History and elegance seem to tumble into the same sentence as “Victoria, British Columbia.” Though this quaint city has certainly transitioned into the 21st Century, it has retained its old world vibe. This provincial capitol is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. On a clear day, you can see stunning views of Washington State’s Olympic Mountains from its shore. A true walking city, there’s little need for a car during this Victoria weekend getaway. When a ride is needed, cab fare anywhere is typically $5 (except for the must see Butchart Gardens).
6:00 p.m. – Dinner at Barb’s Fish & Chips
After your flight, give those legs a stretch with a stroll around Fisherman’s Wharf as you head to Barb’s Fish & Chips. Opened in 1984, they’re the Wharf’s only floating restaurant. Waits can be long, but their pager system allows for minimal wandering around the dock. Don’t like seafood? This walk-up food boat also has a selection of burgers and hotdogs. (310 Saint Lawrence St., Victoria, BC, 250-384-6515)
7:00 p.m. – Horse and Buggy
Sit back and soak up the lights and life of Victoria in your own horse drawn carriage. A variety of carriage stands are located on the corner of Belleville Street and Menzies Street in front of the Parliament buildings. Ask your driver to head towards Old Town where street musicians and performers gather nightly. Plus, be sure to catch a glimpse of the BC Legislature Building. It’s decorated with over 3,000 lights.
8:00 a.m. Breakfast at Mo:Le
Refuel with an organic breakfast made from seasonal ingredients. Sourcing whatever they can from local farms, Mo:Le’s eclectic restaurant draws a crowd. (The 8:00 a.m. arrival time is in the best interest of your growling belly.) Between pesto hash browns and egg filled bites, be sure to check out their featured artwork and music. (554 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC, 250-385-6653)
9:30 a.m. Explore the Butchart Gardens
Inhale the flowers of Victoria at the Butchart Gardens. Just a 25-minute cab ride from downtown, you’ll find 55 acres of year-round blooms and beauty. No matter the season, the gardens always have something eye catching popping up. This former limestone quarry was harvested for cement. The first patch of its depressed ground was planted in 1904. Countless horse drawn cartloads of topsoil were required, but the results are stunning. (800 Benvenuto Avenue, Brentwood Bay, 250-652-5256)
12:00 p.m. Lunch at Canoe Brewpub
Go for the food and stay for the beer at Canoe Brewpub. Their menu, designed to highlight the seasonal bounty of local farmers, is a comfort food extravaganza. It’s perfect for a two-person pit stop or a celebratory party. (If you’re of the appetizer-sharing finger-food crowd, their Dirty Chips feature house made potato chips topped with a mess of aged cheddar, bacon, and crème fraîche.) Small batch handcrafted beers are brewed to comply with the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516. Signature beers range from a red lager to a pale ale. Seasonal menu selections might feature an off-the-wall combination of dark stout and espresso. Located in a designated heritage site, it was originally the “City Lights” building erected in 1894. (450 Swift Street, Victoria, BC, 250-361-1940)
1:00 p.m. Inspirational Shopping at Chintz & Company
Get your explorer hat ready for 20,000 square feet of shopping and inspiration at Chintz & Company. Filled with interior design treasures, don’t be surprised if you find yourself contemplating an entire home makeover.
(1720 Store St., Victoria, BC, 250-381-2404)
3:00 p.m. Explore Beacon Hill Park
Head over to Beacon Hill Park for a stroll in the 62-acre oasis located within city limits. Dating back to 1882, its lakes are filled with herons and ducks. Sloping hills, old trees, and manicured gardens make it ideal for a romantic stroll or casual picnic. Playgrounds and the Children’s Farm (complete with petting zoo) also make it family friendly. (Circle Dr., Victoria, BC)
4:30 p.m. Unwind with a Cocktail
Take a load off at one of Victoria’s bars or pubs. On the water, Darcy’s offers libations with a view (1127 Wharf St., Victoria, BC, 250-380-1322). For pre-dinner oyster shooters check out Ferris’ Oyster Bar and Grill (536 Yates St., Victoria, BC, 250-360-1824). Strong stouts can be found at Irish Times Pub (2232 Oak Bay Ave., Victoria, BC, 250-590-7424) where they offer more than five Irish beers and several other European imports.
6:00 p.m. Dinner at Il Terrazzo
Tucked away in Waddington Alley, Il Terrazzo can be hard to find. Don’t give up. This is one Italian dinner you don’t want to miss. Homemade pasta, West Coast seafood, and wood-oven roasted meats are prepared with a focus on Northern Italian cuisine. Call ahead to score a table on the patio next to one of their six brick fireplaces. If you can, save room for their tiramisu – Italian lady fingers soaked in espresso and liqueurs. (Located in Waddington Alley, directly behind Willie’s Bakery at 537 Johnson St., Victoria, BC, 250-361-0028)
9:45 a.m. Breakfast at the Marina Restaurant
The Marina Restaurant offers sweeping views of Mt. Baker on the Washington State mainland, plus the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Their legendary Sunday brunch features a wide variety of house made goodies including French toast with real maple syrup. A rotating collection of art is displayed throughout the year. Visit their website for the latest artists. (1327 Beach Dr., Victoria, BC, 250-598-8555)
11:00 a.m. Explore the Bastion Square Public Market
For 17 years, the Bastion Square Public Market has filled Bastion Square with a brilliant array of locally produced arts, crafts, and entertainment. There you will find jewelry made from antique utensils, local cheese artisans, and custom designed eco-friendly bags. (The market is open until September 30th.)
12:00 p.m. Relax in Elegance at the Empress
No Victoria adventure is complete without afternoon tea. Since 1908, The Fairmont Empress has been serving tea in their world-renowned tea lobby. The enchanting setting, decorated with antique tapestries and rugs, elegant wing back chairs, and hand-carved tables, has been enjoyed by royalty, celebrities, and dignitaries. Reservations are strongly recommended and don’t forget, the dress code is casually elegant – no short shorts, flip flops or baseball caps allowed. (712 Government St., Victoria, BC, 250-389-2727 or 1-866-540-4429)