Take a step off the ferry and into Victoria, B.C. and you'll think you've entered another land.
From the towering hotels to the breathtaking waterside views, you could spend a month here and never even scratch the surface of its magic.
I first discovered this city about five years ago. Before we started our family, my husband and I decided to go on a road trip around the Pacific Northwest. One of our last stops was Port Angeles, WA.
After a fantastic breakfast of stuffed French toast, we left our car stateside and decided to board a ferry to Victoria. While planning the trip, I'd made a point to focus a majority of our time at this destination, and I'm beyond glad I did.
Of course, there are myriad exciting and interesting cultural and historic sites to see around the city. If you're planning to vacation in Canada, consider spending a night (or two) here before you check out all the rest that the country has to offer.
Below are some of our favorite experiences that we enjoyed during our stay in Victoria:
1. Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel
Since our trip, the hotel has been shorn of the glorious and magestic ivy that covered much of its exterior surface. Still, the towering structure is equally impressive and just as stunning. If you only have an hour or so to spare, it's worth a visit inside just to see the incredible architecture, soaring ceilings and luxurious furnishings.
Yet, if you have a little longer to explore, don't miss the Victorian Tea. A longstanding tradition for more than a century, the tea is held every afternoon. Celebrities, royals, digitaries, and yes casual toursists alike, have all experienced the elaborate and fanciful occasion.
Sip on rare tea blends, such as the Tong Mu Phoenix Lapsang Souchong, or the trademark Empress Tea. Enjoy your beverage alongside homemade scones, pastries, preserves, and more. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event that you'll cherish for years to come.
Planning a trip to Victoria around the holidays? I hear the Empress is especially beautiful during the Christmas season. Take in the lights and other festivities that the hotel offers during this time of year.
2. Stroll the Butchart Gardens
Don't just take the word of National Geographic and CNN, two of many media outlets that designate Butchart Gardens as one of the top display gardens around the world. Take a walk through the meandering scenery and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
Once an abandoned quarry, the Gardens are now home to six uniquely landscaped areas that will leave you stunned and inspired. Start in the Sunken Garden, and admire the plentiful annuals and shrubbery that paint this area with incredible color.
From there, continue on to the Concert Lawn Walk. If you're traveling with small children, be sure to stop and let them hop aboard the Rose Carousel, which features more thant 30 hand-carved animals.
Other can't miss stops along the gardens include the Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, and Mediterranean Garden. Stop by the conservatory for a quick meal at the Blue Poppy Restaurant, or splurge on a more elegant dining experience at the The Dining Room.
3. Shop along the Inner Harbour
After a long day of sight-seeing and taking in all the cultural experiences that Victoria has to offer, you may want to unwind along the waterfront.
In this case, you can't go wrong with a visit to the Inner Harbour. From whale watching expeditions to folk concerts, the harbour is used year-round in varying capacities. I can say from experience that it's especially charming in the early evening, when the sun dips below the vast array of ships and ferries.
Though there are many fine dining estabishments within walking distance of the harbor (and you can't go wrong with any of them), I suggest Red Fish, Blue Fish. Don't be fooled by the outside. Yes, you're looking at an upfitted cargo container. No, you can't eat inside, but that's the glory of it!
Grab a classic fish and chips, then walk over to one of the many nearby wooden benches overlooking the water, and reminisce on a day well spent.
Go and See Victoria Today!
I could talk for days about how beautiful of a city Victoria is, how clean the streets are kept, and how polite and friendly the locals are. But simple words don't do it justice!
When planning your wintertime itinerary, be sure to add this stop to your list. While you can fly directly into the city, I think there's something so special about taking the ferry up to it. You'll slowly come upon a city so glamorous yet accessible, you'll think you've entered a storyland, and in many ways, you have.
Have you been to Victoria? I'd love to hear some of your favorite spots to frequent and what you love about the city!