Victoria has long-since outgrown the joke that it’s the land of the “newlywed and nearly dead.” The quaint British Columbia capital has a bubbling food scene, pedestrian-friendly streets, and a plethora of historic hangouts. Tucked beside the ocean, its Inner Harbour bustles with activity, offering the ideal hub for those ready to explore — especially families.
Whether you’re escaping Seattle for the day or visiting this northern gem for an extended holiday, Victoria’s kid-friendly activities are so fun even the adults will feel inspired.
From day one, we are tactile learners. Though our world and attention span grows with age, the passion for hands-on activities never goes away completely. At Miniature World, you’ll feel like a giant. While exploring the more than 85 dioramas and displays, you’ll find several push-button actions which do everything from turn on lights to activate trainsets. Wander back in time at Royal BC Museum, where immersive exhibits make you feel like you’ve stepped into snippets of Victoria’s history. Try your hand at mining for gold. Step into the shoes of a submarine captain. Say “Hi” to Wolly, the museum’s unofficial mascot — a life-size mammoth.
Get out all the wiggles at Beacon Hill Park, where the large playground is a year-round favorite. The seasonal petting zoo features goats, alpacas, and more. And for those kids who love creepy crawlers, the Victoria Zoo is a must-visit. In addition to seeing giant walkingsticks, praying mantis, tarantulas, and glow-in-the-dark scorpions, you and your littles will be able to safely handle some of the critters under the supervision of the zoo’s knowledgeable staff.
Indulge in Tasty Treats
In recent years Victoria’s food scene has undergone an impressive revival, with a farm-to-table movement that’s earned the city a well-deserved reputation. Indulge in a sampling at the Victoria Public Market — the city’s only year-round market. The indoor food-hub features a diverse range of local food artisans, including loaded waffles and scratch-made pies.
But the city’s old staples should also not be overlooked — especially Roger’s Chocolates. Founded in 1885, Roger’s handmade chocolates have been delighting Victorians with classic flavors and local favorites, like Victoria Creams, for more than 130 years.
Continuing the tasty historic train, be sure to have a spot of afternoon tea. Since the early 1900s, the Fairmont Empress has been serving tea worthy of royalty. And, following its recent renovations, the Empress introduced a special prince and princess tea for children 12-and-under. The Queen Mary Tea Room also offers a fun children’s menu. So too does the Pendray Inn and Tea House.
Meet Some New Friends
Saddle up your little one for an awe-inspiring adventure with the ocean’s gentle giants — killer whales. Also known as orcas, the Salish Sea is frequented by both resident and transient pods. Tours, like the ones offered by Prince of Whales, allow you and your little one the chance to see these graceful creatures first hand. You may also see shorebirds, sea otters, seals, dolphins, grey whales, and more!
For a more delicate introduction to nature, head to the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. Home to over 3,000 butterflies, along with tropical ducks, flamingos, and other rare tropical birds, the 12,000-square-foot enclosure is downright magical.
Explore the City
Introduce your young traveler to some of the city’s quirkiest of rides and funkiest of destinations. Start at Fisherman’s Wharf, where a lively community of floating homes and walk-up food vendors feel like something that may have been plucked from a children’s book. Catch a Victoria Harbour Ferry — the city’s water taxi service. It offers 14 conveniently located stops throughout the Inner Harbour, including at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Excite your young traveling companion with an old-fashioned horse and carriage ride. Carriage rides can generally be found at the corner of Mackenzie St. & Melville St., on the west side of the BC Parliament Buildings. Tours typically last 30 minutes, taking you through some of Victoria’s oldest neighborhoods.
Add Some Dazzle (and Competition)
A National Historical Site of Canada, The Butchart Gardens features 55 acres of finely manicured gardens and public trails. Kids will love the endless paths and the children’s carousel. For a heart-pumping alternative, take your kid ziplining with Adrena LINE Zipline Adventure Tours. Special youth tours are available, starting for children as young as five-years-old.
Photo by Tourism Vancouver Island/Ben Giesbrecht
And if you’re looking to get off your feet while spending some quality un-plugged time, head to Interactivity Board Game Cafe. This fun café serves a selection of sandwiches and snacks. But the real star is the 800-plus game collection that’s available to play in-house or buy.
MORE FUN THINGS TO DO IN VICTORIA
Seven years and counting, Amazon Canada ranked Victoria the most romantic city in the country. And while it’s pedestrian-friendly streets, epic food scene and historic buildings are swoon-worthy in their own regard — there’s nothing quite like a sunset to encourage a little canoodling.
Victoria may be best known for its afternoon tea and historical charm, but it’s also ground central for British Columbia’s craft beer revolution. The quaint BC capital is home to a variety of craft breweries, where you’ll find full-bodied pours loaded with complex flavors worthy of raising a glass…or two.
Fondly nicknamed the “Garden City,” Victoria’s lush landscape is home to a wide variety of breathtaking outdoor spaces, including the 200-acre Beacon Hill Park.