Victoria, B.C, Canada. When you think of this city, what comes to mind? If you think flowers, good weather, and friendly people, you are right! You can find all of these things here – and that’s true even in the winter time. Victoria is famous for its many parks and beautiful ocean views, and the mild winter weather makes it possible to enjoy a variety of different activities, day and night.
Ask any native Victorians for suggestions for places to go and things to do and they’ll be happy to recommend their favourite places. Below are some of our top picks.
Find out more about life in Victoria with our guide to some of the best winter activities the city has to offer.
1. Butchart Gardens
This famous flower garden is a must-see when you’re visiting Victoria. It’s a former rock quarry that has been lovingly transformed over time into a beautiful landscape of thousands of flowers and themed gardens.
It’s open all year round, and the flowers change depending on the time of year. Over the Christmas season, from Dec 1 – Jan 6, Butchart Gardens is decorated in Christmas lights, and it’s truly magical to see. You can enjoy skating on an outdoor pond, listening to carollers sing, and have a meal or a hot chocolate in one of the coffee shops or restaurants.
It is accessible both by car and bus and is open from 9 am to 9 pm.
2. Gingerbread display at The Parkside Hotel and Spa
Every year, this fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity opens to the public from Nov 16 – Jan 5. It is a fun display of gingerbread masterpieces for people of all ages to enjoy. There are professional-level gingerbread creations, as well as casual family entries.
Best of all, it’s free to visit this attraction. If you want to vote for your favorite creation, you can pay a small donation, which supports Habitat for Humanity in their goals of helping low-income families find affordable housing.
It’s located in the Parkside Hotel lobby in the downtown center of Victoria, and is open from 9am to 9pm.
3. Horse-drawn carriage rides
This popular and unique activity is a great way to see the downtown streets of Victoria.
Tally-Ho Carriage Rides operates from 11am to 7pm daily from the city center, and offers a wide variety of different tours. You can choose from 30 to 90-minute rides, in carriages pulled by large, beautiful Clydesdale, Percheron, and Belgian horses. The carriages are driven by friendly uniformed guides, who give a detailed history of the sites you see along your tour. Bring gloves and a hat to stay warm!
One of Canada’s national sports, ice-skating is a lot of fun and great exercise.
If you’ve never tried it, why not go to one of the several arenas located around Victoria? Panorama Recreation Center, Save On Foods Memorial Center, Oak Bay Recreation Center, and G.R. Pearkes Recreation Center all offer public skating options throughout the days and evenings.
You can rent skates and helmets (which are strongly recommended for safety), for a small cost. Many of the skating arenas are decorated over the Christmas season with beautiful lights and even Christmas trees, and you’ll hear Christmas music playing during public skating times.
If you’d like to get serious about learning skating skills, you can also take a few private lessons with trained instructors. Try this sport, you won’t be sorry!
5. Imax movies at the Royal BC Museum
When the weather outside isn’t warm and cozy, you can go to the Royal BC Museum and enjoy a movie on the huge Imax movie screen.
The Imax theater shows 3D movies with cutting-edge technology in the form of 4K laser projection, on a massive 18 x 25 meter screen. Imax movies are 45 minutes long, and focus on a variety of topics ranging from nature programs about pandas to surfing in Fiji, helicopter skiing, rescue dogs, high-speed race cars, and many more.
There is a small concession where you can buy snacks for the movie, and their popcorn is delicious!
6. Pubs with live music
Victoria has a great selection of pubs and nightclubs in the downtown area. You can find many kinds of music to suit your taste, at pubs like The Bard and Banker, Hermann’s Jazz Club, V Lounge Sports Bar, and The Sticky Wicket. Most of them have special prices on drinks and food during “Happy Hours”, and some also have dance floors.
The drinking age in Victoria is 19 years, and you need 2 pieces of ID to enter pubs. Listening to local bands in pubs is a great way to meet and talk to new people while you’re in Victoria.
7. Escape rooms
This activity has become really popular in Victoria in the last few years. If you like a challenge, go with a group of friends to one of the 3 escape rooms Victoria has to offer – Quest Reality Games, Victoria Escape Games, and Escape Warriors – to have an interactive live escape game experience.
You work with your team to solve riddles, puzzles, and challenges to move from room to room. There are many choices of theme packages, ranging from horror, zombies, sorcerers and magic, and murder investigations. Be the fastest team to complete a challenge, and get your team’s name on the Wall of Fame!
8. Boardgame cafes
This is another activity that has exploded in popularity recently in Victoria, especially with young adults.
There are 5 different cafes with literally hundreds of board games that you can play with your friends, while enjoying snacks and drinks. You can go alone and join in with other friendly players, or go with a group of your friends, choose any game, and stay as long as you want.
9. Fired Up Ceramics
If you’re looking for something different and a way to express your artistic side, Fired Up Ceramics might be just your style.
It’s a drop-in paint and pottery studio located near the downtown center in Victoria, where you can experiment with many designs and colors and create your own masterpieces. You choose from over 150 different pre-formed clay designs to paint and color, and then take your time using their stamps, stencils, and sponges to decorate them in pretty patterns. They have helpful staff to ask for suggestions, too.
When you are finished creating, you leave your pottery for a week for them to glaze and fire in their kilns. Prices start as low as $5 for small pieces of pottery, with most averaging around $25. Check it out!
10. Hike in Goldstream Park
If you like the outdoors, you won’t find a prettier place to go walking and exploring than Goldstream Park. It’s about 17 km from downtown Victoria, accessible by both bus and car, and is a popular place to go hiking through old growth forest.
There are wide, flat trails, perfect for both experienced and inexperienced hikers, and a few lovely waterfalls. If you are lucky, you might see eagles, deer, and maybe even a bear from a distance. There is also a nature center where you can get lots of information on local wildlife.
11. Hot chocolate and snacks at Murchies Tea and Coffee
This store is a Victoria landmark, going back 125 years. It’s located in the heart of Victoria’s downtown, and is a popular place to stop for snacks and a drink after shopping. You can find delicious pastries and sandwiches, as well as a huge selection of teas and coffees from around the world. If you’re looking for souvenirs for family or friends back home, you can find gift baskets at Murchies too.
12. Visit bookstores
Victoria is well known for its variety of bookstores, and they are nice places to visit when the weather turns colder. You can choose new or used books in places like Indigo in Mayfair Mall, Munro’s Books and Russell Books in the downtown center, and Bolen Books in Hillside Mall.
Each bookstore has its own flavor and personality, and some stores even have coffee shops attached where you are welcome to sit and read while enjoying a drink and snack.
And there you have it – 12 suggestions for keeping busy during your stay here studying English in Victoria!