If you've never been to this magnificent place, book a stay here for a few days (or do a day trip if you're nearby) - it's probably one of the most beautiful (and cleanest) places we've visited. Even though it takes roughly 5-6 hours to get here (3 hours drive to the Canadian border from home, 1.5 hours of ferry time, and another 30-60 mins to get to our timeshare), it's still - relatively speaking - in our "backyard."
This beautiful city is located on Vancouver Island, just a ferry ride away from Downtown Vancouver and Richmond BC. Our kids have never been so we opted on taking them to experience what I like to call, "little England." It was their mid-winter break and we wanted to take them away to some place new.
When I was a child, my family used to take us and it always reminded me of Europe - fast forward to many years later and I find that Canada actually falls under the British monarchy (if you know me personally, I've always been fascinated by them).
Even when my kids are in Canada, they often feel like they're in Europe because of the architecture, the many labels and signs that are in French, the colorful currency, the many streets and buildings named after some of the royal monarchs (I wonder if they'll ever have one named after Meghan Markle? HEHE), etc....they find it kind of cool.
Unfortunately, for the first half of our trip, I caught a nasty bug. So, while I was bedridden, my family was able to enjoy some of the sights as well as the fresh air. Luckily, I prepped a list of places for them to visit beforehand. Thanks to my husband, he was able to take some photos of their excursions while I was wasting away in bed. ;-P Can't lie that I was feeling a little jealous and bummed.
We're members of a timeshare so we were lucky in that we were able to book right next to the water. We've never been to this particular property but it was set in a convenient location that most places only took anywhere from a few minutes walk to a 30 minute stroll. We were located right next to Victoria's Fisherman's Wharf (I can imagine how bustling that area can be in warmer months).
Upon opening our front door, we came to find an updated, freshly decorated unit that was clean and ready to welcome us in. It was late by the time we arrived so everything outside was pretty dark (except for the city lights of course). Come morning, our view of the marina was perfect! Not too shabby, eh?!
There are plenty of places to book along the water as well as nearby so make sure you read up on each place, compare prices, and check out reviews. You're bound to come across something that offers great hospitality. And that's the thing here...people are so freakin' NICE.
Places to go
Since I wasn't able to join my family on some of their outings, I'll give a quick rundown of what they thought as well as links and basic info so that you can get a good glimpse of what to do as well as how much money you'll be spending.
When the kids and my husband went, the building was closed but the kids wanted to take photos of its architectural details - the aquamarine domes atop a gothic-like structure just lured them in like a moth to a flame.
This building is located across from the marina and is just as beautiful at night...you'll see photos down below during the evening - it's definitely one to check out. Tours are available here M-F, but, since the building was closed, it's needless to say that there was no money spent here. Just admiring its grand beauty was enough for them.
For more information, check it out here: www.tourismvictoria.com/see-do/activities-attractions/attractions/british-columbia-parliament-buildings
ROYAL BC MUSEUM
To be honest, the boys thought that it was totally going to be lame. But it seem they gave it a chance because they were pleasantly surprised - they told me that the displays were well laid out and they each found something interesting. Also, lots of photo ops kept them amused! There were a LOT of photos so I picked a couple to post specifically for this blog.
Expect to spend around 2 hours at the museum with prices ranging from $11 - $17 depending on your age group. For more information, check out their site at: royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/
Butchart Gardens is generally known for their blooms but this was a first (for me, at least) to see it so barren and covered in snow. The last time I visited, I was just a child (maybe 13??) and it was filled with so many flowers that my brother's allergies would often act up.
Still, the kids wanted to check it out and even though many would see it as a waste of money, we decided to embrace it for what it was at the moment - a winter wonderland!
It was my first outing with the family and, yes, I was still a little under the weather but the fresh air made me feel a bit better. We loved that there were a few people there aside from us. We all made it a day of taking photos - some silly, some suave - and got the carousel all to ourselves! This family day was definitely a good one.
Normally it takes a few hours to spend time here (if filled with flowers) but it took us about 1.5 - 2 hours to go around as well as relax in their cafe. Prices range from $3 - $34 depending on what age group you fall in. Even though there were really no flowers in sight, we had fun! Check out their website for additional information, www.butchartgardens.com/
Just a side note...what you see on their website is what you see in real life so you'll be able to get an idea of how different the gardens look between seasons!
This quaint little tourist attraction was literally located right next to our timeshare. It took us probably under 5 minutes to walk to these docks. With many of the restaurants closed, it was a ghost town. Understandable as the weather was quite chilly. Only one restaurant - a fish & chips joint - was open from what we saw. Unfortunately, it started sprinkling, so we headed back to our unit.
Despite the place being empty, we could tell that its prime time is when the sun's out. There you will find places to dine, little shops to peruse, and docks running alongside so many cute floating homes. These homes were so colorful and compact that my daughter, Ava, was enamored by them.
For more information, check out fishermanswharfvictoria.com/
We took one of the night tours (they have afternoon tours but nights are creepier, yes?). Since it's a walking tour, make sure you have a coat to stave off the chilly breeze from the marina and wear your comfortable shoes because it's 90 mins long!
A large group of us met up and were split into two groups. Our tour guide was a character and you could tell she loves what she does. For every stop we made, she'd tell us a ghost story specific to the building or area. Some of it interesting, some hard to believe. Whatever your beliefs are in the supernatural (or if you like to listen to stories, this is a fun and unconventional family activity.
My little one acted tough throughout most of the tour but when we decided to walk around the marina afterwards, she was a bit paranoid. For every dark corner, she'd make sure she stayed close and would frequently urge me to "HURRY!!" Not going to lie but walking around at night got the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. HAHA! Now don't get me wrong, the stories aren't really scary-scary but they just made you think!
Prices range from $10 - $20, again, depending on your age. Not too bad, so, if you're into ghost stories like we are, check out discoverthepast.com/ghostly-walks/ for something a little different.
TEA @ THE EMPRESS
The menu below showcases all the various teas they offer (the top 6 included with the tower of goodies). While Ava and I got 2 different teas, the boys decided to get the same one. I chose the Rose Congou Emperor tea because, ONE, it was Princess Diana's fave and, TWO, I absolutely love rose-infused drinks. It's now one of my new fave teas (along with jasmine and sencha green tea flavors).
The whole experience was absolutely delightful. The boys took a bunch of pictures and my daughter finished most of her food (which I was a little worried about). Although the dress code was "smart casual", we saw some people dressed to the nines complete with big, floppy hats and some that were dressed in their casual Friday duds. I will say, if you ever go, make an effort to dress for the occasion - since it's not a common thing to fit into most people's schedules.
I'm kind of glad my husband didn't go because I got to spend some quality time with the kids. No cell phones allowed during the meal (except for taking some photos) - so it was quite the bonding time we needed after I was bedridden for half the trip.
I will say it's not cheap to have tea here (well, I guess the word "cheap" is subjective) but you will have an experience nonetheless. Our server was great and very friendly, the atmosphere was most elegant, the food was flavorful, the tea tasted of high quality, and the music was great (the pianist played all the current hits so the kids loved that).
Prices are $78/adult and $39 for children ages 6-12. Pricing includes tea and a tower of goodies (and there is a LOT of it). Expect to spend about 1.5 - 2 hours here. Trust me when I say you get what you pay for so, in my honest opinion, the price was worth it. We all enjoyed it so hopefully hubs will tag along the next time we ever do tea.
For more info, visit www.teaattheempress.com
Until NEXT TIME BC!
Let me know if you've ever visited Victoria BC and, if so, what other suggestions you might have - where to visit and, most importantly, where to EAT! CIAO!
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