Are you one of those people who finds that their vacation days are dwindling towards year end because you just couldn’t stop yourself from taking the spring vacation? Yeah… me too. That’s how I end up taking a lot of long weekends in the last quarter of the year. A long weekend in San Francisco here as opposed to the week in New York. That said, short can be sweet.
Two years ago my Mom and I took a glorious long weekend together in Victoria, B.C. She’d been before, but it was all new for me. We picked a central hotel (Best Western on Johnson Street) to maximize our time downtown. As soon as we’d dropped off our bags it was straight back out onto the streets.
What to See in Victoria
Having visited the Alberta Legislature building, I can now cross the BC Legislature building off my list as well. There’s no doubt about it that they make these buildings grand, but thankfully not imposing. At nighttime the Legislature is lit up with fairy lights and would make for a romantic walk. Or you could wander around with your mother. Like I did. And still loved it!
The railway hotels across Canada have this romanticism to them that I adore. The Empress Hotel on the waterfront is no different. With the ivy twisting it’s way up the walls in hues of red and green, it’s a sight to behold. You could make an event of it with a meal, a cocktail or afternoon tea, but cheapos that we were, we simply wandered around the hotel. My favourite memory of it was walking past the dining room and the pianist was playing a theme from one of the Harry Potter movies! It sounded pretty classy with the tinkling of the keys.
Explore the waterfront! The floating houses on the docks was one of my favourite things in Victoria. You can grab fish and chips at the pier, but beware the seals! They’re sneaky and they definitely beg for food. If you’re a lover of doorway photos the way I am, this will be a dream come true for you.
What to Do in Victoria
The Royal BC Museum is a bit of a treasure trove of local history. The First Peoples Gallery has a phenomenal collection of totem poles, the Modern History gallery allows you to explore the last two hundred years or so of life in BC, and the Natural History Gallery takes you back to a time before people. Honestly, I think kids would also love this museum. It has a little something for everyone. The Royal BC Museum also has an IMAX in house, although we didn’t partake. The best part of a museum? The museum gift shop? Am I right in saying that museum gift shops have the coolest stuff? I found a journal by Emily Carr chronicling her journey to Alaska with her sister, complete with illustrations. Why didn’t I pick it up? Cause I’m a fool. No other explanation for it.
You can’t come to BC and not get out into the wilderness. We chose to take the scenic drive along the coast and ended up exploring Mount Douglas Park. While we didn’t climb said mountain, we did meander down to the beach, sat on driftwood and soaked up the clean, quiet air.
I’m neither a botanist nor a gardener, but I could absolutely appreciate the Butchart Gardens in Victoria. The gardens welcome thousands of visitors each year and I can see why. They’re so well cared for with quite the variety. I’d never seen so many varieties of dahlias in all my life, they were colourful fireworks! Stop in the cafe for an afternoon cup of tea and a cake, refuel, then head back into the gardens for more.
Where to Eat
One of my favourite places we stopped in was at Murchie’s, a tea room that serves some incredible baked goods. Is there anything better than a cup of black, milky tea and a scone with butter and jam? I think not. You can also get afternoon tea at Murchie’s if you want to go all out, and even bring loose leaf tea home as a souvenir.
Pagliacci’s is heaven on earth. Aside from eating Italian food in Italy, this is bar none the best Italian food I’ve had in my life. So good… I most definitely forgot to take a picture in the restaurant. I made foodgasm noises the whole meal – I don’t think Mom and I talked at all… The Ravioli Paradisio was to die for with it’s gooey gorgonzola goodness, sun dried tomatoes and toasty walnuts. Do yourself a favour and have dinner at Pagliacci’s. It opens at 5:30, but it’s best to be in line at 5 to guarantee yourself a table as they don’t take reservations. You may not have room for dessert, but get the checkerboard cheesecake to go. You’ll thank me later.
Grab yourself a meal in Chinatown. Fisgard Street has many Chinese restaurants and while I want to say we ate at the Dynasty Restaurant, I can’t actually remember. Yelp will help you out with reviews, depending on what kinds of Chinese dishes you love the most. If you go at night, all the red lanterns are lit up and Chinatown becomes both magical and mysterious. We found ourselves wandering down a tiny alleyway where the doors have half numbers. The Chinese equivalent to platform 9 3/4?
There are so many options for things to do in Victoria, but if you’re short on time all of the above is achievable. Heck, we did it in a mere 48 hours!
Have you been to Victoria? What would you add to this list?