jalapeño or Coconut Mint Margarita to start…
Along with a basket of garlic fries and a side of crispy calamari.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, the new Plant-Based menu is so good. I thoroughly enjoyed the Vegan Hunan Kung Pao!
A fun, family-friendly restaurant well-known by locals and just a few blocks up from the waterfront. Such a gem and worth the wait on the weekends.
Famous for their Egg Bennys and The Mahoney, Floyd’s Diner also works with Mealshare to provide meals to those in need when you purchase certain items on the menu.
Pizzeria Prima Strada
Rumor has it Prima Strada has the best pizza in Victoria, serving wood-fired neapolitan varieties…and I can confirm, it is that good. Served alongside locally-brewed craft soda and stellar service, this neighborhood eatery a few blocks from Beacon Hill Park is worth the 15 minute walk from downtown!
Voted as #7 Top 25 Best Cities in the World by the 2016 Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Survey and ranked the 9th Best City in the United States and Canada by Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards in 2015, Victoria uniquely offers a mix of old-world charm and new world experiences. With endless quiet pathways, ample micro-breweries and an array of outdoor adventures, it’s easy to see why people regularly fall in love with Victoria.
I hope this post inspires you to plan a trip to Victoria this winter…and remember, everything I’ve shared is kid-friendly!
One of my favorite travel hacks is to utilize local tourism bureaus to help plan your trip. If you’d like to learn more about Victoria, check out Destination Greater Victoria for additional itinerary ideas, travel deals and a full list of current festivals and events.
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THANK YOU Destination Greater Victoria for coordinating this trip and their partners for offering the most gracious hospitality!
*Photos by Jasmine Klein Photography