(Previously published on Canada.com)
If you’re looking for a great family-friendly destination this summer, look no further than Victoria, B.C. – Canada’s most walkable city.
With many of the landmarks and tourist destinations located in the heart of downtown Victoria, it’s easy for families to explore the city by foot. Here are some family-friendly favourites to check out this summer.
Things to Do
With so many attractions geared towards children, it’s easy to find those that will suit any age.
Craigdarroch Castle is at the top of my list for both children and adults. The 1890’s castle is simply stunning with its stained-glass windows, woodwork and antiques. It was built by a local, wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir; and a classic example of the Victorian era. The 39-room mansion has been restored to its original state, complete with lavish furniture and spectacular oak staircase that leads to an incredible view of the city at the top. The tour is self-guided, and there is even a scavenger hunt for the younger children to partake in, while the adults learn about the historical attributes of the castle. Adults are $13.75 and children under 12 are $5.00.
The Victoria Bug Zoo is an attraction that is a definite must-see, as it introduces both bug lovers – and those a bit curious – to the world of insects and spiders. The zoo allows visitors to get up close and personal with many bugs, while learning from knowledgeable “bug guides” about each one. The fun part is when visitors are encouraged to handle some of the bugs and spiders (with supervision). From giant walkingsticks to glow in the dark scorpions to tarantulas to the largest ant-farm you’ve ever seen; it will leave many visitors with memorable photos and stories for years to come. Adults are $10, children under 10 are $7, and those under two are free.
Miniature World is the classic place for children to enjoy the magical world of miniature. The miniature attractions include the Fields of Glory (where historical wars such as WWII is depicted with miniature soldiers on a vast battle ground), the Great Canadian Railway (with push buttons to make the train run), Enchanted Castles, and my personal favourite, Circus World; with over 20,000 figures including rides, animals and a “day to night” experience. Adults are $12 and children are $8.
Beacon Hill Park is located right in the heart of the city, and offers up an ideal setting with its beautiful flowers, trees and lakes for an enjoyable afternoon with a picnic in tow.
Visitors to the park will find the world’s largest free-standing totem pole carved from a single log, a water park and playground, and a children’s petting zoo. The zoo includes many barnyard animals for children to feed and interact with such as pigs, sheep, chickens, goats and llamas. Admission is by donation.
The newly renovated Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa is just steps from downtown shopping, restaurants and attractions. This beautiful hotel offers amazing waterfront views. Guests can either walk the Johnson Street Bridge to downtown Victoria (a 15-minute walk) or take a five-minute water taxi from right in front of the hotel – which also includes a helpful guide to point out some of the historical sights. This hotel truly caters to children. Upon check-in, kids will receive a goody-bag with fun games inside, and a scavenger hunt they can do inside the hotel (and are rewarded with a prize when completed). There is also a story time each night at 8 p.m., read by a hotel staff member in front of the fireplace; complete with milk and cookies. For some water fun, there is a fantastic indoor jacuzzi and heated solarium pool that will entertain the children for hours. Best part for parents? Children under the age of 6 eat for free off the children’s menu and children under the age of twelve eat for half-price. The room rate at the hotel starts at $159 per night.
Places to Eat
John’s Place is a favourite amongst locals in Victoria. The kitschy eatery has been around for more than 20 years, with photos of movie stars and musicians adorning the walls. A jukebox and friendly staff complete the nostalgic feel. The restaurant, which has been creates classics like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatloaf, perogies and Ukrainian sausage and Shepard’s “lamb bam” pie. The kids menu offers a great variety of favourites including chicken strips, cheese burgers and spaghetti (all kids meals come with a drink for under $6.00).
As a family-owned restaurant, Shine Café offers up an all-day breakfast and lunch menu, and has two locations in the city. It was featured on the Food Network’s show “You Gotta Eat Here“, and serves up gourmet versions of breakfast favourites like Eggs Benedict, omelets, and their famous fruit pancakes. Lunch options like the sophisticated green wrap, the gobbler piled high with turkey, and mouth -watering burgers are a sure-fire winner with the kids. Price range – $6.95- $12.95
Lastly, but certainly not least, is the Empress Hotel High Tea experience. If you’ve never had high tea, it’s a time honoured tradition not to be missed. The elaborate surroundings that once served famed royalty, celebrities and dignitaries enhance the experience. With fine china, elegant chairs, vintage furnishings and live piano in the background; its one of those rare opportunities to see how the other half lived.
The Empress scones are a favourite, as well as the incredible pastries, and scrumptious sandwiches. For parents who are looking for more “comfort food” for their children, there is the Prince and Princess Tea menu, which provides sandwiches such as egg, chicken salad, ham and cheese, and decadent deserts including a whimsical cookie and cupcake at the end. A great tea option is the Kea Lani orange pineapple tea, which is caffeine free. Cost for adults is $59.95 and the Prince and Princess tea is $29.98.