A walk around Victoria's Inner Harbour during the peak of summer is such a charming experience, with boats nodding on the water, blue skies glinting above the rooftops of the capital city's most iconic buildings, and lush landscaping. It's basically a living postcard.
So what about at Christmastime? Strip away the sunshine, shorts, and blooming flowers, and what's there to see and do in Victoria? Well, plenty. Victoria seems to really love Christmas, as the thousands upon thousands of light displays, festive activities, parades, Santa-meeting opportunities, and decorated trees would indicate.
If you're heading to Victoria before the end of December, there are plenty of ways for the whole family to fall in love with B.C.'s capital during the most wonderful time of the year. Here are a few things to put on your must-see and do list.
You won't need tickets or reservations to enjoy some of the best light displays in Victoria if you just get out and explore. The Inner Harbour and downtown areas are beautifully lit with light displays, including at the Legislature buiding, the boats in the harbour, and from Dec. 20, 2019-Jan. 4, 2020, there's the new Lights of Wonder in Centennial Square, which will be greater Victoria’s largest free outdoor light display. Head down to Ogden Point to see a nautical-themed light display, and pose for plenty of selfies up on the bandstand and by the trees. You can also use the Christmas Lights Map generated by our sibling publication, the Times Colonist, to help you see all that you can.
Willing to spend some money for a next-level experience? Head to the Butchart Gardens for The Magic of Christmas, which features a massive lights display, ice skating, carollers, and more.
Trees and gingerbread houses
If trees are more your scene, you're in luck. Peek inside the lobbies of any hotel and you'll have plenty to take a look at. You can also stroll The Bay Centre's Festival of Trees. The shopping mall corridors are lined with uniquely decorated trees, all in support of the BC Children's Hospital Foundation. One of the city's most beloved displays of gingerbread houses can be found at The Parkside Hotel & Spa, which is home to Habitat for Humanity's annual Gingerbread Showcase.
Whether you're picking up a few last things for people on your Christmas list, or ticking a few items of your own wish list, one of the best things about Victoria are their local small businesses. A walk through the city's downtown area will find you on the doorstep of all sorts of businesses, from independent bookstores to food crafters and clothing shops. Over at the Victoria Public Market in the old Hudson Bay building you can check out permanent vendors selling anything from kitchen ware to handmade pasta to the plant-based eats from the all-vegan butcher shop. The Public Market offers weekly holiday night markets on Thursday nights, and free photos with Santa Claus on select weekend days, too - you might even catch a pop-up artisan market showcasing local vendors.
Explore B.C.'s history - with a holiday twist
The Royal B.C. Museum is getting into the holiday spirit with their permanent B.C. history exhibit. They've decked the halls of their immersive and interactive "old town" neighbourhood for a festive touch, and you might run into Father Christmas (who is doing photos by donation). There's so much to see and do at the Royal B.C. Museum, and this also happens to be your last chance to catch their incredible Maya exhibit, which closes Dec. 31, 2019.
Visit Victoria's real-life castle
The halls of Craigdarroch Castle are most assuredly decked for Christmas. Slip back in time to learn about one of the city's oldest families, the Dunsmuirs, and how they came to live in one of Victoria's most magnificent and enduring homes. Kids will love the scavenger hunt that has them searching for items in the castle's many beautiful rooms. Wander the house and learn its history - and some local history, too - and see the rooms decorated for an old fashioned Christmas. Christmas at Craigdarroch also includes live carollers and other musicians filling the ample space with beautiful music.
Brunch with Santa
Head to the Inner Harbour's second-oldest hotel property, the decidely modern Inn at Laurel Point, for their epic weekend Brunch with Santa. The jolly man in red himself makes an appearance during the buffet-style feast, and is available for free photos with the kids. Speaking of the kids, they'll love the special children's room with holiday movies on the TV and a gingerbread cookie decorating station. The hotel is also offering a Christmas Day brunch buffet, if you'll be in town for the big day.
Thanks to The Inn at Laurel Point and Tourism Greater Victoria and their partners for their assistance with facilitating portions of the this trip. All opinions and inclusions are those of the author’s and were not guided or influenced in any way by the facilitators.