Culture & Entertainment

Christmas in Canada #6: Victoria, British Columbia

Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Christmas in Canada #6: Victoria, British Columbia

I'm always surprised when my west coast friends mention Boxing Day boat rides and rollicking ferries on New Year's Eve.  My mental weather map of December weather is obviously rooted in the snow belt of rural Ontario where I grew up.  A simple mention of the holiday season  immediately conjures up for me a pictorial slideshow of snow banks, frosted bathroom windows and toboggans propped up in car porches. But that's not the case in Victoria, British Columbia where the snow seldom stays. So what does Christmas look like in Victoria? It seems holiday diversions in Victoria run the gamut from arty to active, traditional to contemporary, and many of them enjoyed outdoors.  The main shopping district of downtown Victoria rivals any  Dickens-inspired holiday flick with its 19th-century storefronts and wandering carollers. Friends of mine who transferred from Montreal to Victoria a few years back thought they would miss mounds of Quebec snow when they moved to the west coast, but they've since changed their tune. Topping their list of holiday outings is a visit to the Butchart Gardens which creates a flora version of 12 Days of Christmas. In addition to the Rose Carousel menagerie of carved animals and other kid-friendly characters, you can also rent skates and enjoy some time on the Butchart Gardens rink. And if it's  more exercise  you're looking for,  join one of the Discover the Past Christmas Tours. Your choice of 90-minute walks includes Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas in Old Victoria, Chinatown Walks and the Old Cemeteries Society Christmas Walk (who knew you could have a jolly good time in a graveyard?). Here are some festive images of Christmas in Victoria, compliments of our friends Holly Lenk and Cathy Ray of Tourism Victoria: West Coast City of Lights [caption id="attachment_2180" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="British Columbia Parliament Buildings at night (Photo: Tourism Victoria)"] Parliament Buildings in Victoria: All Decked Up for the Holidays[/caption] Boats bobbing in the water within anchor-throwing distance of the Parliament Buildings just isn't something we see in most parts of Canada. More than 3,300 lights festoon the government buildings, which make a stellar appearance at dusk. Not a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree! [caption id="attachment_2181" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Tree Time, Tea Time: Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria (Photo: courtesy Tourism Victoria)"] Tree Time, Tea Time: Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria[/caption] The landmark Fairmont Empress Hotel has been hosting the Festival of Trees since 1991, inviting  citizens and local groups to show off their best tree-decorating talents. After a leisurely ramble through the regal hotel (it's been entertaining guests since 1908), consider taking Afternoon Tea (reservations recommended at the holiday season). It's one of Victoria's best and long-held traditions, anytime of year. Plan a Royal Visit to The Castle [caption id="attachment_2183" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption=" Craig Darroch Castle, Victoria, B.C. (courtesy Tourism Victoria)"] Royal Holiday Fun at Craig Darroch Castle, Victoria, B.C.[/caption] Craigdarroch Castle is a quick drive or a leisure stroll from the harbour in Victoria. Built between 1886 and 1890, the 39-room, lavishly-furnished edifice offers fabulous views of the Olympic Mountains and Straight of Juan de Fuca. Museum staff have  created an "I Spy" program for kids to enjoy the visit, and a string of performers put their best into "Christmas at Craigdarroch," with readings, music and Victorian-era decorations and toys. Ride Program [caption id="attachment_2252" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Even the ferry boats get decked out for the festive season (Photo copyright Deddeda Stemler for Tourism Victoria)"] Even the ferry boats get decked out for the festive season (Photo copyright Deddeda Stemler for Tourism Victoria)[/caption] In other parts of the country you're more apt to climb onto a snowmobile or strap a pair of snow shoes during the holiday season, but, depending on the weather in Victoria, you just might find yourself hopping aboard one of the BC ferries for an impromptu tour. For more holiday diversions in Victoria, British Columbia, check the Tourism Victoria web site. Happy holidays!
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Christmas in Canada #6: Victoria, British Columbia

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