The famous G-O-O-G-L-E letters stare back at you from your laptop in technicolor font. Your cursor hangs in limbo, blinking indefinitely at the end of your search bar as your mind blanks. It’s almost spring break, and scheduling a fun adventure for the kiddos has managed to slip into your planning blind spot.
Don’t panic quite just yet! There’s an entire island waiting to be discovered just across the Sound, and it’s closer than you think! With activities the whole family can enjoy, Victoria, BC is the perfect destination for a quick Seattle escape. We know the planning process can seem intimidating so here’s our guide to spending a fun weekend getaway with our neighbors to the north.
10:45 am – Arrive in Victoria, BC
After a brief three-hour relaxing jaunt across the water from Seattle aboard the high-speed Victoria Clipper, step off the boat and right into the heart of downtown Victoria (tip: good to bring books or cards for the kiddos to enjoy on the ride over). A quick two-minute walk along the waterfront, the Hotel Grand Pacific is one of the best hotels in the city for unbeatable views of the Inner Harbour. The kiddos won’t be able to resist feeding the resident ducks and feasting on the tasty snacks in the pre-order fridges – can you say house-made cookies?
With its upscale accommodations, the Chateau Victoria Hotel is another one of our favorite places to stay in Victoria’s downtown core. Your kids will love ordering from the hotel’s special kids’ menu, as well as spotting exciting city sights outside, such as Victoria’s famous horse-drawn carriages.
Last but not least, surrounded by spectacular views of Victoria’s glistening waterfront, the budget-friendly Harbour Towers Hotel & Suites is the perfect locale to soak in your surroundings. With a fabulous indoor pool where the kids can splash and play while you kick back and relax in the hot tub and sauna, you’ll have a hard time prying yourself away from the property grounds. Once you do make your way outside, swing by Budget to pick up your rental car or minivan, and you’re off to your first adventure!
11:45 am – Check Out the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
Nestled in the cozy seaside town of Sidney, the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea features 160 species of marine life, including a giant pacific octopus, pacific salmon, wolf eels and more! Be sure to swing by the touch pool, a favorite with little tykes, to allow them to get their hands on a slew of ocean creatures.
1:00 pm – Grab a Bite in Sidney
With its famous thick battered fish ‘n chips, colorful murals and framed art, Fish on Fifth is a no-brainer for delicious Sidney cuisine. If you’re looking for a late brunch, Third Street Café is the perfect pit stop for a coffee refuel and the best eggs benedict north of Victoria, which are served all day long. When it comes time for dessert, bee-line it to the famous Sidney Bakery, which has been using family recipes to create amazing fresh, hot doughnuts, buns, breads, cookies and cakes since 1944!
2:00 pm – Get Lost in a Tropical Paradise at the Butterfly Gardens
Hop back in the car and head toward Brentwood Bay, 15 minutes south of Sidney, where you’ll find what might be the highlight of the entire trip for the kiddos. Enter a tropical paradise at the Butterfly Gardens, an entirely self-sustaining ecosystem including wildlife such as frogs, tortoises, flamingos, large iguanas and, of course, thousands of colorful butterflies.
3:00 pm – Discover Victoria’s Vibrant Butchart Gardens
Travel down the road toward Brentwood Bay and to pay a visit to the magnificent Butchart Gardens. Immerse yourself in rows upon rows of blooming roses, tulips and daffodils. Let your kiddos put their drawing and scavenger hunting skills to test as they scamper down stone-lined pathways on a family discovery walk, an entertaining and educational way to learn the secrets of The Gardens. (Tip: For families looking for a completely car-free adventure, Clipper offers this great overnight package that includes a visit to The Butchart Gardens with a stop at the Butterfly Gardens.)
5:30 pm – Family-Friendly Dinner in Victoria’s Downtown Core
After a day of exploring, be sure to take the scenic route back to Victoria via the twisting, forested West Saanich Road. Back in town, take a load off and grab dinner at an array of restaurants in the downtown core. The Pink Bicycle is a local favorite for unbeatable burgers the whole family will love. Furthermore, you can’t go wrong with the classic island pizza joint, Pagliacci’s, which serves up some serious slices.
9:00 am – Breakfast at Coffee and Doughnuts at Discovery Coffee
Start your day off right with a cup of joe and excellent eats! Known by locals as “Disco,” Discovery Coffee shops can be found within walking distance of almost anywhere you find yourself in downtown Victoria, and specialize in specialty craft coffee brews that pair perfectly with the cafes freshly-made doughnuts.
10:00 am – Spend Some Time Outdoors at Beacon Hill Park
An oasis in the middle of the city, Beacon Hill Park is home to beachfront views perfect for watching the kite surfers, as well as a children’s farm brimming with bouncing sheep, llamas and other fluffy critters to pet. At 10 am daily, be sure to catch the “Running of the Goats,” a furry stampede of baby goats that will have the kids squealing with excitement!
11:30 am – Explore the Royal BC Museum
Spend the afternoon exploring the Royal BC Museum’s impressive display of authentic artifacts and specimens from distant times and places. You’ll find a life-sized model of Victoria at the turn of the 19th century, as well as the largest IMAX screen in British Columbia.
1:00 pm – Lunch at Red Fish Blue Fish
Head to nearby Wharf Street and renew your spirit with a fish taco or two at Red Fish Blue Fish. Fresh seafood with a view of the Inner Harbour? It doesn’t get much better than this!
2:00 pm – Uncover Victoria’s Quirky Side at Miniature World
Victoria proudly displays its quaint history on every city block, but for a bird’s eye view of the ages, take a wander through Miniature World. The perfect activity for the young and young at heart, this little museum will transport you to 1670’s London, a place called Fantasy Land and even give you a glimpse into the future.
3:00 pm – Get Your Hands on an Array of Critters at the Bug Zoo
Get up close and personal with live walking sticks, praying mantis and Canada’s largest ant colony at the Victoria Bug Zoo! Discover 50 fascinating species, including glow-in-the-dark scorpions at this must-see mini zoo just two blocks north of the Fairmont Empress.
4:00 pm – Take Time for a Sweet Treat at Bon Macaron Patisserie or Cold Comfort
No visit to Victoria is complete without a trip to Bon Macaron Patisserie for a taste of their delicious confections. Available in a number of flavors, these melt-in-your-mouth treats are guaranteed to bring out the sweet tooth in anyone. If it’s ice cream you’re after, Cold Comfort serves up an equally wide variety of flavors from traditional vanilla to the more adventurous rosemary & sour cherry, all using locally-sourced ingredients.
6:00 pm or 7:00 pm – Cruise Back to Seattle
(Note: Beginning Saturday, May 6, you will have an hour longer to explore the streets of Victoria, when our departure times switch from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Check out our schedules and fares page for details.)
After one last sunset stroll around town (don’t forget to walk the Ogden Point Breakwater!), board the Clipper for the return voyage to Seattle. Relive your memories or use the time to plan your next trip, we guarantee the whole family will be counting down the days!
Whether it’s petting fluffy animals, touching slippery fish, holding insects or gazing at butterflies, there’s plenty to keep curious kids entertained for hours in and around beautiful Victoria, BC. Who knows, you might rediscover your inner child!