Originally published October 24, 2016 | Updated December 6, 2017

Christmas gift buying. Package wrapping. Card writing. Meal planning. House decorating. Whew! We won’t blame you if all you really want to do this holiday season is spend some quality time with your family. Leave your to-do list behind and escape to the charming city of Victoria to soak in some Canadian cheer!

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With streets decked out in seasonal decor, the sweet sound of bells filling the air and thousands of lights in every direction you look, the town packs in more holiday magic and fun than you can imagine. Whether you’re looking to explore the city for the first time or just in need of a quick weekend getaway, here are five reasons to grab your whole family and map out the perfect holiday escape to Victoria, BC.

1. 55-Acres of Glittering Light Goodness

Sparkling lights frame The Dining Room. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Sparkling lights frame The Dining Room. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

Lighting up the darkest of evenings in an array of cheerful colors, there is a permanent soft spot in our hearts for The Butchart Gardens Holiday Lights Tour. Each December, more than 300,000 lights transform the grounds into awe-inspiring fairyland. Combined with evergreen swags, wreaths of holly, and brass bands, this spectacular display will leave your kids (and you!) giddy with excitement.

Trek through the grounds and see if you can spot all of the 12 Days of Christmas displays (A little inside tip: if you need help remembering what all the days are, pick up a “Magic of Christmas Walk” checklist from the Visitor’s Center to use as a guide). If you are lucky enough to find them all, the kiddos (12 years old or younger) will be rewarded with a special gift from the Visitor Center.

Of course, a wintertime trip to The Gardens would not be complete without taking a spin or two around the outdoor ice skating rink. Lace up your skates, put on your mitts, get out on the ice and glide underneath soft twinkling lights. Afterward, snuggle up in front of the Coffee Shop’s fireplace and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate married with fresh, house-made cookies.

2. The Opportunity to Celebrate Christmas the Old Fashioned Way

You can almost imagine the smell of roasting chestnuts as you walk through the streets of the Royal BC Museum's Old Town. Photo: the Royal BC Museum
You can almost imagine the smell of roasting chestnuts as you walk through the streets of the Royal BC Museum’s Old Town. Photo: the Royal BC Museum

Savor the sights and sounds of Christmases long ago in the Royal BC Museum’s Christmas Old Town exhibit. Walk along wood-cobbled streets, past a giant Christmas tree and storefronts laced with garlands and holiday finery. Be sure to stop by when Father Christmas arrives on the scene (he’ll be setting up shop in the Victorian-style town on December 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 & 17) to give your mini-me’s a chance to whisper their holiday wishes in the big guy’s ear. (A little inside tip: Take advantage of this perfect photo-op and snap a few pictures for next year’s holiday card.)

For more old-timey fun, pop across the street to Helmcken House. One of the oldest standing homes in British Columbia, the one-story log house is chock-full of festive decorations, music and stories that allow you to experience how Christmas was celebrated during the days of Fort Victoria and gold-rush era more than 100 years ago.

3. A Village of Sweets that Inspires and Delights

One of the cutest former gingerbread contest creations, “The Rainbow Connection,” by The Victoria Residential Builders Association and Ann-Marie Fortin was an incredibly detailed sculpture of the Muppets cast stuffing themselves into their family car on a road trip. Photo: Inn at Laurel Point
One of the cutest former gingerbread contest creations, “The Rainbow Connection,” by The Victoria Residential Builders Association and Ann-Marie Fortin was an incredibly detailed sculpture of the Muppets cast stuffing themselves into their family car on a road trip. Photo: Inn at Laurel Point

Watch the faces of your little tykes light up with glee as they walk into Canada’s National Gingerbread Showcase at the elegant Parkside Hotel & Spa and feast their eyes (and tantalize their noses!) on fabulously designed gingerbread creations. Amateur and professional bakers alike offer their takes on the theme, “Celebrating Canada,” crafting detailed sculptures and unique works of art based on what the regions’ buildings, landscapes and iconic symbols mean to them. More than just houses, the culinary delights at this free event are handmade entirely out of edible treats, such as colorful jelly beans to old-school Neccos.

4. A Stunning Wonderland of Twinkling Trees

Christmas trees covered with twinkling lights fill the halls of the Bay Centre. Credit: Tourism Victoria
Christmas trees covered with twinkling lights fill the halls of the Bay Centre. Photo: Tourism Victoria

Stroll through a coniferous forest of more than 83 trees dressed in their holiday finest at Victoria’s free, Festival of the Trees at the Bay Centre. Wander the halls to check out trees that run the gamut from classically beautiful to creatively whimsical and are festooned with twinkling lights, ribbons, ornaments and tinsel. You may even find inspiration for your own tree decorations!

5. The Chance to Live Like Royalty for a Day

A warm cup of tea and tasty treats are the perfect way to relax and warm up on a winter afternoon. Photo: Lucas Anderson
A warm cup of tea and tasty treats are the perfect way to relax and warm up on a winter afternoon. Photo: Lucas Anderson

The Fairmont Empress doesn’t disappoint when it comes to Christmas spirit, with no shortage of stunning décor and carolers filling the Lobby Lounge with classic tunes. Dress your little prince or princess up in their finest duds, tiaras optional, and let them live like royalty for the afternoon (while you unwind and relax) with the quintessential Victorian tradition of afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress.

The kiddos will sample sweet and savory nibbles such as cucumber sandwiches and strawberry chocolate marshmallows. Meanwhile, you’ll feast on a slightly more grown-up version, which features treats specially created for the holiday (think Christmas fruitcake with marzipan butter frosting and peppermint macarons) by the hotel’s pastry shop.

If your little ones were extra nice this year, spoil them and swing by the Kid’s Christmas at the Castle on December 16th, where they will be treated to a slew of holiday crafts, stories and more holiday goodies you can shake a peppermint stick at in the well-stocked candy buffet. The sweet rewards don’t stop at that – there will be champagne and canapés for you! Talk about icing on the cake.

Whether you do the “Harbour Holiday Stroll” to soak in the city’s stunning light displays, glide around a skating rink under the stars or tuck into afternoon tea, Victoria offers plenty of cheer. However you choose to celebrate in this charming city, you are sure to find a festive experience to warm the hearts of your entire family.

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Clipper Recommends:

  • Enjoy a classic Victoria tradition with your family and hop on a horse-drawn trolley for a fun and free weekend ride around town!
  • Check out the Victoria Christmas Market to pick up artisan jams, fresh baked goods, jewelry, kits and more.

 

Featured Photo: Tourism Victoria

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