The proof is in the pudding: a Christmas in Victoria is a magical experience you’ll never forget. As if it were written out of your favourite Christmas storybook, Victoria’s brilliant architecture, whimsical gardens, and charming carriage rides come to life in a new light, festooned with glittering lights and flowing ribbons. Ring in the season with a charming four-day getaway in Canada’s most Christmas-y city.
SUGGESTED HOTEL: MAGNOLIA HOTEL & SPA
Spark your holiday spirit by staying at one of Victoria’s most elegant boutique hotels, situated in the heart of downtown. Magnolia Hotel & Spa is located near some of our city’s most impressive light displays, holiday shopping opportunities, and popular festive events. Sip on hot mulled apple cider and seasonal treats in the hotel’s lobby, a welcome gift from The Courtney Room – The Magnolia’s luxurious restaurant. Need to wind down? Take a break from the festivities in the relaxing atmosphere of the Spa Magnolia, a wellness experience that’ll have you feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on more Christmas cheer.
SUGGESTED HOTEL: OAK BAY BEACH HOTEL
Just a quick bike ride or bus ride from downtown, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel makes for an immaculate, resort-style Christmas getaway. Start a new tradition with your family, or continue an old one in a heritage oceanside hotel that is decked out for the holidays. Their outdoor ocean-side hot tubs and fire pits are the perfect way to warm up after a long day in our city’s wonderland. If you are staying on Christmas Day itself, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel offers an ever-popular lavish Christmas brunch event, complete with an omelet station and a carving station in the Grand Lobby.
DAY 1: GETTING HERE FROM SEATTLE: ARRIVAL BY FRS CLIPPER
Cruise into your favourite Christmas Destination with the Clipper. A round-trip excursion on one of their sleek, high-speed catamarans is as scenic as it is affordable. A holiday package, which includes a trip to the Butchart Gardens’ Festival of Lights display, is available to book for after December 1st if you’re planning to stay 2 or more nights in Victoria.
GETTING HERE FROM VANCOUVER: ARRIVAL BY HARBOUR AIR
As one of the world’s largest all-seaplane airlines (and soon to pilot one of the world’s first electric planes!) is Harbour Air, a fast and scenic way to get into Victoria from Vanouver. Flying from downtown to downtown in just 35 minutes, you’ll love your flight so much, that you may consider booking your own panoramic tour!
After disembarking from the ferry or the seaplane, you’ve officially arrived in a Winter Wonderland – the island version. Twinkling lights and festive old-world charm accessorize our city, offering a world of nostalgia, magic, and adventure at once.
Your next stop will instantly put you in the full swing of Christmas cheer. The Magic of Christmas lights display at The Butchart Gardens is nothing short of dazzling, where the ethereal Gardens are transformed under the glow of thousands of twinkling lights. Challenge yourself in finding the Twelve Days of Christmas hidden throughout the Gardens. Listen to festive brass and traditional carollers from 5pm onwards, then warm up with a hot chocolate and gingerbread at the Coffee Shop. Walking the gardens can work up an appetite, so drop into The Dining Room for an elegant garden-side dinner between 5:00 to 8:00pm (reservations are strongly recommended). Lace up your best (and warmest!) shoes, as you will easily spend a few hours taking in the magic. Please note that this attraction is best enjoyed once it gets dark.
Rise and shine – it’s the second day of your island Christmas. Head over to the stunning Bard & Banker, which decorates their space with flowing ribbons, aromatic pine, and lights for the holidays. Steeped in both history and holiday tradition, this famous building was actually home to a Christmas store back in 1988 all the way to 2007!
Make your way over to the Hotel Grand Pacific. This will mark your first stop of the Gingerbread Showcase held by Habitat for Humanity. Artists and sculptors of all ages come together to craft formidable gingerbread houses – or castles, mansions, towers, palaces! Grab a very fitting gingerbread-latte from a local coffee shop and walk through an icing-frosted village where gingerbread men, kids, cats, dogs, and sometimes even dragons come together to play.
That was a tree-mendous amount of walking, so let’s slow it down a bit. One more short walk over to the IMAX Victoria (located in the Royal BC Museum) will pay off, as they are playing a Christmas classic: The Polar Express! Perhaps you’ve seen it countless times, but never like this: the big-screen experience for this adventurous film will enchant you.
For lunch or late-lunch, we recommend the vibrant atmosphere of 10 Acres Commons. Farm-to-table dining is taken to another level with 10 Acres – their farm is just a snowball’s throw away, in North Saanich! The patio on Humboldt street is open year-round, made do-able by cozy heat lamps.
The time has come for a charming carriage tour – or rather, a sleigh ride! Tally-Ho Carriage Tours is carrying on their annual tradition of exploring the lovely heritage district of James Bay, via horse-drawn sleigh. While you can book your 30, 45, or 60 minute tour any time of the day, we recommend booking it later in the day as you will be able to see the neighbourhood’s dazzling holiday lights. Tally-Ho’s majestic horses give Rudolph a run for his money!
The weather outside’s not frightful… Victoria’s winter temperatures are so delightful! To tie up the evening, we recommend checking out Christmas on the Veranda at the Fairmont Empress. Food and s’mores can be enjoyed from the iconic hotel’s outdoor fireplaces, looking out towards our Inner Harbour – which now reflects the red, gold, and green glow of our Parliament Buildings. While you are there, check out the Empress’ grand Christmas Tree in the Main Lobby – one of the finest and largest Trees Victoria has to offer. Please note that Christmas on the Veranda is offered on Fridays and Saturdays only.
As a back-up for a harbour-view dinner, we would highly recommend checking out LURE Restaurant & Bar, located at the Delta Hotel by Marriott Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort. Each winter, LURE sets up heated dining domes decorated with lights that are festive, fun, and a testament to our hospitality scene’s creativity. They very much resemble a snow-globe!
Rise and shine! This day is best enjoyed if you have access to a vehicle. Visit the Malahat Skywalk, about a 40 minute drive from downtown Victoria. Take a break from the fast-pace of the season to reconnect in nature – as well as at Santa’s Workshop. Create your own ornaments, bite into the Claus’ famous family cookie recipe, and enjoy the breathtaking views from atop the 40-meter spiral tower. You may even spot Santa’s sleigh flying through!
You are hopping from Christmas Village to Christmas Village today! Make the 15 minute drive from Malahat Skywalk to visit Merridale Cidery & Distillery, who create a welcoming Christmas wonderland out of their organic apple orchard. Santa has his elves hard at work here pressing apples – and he even lets the public visit Rudolph and all his reindeer friends at the stables. You can even visit Snoopy at his ice rink! If you are hungry, Merridale offers a delicious farm-to-fork menu (with an all-day brunch offer!), many of their dishes incorporating their famous apples.
Make the drive back to Victoria. It was a busy day, but you’re not Christmas-ed out just yet! It’s starting to get dark, and now is the perfect time to take a downtown Christmas Lights tour. If you’d like a ride in luxury, L.A. Limousine’s Holiday Light Tours will take you to all the best spots in town– but you can opt to walk to them as well.
Make your way to the BC Parliament Buildings. These are hard to miss – at this time of the year, our Parliament is decked out in green, gold, and red twinkling lights, making it resemble a giant gingerbread palace!
Afterwards, head down Government Street towards Trounce Alley and Bastion Square – both very picturesque and charming with their holiday lights. Make your way over to the Lights of Wonder display at Centennial Square, running from December 1st – 31st. This outdoor event will feature four interactive light tunnels, a 40-foot festive tree, and live entertainment!
Your first stop on Day 4 is an enchanting festival of holiday trees! Grab a tasty bite and a tea latte from the cozy Murchie’s Tea and Coffee Shop, and head over to the Bay Centre, where all the magic is happening. A community celebration with a good cause, the Festival of Trees has the town coming together to decorate themed trees that spectators can vote on. Each vote donates $5 to the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. The 60+ creatively designed trees are a testament to Victorians’ creativity and community-culture, making your shopping trip even more special. Keep an eye out for our Destination Greater Victoria tree, which will be tea themed!
To continue the holiday shopping, drive or take the bus to Uptown. An outdoor shopping and entertainment centre in Victoria, Uptown is beautifully lit up and decorated, with an extraordinary Christmas tree in the centre. Santa visits Uptown as early as November 21st, staying cozy in a Traditional Cottage and ready for photos and gift ideas for those on the Nice List. Pay him a visit, then Christmas shop to your hearts content in internationally-known stores and local boutiques alike.
Tip: If you need any further gift inspiration, check out our Greater Victoria Holiday Gift Guide!
Well done – you’ve reached the end of your holiday shopping list. You’ve earned a chance to kick back, relax, and enjoy a show – a very unique-to-Victoria Christmas show, that is. New to this year, you can enjoy a 3-D projected light mapping installation that follows a Christmas story, while sailing on the Inner Harbour… in a beloved pickleboat! Victoria Harbour Ferry will be offering their Sleigh Boat Ride tour from December 16th to the 31st from 5pm onward, and it is sure to be the talk of the town this holiday season. You will want to book your tickets in advance, and soon – this will be a very popular attraction!
A festive “Pickleboat” from Christmas-es past. Photo by Deddeda Stemler.
It will be hard to wind down from all the Christmas cheer you’ve experienced in the last 4 days. You have one more comfortable sleep and one more festive brunch planned out before you depart our holiday paradise.
It’s our final day in The West Pole/Victoria – and we have one more can’t-be-missed brunch planned for you. Head over to Bear & Joey for a healthy vacation-closing brunch. Inspired by Sydney’s café culture and fusing in west coast fare, the ambiance of Bear & Joey is something to write home about, paired with dishes that are almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.
Sadly, your trip to Victoria has come to an end – though your vacation memories will last a lifetime. We hope you’ve had a charmed experience exploring all that our city has to offer! Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!