Wondering what there is to do in Victoria, British Columbia with kids? We’ve got a list of fun local activities that you’ll love too.
We added one day in Victoria, British Columbia to our Pacific Northwest road trip last summer and it didn’t take long to figure out that we needed more time to see this beautiful city. We added an extra night and still feel like we just scratched the surface.
Victoria is a highly cultured city against a wild backdrop, so there is plenty of urban sophistication and outdoor adventure for families to choose from. I couldn’t help thinking that it would be a great destination for a romantic getaway too. Downtown Victoria is walkable and most of the attractions on this list are located within just a few blocks of each other.
The Butchart Gardens
If you know ANYTHING about Victoria, you have likely heard about The Butchart Gardens. They are world famous, absolutely beautiful, and you’ll probably enjoy them more than your kids.
However, there is plenty to keep kids happy. My children (ages 11 and 8) loved the carousel, gelato bar and having plenty of space to run and use outdoor voices. They thought the flowers were nice too.
The Butchart Gardens is located about 30 minutes drive from downtown Victoria and are open year-round. If you don’t have your own car, tours are available through Viator.com that include transportation and admission. Read my full post about The Butchart Gardens here.
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
Imagine an indoor garden filled with colorful butterflies in many shapes, sizes and varieties. They float through the air, practically pose for photos and occasionally land on your hat and clothing. Then add a few birds, turtles, flamingos, educational exhibits and a gift shop. That is the Butterfly Gardens experience, and it’s delightful.
Plan an hour or more to visit the Victoria Butterfly Gardens in Victoria. You’ll pass them just before you reach the entrance to The Butchart Gardens, so these two activities make a good pair.
Royal BC Museum
If you love learning about local history and culture when you travel, the Royal BC Museum is a fantastic way to spend a day in Victoria. It’s a top-notch museum that adults and children will enjoy.
I loved seeing the totems and learning about the First Peoples of British Columbia. My daughter loved exploring the life size gold rush town. My son’s favorite parts were the animal exhibits and playing the Theme from Star Wars on a 200-year-old piano.
The Royal BC Museum is located in downtown Victoria, a short walk from the waterfront. Read my full post about the Royal BC Museum here.
Fisherman’s Wharf was my kids’ favorite place in Victoria. It’s a floating food court with lots of fun things to see and a playground just across the street. It’s a bit of a walk from downtown Victoria, but we managed it for dinner one evening. You can also drive or take a water taxi.
Beacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill Park is a slam dunk if you’re visiting Victoria with kids. Its a huge urban park in downtown Victoria with playgrounds, picnic areas, gardens, beaches and a petting zoo. Look for the 4th largest totem pole in the world. It’s so big, you’ll wonder how it isn’t the tallest.
Go to the beach
You’ll find dozens of good beaches in Victoria and the surrounding communities. We stayed within walking distance of downtown Victoria (I think we were still in Beacon Hill Park) but found tide pools, rocks to climb on, driftwood forts, playgrounds, walking paths and a great place to fly a kite along Dallas Street.
Seeing orcas in the wild was on my bucket list, and on this trip we took an amazing whale watching tour where we saw two pods of whales meeting up for the first time in the season. It was such an exceptional sight, even our tour guides were beside themselves.
Three pods of orca whales, plus other species like Minke and Humpback are often seen in the summer between Victoria and the San Juan Islands. Several local companies offer whale watching tours from Victoria. Here is a list:
Victoria puts the “British” in British Columbia. You’ll find evidence of Canada’s British roots in many of the shops, restaurants and landmarks of downtown Victoria. Afternoon tea is served in several local restaurants, and at The Butchart Gardens, but you’ll have a hard time finding a grander experience than at the Fairmont Empress on Victoria’s waterfront.
British Columbia Parliament Buildings
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and the British Columbia Parliament Buildings are where laws of the province are made by the Legislative Assembly. You’ll find this majestic structure on the waterfront in downtown Victoria. Free tours are available year round!
Unique dining and shopping
Victoria is a fun place for foodies and shoppers. It is packed with distinctive neighborhoods, unique shops and local restaurants. Wander through Victoria Public Market, Chinatown, or Fort Street.
We even got a kick out of shopping at the supermarket near our hotel. Though Victoria is a short distance from the U.S. border, many of the brands were new to us and it was fun to try a few.
These were our top activities in and around Victoria, but there are many more. Visit www.tourismvictoria.com for a full list of active, cultural, historic or natural family activities in Victoria, British Columbia.
Disclosure: Tourism Victoria assisted us with complimentary admission to several of these attractions for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.
How else can we help?
Need a place to stay? We loved the huge indoor pool, full kitchens and spacious suites at Parkside Hotel and Spa in downtown Victoria. It’s located across the street from Beacon Hill Park, a block from the Royal BC Museum and within walking distance of the waterfront and Fisherman’s Wharf. Read my full review here. Check rates and reviews at TripAdvisor.
What to pack – Walking is the best way to get around downtown Victoria, and temperatures can be cool year-round. Don’t leave home without good walking shoes and jackets for the whole family! Buy at Amazon.com or Sierra Trading Post.
Do your children need passports? My children visited Victoria without passports. Find out when kids need a passport and when they don’t in this post: Does Your Child Need a Passport?
Victoria is just a ferry ride away from the San Juan Islands in Washington, U.S.A. Check out our tips for visiting the San Juan Islands:
- Washington State Ferries – What NOT to do!
- Whale Watching with San Juan Excursions
- Kayak tour with Crystal Seas