Pretty Victoria is way past the joke that only the “newlywed and nearly dead” live there. One of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada, it has a bubbling foodie scene, a super-charming historical downtown core and is right on the ocean. Also, guess what newlywed means? It means KIDS. Victoria is laid back and full of hippies and hipsters, which means fun stuff for young families. It’s also small enough that you’re never too far away from anything. We loved it.
The first thrill about Victoria is the ferry ride itself. (Be sure to arrive at least a half-hour before your ferry departs or you’ll be out of luck, even if you have a reservation.) Pick up an official B.C Ferries toy ferry—complete with cars and cargo—or cute kids’ raingear at the gift shop, pass some time in the arcade or toddler/baby play zone, or kick back on the open-air deck and listen to a free presentation (complete with stuffed animal props) about the area’s wildlife and ecosystem.
You can’t go to Victoria and not go on a whale watching excursion. There are lots of tour companies operating out of the harbour, but Eagle Wing Whale Watching Tours’ 4 Ever Wild boat is great for families. The boat is bigger and more stable—a must for my little Punky Pukester—than many of the usual vessels you’ll get, with lots of indoor seating and two washrooms. The enthusiastic—one could say whale-obsessed—staff are super knowledgeable and can recognize individual members in the resident orca pods by their markings. If you’re extra lucky you might get to see some humpback whales, too, like we did, which is truly mind blowing (though I was a bit afraid one was coming straight for the boat!) Be sure to bring snacks because the tour is about 4 hours, and pack jackets (yes, even in July). When you get back to shore, do the locals do and fill up on fish’n’chips and delicious clam chowder from Barb’s Fish and Chips. And be sure to buy some snacks for the locals—friendly seals—yes, SEALS—will swim right up to the dock for chow. In town, chill out in the pretty Beacon Hill Park, which has a playground, petting zoo and a waterpark. Rainy day? Check out the retro but weirdly fun miniatures dioramas (or as my kid calls them, “set ups”) at Miniature World or get buggy at the Victoria Bug Zoo.
The picturesque “Olde Towne” has lots of cute shops. Be sure to check out Munro’s Books, a beautifully old-fashioned bookstore with lofty ceilings, wooden shelves and a great kids’ section. Your little skater dudes and dudettes will love Baggins Shoes, which has Vans and Converse as far as the eye can see. Comic book fiends will lose their minds at the side-by-side Curious Comics & Legend Comics and Books. For actually-cool souvenirs, including beautiful West Coast First Nations’ kids’ books and toys and gorgeous handmade moccasins and dolls, check out the native-run Cowichan Trading Co .Ltd.
Victoria has a bustling food scene, with a big emphasis on local, sustainable food. Hit the Canoe Brewpub and restaurant for next-level pub grub and craft beer in a groovy circa 1894 building, dig into uber-fresh oysters at the Ferris’ Oyster Bar and Grill or dress up your hot dog any which way at the retro-inspired Dog-Gone-It. Don’t forget to get a milkshake, too!
The Hotel Zed is a hilariously hip little motel that has been given a funky 1970s makeover. All the rooms are awash in groovy patterns and come complete with comic books, and suites have small kitchenettes. Kids will dig The Zedinator water slide and the typewriting station, where you can craft letters (letters?! What’s a LETTER?) on the provided stationary, or they can kick back with some vinyl. If that’s all too twentieth century for them, there’s also a small lounge with an WiFi and ping pong table. The food at the on-site resto The Ruby is yummy, too—you’ll want to make sure you eat there for at least one breakfast. While the Zed isn’t in the touristy downtown core, it’s only a 10-minute drive away, and the hotel runs 2 complimentary vintage VW vans shuttle service all day long. If you’re picky about air conditioners, be sure to request a room that has one (not all of them do) though Victoria is generally pretty temperate so you’ll probably find you don’t need it, anyways.
Some of the writer’s costs were covered by Tourism Victoria and Destination B.C. They did not review this article.