In my opinion, Victoria, British Columbia ranks as one of the most scenic, family-friendly destinations. You'll find more than enough to do--museums, gardens and zoos for children, and world class restaurants and shopping for adults--all amidst the splendor of the rugged Pacific Coast.
The full moon rising over the Parliament Building
Fairmont Empress Hotel.
Our three days in this historic city after our Olympic National Park tour was too short. We skipped the "world renowned" tea service at the castle-like Fairmont Empress Hotel . My boys were more interested in spending countless hours on the shore, looking for river otters, sea otters and eagles--though I'm sure tea is a must-do if you're traveling with girls.
|Royal British Museum in Victoria, BC.|
Instead we explored the Royal British Columbia Museum. We were fortunate enough to visit while the exhibit, "Treasures: The World's Cultures of the British Museum" was on loan from the UK. Greek helmets, Egyptian papyrus, a mummy, gold Colombian masks, the Rosetta Stone and ancient artifacts spanning 1.5 million years of human history, from around the world--we couldn't have asked for more. Check the museum site for current exhibitions.
The Victoria Bug Zoo in downtown Victoria is literally, a hands-on adventure. This modest "hole-in-the-wall" houses an impressive collection of live crawling, flying, digging and jumping insects and spiders, big and small. If holding a tarantula, walking stick or millipede isn't your cup of tea, sit back and let your kid hold it, with the help of experienced "bug guides." The boys loved it. And yes, I held a red-kneed tarantula, but skipped the Madagascar hissing roach. Can't get enough of bugs? In the gift shop you'll find souvenir shirts and, for the brave, candies and lollipops with real bugs encased in them.
One of the highlights children will enjoy is the Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site. On the way, be sure to stop by the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. Housed in a 12,000 square foot greenhouse, the garden explodes with exotic colors and scents as 3000 butterflies flit through the trees. Get up close and personal with the resident tropical birds, ducks and flamingos that frequent the indoor pond. My sons enjoyed the Butterfly Gardens more than the Butchart Gardens. Admission rates here.
Butchart Gardens is 55 acres of exploration a mere 40 minutes outside of Victoria. Descending into the lush landscape of blooming shrubs, weeping willows, ponds and fountains, it's easy to forget that this was once a quarry. In 1904, what cement manufacturer Robert Pim Butchart saw as an exhausted limestone deposit, his wife Jennie saw as an empty canvas. Little by little, the abandoned quarry was transformed into a sunken paradise.
The paved paths and themed gardens are great for families young and old. Strollers, park benches, changing stations and restrooms are strategically placed. Stop by the Visitor Information Center for a Family Discovery Walk worksheet, encouraging children to learn about the garden through drawing and discovery. In the Children's Pavilion you'll find the Rose Carousel ($2), sporting a menagerie of ostriches, bears, zebras and horses, as well as chariots to accommodate disabled persons. In the summer, enjoy the fireworks display every Saturday night. Click here for rates.
And of course, who can visit British Columbia without embarking on the requisite whale tour around the San Juan Islands?
I wouldn't recommend it for small children, as the boat ride is long and rather rocky...but if, like us, you don't happen to spot an orca, there's a lot of other wildlife the guides will be happy point out: harbor porpoises, harbor seals, elephant seals, nesting eagles and a multitude water birds.
For younger children, a visit along the shore will occupy them, and guarantee an encounter with Victoria's abundant marine life and birds.
Color the flag of Victoria, BC:
Color the flag of British Columbia:
More Victoria crafts and origami to come.
©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.