With its cheerful streets lined with merrily lit trees and quaint old world architecture draped in red ribbons and verdant green boughs, Victoria is a wonderful place to visit over the Christmas season. Downtown in particular sings with the holiday spirit, with shops offering locally made goodies perfect for gift giving, and daily activities sure to banish the Grinch in anyone.
Centennial Square, in front of City Hall, is the epicenter of Victoria’s annual Christmas events. One year a small ice skating rink was erected, allowing for locals and visitors alike to take a turn gliding on skates, a real novelty in a city that rarely sees freezing temperatures. Back again for 2014 is a Ferris wheel that has been set up to spin riders up and around for an unusual view of downtown.
Another favourite weekend activity are free horse-drawn trolley rides, giving passengers a relaxing tour around the streets of Victoria’s Old Town from the seats of a gaily decorated trolley. Other annual holiday highlights include the IEOA Truck Light Convoy and Food Drive, in which big trucks festooned with brilliant lights and decorations parade through downtown, and, of course, the Santa Parade, featuring local businesses and organizations sharing their holiday spirit.
For more holiday activities and ideas, the Downtown Victoria Business Association has a great Christmas Guide.
Market Square is lined with many local shops with great gift opportunities, ranging from stylish men and women’s clothing, quirky home goods, and even a comprehensive camera shop. It’s also a great spot to catch holiday-related events, such as the annual Tuba Christmas, a concert in which more than 65 tuba players serenade shoppers with Christmas favourites, and a live performance by the ZarYevka Ballet of excerpts from the Nutcracker Suite. For those looking for a cute holiday photo opportunity, Market Square also has the “Big Big Mistletoe”, an oversize excuse to plant a kiss on someone special.
Once the sun goes down at the Inner Harbour, sparkling stars light up the lamp posts and the Legislative Buildings glow in the early darkness, outlined with more than 3000 lights, including festive colours for the season. Also worth a visit is the enormous Christmas tree inside the building, dripping with ornaments and extending all the way up into the gallant rotunda.
The iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel is also located in the Inner Harbour and is home to the Festival of Trees, an event supporting the BC Children’s Hospital. Trees are decorated by local businesses, sponsors and individuals in styles ranging from classically beautiful to outrageously whimsical, and the public is encouraged to wander the stately halls of the grand hotel and vote for their favourite tree by donation.
Looking for the perfect gift from a local Victoria business this Christmas? Here are my personal recommendations:
Merry Christmas from Victoria!