Are you ready for a plug-and-play family holiday? Despite being avid travellers, and living on the mainland of BC, we had yet to take our kids to our province’s capital city. On a gloriously blue-sky Friday afternoon we hopped on the BC Ferry leaving Tsawwassen headed for Swartz Bay to start a 3-day family get away that was fun beyond our wildest expectations. To make your holiday planning as easy as possible, we’ve put together a copy & paste itinerary for a family-friendly weekend in Victoria. A big shout out to Tourism Victoria for their incredibly helpful website & staff. If you want the inside scoop on BC’s capital have a look at the “Things to Do in Victoria” as well as their “Victoria Vacation Guide“.
Before you set sail, sorting out where your head will rest each night is rather important. We called the luxurious and elegant Westin Bear Mountain Resort home for the duration of our Victoria holiday. What a splendid hotel! Finding a resort that offers glamour and sophistication for the parents while also graciously accommodating kids is a rare find indeed. I applaud the Westin for partnering with Super Chefs to offer healthy kid-friendly meals. Both our boys devoured their breakfasts at Bella’s, one of the two onsite restaurants at the Westin Bear Mountain Resort.
You could honestly spend your entire Vancouver Island holiday playing at the Westin Bear Mountain Resort. A 2-hour bike rental from The HUB is included with your resort fees. Grab a bike, and head out to explore the trails or jump park. The Canada Cup mountain biking trails are amazing. The trails are clearly marked with levels and if you are a thrill seeker this adventure is going to be right up your alley!
Looking to get even a bit more wild? Head on over to the Jump Park, which was designed by pro rider Jordie Lunn. Kids will enjoy the pump park – an oval track with kid-friendly banked corners, jumps, rocky bumps and loads more. While I expected my boys to be thrilled with the pump park, our 5 year old set his sights on the big jump park. In relatively short order, he sweet-talked his way into flying down the side of a mountain. He loved it! After 5 times down the crazy twisty turny path, this ball-of-nerves-mother said it was time to take a break. The jump park is a bit of a ride from the main resort – a lovely downhill ride on the way there and a thigh-burning uphill ride on the way back. The HUB is in the process of implementing 2 great solutions to the uphill climb. First, they are going to construct another kid-friendly pump park immediately behind The HUB store which is just steps away from the front doors of the Westin. Second, The HUB is looking to add powered bicycles to their fleet. A little bit of mechanical assistance to get riders up the big hills will make visits to the massive jump park instantly easier.
After you’ve got the adrenalin coursing through your veins, why not sign up for a lesson or a round on the Jack Nickalus designed golf course? The 14th hole on the Mountain Course offers up an 180 view of downtown Victoria and the ocean. While I dabble, at best, at golfing, I could feel a passion for the sport welling up just standing on the 14th green. If every course rewarded players with a billion-dollar view, I’m pretty sure there would be countless more golfers in the world. While the kids weren’t golfing off the 14th hole, they did take part in an hour-long golf lesson. Our coach, Doug Hastie (2007 PGA of BC Teacher of the Year) is ridiculously talented when it comes to teaching kids. Having a son of his own, he has the patience and compassion necessary to ensure kids have fun while learning. I also have to thank Doug for fixing my grip; my swing has improved immensely thanks to his tips.
The Westin Bear Mountain offers both bike & golf camps for kids. In the future, the resort plans to offer a combo camp with biking in the morning (burn off some of that crazy kid-energy) and golfing in the afternoon. Nothing like ensuring your child is a well-rounded athlete. And just think, moms and dads, if the kids are signed up for day-long camps, you can get in at least one round on the unforgettable Mountain Course.
And just in case those kidlets have an ounce of energy left in them, why not dip a toe into the outdoor pool? Access to the pool is also included in your resort fees. Around 8:30pm the pool switches over to adults-only but prior to that the large rectangular pool offers great entertainment and exercise for the kids. Lounge chairs border three sides of the pool with a covered hot tub at one end. Don’t worry about bringing towels from your room, the pool’s front desk provides towels to all guests.
After a day filled with yummy & healthy food, invigorating exercise, and fresh air, head back to your spacious room at the Westin Bear Mountain Resort. Comfy beds, squishy pillows, and quiet rooms provided us with restful sleeps and left us ready to tackle our Victoria-area tourist checklist.
Attractions to Check Off the Bucket List:
Victoria Bug Zoo – I did it, I entered a place that has all sorts of creepy crawlies. I even managed to actually look at a tarantula when she was out of her habitat (no that is not me holding the spider). Of course, my kids loved the Victoria Bug Zoo. They listened with intense interest to all the fact and stories the guide shared. I focussed on not hyperventilating. We spent an hour checking out the bugs and we definitely learned a great deal about the many varied creatures they have on display. (631 Courtney Street)
Guided Tour of the Victoria Legislature – definitely add this FREE activity to your to-do list. I’m not kidding. It isn’t boring, it isn’t long, and the kids enjoyed the tour as much as we did. The tour was 30 minutes in length and the tour-stops were all in wide open spaces so the kids were free to wander around. You do need to get your tickets in advance, so head over to the parliament buildings early in the day to ensure you get your preferred time slot. I fascinated to learn, for the first time in history, women hold the top three government positions in BC: the premiere, the lieutenant-governor, and the speaker of the house. (501 Belleville Street)
Miniature World – oh the buttons to push! Every kid loves flicking switches, pushing buttons & watching the results. Victoria’s Miniature World is a kid’s dream. Dozens of displays filled with things that spin, whirl, twinkle, and play music just at the touch of a button. Fascinatingly our kids found the King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table display the most interesting. Camelot is Miniature World’s newest exhibit and it took them over 3 years to create! There is much to see with the more than 85 displays & dioramas. (649 Humboldt Street)
Royal BC Museum – have you read in the news about Lyuba, the 40,000 year old baby wooly mammoth discovered in Siberia in 2007? Well, head to the Royal BC Museum before the end of 2016 and you can see her in real life! Mammoths, Giants of the Ice Age is an exceptional exhibit with lots of kid-friendly interactive exhibits. You also get the opportunity to stand right in front of a creature 40,000 years old…seriously just try wrapping your head around that one! (675 Belleville Street)
Robert Bateman Centre – having been part of the first graduating class from Robert Bateman Secondary School, I have a bit of a soft spot for all things Robert Bateman. We spent a delightful morning touring the Robert Bateman Centre (located right across the street from the Parliament Buildings). Our boys thoroughly enjoyed Birdsong, a gallery filled with pictures of birds paired with sound boxes that play the corresponding bird call. Our kids had so many bird calls playing simultaneously it sounded like an Alfred Hitchcock movie! Seeing some of Robert Bateman’s most famous paintings mere inches from my nose was definitely a highlight of our Victoria visit. (470 Belleville Street)
Water Taxi Ballet in the inner harbour – remember the boat ballet during Expo ’86? The charming dance set to classical music has been brought back to life by the Victoria Harbour Ferries. On Sundays (10:45) from May – September and Saturdays (10:45) in July & August, treat yourselves to 15 minutes of FREE fun at Victoria’s inner harbour.
Craigdarroch Castle – I know historic monuments and kids can be like oil and water, but that’s not the case here. Craigdarroch Castle is incredibly welcoming of kids. Upon arrival, the kids are given a scavenger hunt comprised of images from around the castle. Most kindly, there are helpful clues guiding seekers to specific floors and rooms. While parents are able to meander through the rooms, the kids are entertained searching for obscure images. If you are a pianist you are encouraged to tickle the ivories on the top floor! Frustratingly I couldn’t convince either of my kids to play…why exactly am I paying for piano lessons? (1050 Joan Crescent)
Butchart Gardens – pack a picnic and spend the day! Any less than a day and you are short changing yourself. We allocated half the morning and it just wasn’t enough! Butchart Gardens covers 55 acres and was started as the private garden of Robert and Jennie Butchart. What was once an exhausted limestone quarry is now one of the top tourist destinations in Canada. Today the garden employs 50 full time gardens, 12 part time gardens, and 550 staff (during peak tourist seasons). Due to the massive size of the gardens, you really don’t feel overwhelmed by the crowds. On the day we visited – Father’s Day – a special game was afoot. Spot the hidden gnomes. The kids had a wonderful time searching all over the 55 acres looking for gnomes. The many water features, bridges, and windy paths make the gardens great entertainment for adults & kids alike. (800 Benvenuto Avenue, Brentwood Bay)
Feed the Offspring Tasty Meals Everyone Will Love:
Red Fish Blue Fish – enjoy the gorgeous Victoria harbour and dine on the docks. We visited on a rain-speckled Friday night and you know the food is good when there’s a line up despite the wet weather. From the seafood chowder to the fish tacos and fried pickles, everything we sampled was delicious. Red Fish Blue Fish has created a fun, sustainable approach to a harbour-side fish ‘n’ chip shop; definitely plan on having at least one meal here! (1006 Wharf Street)
Ferris Grill – yummy yummy oysters! Yes, I was the only one in our family who consumed the delightful treasures, but my enthusiasm more than made up for the others lackluster opinion of oysters. That being said, there were plenty of options on the menu that tempted everyone. We completely over-ordered! So much so a family-size serving of seafood chowder followed us back to our hotel. The kids menu offered up tasty kid-friendly food. For the adults, I highly recommend their seafood caesar drink…best one I’ve ever had! (536 Yates Street)
Charrelli’s Cheese Shop – since we’ve come home from our Victoria holiday, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve thought of this cheese shop (I was in such a happy place I completed forgot to snap a picture). Packed to the gills with gourmet food, the take out sandwiches are truly the icing on the cake. My husband and I enjoyed the tastiest – and messiest – pulled pork sandwiches. Our kids gobbled up their gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. I guarantee all future Victoria-vacations will include at least one meal at Charrelli’s Cheese Shop. (2851 Foul Bay Road)
Throughout the summer months, BC Ferries is offering discounted rates for extra length passenger vehicles. The BC Ferries website also provides helpful tips for planning your travel between the mainland & the island, as well as the ability to check current conditions, service notices, and book reservations (no one wants to be stuck in a parked car with kids for longer than absolutely necessary). Book a family vacation to sunny Victoria. We’ve sorted out your itinerary, all you need to do is pick the dates for your visit. Happy travels!
Thank you to Tourism Victoria and the Westin Bear Mountain Resort for hosting our stay. The opinions expressed in this article are entirely those of the author’s.