Christmas is a perfect time to visit Victoria British Columbia Canada

Christmas In Victoria B.C. Inspires Holiday Adventures

As dusk settles on a crisp, winter's evening, brightly colored lights twinkle across the city and the sound of carolers echoes in the distance. Excited shoppers pause to exclaim at breath-taking holiday displays and the tantalizing aroma of fresh-baked pastries and steamy coffee fills the air. It is Christmas time in this beautiful and magical city of Victoria, B.C.

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Victoria, British Columbia, captivates visitors with it charming British influence, gorgeous gardens, parks, museums, fabulous shopping and lovely hotels and B&Bs. This harbor city is especially enchanting during the season when Christmas bacchanalia prevails and the city becomes a traveler's holiday destination. From Christmas At Butchart Gardens to decorated Victorian Castles and Festive Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel, Victoria offers an abundance of enticing activities.

Christmas Themed Places to Visit

Butchart Gardens resides on 55 acres of floral splendor and leads visitors through pathways of established, themed gardens. The gardens are magnificent, especially during the holidays with Christmas At Butchart Gardens. In the evening, Butchart offers a magical realm of enchantment with stunning, multi-hued lights throughout the gardens and ice-skating under the stars on their outdoor ice rink. It is one of the most popular lighted holiday gardens in the world and a must-see if you visit during December.

The Fairmount Empress Hotel is known globally for its beauty and history, as well as a splendid Afternoon Tea. However, during the month of December each year, the Empress features a scrumptious Festive Afternoon Tea served in the lovely grand Tea Lobby. With the gentle sounds of live holiday piano music and a warming fire in the hearths, it is time to relax and enjoy the delectable desserts created by Executive Pastry Chef AJ Thalakkat.

Several of the treats include rum-cured Christmas cake, vanilla bean Scottish shortbread and a host of delectable pastries and chocolate inspirations that melt in your mouth. After your sumptuous tea, take a stroll around the Empress and admire the hotel's annual Festival Of Trees. About 20 remarkable Christmas trees line the hotel's halls with themes to make you laugh, sigh at the beauty or garner a smile with the shear creativeness.

Christmas is a perfect time to visit Victoria British Columbia Canada
In addition, to experience the rest of the Festival Of Trees display, visit the Bay Centre in Victoria (three blocks away from the Empress). The annual display in support of BC Children's Hospital Foundation, features 65 sponsored trees, uniquely decorated by local businesses, organizations and individuals decking the halls of level two and three. While you are here, be sure to donate to vote for your favorite tree.

For holiday activities in a Victorian theme, Craigdarroch Castle and the Royal BC Museum both offer a wonderful period experience. Craigdarroch Castle, located on Joan Crescent, was originally built between 1887 to 1890 for Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish Coal Baron. Although Dunsmuir passed away before his castle was completed, his wife and children lived in the castle with its 36 rooms. Today, 29 of the castle rooms are open for viewing and, during the month of December each year, the castle is decorated in breath-taking, full Victorian Christmas splendor. Make sure to visit Craigdarroch Castle's website (under events and programs) for their holiday calendar of events that include a one-man-act of a Christmas Carol and holiday music.

Have you ever wondered what it was like at Christmas in the 1800s? The Royal BC Museum invites guests to explore Christmas in Old Town. This permanent exhibit with authentic artifacts was designed to represent life in Victoria's late 1800s. The town features wood-cobbled streets, a silent movie theater, a hotel to walk around, numerous shops, a post office and apothecary. For the holiday season, the museum decorates the town in a traditional Victorian style that will delight visitors of all ages. Make sure to visit the historical Helmcken House that lies adjacent to the main museum for an Old-Fashioned Christmas. It is one of the oldest homes in Victoria and belonged to a physician and one of Victoria's founding fathers, John Helmcken.

Christmas is a perfect time to visit Victoria British Columbia Canada
Many of Victoria's downtown hotels present annual holiday themes and events for visitors. A burgeoning tradition by locals and visitors is to start at the Inn At Laurel Point for the National Gingerbread Showcase and then continue on to the next holiday-themed hotel. The Fairmount Empress Hotel displays their lovely Festival of Trees and the Chateau Victoria delights with prize-winning holiday decorations. In addition, Chateau Victoria presents their popular annual Pancakes with Mr. and Mrs. Claus for family fun in early December; proceeds from the event are donated to Times Colonist Christmas Fund.

A stroll in the evening reveals the city's illuminated holiday grandeur, especially in Centennial Square. Each year, the square is transformed with multi-colored lighted trees, interactive wall displays, ice skating rinks and this year, a 65-foot tall, brilliantly-lit ferris wheel. Take a ride to the top for great city views and photos. Moreover, Government Street and Fort Street offer a host of excellent holiday shopping, but are even more impressive at night with awesome Christmas lights and intriguing window displays. Make sure to keep your eye out for Father Christmas, who also likes to take strolls along the city's downtown streets.

If You Go

Here is a list of shops and cafes you won't want to miss: Roger's Chocolates, Murchies Tea and Coffee, Munro's Books, Silk Road Tea Room, Chintz & Company and the incomparable Patisserie Daniel on Cook Street (the best French pastries in Western Canada).

For a comfortable and scenic way to arrive in Victoria by car or foot, take the Black Ball M.V. CoHo Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria's inner harbor. The passage is 90 minutes and there are incredible photo opportunities from the snow-capped Olympic Mountains to whale-watching year-round, especially in spring and fall.

For a comprehensive list of holiday events, sites and exciting activities and promotions, check out Victoria's fantastic Advent Calendar,

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Patrice Raplee

Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel and is a regular correspondent for travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.Visit her website Travel-Excursion for more information.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Updated: November 17, 2016

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