What’s not to love about winter? Not only do you have the perfect excuse to bundle up in your warmest sweaters, hats and scarves (and even put those fuzzy socks to good use), but it is also the season to seek out a snug spot to while away a blustery day. Feeling the winter itch and in need of a little fun Canadian adventure? From curling up with tasty beverages to exploring some of our region’s most iconic sights, resist hibernation with our picks for 30 things to do in Victoria, BC this winter.

1. The Fairmont Empress

A renowned international landmark, it’s hard to find a locale that’s more quintessentially Victoria than the Fairmont Empress. Needless to say, you’ll be treated like royalty during your stay. Cozy up in the Lobby Lounge for a festive afternoon tea. Or indulge in some pure pampering with your sweetie in the luxurious, newly renovated Willow Stream Spa. Whisk any lingering holiday stress away with their unique Spa Ritual and two indulgent, 60-minute treatments. End your night cuddling by the fireside on the harbor-facing Veranda, cocoa or spiced cider in hand. Say it with me…simply ahh-mazing.

Cuddle up on the Terrace and watch the Inner Harbour fade into night. Credit: The Fairmont Empress
Cuddle up on the Terrace and watch the Inner Harbour fade into night. Credit: The Fairmont Empress

2. The Royal BC Museum

Home to an impressive collection of artifacts and engaging interactive exhibits, the Royal BC Museum also hosts a variety of fun and festive events come wintertime. Celebrate the new year in style and stop by the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition for their Going Wildly into the New Year event. You’ll  enjoy an assortment of delicious goodies, performances, a fantastic light installation and more! Not ready for the season of celebrations to end? Check out the adult-only Night Shift party in early February. Craft your own Valentine’s Day card, snap a selfie with that special someone and dance the night away!

3. Christmas in Old Victoria Walking Tour

Experience BC’s capital city during its most festive time of the year and learn how the holidays were first celebrated back in this former gold-rush city on a walking tour of Old Victoria. Amble past some of the city’s most iconic and historic buildings decked out in lights as your knowledgeable guide shares warm-hearted and humorous accounts of a First Nations legend, a Christmas Day brawl at Fort Victoria and an amusing memory from Emily Carr’s childhood.

4. Cowichan Wine Country Tour

If the weather outside is frightful, delight in a day trip north to the Cowichan Valley and warm your soul with a tall glass of wine. Unwind as you soak in stunning views and sip on an assortment of award-winning wines from three different vineyards. (Inside Tip: While the Malahat is awe-inspiring any time of year, but when covered in a dusting of snow, it transforms into sparkling winter wonderland.)

Blue Grouse’s oldest oldest vines are found closest to the tasting room while the newer vines lie to the west of the property. Photo: Nick Bentley
Blue Grouse’s oldest vines are found closest to the tasting room while the newer vines lie to the west of the property. Credit: Nick Bentley

5. Tally-Ho Carriage Tours

Need to give your feet (and legs) a rest after ambling around downtown? On weekends in December, you can catch a free horse-drawn carriage ride to soak in the lights and sights of the city in a unique and festive way. Or settle in together for a romantic sightseeing trip through the peaceful Beacon Hill Park and take in the winter scenery.

6. Tigh Na Mara Seaside Spa Resort

In case you needed an invitation to leave the busy mainland, the fabulous Tigh Na Mara Seaside Spa Resort is pretty tough to resist. Detoxify in the award-winning, rock-ensconced Grotto Spa, listen to the calming rush of a waterfall while falling into a state of pure bliss. Afterward, take a moonlit stroll along the resort’s three-kilometer stretch of pristine sandy beach.

Restore and relax at Tigh Na Mara Resort and Spa. Credit: Tigh Na Mara Spa.
Restore and relax at Tigh Na Mara Resort and Spa. Credit: Tigh Na Mara Spa.

7. Chinese New Year Tea & Chinatown Historical Walks

The Lunar New Year in Victoria is a pretty big deal. After all, the city is home to the oldest Chinatown in Canada. Ring in the Year of the Dog by unwinding in the Hotel Grand Pacific’s tranquil Pacific Restaurant and treat yourself to delicious Chinese New Year tea. Featuring 16 specialty Silk Road teas and amazing sweet and savory goodies curated by Executive Chef Rick Choy, the tea is truly an incredible experience. Following tea, venture on out on a Chinatown Historical Walking tour to explore Tam Kung Temple, the famously narrow Fan Alley and more for an in-depth understanding of Chinatown’s fascinating past and vibrant present.

8. Oak Bay Beach Hotel & Spa

Tranquil, serene and stunning, there is no better place to snuggle with your special someone than the intimate, oasis-like setting at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. Treat yourself to a couples massage in the spa, then close out the evening with a late night soak (they’re open to midnight) in the famous mineral pools while hints of eucalyptus from the indoor steam room drift in and out with the shifting breeze. Hello hygge.

Rejuvenate with a soak in a steaming hot seaside mineral pool. Credit: Oak Bay Beach Hotel
Rejuvenate with a soak in a steaming hot seaside mineral pool. Credit: Oak Bay Beach Hotel

9. Victoria Public Market at the Hudson

An excellent spot to grab a bite or a treat to go any time of year, the Public Market at the Hudson serves up an extra helping of artisan goodness during the holiday season. Dive into a slice of deliciously-sweet pecan pie from Victoria Pie Co. Next, peruse the array of rotating holiday pop up shops from local vendors to pick artisanal, handmade goods (complete with gift-wrapping) for everyone on your list.

10. Russell Books

With three stories of rooms chock-full of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, Russell Books on Fort Street truly is a book lovers’ dream. Looking for a special title? There’s a good chance you’ll find it (and a cozy corner where you can curl up with your new read) on the entire floor devoted to rare and vintage books.

Peruse a selection of good reads at the popular Russell Books. Credit: Scott Meis.
Peruse a selection of good reads at the popular Russell Books. Credit: Scott Meis.

11. Ann’s Academy

A magnificent treasure older than the Fairmont Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings, the iconic, mid-1800s St Ann’s Academy is the perfect locale to warm up on a historic walking tour of Victoria. Duck inside the cathedral, where you’ll find elaborate ceiling carvings, gold-leaf detailing, original oil paintings and other relics of the structure’s past. You might even catch a glimpse of one of the former schoolhouse’s resident apparitions.

12. Feast for the Senses Tour

Kick back with a cocktail or pint of locally-produced cider and experience Victoria’s buzz-worthy culinary scene on a Feast for the Senses tour that will take you to some of our favorite cideries and distilleries. Drink in stunning vistas of the Saanich Inlet as you sample award-winning cider and snack on a delicious West Coast charcuterie plate at Sea Cider. From there, head to Caledonian Brewery and Distillery, to learn about the distilling process from the brewery’s seasoned master distiller and sip on a few of the best single malts and pot still whiskeys in the finest Scottish tradition.

Pair a flight of delicious local cider with a plate of fresh eats.
Pair a flight of delicious local cider with a plate of fresh eats.

13. Venus Sophia Tea

A chic, modern afternoon tea room situated in the heart of Victoria’s historic Chinatown, Venus Sophia offers a new twist on an old classic – a sumptuous lineup of entirely vegetarian eats. Best of all, everything in this cozy, family-run café is made from scratch using the freshest ingredients.

14. Hey Happy Coffee

If you need a delicious hand warmer as you meander around Victoria’s downtown core, hop into the light-filled Hey Happy Coffee on Johnson Street. We highly recommend the Black & Tan – a baby Americano topped with warm maple cream. Otherwise known as pure Canada in a cup.

Make a pit stop at the local cafe to fuel your afternoon of exploring. Credit: Danny Owens
Make a pit stop at the local cafe to fuel your afternoon of exploring. Credit: Danny Owens

15. Rogers Chocolates

It wouldn’t be the holidays without giving into your sweet tooth. Pop into the iconic Rogers’ Chocolates store to sample a few sugary delights. After all, as Canada’s first chocolatier, they know a thing or two about crafting irresistible candy. Indulge in a piece of chocolate history and pick up their most famous creation, the Victoria Cream, for your valentine. Featuring a decadent, creamy center buried inside a thick chocolate shell, this little piece of heaven will leave them begging for more.

16. Bard and Banker

Decked out in its holiday finest, there is no better place to ease the winter chill with a frothy pint or two-finger pour of whiskey than at the Bard & Banker. Opened in 1885 as the Bank of British Columbia, the building has a history as rich as a fine bourbon and now also serves as a music venue with live acts seven days a week.

Situated right in the heart of downtown, The Bard & Banker has been our go to pub for many years. Credit: Danny Owens
Situated right in the heart of downtown, The Bard & Banker has been our go to pub for many years. Credit: Danny Owens

17. Veneto Tapa Lounge

Cap off a day of exploring with tapas-style small plates and artisanal cocktails at one of the local’s favorite watering hole, Veneto, on Douglas Street. Here cocktails are serious business. Sample a unique spin on a classic libation or if you have trouble picking a drink from the restaurant’s impressive menu, “spin the wheel” and leave the decision making up to your capable mixologist. They will whip you up a tasty beverage based on your favorite spirit and flavor profile.

18. The Regional Assembly of Text

Embrace the lost art of letter writing and sweet your S.O. off their feet. Swing into the stylishly-low tech Regional Assembly of Text on Johnson Street and going old-school by crafting a love note on one of their typewriters. Bonus points for tucking your note into one of the shop’s adorable handmade cards for a custom-made gift.

Go old-school and craft up a quick letter in the Regional Assembly of Text’s writing station.
Go old-school and craft up a quick letter in the Regional Assembly of Text’s writing station.

19. Johnson and Government Street Shopping

‘Tis the season to spoil your sweetie with a special gift! Make your way to Victoria’s amazing shopping mecca LoJo (that’s Lower Johnson Street for the uninitiated). Pick up distinctive handmade gold and silver baubles at the adorable Tonic jewelry store housed in Market Square or head over to Violette on Government Street for delicate treasures crafted by local, fashion-forward designers such as Leah Alexandra and Pyrrha Design.

20. Ogden Point

A breathtaking walkway extending about 800 meters from the Victoria shoreline, the Breakwater at Ogden Point is our go-to spot for catching a spectacular sunrise or a phenomenal sunset when the sun dips into the ocean at the end of the day. With your sweetie in tow, there is no better spot for a romantic date.

Venture out on the breakwater for breathtaking vistas of the Harbor’s calm waters. Credit: Dannielle Siewertsen
Venture out on the breakwater for breathtaking vistas of the Harbor’s calm waters. Credit: Dannielle Siewertsen

21. Craigdarroch Castle

With 39 ornate rooms and more than four stories to explore, the stately Craigdarroch Castle (which was built for the wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and his family) offers the perfect respite should you need to dodge winter raindrops for an hour or two. As an added bonus, Victorian-inspired Christmas decor will be gracing the walls and the halls of the castle all December long and will be accompanied by classic holiday tunes and festive tours where the kiddos can learn about traditions from Christmases past.

22. Abkhazi Garden

Centered on a love story, there is no sweeter place to go for a stroll with your special someone than the hidden Abkhazi Garden. A romantic and inspiring spot, the one-acre garden was created in 1946 as a labor of love by Prince and Princess Abkhazi. These two star-crossed lovers were separated in World War II, but were reunited and married after the war. View the majestic trees and dynamic, evolving plantings scattered around the grounds. Then step inside for afternoon tea in the original home, where you’ll feel like a personal guest of the Abkhazis.

Cuddle up with a warm cup of tea as you stare out on the stunning Abkhazi Gardens. Credit: Scott McDonald
Cuddle up with a warm cup of tea as you stare out on the stunning Abkhazi Gardens. Credit: Scott McDonald

23. Hot Springs Cove

Soak your cares away at the secluded Hot Springs Cove east of Tofino, which is only accessible by boat or floatplane. Wander down a quiet trail surrounded by magnificent temperate old growth forest in Maquinna Provincial Park. At your destination, forget all your worries, concerns and stress as you take a dip in the succession of untouched, piping hot geothermal pools that grow progressively cooler as they reach the ocean.

24. Jam Café

A hip, but diminutive spot in Victoria’s Old Town, Jam Café is one of our favorite places in the city for an-all important weekend brunch. Get into the holiday spirit with their fabulous rotating daily specials, such as the “Festive French Toast,” which features two pieces of marzipan-filled stolen topped with cranberry crème anglaise, spiced candied almonds and a heaping pile of whipped cream.

Fill up on amazing eats at Jam Cafe. Credit: Nick Bentley
Fill up on amazing eats at Jam Cafe. Credit: Nick Bentley

25. Botanical Beach

Best known for its tide pools teeming with marine life, in the winter, Botanical Beach is an excellent spot to hunker down and revel in the season’s stormy weather. Don your best waterproof gear, wander along forested wooden walkways and watch as lashing, thundering waves crash against other-worldly rock formations along the shore.

26. The Drake Eatery

Named in homage to the original Drake Hotel and Beer Parlour that opened on the corner of Store and Johnson in 1954, the cozy farm-to-table Drake Eatery serves up mouth-watering small bites made from local, organic ingredients. Check out the cheese and meat boards, featuring tempting morsels such as smoked duck breast, beef bresaola and local Capilano salami.

Beer may be the star at The Drake, but everything is locally cultivated and flavored. Credit: The Drake Eatery
Beer may be the star at The Drake, but everything is locally cultivated and flavored. Credit: The Drake Eatery

27. Polar Bear Swim

Start the new year off with a splash and join hardy islanders for an invigorating, Polar Bear Swim in the waters off of Lochside Drive. Not only will you be able to boast of accomplishing a feat of true Northwest resilience, but you will also surely knock out any cobwebs from celebrating the night before. If you’re faint of heart, you may want to sit this one out, but be sure you find a seat with a view!

28. White Heather Tea Room

It wouldn’t be winter without drinking buckets (or should we say gallons) of tea, am I right? If you’ve yet to get your proper tea fix, follow the Victoria tea trail to the White Heather Tea Room in Oak Bay. This off the beaten path eatery offers up a tremendous afternoon tea service, with a classic three-tiered platter overflowing with savory finger sandwiches and sweet pastries. You’ll leave with a full tummy and have enough leftover treats for a snack later.

29. Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Standing tall above the rocky coastline, the historic 105-year-old Sheringham Point Lighthouse is one of Vancouver’s Island’s must-see secret spots. A short walk along the picturesque Lighthouse View Trail will land you at the lighthouse itself, where you and your significant other can escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and sit and watch the waves for a while. Get the camera ready as you may even spot a pod of whales or catch sight of an otter cruising the shoreline.

30. Inn at Laurel Point

Perched on the edge of the idyllic Inner Harbour, the slower pace and the serene environs of the Inn at Laurel Point make the resort-style hotel the perfect locale to indulge in a little R&R. Bring your “A” game and spoil your special someone with the ingredients for the ultimate romantic escape – a botanical bath kit, chocolates, a bottle of bubbly and a stunning view. Hello Valentine’s Day!

Spoil your sweetie with a water view room, a bottle of sparkling wine, a decadent chocolate surprise and bath romance basket. Credit: Inn at Laurel Point
Spoil your sweetie with a water view room, a bottle of sparkling wine, a decadent chocolate surprise and bath romance basket. Credit: Inn at Laurel Point

No matter what type of adventure speaks to you, there is an abundance of wintertime fun to be had in your own backyard. Whether you want to indulge in excellent eats, relax in a steaming mineral pool or discover some of the best boutiques on the West Coast, a weekend away to the charming city of Victoria, BC is the perfect winter retreat for weekend nomads.

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Featured Photo: Lorna Tyson

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