Thanksgiving preparations are well underway and festive holiday season is right around the corner! It’s about time to start untangling your holiday lights and battling the shopping crowds.

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With the seasonal excitement gearing up, a quick getaway to nearby Victoria offers a welcome respite while providing plenty of festive activities that will leave you feeling giddy as a kid on Christmas. Check out our yuletide guide for 15 things to do in Victoria this December and keep your holiday merrymaking going strong all season long!

1. Festival of Trees – November 17 – January 3

Credit: @thebaycentre
Credit: @thebaycentre

Experience the magic of Christmas and community at Bay Centre’s Festival of Trees! From eccentric to exquisite, traditional to modernly inspired, wander through festive displays while joining local businesses and organizations in raising funds for BC’s Children’s Hospital. Vote and donate for your favorite one and kick off the holidays in good measure.

2. The Butchart Gardens Christmas Lights – December 1 – January 6

Credit: @thebutchartgardens

There’s something about the glow of vibrant Christmas lights that fills us with glee as we ring in the holidays. Luckily for us (and for you!), you don’t have to look further than The Butchart Gardens Christmas Lights Tour to find stunning displays.

Watch the grounds transform into a magical winter wonderland with the flick of a switch during the annual Light Up ceremony on December 1. Afterward, follow the winding pathways of The Gardens to discover an endless array of sparkling and dancing lights. Be sure to keep an eye out for holiday characters from the 12 Days of Christmas along the way!

3. Celebrate the Holidays at the Empress – December 1 – 31

Credit: @qattheempress

Celebrate the season like royalty at the Fairmont Empress with a flurry of yuletide traditions. Indulge in a festive afternoon tea complete with their famous seasonal sandwiches and decadent desserts such as Christmas fruitcake, peppermint macaroons and more. Round out the classic holiday charm with the sweet sound of classic Christmas songs from local carolers and twinkling decorations every way you turn.
Grab your coat and step out on to the hotel’s harbor-front patio from December 18 – 20 or December 24 – 27 for some steamy beverages and a roasty toasty s’more during Christmas on the Veranda. Or bundle into the beautifully-appointed Q Bar for some slightly more grown up festivities, by way of their menu full of modern twists on classic holiday cocktails.

Book this hotel with FRS Clipper, learn more.

4. Christmas in Old Victoria Walking Tour – December 1 – 31

Credit: @daniela_mapleandheart

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 all decked out in lights. While walking, your knowledgeable guide shares heartwarming and humorous accounts of a First Nations legend, a Christmas Day brawl at Fort Victoria, and an amusing memory from Emily Carr’s childhood. Book this tour with FRS Clipper, learn more.

5. Winter Afternoon Tea at Pendray – December 1 – 31

Credit: @may_you_wish

Just a one minute walk from Clipper’s Victoria terminal, cozy up with a mouth-watering Winter Afternoon Tea at the historic Pendray Inn & Tea House, featuring such festive eats as cremini mushroom crostini with shaved Parmigiano and house-made bacon jam, freshly baked scones, a spiced pumpkin tart and more. There is even a specially crafted kids’ menu filled with yummy bites perfect for little fingers. Before you leave, gather up your group and duck under the Christmas tree to snap a selfie with all the twinkling decorations! Book this hotel with FRS Clipper, learn more.

6. Christmas at Craigdarroch Castle – December 1 – 31

Credit: @erickaj1974

For more old-timey holiday fun, pop inside the magnificent Craigdarroch Castle to experience how the Dunsmuir family celebrated Christmas more than 100 years ago. A National Historic Site built during Queen Victoria’s reign, the castle packs all 39 of its rooms chock-full of trimmings, such as decorated mantles, vintage toys and clothing, a dining room setting fit for a royal family feast as well as multiple Christmas trees! Don’t miss holiday music performed by local musicians and plenty of clowning around at three children’s performances.

7. Holiday Shopping – December 1 – 31

credit: @violetteboutique
credit: @violetteboutique

A mecca of boutiques for the fashion-savvy, sustainably responsible, and nick-nack enthusiasts, Victoria is the ideal destination to find an array of holiday gifts. Browse an incredible selection of high-quality jewelry at Violette Boutique, cross off the perfect loungewear set from your list at Glam and Fame or snag some cozy comforts from Salt Shop.

8. Holiday Cocktail Making – December 2

Credit: @vesselliquor
Credit: @vesselliquor

Cinnamon spice and boozy delights, ’tis the season to master the true meaning of Christmas in a cup. Whether you’re hosting for the holidays or are just looking forward to curling up by the fire with a festive drink, learn to elevate your cocktail skills at this interactive workshop. Explore three recipes utilizing local spirits and liquors that you can replicate at home at this year’s Raise the Bar: Toasty Toddies.

9. Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Nutcracker – December 2 – 4

Credit: @rwballet

Get into the spirit of the season with a riff on holiday classic The Nutcracker, performed by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet – North America’s longest continuously-operating ballet company. Set to the rich tones of the Victoria Symphony, this memorable rendition features a pond hockey game, a battle on Parliament Hill, Mounties, and a cast of Canadian critters!

10. 41st Annual Dickens Fair – December 3

Credit: @jamesbaymarket

Finish off your holiday shopping list at one of Victoria’s oldest and best-loved holiday craft fairs at the 41st Annual Dickens Fair, hosted by James Bay Market Society. Peruse artisan wares from 60+ vendors while learning firsthand how the local artisans create, make and bake their wares. Shop the assortment of stocking stuffers ranging from clothes to toys while the kiddos create their own one-of-a-kind treasure in the Children’s Creation Zone, all for just three bucks. (Insider tip: Children under 12 are free when accompanied by an adult.)

11. Truck Light Convoy and Food Drive – December 3

Credit: @tourismvictoriabc

With its beautiful Breakwater wall and west-facing waterfront, there’s no wrong time of year to visit Ogden Point. However, during the Christmas season, it’s pure magic! Kick-off your holiday festivities as dusk arrives and cheer on an impressive, light-adorned convoy of 80 commercial trucks as they head out on a citywide journey to fill the streets with cheer.

12. Skate with Santa – December 3

Make time for some family fun this December
Make time for some family fun this December

Bundle up, grab your skates and hit the ice! Nothing says December like ice-skating with hot cocoa in hand…oh, and Santa! That’s right, kids and adults alike are sure to enjoy this free festivity featuring live music, hot beverages and an appearance from Santa himself. (Insider tip: make sure to get there early as skate rentals are on a first-come, first-serve basis.)

13. Holiday Movie Night at Oak Bay Beach Hotel – December 6 – 21

Credit: @parkeramma

Throughout the month of December, catch an array of classic holiday films – from It’s a Wonderful Life to Elf – along with a crowd-pleasing pizza dinner fresh from the wood fired oven at Oak Bay Beach Hotel. Complete the family-friendly festivities with a bucket of freshly popped popcorn and a theater-sized screen for a truly next-level holiday movie night!

14. Christmas Centerpiece Workshop – December 7

Credit: Platinum Floral Designs
Credit: Platinum Floral Designs

Give your dining room table an exquisite upgrade with a sprinkle of personality this December. With help from the experts at Platinum Floral Designs, sit back, relax, and converse with friends while putting together a holiday centerpiece to match your style. Whether you’re tired of the same old decorations, want something new or are looking for a fun holiday activity, custom centerpieces are a great way to bring a little holiday cheer to your home.

15. Lights of Wonder – December 15 – 31

Credit: @tourismvictoriabc

Want even more lights in your life? Look no further than Centennial Square for one dazzler of a Christmas display. A gigantic, light-driven exhibition, Lights of Wonder, transforms the spot into a glittering, twinkling village brimming with a glowing forest, orca whales and replicas of iconic landmarks such as the Parliament Buildings and the Gate of Harmonious Interest.

Scamper through the massive maze or listen to live tunes from local carolers and performers. When you need to warm up, stop by stands full of hot chocolate, pretzels, bratwurst and more. The best part? Admission to the event is completely free!

Whether your sights are set on holiday shopping or you’re looking to warm up with a cozy cup of tea, Victoria’s December festivities are sure to put you in the holiday spirit. Pack up the whole family or embark on a romantic getaway, with festivities around every corner, the city is yours to explore this season!

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