Winter Activities in Victoria BC
Posted by Tom Westley on
With one of the most mild climates in Canada, Victoria BC is a common destination for retirees, vacationers, and tourists alike. Even in the "chilly" off-season months of winter, there are plenty of outdoor and indoor activities for all ages to take part in. Here we've collected a list of some of the most popular places and events in the city for you to explore — let us know in the comments which ones are your favourites!
Dine Around & Stay In Town
January 19 – February 4, 2018
Tourism Victoria and the BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association (BCRFA) are once again teaming up for the popular Dine Around & Stay in Town Victoria event. Reward your taste buds with carefully crafted three-course dinners from the finest restaurants, then relax for the night at a choice of premier hotels.
Three course dinners range from $20 to $50 per person, with local accommodation rates running from $89 to $229.
Cold outside? Experience the sights and scents of spring in Butchart's Spring Prelude indoor garden, with flagstone paths, a koi pond, flower cherries and witch hazels, and beds of daffodils and tulips, open daily until March 15th. Or explore the subtle beauty of the outdoor garden's shrubs and trees, along with such flowers as dainty snowdrops, lush hellebore, and more. A free self-guided walk worksheet guides you through the gardens and provides interesting historical details and points out features.
During the wintry months The Garden also opens the former family residence of Benvenuto to guests. You'll see displays of memorabilia chronicling The Garden's history, from cement-making plant to Jennie Butchart's garden. Although what is displayed changes from year to year, there are usually photographs along with memorabilia such as cruise ship menus and programs (the family travelled the world and were great collectors). In the Billiard Room you'll see how the family entertained themselves and visiting friends with items such as stereoscopic viewers and musical instruments.
The Children's Pavilion features native plant species and the beautiful Rose Carousel, the only carousel on Vancouver Island. It features a menagerie of thirty hand-crafted animals handpicked by Robin Clarke, The Gardens' owner and great granddaughter of Jennie Butchart. Each animal is carved from basswood and took many months to complete. Two chariots can accommodate people with disabilities.
Conveniently located in Waterwheel Square where your garden stroll begins and ends, the Coffee Shop features an extensive menu of quick and convenient foods and drinks: fresh coffee, specialty coffee, tea, house-made sandwiches and pastries. Cozy up to the fireplace with a hot chocolate and cookie. You can also dine in the original Butchart family residence while enjoying spectacular views of the Private Garden and taking High Tea, with selections of candied ginger scones, warm delicacies, savoury tea sandwiches and house-made sweets. From January 15th to February 28th you can enjoy the "A Taste of Spring" special offer, including admission and tea.
Transportation to the Gardens is offered via packages with Big Bus (four daily departures from downtown Victoria), CVS Tours (direct service to The Gardens from downtown Victoria), Harbour Air (Victoria Harbour by seaplane to The Gardens), and Orca Spirit Adventures (whale watching/Butterfly Gardens/Butchart Gardens admission), among others.
Thousands of tropical butterflies (up to 70 species) fly through the Butterfly Gardens' large facilities – the size of almost 3 basketball courts. You'll encounter poison dart frogs, tortoises, large iguanas, flamingos, tropical ducks, free flying tropical birds and more. Stroll through and marvel at the lush gardens including tropical flowers, carnivorous plants and fruits of the world. The newest exhibit, the Insectarium, lets you experience impressive insects & invertebrates from around the world.
Located just five minutes from Butchart Gardens, Victoria Butterfly Gardens offers a fun and educational experience for the whole family.
Discover The Past Victoria is a family run company that has been offering walking tours of Victoria since the 1960s. John and Chris Adams lead thousands of people through the streets of Victoria each year, using their extensive research and passion for storytelling to bring history to life.
Ghostly Walks are 90 minute walking tours conducted every weekend. During the tour, expect to hear great storytelling as you're guided through the streets and alleys of Victoria, a ghost-hunter's paradise. Discover The Past has collected more than five hundred tales of ghostly encounters in Victoria and uncovered the sordid truth behind many of the City's most gruesome crimes and tragic accidents.
Chinatown Walks are 90 minute walking tours through Canada's oldest Chinatown. Follow in the footsteps of gold miners, merchants, labourers and revolutionaries as you wend your way along Chinatown's main streets and then weave into Fan Tan Alley (the city's most infamous thoroughfare) and the city's only operating Chinese temple. (Note: at Chinese New Year there are extra tours on a New Year theme.)
Victoria's Story is one of the flagship tours, providing a superb overview of Victoria's history in Old Town, Chinatown and around the harbour, but goes beyond the basics and includes current issues, architecture and topics of specific interest to the participants.
Musical Victoria lets you enjoy songs and ballads popular in early Victoria, performed live by local folk musician Gary Cohen, and find out about the people, places and events they relate to.
Smugglers & Rum Runners is a special limited January tour. Be amazed at Victoria's not-so-genteel past when smuggling opium and booze across the border was big (and dangerous) business.
Multi-Cultural Victoria will show you how French Canadian, Hawaiian, Metis, Black and Jewish pioneers made gold-rush Victoria more than "a little bit of Olde England".
Victoria's climate and beautiful views are perfect for golfing year-round. Most of Victoria's golf courses are open 12 months a year and offer many great amenities. Here are just a few:
Victoria's friendliest public golf course, just a short drive from downtown Victoria. An 18 hole championship golf course that is the perfect test for all golfers.
Located just 20 minutes outside of Victoria's downtown core, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Rated "Top 10 Best Public Golf Facility" in British Columbia by ScoreGolf Magazine, and previously ranked within the Top 50 Golf Courses in Canada by the Golf Course Ranking and ScoreGolf Magazines.
A relaxed atmosphere, stunning course conditions and spectacular views. The grass is short in the places it should be and long in others. The trees are beautiful to look at and challenging to hit from. As a certified Audubon Sanctuary (the first on Vancouver Island) you're offered wildlife almost as beautiful as the gardens kept by the award-winning grounds crew.
With 5 holes nestled against the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the mighty Pacific Ocean and most of the rest with stunning views of the water, you'll become inspired to play again and again on this ever-changing course. With 124 years of rich history, the oldest golf course in Canada on its original location rings true with every step you take, with a modern twist on every carefully designed hole.
Directly surrounded by nine wineries and offers some of the most stunning views on Vancouver Island. The Golf Club’s Tourism Sustainability Award and Four Star Golf Digest Rating make it a must play on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail.
A well-maintained golf course for players at all levels, with a welcoming atmosphere and high value for members and guests. Located just 5 minutes from downtown Victoria's inner harbor, GV has the proud distinction of being one of the best golf clubs on Vancouver Island. A mature, traditional course with 143 acres of park-like setting, undulating fairways and rock outcroppings make you forget you are in the middle of British Columbia's capital city.
With a strong community of local businesses, farmers, and craftspeople, Victoria's public markets are well-known throughout the country. While the main market season runs from May to October, more and more indoor markets are beginning to run year round:
Opened in 2013 as a unique, one-stop indoor shopping destination and venue, the Victoria Public Market showcases a diverse range of farm fresh, locally sourced artisan foods, handcrafted goods, gourmet items and live entertainment.
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday, drop by for Live Music at the Market, featuring some of Victoria's most talented musicians from 12-2pm. There are also FREE cooking demonstrations every week at noon in the Community Kitchen, open for everyone to attend.
On the last Wednesday of every month, from 5:30 - 8pm, The Luxton Market hosts over 35 unique local home businesses featuring everything from from handmade items to direct sales. Free admission, SPCA fundraising, raffles and prizes are available.
Tea At The Empress
Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel is among the world's best unique tea experiences. Dine on house-made signature Empress scones, pastries, clotted creams and strawberry preserves with fresh lavender, and 21 of the finest loose leafs teas available. The tea list is ethically sourced and certified by the Ethical Tea Partnership, and features the original blend of The Empress Tea and the exceptionally rare Tong Mu Phoenix Lapsang Souchong blend. Live piano music is performed daily in the Lobby Lounge during Afternoon Tea.
The Empress Tea China was originally presented to King George V in 1914 upon the opening of the Booth factory in Stoke-on-Trent, England. The china was first used by The Empress in 1939 for the Royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The pattern is now produced by William Edwards exclusively for Fairmont Empress.
Breweries & Cideries
Victoria is well known for its local craft brewing scene, and a broad selection of breweries, cideries, and brewpubs ensure that you have plenty of tastings to experience no matter what the season.
Beer has been brewed in Victoria longer than anywhere else in British Columbia, dating back to 1858 when Victoria Brewing was founded by a German man who came north from San Francisco during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. Today, 13 separate breweries operate in the Greater Victoria area, each with its own unique style and approach, along with several excellent tap houses and numerous restaurants that offer strong beer menus. Stroll the Beer Mile, a ring of four brewpubs and four breweries that surround the Upper Harbour. Take the Victoria Harbour Ferry on the Pickle Pub Crawl or join a bicycle tour with the Pedaler. West Coast Brewery Tours also offers van tours and operates a hop-on-hop-off shuttle bus that visits all of the downtown breweries.
Canoe brewpub is located in a designated heritage site on Victoria's active inner harbour, and is dedicated to sustainable business practices including Ocean Wise seafood, Green Business Certification, and community support. Motivated to progress with the craft brewing scene, brewmaster Daniel Murphy was inspired to create something for all tastebuds. Their newly revamped beer program consists of eight solid brews: Four of the new beers, “Mainstays”, are permanent fixtures, while the remaining four are available seasonally as a part of the ‘Windward Series’.
Spinnakers was established to fill a gap in the Canadian beer industry. From idea to opening day, over a period of 18 months, the Spinnakers team managed to put together what became Canada’s first in-house brewpub of the modern era. Classic ales and specialty beers are brewed with time honoured techniques and fresh ingredients for a signature flavour. With over 26 taps at Spinnakers Pub, a large selection of craft beers is on tap and always rotating.
Sea Cider is a farm-based cidery located on the Saanich Peninsula just minutes from Victoria. The ten acre farm is home to over 1,300 apple trees, made up of over 50 varieties of heritage apples. Check out their famous January wassailing event.
Phillips has launched a soda company, a distillery, and most recently a malting facility — the only one of its kind in Canada — with the same renegade passion and creativity that drove a young brewer to start a brewery on credit cards. Philips' malting facility allows them to work with local farmers, cut down on environmental emissions, ensure better control quality, and increase the creativity of their recipes.
Phillips Soda Works was founded by Phillips Brewing Company in 2012 and built on the premise that their commitment to hand-brewing craft beer with real ingredients could extend to soda. Their sodas never use cheap corn syrups, artificial colours or flavours. Instead, recipes are built from actual spices and juices, sweetened with cane sugar, and brewed by real brewers in an actual brewery.
Moon Under Water's beer is inspired by centuries of European brewing tradition and propelled forward by Canadian passion and creativity. Their German brewhaus allows them to implement the most challenging brew methods into their processes, from step-mashes to decoctions. The newest and most exciting addition to the brewery is their barrel-aged sour program.
Very few people get to study craft beer under one of the pioneers of the North American micro-brewery movement. Frank Appleton and Sean Hoyne set up the brewery in Victoria’s historic Swans Hotel in 1989. When he moved on to build other breweries, Sean took on the role of Brewmaster and began honing his craft, founding the brewery at Canoe Brewpub in 1998.
Category 12’s head brewer and founder, Michael Kuzyk, has been brewing beer for more than 20 years and has his doctorate in microbiology and biochemistry from UVic. After leading the creation of several world-class research labs, he decided it was time to make his own – dedicated to the pursuit of exceptional beer. Category 12 is the complete Northwest craft brewery experience. Fellow craft beer aficionados are welcome to their “growler testing facility”, where beer always comes first.
Starting a craft brewery in 1998, Lighthouse found a market that was receptive to flavourful, locally brewed ales back when bland, generic beers ruled. Their lineup of beers has grown, but their brewing process has kept its quality and consistency.
Vancouver Island Brewing is made up of a group of passionate, inspired people, proud to be driving innovation in an industry that they helped pioneer in British Columbia. The facility was purpose-built as the first production brewery in downtown Victoria since Labatt levelled the old Victoria-Phoenix Brewery in 1982. The tasting room at Vancouver Island Brewing was renovated in 2017, and is the perfect environment to hang out and sample a selection of craft beers, featuring a premium Gruber growler filler — the only one of its kind in Canada.
Fishing & Charters
As with golfing, Victoria's mild winter climate means that fishing is a year-round activity with plenty of local salmon to be caught. Take your pick of experienced fishing charter companies to help you learn the Gulf waters:
Head guide Darren Beasley has been fishing local waters for over 20 years. Whether you're fishing salmon, halibut or cod in the Pacific Ocean, or drift fishing down one of BC's pristine rivers for steelhead trout or salmon, you'll be thrilled with the fishing trip of a lifetime.
The Fantasea offers the ultimate Victoria fishing charters and sightseeing tours around Vancouver Island, with a variety of services including party cruises, dinner cruises, fishing charters, whale watching, marine wildlife tours, stag and stagette cruises, and sea memorials. The luxury yacht is skippered by a certified Master Captain with over 30 years of professional marine experience. During your luxury fishing or whale watching charter, there is an onboard, certified naturalist who will be happy to answer any of your concerns or questions.
Island Outfitters provides all-inclusive Fishing Charters out of Victoria, Sooke, Port Renfrew, and Cowichan River. With a fleet of 6 fully equipped charter boats ranging from 25ft to a 30ft Grady White, and nine fully licensed and certified guides, they can offer outstanding fishing year-round for both salmon and halibut.
Tailspin Charters offers fully guided fishing charters in the comfort of a world class 26 foot Osprey Fisherman, with your professional, fully certified guide Justin Wilson. Fish the nutrient-rich areas of Victoria, Sooke & Port Renfrew with charters available 365 days of the year.
Reel Obsession Sport Fishing offers year-round salmon fishing charters, Chinook salmon and halibut charters available in half- or full-day trips. Their west coast charter fleet consists of covered 24-28 foot fishing vessels that are Transport Canada approved, complemented by the latest in electronics, including on-board toilets for all boats.
The Royal Theatre opened in 1913. It has seen many of this century's great performers on its stage, including Sarah Bernhardt, Carlos Montoya, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Luciano Pavarotti, National Ballet of Canada, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Tony Bennett. It is Vancouver Island's premiere venue for touring attractions, and home to the Victoria Symphony and Pacific Opera Victoria.
The McPherson Playhouse opened in 1914 as part of the Pantages chain of theatres. It is one of the finest examples of theatres from that period still standing in Canada. A variety of professional, community and amateur events are presented at "The Mac" year-round.
Both the Royal & McPherson have licensed bars and concessions, which accept cash and credit cards.
The Royal BC Museum Corporation was founded in 1886; the Archives, in 1894. In 2003, these two organizations joined to become British Columbia’s combined provincial museum and archives, collecting artifacts, documents and specimens of British Columbia’s natural and human history, safeguarding them for the future and sharing them with the world.
Current exhibits include:
- Wildlife Photographer of the Year
- Our Living Languages: First Peoples' Voices in BC
- A groundbreaking, interactive exhibition celebrating the resilience and diversity of First Nations languages in BC.
- Natural History Gallery
- Explore British Columbia from the warm dry hills of Vancouver Island to the misty cool northlands of Haida Gwaii.
- First Peoples Gallery
- Experience the rich diversity of First Peoples in British Columbia.
- Modern History Gallery
- Explore Old Town, HMS Discovery and more of British Columbia's modern history.
- BC Archives on Display
- Come see authentic, original records that help tell British Columbia’s story.
- Cultural Precinct
- The cultural precinct includes Helmcken House, St. Ann’s Schoolhouse, the Netherlands Centennial Carillon, Thunderbird Park and Wawadiťła (Mungo Martin House).
- Native Plant Garden
- Visionary designers surrounded the museum with one of the first native plant gardens on the west coast of North America.
The Royal BC Museum also hosts the largest IMAX screen in British Columbia, and a gift shop offering items with a distinctly BC flavour — including books, art, jewelry, music, clothing and toys — with all proceeds going to support the museum's programs.
If you're hungry, you can visit the Royal BC Museum’s back courtyard to enjoy an amazing year-round selection of food trucks and carts, including DeadBeetz, Wild West BBQ Salmon, Rolling Reef, Puerto Vallarta Amigos, The Love Perogy and Yummy Truck, plus beer and wine from Truffles Catering. Comfortable outdoor seating is available for dining in the sunshine, with a tent for drizzly days.
Opened in 1955 as a naval museum located on Signal Hill just outside the gates of the HMC Dockyard in Esquimalt, by 1965, the Maritime Museum had outgrown the original location and found a new home in the former Supreme Court building in Bastion Square. The Museum has since relocated to a new public storefront location at 634 Humboldt St., where you can find their exhibits, public research space, and a gift shop.
The Museum cares for more than 35,000 unique artifacts, in excess of 40,000 historical photographs and an internationally recognized chart collection. Popular educational outreach programs are geared to children and seniors featuring topics such as immigration, pirates and privateers, women at sea, and the fur trade.
Current exhibits include:
- The Franklin Exploration
- The exhibit features information on the 1845 expedition and the finding of the HMS Erebus in 2014, as well as interactive computer screens where visitors can delve deeper into the personal stories that make up this larger tale.
- Captain Cook and Captain Vancouver
- This exhibit features the second published edition of Cook’s journals (1785), as well as the first published edition of Vancouver’s journals (1798). Also featured in this exhibit is the wax figure of Captain James Cook from Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum.
- John Horton, Maritime Artist
- The Maritime Museum displays and has for sale a collection of John Horton original paintings, depicting episodes during the three summers that Captain Vancouver charted the Pacific Northwest during 1792, 1793, and 1794.
When it first opened in 1951, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria exhibited art in the historic 1889 mansion that is now adjacent to its seven modern galleries. With almost 20,000 works of art, the Art Gallery has the largest public collection in BC and is a vibrant and active part of Victoria's artist community.
A facility to house and preserve Robert Bateman's legacy, as well as a multi-purpose meeting place for collaboration, creative thinking, and networking about in-nature education initiatives.
The University of Victoria Art Collections consists of some 19,000 art objects which support the teaching and research programs of the University. Since the founding of the collection in 1953, a number of named collections have provided the thematic direction of the acquisition program. The Michael C. Williams Collection underpins the exhibitions at the downtown Victoria Legacy Gallery.
The mandate of the gallery is to create a following for the work of individual aboriginal artists from three areas of the Pacific, the Northwest Coast of Canada, Papua New Guinea, and Australia, in the fine art market in Canada and abroad. In particular they recognize and promote the work of master carvers living in small villages in remote communities in the South Pacific. Alcheringa reimburses artists at a level that allows them to maintain their position as artists within their communities, and to cover their medical expenses and school fees.
One of the premiere boutique art galleries in the Pacific Northwest, showcasing contemporary Canadian fine art since 2002. Patrons from around the world are treated to ever-changing exhibits and have access to unsurpassed collections by painters, sculptors, and glass and jewellery artists. This impressive art gallery carries a broad spectrum of modern art that appeals to people new to the contemporary art scene as well as knowledgeable collectors.
A contemporary and historic fine art gallery located in the heart of Victoria. The gallery exhibits work from Canadian Masters such as Emily Carr, Members of the Group of Seven, J.W. Morrice, E. J Hughes and their contemporaries; art from established and emerging Canadian artists; additionally the gallery also exhibits a world-class collection of Inuit carvings, drawings and prints.
A member-driven artists’ coöperative operating a gallery and affordable studios for practicing artists. They house nine individual and group studios, including the photography studio of Crossgrain Photographic Society.
Established in 2008 to promote superb local artwork, fine crafts and designer jewellery. Conveniently located in the heart of Oak Bay Village.
Since its establishment in 1986, Peninsula Gallery has prospered into one of Canada's most acclaimed art galleries, presenting quality paintings and sculptures of artists both local and of nationwide praise.
Greater Victoria Public Library is a multi-branch library system that serves 10 member municipalities of the Greater Victoria Area. The GVPL provides services at 11 library branches, on their website, and through events out in the community:
Video - The GVPL has thousands of films on DVD and Blu-ray for all ages, tastes and interests. You can place titles on hold and have them delivered to the branch of your choice. Fastviews include copies of high-demand titles that have a quick turnaround time because they have a shorter borrowing period and can’t be placed on hold. You can also get free access to streaming services such as Hoopla, InstantFlix, and TumbleBookCloud.
Audiobooks - Audiobooks on CD include popular fiction and non-fiction titles for adults, teens and children. E-audiobooks are a great option if you have a mobile device. You can stream or download titles right to your phone and listen while you’re on the go, doing chores, or at the gym.
Music - Rock, pop, classical, jazz. Stream music on Hoopla and Naxos, or browse the catalogue to discover new music to add to your playlist. Musicians and singers can find sheet music to play in the collection, or can place an interlibrary loan to bring in music from another library.
Video Games - GVPL has video games for players of all ages, including games for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Wii U. Search for games by console and by keyword in the library catalogue, or visit any branch to see what’s in. Anyone with a GVPL library card who is between the ages of 10 and 18 can play Minecraft in the Teen Zone of any branch.
eBooks - Give a tablet or e-reader a try, and experience the fun of having thousands of books, movies and music at your fingertips. Borrow a Nexus 7 tablet and explore the library’s extensive digital collections, including ebooks, downloadable and streaming audiobooks, movies, television shows, music, and magazines. Or try a Kobo Touch, pre-loaded with a selection of current and popular books.