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Things to See and Do on Vancouver Island, British Columbia 
 
by Mary M. Alward August 12, 2005

Thinking of visiting Vancouver Island, just off the west coast of British Columbia, Canada? You won't be disappointed. There are marvelous things to see and do all over the Island.

Victoria is a beautiful city that is located on Vancouver Island, just off of British Columbia’s west coast. There are a wide variety of things to see and do in Victoria. The City has something for everyone’s tastes and many are family oriented.

Arts & Entertainment

Victoria, which is British Columbia’s capital city, is alive with culture. The city, along with the rest of Vancouver Island has a wide variety of cultural entertainment throughout the year. Take in art exhibits, film festivals, live theater and music concerts. The Pacific Ocean Opera performs at a wide range of venues, including modern art centers, historical playhouses and small community theaters.

Victoria is home to art exhibits, galleries and studios. Walk from one gallery to the next in the downtown, or take to the rural roads to visit the studios of local artisans. The art of the First Nation’s peoples includes paintings, sculptures, glass, wood, pottery and art prints. They are available in all areas in and around Victoria.

There is music available for everyone in Victoria’s cathedrals, concert halls, nightclubs and pubs. The highlight of the year is the traditional Symphony Splash that is performed on a barge in Victoria’s Inner Harbor. The event draws more than 40,000 people each year.

Street performers and buskers contribute a unique atmosphere to the Inner Harbor, as well as to Victoria’s streets. During the summer months visitors can enjoy classic movies on the Harbor’s boardwalk. Be sure to visit the cinemas and stop by the National Geographic IMAX Theater to enjoy films that are displayed on a screen that is over six stories in height.

Attractions

Carr House

Carr House is the birthplace of famous poet Emily Carr. It is located at James Bay, not far from Victoria’s Inner Harbor. It has been restored to the identical condition that it was in when the Carr family lived there and accurately depicts their lifestyle. Carr’s childhood home includes the Gallery, which alternately shows Carr’s paintings and the work of local artists.

Saanich Historical Artifacts Society

Located on twenty-nine acres, the Saanich Historical Artifacts Society is dedicated to the collection, housing and demonstration of artifacts from Victoria’s rural past. The collection of agricultural, household and industrial artifacts is magnificent and dates from the late 19th century to the present. The museum alone is over 9,000 square feet and there are other buildings that house exhibits and displays.

Father’s Day weekend, the Society welcomes the public to the Old Time Summer Fair. On the third weekend in September, they host The Steam Threshing Show. These are the only events that require you pay and admission. Donations are accepted at all other times of the year.

Take along a picnic to enjoy at one of the picnic tables found in several locations around the grounds. The view from these areas is magnificent. Take a hike on one of the scenic trails and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.

The Saanich Historical Artifacts Society has parking, washroom facilities and is wheel chair accessible. A beautiful rural Chapel is located on the grounds. The non-denominational church can be rented for weddings and private services.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

If you are afraid of heights, this attraction isn’t for you. However, if you enjoy a bird’s-eye view of majestic scenery, you’ll be thrilled with the adventure of crossing Capilano, which stretches 450 feet across and 230 feet above the Capilano River.

Once you have crossed the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is the world’s greatest suspension bridge, an awesome outdoors experience awaits you in the living forest and story center exhibit. You will marvel at the magnificent carvings in Totem Park and Big House Carving Center. Be sure to visit the award winning gardens, a variety of food outlets and the Trading Post gift shop. This attraction is the experience of a lifetime.

Butchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens consists of 130 acres of expansive manicured lawns, meandering paths, panoramic views and ponds that reflect wondrous sights of nature. It’s tucked into the southeast corner of Vancouver Island and is delightful in all seasons. In autumn, the gardens are alive with cascading color and at Christmas, they hold the sparkle and magic of the holidays.

Butchart Gardens was established by the Butchart family in 1908, in what was a former limestone quarry. The first garden established was the Japanese Garden, which is located on the sea-side of the house. The next garden added was the Italian Garden. In 1929, the Rose Garden was created. During the 1920’s, over 50,000 visitors came to the gardens each year. This is one attraction you won’t want to miss. All of the gardens are exquisite.

Parking at Butchart Gardens is adequate and you will enjoy both the gardens and the exhibits. The gardens are child friendly and wheelchair accessible.

National Geographic IMAX Theater

The National Geographic IMAX Theater is the most powerful film experience in North America. Twelve thousand watts of electricity brings images to life on a six story screen. To make the experience even more life-like, the Theater provides digital surround sound. The Theater is wheelchair accessible and provides a great entertainment and educational experience for all who visit.

Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site

Fisgard is Canada’s oldest working lighthouse on the west coast. Step inside and walk along the ramparts of three gun batteries that were built more than a hundred years ago. Explore underground bunkers and look down the barrels of the original guns. Check out the displays and exhibits of shipwrecks.

If you enjoy nature, be sure to check out the grounds, where you will see raccoons, black-tailed deer, squirrels and a wide variety of bird species. The surrounding waters are home to harbor seals and occasionally a sea lion or two. Fisgard lies in the Gulf of Georgia Lowlands and was built in the late 1860’s. Today, the former light keeper’s house contains displays and a video station.

Hatley Park National Historic Site

Hatley Park offers a unique experience with its castle, gardens and treasure hunting expeditions. Explore the 565 acre Edwardian estate and walk meandering paths that twist and turn around wetlands, nature trails, a lagoon, bird watching sites and the castle. Guided tours are offered. Take in a garden workshop, or stroll the grounds to enjoy the delightful sights of nature, or visit the museum. Hatley Park is family oriented and offers both indoor and outdoor attractions. Parking is available. Take one of the entertaining and educational tours for a grand day.

Great Canadian Casinos

Great Canadian Casinos offers 32,000 square feet of gaming fun. There are over 300 slot machines, including Monopoly, Wheel of Fortune and Race to Win Car Carousel, where winners have a chance to win a new car. The Casino also offers Three Card Poker, Roulette and Blackjack. Visit the full serve bar and grill, or the self-serve bistro. If you enjoy and exciting casino experience, Great Canadian Casinos is a place you won’t want to miss.

Victoria Harbor Ferry

Victoria Harbor is a bustling hub in all seasons and its unique waterways make it a must see. Tours are available, if desired. Stroll onboard one of the small ferries for a fun and informative tour. Watch for “Ferry Stop” signs at locations around the waterfront.

For an awesome experience, take the hour George tour. Ferries leave every 15 minutes from March to November. Reservations are not required.

See the West Bay Floating Village and Fisherman’s Wharf. View seals, seabirds and otters in their natural habitat, as well as a wonderful reversing falls. This is one of Victoria’s most popular tourist attractions.

Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center

The Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center offers a Coast Salish experience that is rich in native history. All of the interpreters are from the Cowichan Tribes. Listen to oral legends, stories and teachings that have been part of Coast Salish culture since before recorded history. Traditions have been handed down through generations. Watch live native demonstrations and entertainment, take a cultural tour and watched skilled local carvers transform cedar into time honored symbols. Enjoy a traditional Coast Salish meal of barbecued salmon or visit the Riverwalk Café, which is located on the banks of the Cowichan River.

The Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center is located in Duncan, just a 45 minute drive from downtown Victoria. Drive through Goldstream Provincial Park to see spawning salmon, soaring and nesting eagles and a variety of other wildlife. Then, travel over the Malahat, which offers panoramic views of numerous gulf islands and the Pacific Ocean.

Quw’utsun’ Cultural Center is located just off the Trans Canada Highway. The six acres of beautifully landscaped grounds around the Center will leave you breathless. The color and pageantry of the Coast Salish Nation is filled with warmth and helps bridge the gap that exists between cultures. The Center has plenty of parking, is wheelchair accessible and family oriented. Attractions include exhibits, demonstrations, Coast Salish crafts and allows you to create your own dreamcatcher or beaded bracelet as a keepsake of your visit.

Pacific Undersea Gardens

If you’re looking for a wonderful family adventure, take in the Pacific Undersea Gardens. This is an exciting way to view the marine life of coastal British Columbia and the attraction is conveniently located in Victoria’s Inner Harbor.

Descend 15 feet (5 meters) below the ocean to see truly remarkable species of marine animals and plants. More than 5,000 marine animal species inhabit the aquarium in a natural environment that provides them protection from predators. Visitors to the Pacific Undersea Gardens view marine animals and plants through a series of viewer windows. The attraction is family oriented, provides pay parking, guided tours and special family rates, as well as entertaining and educational information. It’s a great way to see the wondrous sights of the Pacific Northwest.

Milner Gardens and Woodlands

Milner Gardens and Woodlands is an exquisitely landscaped estate in a natural setting of Douglas firs. Explore the natural beauty of the heritage home within the boundaries of Milner Gardens. Hike through the forest and stroll through the magnificent woodland garden, where breathtaking beauty can be found in the rhododendron glades. See trillium, cyclamen and a wide range of indigenous plants before discovering the historical heritage of Milner House. The attraction offers guided or self-guided tours. This is an outdoor attraction and all areas are wheelchair accessible.

Victoria for Kids

Though most of the above attractions are family oriented, there are several Victoria attractions that are a delight to both the young and young at heart. Kids will be delighted with these attractions, which are both fun and educational.

Center of the Universe

The Center of the Universe is located at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria. Here you can treat yourself and the kids to awesome views of both Victoria and the Universe. The exhibits are interactive and the friendly staff will help you become acquainted with the world of astronomy.

Travel the constellations in the Starlab Planetarium and tour the spectacular 1.8 meter Plaskett Telescope. Take in a theater presentation or a special event such as Stargazer Sundays or Saturday Star Parties. It’s all part of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics.

The Center of the Universe offers parking, self-guided tours, family rates and group rates. It’s an indoor attraction, is wheelchair accessible and is open all year.

Miniature Word

Miniature World will delight everyone in the family. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Victoria. As you step through the doors, you enter a world of fact, fiction, fantasy and wonder.

See the World’s Largest Working Railroad, a replica of the Great Canadian Railway that was the wonder of the 1880’s. If you enjoy the circus, you will love the Grand City Parade, the Big Top, the Wild Beasts and the death defying High Wire Act.

The World’s Smallest Operational Sawmill was years in the making and is a spectacular exhibit. Kids will enjoy taking the Avian 1 spaceship into the cosmos and visiting 2201 A.D.

Miniature World displays two of the World’s Largest Dollhouses. They are magnificent with over fifty rooms that are furnished with fabulous miniature antiques. Watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace or wander the Enchanted Valley of Castles before exploring the great Castles of Europe.

Other exhibits include Frontierland, the World of Dickens, the Fields of Glory, the Olde London Tower and Fantasyland.

Miniature World is located in downtown Victoria. It includes 85 exhibits, most of which are animated. It is open year ‘round, offers family rates, group rates and is wheelchair accessible.

Beacon Hill Children’s Farm

If your kids love animals, be sure to visit Beacon Hill Children’s Farm. It is much more than a petting zoo. Visitors experience a hands-on experience feeding the farm animals. This attraction is loved by both the very young and the young at heart. The farm is entirely an outdoor attraction. Parking is available and the farm is exciting and educational, especially for kids raised in the city. Washroom facilities are available and the farm is wheelchair accessible.

Grandpa’s Antique Photo Studio

Stop by and have your family’s portrait taken at Grandpa’s Antique Photo Studio. The entire family will enjoy dressing in period costumes for the photo.

Antique portraits are finished in full color, black and white or in old fashioned sepia tones; it’s your choice. Visit the rogue’s gallery, decide on a theme and choose from a wide variety of quick-change costumes, hats and other props. Whether you choose a Victorian, Old West or Roaring Twenties theme, your photo will be taken and ready to go within 10 short minutes. Be sure to stop by for a beautiful memento of your visit to Victoria. Grandpa’s Antique Photo Studio is wheelchair accessible.

Victoria Bug Zoo

The entire family will enjoy visiting the Victoria Bug Zoo. When you step through the doors, you enter an amazing world of insects and spiders and you can view them up close in a safe environment. See glow-in-the-dark scorpions, giant walking sticks, praying mantis that has buggy eyes, much like aliens and scary tarantulas.

The Bug Zoo is home to over 40 fascinating bug species and Canada’s largest ant farm. The knowledgeable staff will educate you on the exotic and fun facts about this bug kingdom and assist you in safely handling several different species. This is an incredible experience and one you won’t want to pass by.

The Bug Zoo is open all year and offers and exciting, entertaining and educational experience. There are a wide variety of interesting exhibits and the Bug Zoo is wheelchair accessible.

Marine Ecology Station

The Marine Ecology Station is a unique hands-on experience for all ages. It is dedicated to marine education, awareness and stewardship. Here you can explore the rich marine biodiversity of the Pacific Ocean. View a range of marine life under microscopes, many of which are housed in their natural habitat. Enjoy the touch tanks that are located throughout the Station and guide the remote controlled underwater submarine. The Marine Ecology Station is located in Sydney, British Columbia, not far from downtown Victoria. It offers guided tours, is wheelchair accessible and offers family rates on admission.

Galey Farms

Galey Farms is a third generation farm that is located within minutes of downtown Victoria. Over 50 varieties of vegetables and berries are grown in rich soil at Galey’s. Be sure to visit the Scarecrow Country Maze, which is one of Canada’s largest. Explore the gardens, ghost town and the new cave exhibit. Meander over bridges and around ponds, take a field tour and stop at the petting farm. Galey’s Cornfield of Horror is one of the farm’s most popular tourist attractions and one that you won’t want to miss. Galey Farms is child friendly with washroom facilities, parking, wheelchair accessibility and guided tours.

Pacific Northwest Raptors Bird of Prey Center

Falconry is known as the Medieval Sport of Kings. Children will delight in the Center’s courses and activity days. What a thrill to hold a trained bird of prey on their gloved hand. Take a one day, half-day or five day course, or watch a flying demonstration at 12 pm and 3 pm. Guided tours, parking and washroom facilities are available. The Center is wheelchair accessible and offers group rates.

City Passports

Save over $1,000 by purchasing a City Passport for attractions, restaurants, museums, symphonies, garden and city tours, fishing, bicycle rentals, whale watching and more. The Passport includes Butchart Gardens, Undersea Gardens, IMAX Theater and more. This guidebook will tell you all about the most popular tourist attractions, accommodations and dining experiences in Victoria and you can save 50% using the coupons. Highly recommended.


 




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