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20+ Awesome Things To Do in Victoria BC That Kids Will Love

20+ Awesome Things To Do in Victoria BC That Kids Will Love

With the US / Canadian border opening back up, it’s time to start planning another trip up to Vancouver Island! There are so many great things to do in Victoria with kids or just as adults. It’s one of our favorite Canadian cities and I know you’ll love it too!

Victoria BC is our go-to destination for fun and easy weekend trips around the holidays and in spring when the weather is getting nice. Yes, we go to Victoria often, but it’s because we love it so much! We’ve figured out our top favorite activities and tips for visiting Victoria with kids and get ready, because we’ve got 18+ things for you to do to have an unforgettable trip.

Victoria with kids is an adventure full of fun, architecture, gardens, wildlife and more. 18 activities for a family trip to Victoria BC. 2traveldads.com

Locale of Victoria BC

Victoria BC is on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, just north of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and just west of Vancouver, BC. It’s a fairly large city and is situated on a harbor, the Inner Harbour, and then stretches out to its suburbs of Saanich, Sidney, and Sooke. Getting there is fairly easy and doable on nearly any budget.

Transportation to Victoria

We have written about Victoria many times and have a lot of details around transportation to the city here, in our article highlighting a great 3 Day Victoria itinerary. Here’s a recap though and top tips for getting to Victoria with kids.

By ferry, you can depart for Vancouver Island from either Vancouver (Tsawwassen terminal) or Port Angeles. Both sailings are approximately 1.5 hours so which you choose depends on your starting point, travel schedule and budget. Check out the map to see which makes sense for you. You can also take the passenger-only Victoria Clipper from Seattle, which is a great option for those adding Victoria with kids to their family trip to Washington.

BOOK VICTORIA CLIPPER TICKETS HERE

Note: you can also do the auto ferry from Anacortes, WA but it takes a bit longer since it goes through the San Juan Islands and makes several stops along the way.

You can also fly to Victoria from both Seattle and Vancouver via seaplane or regular aircraft. This is for sure not the budget option for a family to get to Vancouver Island, particularly if you want also have a car on the island, but it’s an option. Flying in via Seaplane is really cool and it’s one of the best things to do in Victoria!

Remember, Victoria is in Canada so a passport is required. DO NOT FORGET PASSPORTS.

Blackball Ferry MV Coho leaving Inner Harbor Victoria BC 1

Travel Requirements During COVID-19

If you are visiting Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are more requirements than just the normal passport/travel documents. During this heightened state of health precautions, in addition to your passport or travel documents, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the following are REQUIRED to enter Canada:

  • ArriveCAN approved receipt of accepted submission within 72 hours of arrival into Canada.
  • Proof of negative PCR COVID-19 test (not rapid antigen test) within 72 hours of arrival into Canada.
  • Hard copy proof of full vaccination.

For the most up-to-date travel requirements to enter Canada via any transportation method, visit the Canadian government travel site for all details and restrictions. There is a new system for submitting travel plans before entering Canada, so be sure to complete that process PRIOR to your departure day.

Additionally, if you’re flying back to the USA from anywhere during the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC requires the following:

All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States.

Best Things to Do in Victoria with Kids

Since we aren’t digging into all of the hiking and kayaking destinations around Victoria, we’re going to keep our top activities in Victoria with kids to things in Victoria proper, Saanich, Brentwood Bay and Sidney. Since this part of the island is rather condensed, getting between each spot is fairly easy by bus, super easy by car, and totally doable (with time) by bicycle if weather is permitting.

Note: please confirm hours of operation with each activity before adding to your plan. We’ve included posted hours, but they are subject to change without notice or in conjunction with events.

Victoria Bug Zoo – gross and fascinating

I’m starting here because if you need to keep one thing in mind to leverage when you do Victoria with kids, it’s the Victoria Bug Zoo. I know, this is not what you’d expect at the top of a list for such a beautiful, amazing city, but it’s a winner with kids (and adults). The Bug Zoo has a very impressive collection of tarantulas, stick bugs, exotic insects and butterfly specimens. This was an awesome stop for us and made Victoria with kids an easy addition to our world-schooling plans.  Tip:  take part in the “tour” and actually hold the bugs. So cool.

Location:  near the Fairmont Empress  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  11am – 4pm M-F, 11am – 5pm Sa/Su

Cost:  kids/seniors (5-17) $8   adults $12   4 and under are free;

Website:  Victoria Bug Zoo

Taylor Family at Victoria Bug Zoo Victoria Canada 3

Royal BC Museum – incredible history and indigenous art

We’re very selective about which museums we take our boys to. We want to be sure they’re interesting, educational, and that they’ll genuinely feel a connection to something there. The Royal BC Museum checked all those boxes. We went for the totem poles and incredible First Nations exhibits, and left excited about Egyptology and prehistoric creatures.

As adults we could’ve stayed for at least three hours, but with two kids we only explored the Royal BC Museum for just under two hours. The Royal BC is one of the best things to do in Victoria no matter what your interests are. It’s great for all ages.

Tip: in the First Nations area, take time to explain to kids about western expansion and the obliteration of native tribes. It’ll make the whole exhibit must more understandable.

Location:  near the Fairmont Empress  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  10am – 5pm daily

Cost:  kids (6-18) $16.95   adults $26.95   seniors (65+) $18.95   5 and under are free

WebsiteRoyal BC Museum

Taylor Family in First Nations exhibition Royal BC Museum Victoria BC 6

Victoria Butterfly Gardens – beautiful butterflies and flamingos

If you follow our podcast and listen often you know that the Victoria Butterfly Gardens really impressed us and we think it’s one of the best things to do in Victoria. We’ve visited many butterfly pavilions in our travels but the Victoria Butterfly Gardens impressed us for a few reasons:

  • number of butterflies
  • diversity of other exhibits and inclusion of birds (flamingos and parrots particularly)
  • availability of staff to answer questions
  • coat check – seriously, this is exceptionally important when you’re spending an hour in an 80 degree humid space.

When doing Victoria with kids, spending time at the Butterfly Gardens is a great addition to a day at Butchart Gardens or an afternoon lazing around Brentwood Bay. Allow 1.5 hours or more, depending on how much your kids enjoy insects and how much you need to escape to a tropical paradise. 🙂

Location:  near the Butchart Gardens, Brentwood Bay area  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  10am – 4pm Sep-Mar, 10am – 5pm Apr-Jun, 9:30am – 6pm Jul-Aug

Cost:  kids (5-12) $6   student (13-17) $12   adults $16.50   seniors (65+) $12   4 and under are free

WebsiteVictoria Butterfly Gardens

Swallowtail Butterfly at Victoria Butterfly Gardens Victoria BC 3

Visit Craigdarroch Castle

Can you really explain the cool buildings and Victorian era lifestyle to kids without including a little history? Or a castle? You could, but why would you want to?  Craigdarroch Castle is a nice walk or short ride just outside of the downtown area. Victoria with kids is very doable on foot, including walking to the Castle, so plan to visit on a nicer day and enjoy the neighborhood along the way.

Once there, do a guided tour (not too long) of the really impressive rooms and grounds. Watch for ghosts, ask questions of the docents, and take lots of cool pictures!  Note: if you live on Vancouver Island and have a Greater Victoria Public Library card, you can use the ePass system for free admission to Craigdarroch Castle.

Location:  east of downtown, Rockland neighborhood  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  10am – 4:30pm Sep-Jun, 9am-7pm Jun-Sep

Cost:  kids (6-12) $5   student (13-17) $9.25   adults $14.25   seniors (65+) $13.25   5 and under are free

WebsiteCraigdarroch Castle

Taylor Family outside Craigdarroch Castle Victoria BC 2

Miniature World – way cooler than you think

Our kids’ favorite thing in any museum are always the dioramas; you know, the scenes that are setup like a snapshot in time of a town full of people or an event. Miniature World is nothing but dioramas and they are impressive! I know this sounds weird, but Miniature World is one of the best things to do in Victoria with kids.

From castles and villages to space exploration, Miniature World is full of the most impressively intricate models. If only the kids could play with them unsupervised… Tip:  this is a great activity to add to a Victoria Bug Zoo visit, as it’s very close and will keeps the momentum of fun going.

Location:  near the Fairmont Empress  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  9am – 5pm Sep-May, 9am – 9pm May-Sep

Cost:  kids (5-12) $8   student (13-17) $10   adults $16   4 and under are free

WebsiteMiniature World

Taylor Family with Gullivers Travels diorama at Miniature World Victoria BC 1

Explore Chinatown‘s Alleys and Shops

When doing Victoria with kids, you HAVE TO VISIT CHINATOWN. It’s such an easy walk from the downtown area that you don’t even realize you’re nearly there almost all the time. We actually spend a lot of time in Chinatown during each visit to Victoria due to the great restaurants (Chinese and not), the interesting stores (for more than standard Chinatown souvenirs) and the great photo ops.

The red Chinese lanterns are always hung and the vibe is always buzzing. Must see: Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest street in North America. There are many businesses off the alley and if you’re there early or late enough, it feel like you’ve stepped back in time to 1800s Chinatown.

Location:  just north of downtown  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  always open!

Cost:  free to explore

Available tour: we haven’t done this one, but it came highly recommended by the locals – Chinatown Walking Tour (still operating during COVID-19)

Taylor Family in Fantan Alley Chinatown Victoria BC 6

Victoria Harbour Ferry Rides – the coolest water taxi around

While the main part of Victoria proper is situated directly around the Inner Harbour, going from Chinatown to the Wharf area will be quite the long walk. Getting a sea lion’s eye view of the city from the water is a fun, unexpected activity to add to your trip to Victoria with kids.

The Victoria Harbour Ferry  offers 45 minute tours of the Inner Harbour, tours us the Gorge Waterway, and private tours. It’s a unique experience unlike any other boat tour in any city we’ve visited.  Note: the Victoria Harbour Ferry stops running in the Winter, returning in Spring.

Location:  first stop is the Empress Dock, map link has all stops to catch boat  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  11am – 4pm M-F, 11am – 5pm Sa/Su

Tour Cost:  kids  $20   adults  $30   seniors  $28 – water taxi fares range from $6 – $24 depending on stops

WebsiteVictoria Harbour Ferry

Full Taylor Family on Victoria Harbour Ferry water taxi Victoria BC 2

Enjoy the Harbour Water Ballet

Yes, you read that right. On a nice summer day, one of the best things to do in Victoria BC is to hang out on the waterfront, and bonus if you can catch one of the hilarious and cool Water Ballets. The small Victoria Harbour Ferry water taxi boats perform a synchronized ballet around the Inner Harbour while music plays on loud speakers.

For the best view, watch from the upper street level of either Government St or Belleville St. It can get crowded, so you might need to put kids on shoulders to watch the ferry water ballet. It’s only a few minutes though, so it’s not too bad. And the water taxis are the cutest boats you’ll ever see.

Location:  middle of the Inner Harbour

Hours:  10:45 am on Sundays, April through October

Cost:  totally free to watch

Water Ballet with Victoria Harbour Ferry water taxi Victoria BC 2

Go Wildlife and Whale Watching

Depending on the season and what you want to sea, you’ll have several great options for wildlife and whale watching out of Victoria. You could do the crazy open speed boat out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca leaving from the Inner Harbour, or you could do a more tame, longer tour (kid friendly whale watching). We’ve done these and enjoyed them, but really fell in love with the Salish Sea when doing an ecotour out of Sidney, BC.

Orcas in Haro Strait off Victoria BC 1

Ecocruising is a small operator running out of Brentwood Bay and Sidney, both about a half hour from downtown Victoria. Meandering through small islands and rookeries, Ecocruising provides up close, respectful wildlife viewing ranging from orcas and porpoises to harbor seals and bald eagles. This is always a highlight when we do a trip to Victoria with kids. We love ecotourism and this company is passionate about sharing and protecting the environment of the Salish Sea.

Victoria Location:  Inner Harbour near tourist office  Google Maps link here.

Sidney Location:  Canoe Cove Marina  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  throughout the day, typically spring and summer – charters available

Cost:  prices range from $40 per person to over $100, depending on tour operator and length of trip

Taylor Family Ecocruising with Sidney Harbor Tours Sidney BC 3

Whale watching is one of the most special activities anywhere on the Salish Sea and Puget Sound. Grey and humpback whales frequently visit the waters around Victoria, but the resident and transient orca whales are what most guests are here to see. Focusing on eco-tourism, animal awareness and preservation, we cannot recommend Orca Spirit Adventures enough for a Victoria whale watching experience, especially with kids.  Book THIS EXACT TOUR here!

Taylor Family whale watching with Orca Spirit Adventures out of Victoria BC 2

See Totems at Thunderbird Park

Part of the Royal BC Museum, this collection of totem poles and a replica longhouse is worth visiting. You can pair a visit to Thunderbird Park with your trip to the museum or work it in wherever you have the time. The totem poles are best viewed/photographed early in the day when the sun is on them, but if you’re doing Victoria with kids, you’re probably not going to be up super early and out and about.

Because Thunderbird Park is located outside of the Royal BC Museum, it’s free to check out the totems both outside in the park and in the glassed in pavilion. There are quite a few, so take your time enjoying them. Appreciating the indigenous culture is a must when in Canada, and seeing totem poles and structures is one of the best things to do in Victoria.

Location:  between Royal BC Museum and Beacon Hill Park  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  8am officially, but it’s outdoors so always on display

Cost:  free

WebsiteThunderbird Park Victoria

First Nations totem poles at Thunderbird Park Royal BC Museum Victoria BC 5

We have been to the Butchart Gardens four or five times and still love it. An ideal representation of Victorian gardens, it’s much more kid-friendly than you might expect. True, you can’t let the kids run free and pick flowers, but they’ll enjoy the Butchart Gardens just the same. There are fountains, sculptures, a Japanese garden, totem poles, and in the winter there’s even an ice rink. 

Tip: be sure to pick up a scavenger hunt sheet from the visitors desk to give the kids a little something extra to keep them interested.

And for those who love getting dizzy, the carousel at the Butchart Gardens is one of the most beautiful ones we’ve seen. The cost to ride is an extra $2 per person (parents ride free for safety).

Location:  north of Victoria in Brentwood Bay  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  9am daily, closing time varies greatly by season and events check hours here

Cost:  kids (5-12) $2   adults $21.50   youth (13-17) $10.75   4 and under are free – book tour from downtown here

Websitethe Butchart Gardens

Fall Colors in Sunken Garden at Butchart Gardens Victoria BC 2

Christmas at the Butchart Gardens

We can’t describe it well enough to do it justice, but the Butchart Gardens at Christmas are amazing. From the glowing forest to the Twelve Days of Christmas theme, it’s remarkable. Add to the ornate gardens an ice rink and live musical performers and you’ll have the most wonderful holiday experience in Victoria.  

Check out our complete article about Christmas in Victoria for more ideas.

Taylor Family with Christmas Lights in Sunken Garden at Butchart Gardens Christmas Victoria BC 2

Learn a Little at Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea

Since we recommend getting a taste of what’s just beyond downtown Victoria, a day trip to Sidney is a great idea. The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is a small aquarium located just off the marina in quint little Sidney. The Centre has touch tanks and exhibits showcasing the native marine life (except for mammals) of the surrounding bodies of water. With lots of hands-on activities, it’s a great morning activity in Sidney before walking around the waterfront and downtown.

FYI, Sidney is about 20 minutes from downtown Victoria. It’s a nice little adventure and is great for seeing a different side of Vancouver Island but is still really close to Victoria.

Location:  Sidney marina area  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  11am – 4pm M-F, 11am – 5pm Sa/Su

Cost:  kids (4-12) $8   youth (13-18) $12   adults $17.50   seniors (65+) $14   3 and under are free

WebsiteShaw Centre for the Salish Sea

Taylor Family at Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea Sidney BC 6

Do the Totem pole Scavenger Hunt

One of the things we love about living in the Pacific Northwest are all of the totem poles and native art everywhere. Victoria with kids is one big ongoing scavenger hunt to find totem poles! They are all over the place, but there are many that you have to know where to look. We’ve created a map to guide you around Victoria and beyond to find a wide variety of totem poles.

Tip:  If you’re looking to book a great hotel that’s full of art, the Inn at Laurel Point has a very impressive collection of First Nations art and artifacts, but it’s for guests to enjoy while staying there only. It’s one of our favorite hotels in Victoria.

Location:  all around Victoria’s downtown and beyond  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  all day and night, but be respectful of local businesses and posted hours

Cost:  free except for admission to the Royal BC Museum

Bear Totem on Inner Harbour Victoria BC 1

Tour the Parliament Building

We’re always fascinated by grand buildings and the parliament building in Victoria is no exception. You can actually add a tour of parliament to your Victoria with kids itinerary very easily, as they run tours daily. You can do short “express” tours of about 20 minutes or you can do the full architecture tour which lasts 90 minutes. 

Photography may be limited and tour schedules may be changed depending on when parliament is in session, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to get onto a tour during one of your days in Victoria. Tip: if you have small kids, the express tour is recommended as the building is a functioning government space and longer tours may make for antsy children.

Location:  near the Fairmont Empress  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  tours begin at 9am, check website for times and cancellations

Cost:  free

Tour websiteVictoria Parliament tours

Taylor Family in British Columbia Parliament rotunda Victoria BC 1

Relax in a Public Square

This sounds odd, but the city of Victoria is full of small and large courtyards surrounded by shops and cafes. You’ll find the Public Market, Market Square, Bastion Square are all very easy to get to and each is full of good food and interesting shops and galleries. Perfect to add to a day in Victoria with kids. Our favorite is Market Square.

With each trip to Victoria, we like to visit Beadworld in Market Square for working with some veteran bead artisans, making souvenir bracelets. It is the perfect morning activity: a craft project and a great way to bring home a zero-waste souvenir. And then we get coffee and hot chocolate right after, so that is always a win too. Check out our favorite restaurants in Victoria BC!

Public square locations (with map links):  Market Square   Bastion Square   Public Market   Trounce Alley

Taylor Family in Market Square Victoria BC 2

Explore Beacon Hill Park: one of the best things to do in Victoria

Beacon Hill Park in Victoria has long been our favorite city park in North America. Spending an afternoon at Beacon Hill Park is a must for doing Victoria with kids. Between the peacocks running around, the Children’s Farm, the playgrounds, walking trails, views from the bluff, the tallest free-standing totem pole in the world, and ornate Victorian gardens, it’s an incredible place.

Confession: it’s cooler than Seattle’s Volunteer Park or SF’s Golden Gate Park (IMHO). Beacon Hill Park is really impressive and is great in any weather (except pouring rain). Visit in summer for the most amazing flowers and views, but then visit in winter for relaxing in the crisp sunshine and walking the trails. Tip: another great park is Irving Park. You’ll find peacocks there too, as well as a labyrinth.

Location:  south of downtown to the bluffs  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  dawn to dusk

Cost:  kids/seniors (5-17) $8   adults $12   4 and under are free

WebsiteBeacon Hill Park – City of Victoria

Taylor Family with Peacocks at Beacon Hill Park Victoria BC 2

Biking the Galloping Goose Trail of Victoria

Biking the Galloping Goose Trail out of Victoria is so much fun and great exercise! This is a great summer activity for Victoria with kids, especially if you have older children. Starting downtown or anywhere really, you head north out of the main core of Victoria to connect to the Galloping Goose trail, which will take you up to the Butchart Gardens and Brentwood Bay.

It’s a great way to experience the southern end of Vancouver Island. Heading east into the farming valleys of Saanichton and then south along the Lochside Trail, you’ll ride through neighborhoods, sunflower fields, marshes and more. It’s incredible.

If you’re enjoying yourself biking out of Victoria, you can also head west towards the town of Sooke. There are endless hiking trails around Sooke and it’ll give you a very different Vancouver Island experience.

LocationBiking Route via Google Maps link here.

Hours:  daylight, not all bike paths are well lit

Cost:  bike rentals vary, from free through your hotel to $40/day

Rob Taylor biking by giant sunflowers Saanich Victoria BC 1

Eat a BeaverTail – the Fair Food of Canada

A Canadian delicacy, beaver tails are the great northern equivalent of an elephant ear. Usually dusted with cinnamon and sugar or topped with maple and whipped cream, or Nutella or apples or everything. One BeaverTail will suffice to share, but you know, when in Rome… There is a BeaverTail stand directly downtown, across from the Bug Zoo and then during festivals, like the street hockey festival in February or summer concerts. Tip: napkins and wet wipes.

Location:  downtown and at festivals  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  12 pm – 9pm – for the BeaverTails stand

Peanut Butter Beavertails downtown Victoria BC 1

Have Afternoon Tea or High Tea Service

I’ll confess, we haven’t done this with the kids yet, but we’ve done it as adults. It’s fun and delicious. Afternoon tea in Victoria can be as costly or as budget-friendly as you want it to be.  There are several shops and restaurants that will do a tea service but our two recommendation are the Empress Hotel (high end) or Murchie’s (budget). The Empress’ tea service is very comprehensive with trays of finger sandwiches, scones and deserts, including tea. 

Tip: the Empress does a children’s tea service also. It’s very nice and quite the touristy thing to do.

Murchie’s is much more relaxed and a better option for doing tea in Victoria with kids. Either doing a pre-set menu or going a la carte, you can do Murchie’s without reservations and you can linger as long as you like. This is our favorite place for tea. Tip: leave with a box of Orange Pekoe tea; it’s my favorite!

Location:  Fairmont Empress  Google Maps link here.  Murchie’s Tea downtown  Google Maps link here.

Hours:  late morning to mid-afternoon daily

Cost:  tea service can be as little as $15 for doing a la carte in smaller shops or up to $78 + tax & tip / person at the Empress

NOTE:  if you’re booking Tea at the Empress, know that there is a strict dress code and reservations require a credit card. Failure to show up will result in a 50% charge for the reserved tea services.

Fairmont Empress Lobby Lounge, photo credit: Tourism Victoria
Fairmont Empress Lobby Lounge, photo credit: Tourism Victoria

Find a great Canadian Souvenir

Souvenirs are a big part of travel for many families. When you do Victoria with kids, you’ll see a thousand things that you’ll want to buy. Here are our recommendations for bringing home a thoughtful souvenir from Victoria:

  • seek out something useful that won’t be thrown out when you get home
  • support tribal and local artisans by shopping for art and First Nations goods
  • shirts and hats showing the destination are great for striking up conversation with others when you get home
  • be zero-waste and avoid cheap toys and items made of plastic wrapped in plastic.

Keeping these points in mind you’ll for sure be able to find a thoughtful, memorable souvenir that you and your kids will enjoy long after your trip to Victoria is over.

Taylor Family with Canadian Flags on Government St Victoria BC 1

Wow! I know that was a lot of information, but aren’t you excited to plan a trip to Victoria with kids?! We’re so ready to go back and hopefully will do so in late spring, as that’s our favorite time to visit.  Please let us know if you have any questions or need any help planning your trip!

Also check out our 3 Day Victoria Itinerary for couples and our Family Travel Journal for more ideas.  And if you’re ready to book passage to Victoria from Seattle via the Victoria Clipper, check out Victoria Clipper tickets and packages here!

Want to pin this article for planning your own trip to Victoria with kids? Go for it!!!

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Victoria with kids is an easy vacation destination. Best of British Columbia including the Butchart Gardens, Chinatown and museums. Travel tips and itinerary ideas.

Aaron

Saturday 22nd of February 2020

This is a very in-depth article about the standard tourist events to partake in with a family. There are so many things to do in and around the Victoria that children love. You missed a couple of really good summer festivals for kids. One being the Saanich Strawberry Festival, and Cadboro Bay Festival. These two festivals contain many fun activities for children including fun games and bouncy castles with very little to no costs involved.