Just a few hours’ boat ride from Seattle and a short drive from Vancouver, Victoria is a charming little British Columbia gem and the province’s capital city. Also known as “the garden city,” Victoria earned its name from Queen Victoria in the mid-1800s and is one of the oldest cities in the PNW. Here’s how to experience the best of Victoria in less than 24 hours.
Start the day with a stroll downtown, which is laden with cute cafes and shops (don’t leave Canada without a bottle of maple syrup and a box of maple leaf cookies!). You can meander through the Victorian homes, visit Market Square and wander through Chinatown, the oldest in Canada and second oldest in North America. You’ll make your way south to the Parliament Buildings and then the Royal B.C. Museum. Inside, you can catch the latest IMAX film, visit the native plant garden or explore the modern history and natural history exhibits. Plan to set aside 1-2 hours to make your way though the museum.
On a nice day, walk around the Inner Harbour and Fisherman’s Wharf where the whale watching boats dock. You can grab some grub, admire some art and watch the float planes land and take off. Or, if you’d prefer a more regal experience, make reservations for high tea at the historical Fairmont Empress Hotel, located across the street from the museum. Kids and grown-ups alike will marvel at the kitschy-yet-impressive Miniature World displays located on the downtown-facing side of the hotel (it costs about $15 to see).
Then, hop over to Craigdarroch Castle, about a 10-minute car ride from downtown (or 20 minutes by bus), to tour this Victorian-era mansion. The Scottish-Baronial design boasts 39 rooms and over 20,000 square feet.
Dine at Canada’s first brewpub, Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, in Victoria West across the Johnson Street Bridge where you can sip some suds and share a plate of poutine. If you’re feeling romantic, or just want to take a trip back in time, ride a horse-drawn carriage through the historical James Bay district to admire some Victorian-era homes. Then, to end the day with a nightcap and a view, slide into a window seat at the rooftop Vista 18 on the 18th floor of the Chateau Victoria Hotel. Enjoy an extensive wine list, house made truffles and ice creams for dessert and on weekends, live entertainment late into the night.
Have another day? Head to the vibrant Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay (about a 30 minute drive from Victoria). The floral artistry is like a wonderland for the senses, and every spring, 300,000 new bulbs are planted in the gardens, ensuring no visit will ever look the same!
–The Wandering Alligator
Want to spend more time exploring the PNW? Check out this weekenders’ guide to Portland, Oregon!