Crisp winter air and the promise of a hot cup of tea are what awaits you when you arrive in Victoria, BC on the Victoria Clipper from Seattle, or by car on one of the BC ferries coming from Vancouver. Summers in Victoria are fabulous, but winter is magical and too often missed by travelers. This small town on Vancouver Island packs in more holiday fun than you could possibly do in a weekend, but it is fun to give it a try. Although you may not get to it all, you can definitely hit the highlights in one or two days.
Tea at the Fairmont Empress
Tea is not for everyone, but even if you don't like it, you have to make a reservation for a holiday afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress. This historic hotel has served the Queen of England, numerous celebrities and more little princes and princesses dreaming of a little touch of royalty than you can count. The tearoom is packed with cozy chairs and couches to warm up on while your server explains your tea choices and rushes out a starter treat for the kids. You can reserve a Prince and Princess Tea for a reduced rate just for your little ones, who maybe aren't up for tackling a full tea. This makes it a bit more affordable for the whole family, as afternoon tea can run around $50 CAD per person. Is it worth the splurge? Definitely. You can fill an entire afternoon catching up with your kids over tea and exploring the Festival of Trees at the hotel, a yearly Christmas tree decorating tradition that raises money for local charities. Have your child find his or her favorite one. Maybe bring a book. It could take a while.
One of the best light displays in North America can be found at Butchart Gardens. That is just our family's opinion, but we have seen a lot of lights, and this one definitely tops our list. Bundle up the whole family; it can get very cold in December after the sun sets, and you don't want to have to rush through the lights just because someone isn't dressed appropriately. Follow the trail through the Twelve Days of Christmas. This light theme brings the classic Christmas song to life in fun and interesting ways - five golden rings is literally five lit up rings in one of the gardens ponds. Four parrots on cell phones represent four calling birds. Many of the displays are enchanting with a bit of hilarity thrown in. If you enjoy ice skating, make sure you pack your skates to take a spin around the seasonal ice rink set up towards the front of the garden near the gift shop. If you forget your skates, have no fear; you can rent skates to use during your visit. Plenty of food is available at a variety of prices, so you can fuel up before or after you check out the lights. Don't miss a spin around the Rose carousel, a favorite with kids and parents. If you plan to take photos, bring your tripod to capture the lights after dark.
More festive fun
If you still have time to fill, there is plenty to do around the city. Pop into the Original Christmas Village to load up on ornaments, nativity sets, and anything else Christmas related you could possibly want. Head over to Centennial Square to see the city's Christmas tree and take a spin on the DVBA Ferris Wheel for views high above the city every weekend. End your visit with a wander through Old Town at the Royal BC Museum all decked out for the holidays. If you are lucky, you may get to meet the big man from the North Pole while you are there.
There is no end to the fun you can find in Victoria, BC, whether you just want to warm up with a spot of tea or see some of the most spectacular holiday lights around. You and your kids are sure to enjoy wandering the streets and attractions the city has to offer, even on a chilly evening in December.
Have you ever been to Victoria? What's your favorite thing to do there?