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Living in Victoria is not cheap! There is a reason why tourists from all over the world visit! Although this is great for businesses it often leaves parents on a budget in a bit of a pickle. So, we've compiled a list of 20 fabulous free & cheap activities for kids to do.
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#1. Beacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill Park is by far the most well-known park in Victoria and for a valid reason. Not only is it surrounded by unparalleled natural beauty but the park also features numerous playgrounds, a petting zoo, sports fields, miniature golfing green and even a water park facility known as the Watering Garden. The park is an absolutely perfect spot year round to bring the entire family. Chances are even if you come on a lousy day there will be sailboarders hitting the waves, which is always a spectacular sight.
Note: attractions such as the Children’s Petting Zoo and Watering Garden are open seasonally.
#2. Fisherman’s Wharf
If you are new to Victoria or just want to expose your children to the funkiest village in town we recommend taking a trip to the Fisherman’s Wharf. Here you will be able to check out the Float Home Village, see the Harbour Ferries dropping off and picking up passengers & if you are lucky see an array of sea life (like seals!) beneath the docks. If you get hungry there is an eclectic mix of restaurants right in the Wharf.
Located smack dab in Victoria’s city centre is the Inner Harbour Causeway. This waterfront location is perfect for tourists and locals alike to explore unique British Columbia offerings such as local handicrafts, street performers and even a food truck or two. A visit to the lower causeway won’t take more than a few minutes but if you are already in the downtown area this would be the perfect way to cap your day off.
#4. Mount Doug
If your family is keen on exploring some of the best trails on the Island and scoring an amazing view of the entire city than a trip to Mount Doug (as the locals call it) should be at the top of your to-do list. With loads of well marked trails, access to the beach and even washroom facilities this park has it all! We suggest packing a picnic lunch and spending the day. Tip: if you don’t have time for the full hike there is a full service road that will take you to the top of the hill.
Photography By: Film Victoria
#5. Galloping Goose Regional Trail
Another free activity to do with your kids (as long as they already own a bicycle and helmet) is taking a bike ride on the multi-use 55 km trail. (Don’t worry we are not suggesting riding the whole thing!) Going on a family bike ride along the Galloping Goose is a perfect way to stay active with the entire family. Perks of the ride include travelling past some of the sweetest scenery on the Island including hidden lakes, coves, marshland and urban back streets.
Did you know that Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada? Bring your family and step back in time. Besides the amazing food one of our personal favourite parts is walking through Fan Tan Alley, which is officially “Canada’s narrowest road”. Now totally safe, this teeny tiny alley used to be the home of opium and gambling dens.
#7. Caddy Bay
If you are not afraid of running into the ominous Cadborosaurus and want to take your kids to a truly one-of-a-kind ocean playground we highly recommend stopping by Cadboro-Gyro Park. Thanks to recent renovations the park is more accessible for all ages and now includes wheelchair and scooter ramps. The park is also in perfect proximity to one of the cutest Starbuck’s in Saanich, which is sure to keep the entire family happy.
#8. The Lakes
Elk and Beaver Lake is the perfect spot for outdoor enthusiasts to spend their Sunday morning. Rain or shine there is always tons of dog walkers, joggers, rowers and families out or around the lake. The main loop around the lake is 10km, so keep that in mind if you have young children as it is quite the distance.
Photography By: Active Rain
#10. Willows Park
We cannot think of a playground with a nicer view! For a fabulous free activity bring your kids to Willows Park. This developed waterfront park is complete with a play area, changing rooms, washrooms, picnic tables, sandy beach and large grassland area. Dogs are allowed year-round on the pathways and grassy areas but they must be leashed at all times.
#11. Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre
Just a quick commute outside the city is the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. Although admission is not free the centre is a not-for-profit so you know your money will be put to good use. Once inside your children will get to see over 20 live underwater exhibits and even a touch pool area. Here kids can tickle an urchin or even shake hands with a sea star!
Photography By: Distinctly Sidney
#12. The Royal BC Museum
Founded in 1886 the Royal BC Museum has been a favourite destination among families ever since. Here kids can follow dinosaur footsteps, slide back in time to the Ice Age or even stroll through a forest full of cougars and grizzly bears. Please note that admission is not free.
#13. Scenic Route
With the price of gas being so low we think this is the perfect time to take your family for a mini road trip! Keep your eyes peeled for “Scenic Drive” signs. A good place to start at Mile Zero. Once you are on the route you will drive past some of the most beautiful views on the Island. We suggest taking a cute family photo at the famous Adirondack chairs which are perched on the rocks along the route.
Photography By: That Girl in Victoria
#14. Pacifica Paddle Sports
On a sunny, springtime afternoon we couldn’t think of a better activity to do than renting a kayak and hitting the water. Pacifica Paddle Sports is one of the most experienced and dedicated water sport enthusiast companies on the Island. Rentals are not free, however we think the experience will be priceless for your kiddies.
#15. High Tea
Sipping on a cup of tea is one of the most Victorian things to do. However, this act can cost you a pretty penny (especially if you want to experience high tea at the Empress). Want to know our suggestion? Get your girls dressed up and take them for a walk through the fancy lobby of the elegant and formal tea room at the Empress. Here your kids can catch a glimpse of the fancy finger food and frilly decorations. After we suggest going home and having your own tea party! Maybe prepare a few kid friendly treats ahead of time like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into fun shapes or mini chocolate chip cookies.
Another fabulous and free family activity to do in Victoria is taking a walk along the Ogden Point Breakwater. For those who don’t know the Breakwater is a narrow walkway jutting out 800m into the ocean. With a lighthouse at the far end we think this walk is as picturesque as it gets!
Photography By: Souvenir Pixels (note this picture was taken before the handrails were installed)
#17. Greater Victoria Public Library
Islanders often overlook or forget to stop by the various Greater Victoria Public Libraries with their children. On a cold spring day this is the perfect place to pick out a new book. Some libraries even put on toddler story time. Hint: while your kids are occupied you may manage to snag a few minutes with the free magazine rack. Score!
#18. Mystic Vale & Finnerty Gardens
Another fun and free activity to do outdoors with your family is going for a walk through Mystic Vale and the Finnerty Gardens. Both can be easily accessed on the UVic campus. Our only word of caution is to make sure to bring clothes for your children that can get muddy as both attractions tend to get a little sloppy in the spring.
#19. Miniature World
Want to take your kids to a unique tourist attraction that both locals and visitors love? A quick visit to Miniature World is just what they need. With over 85 miniature dioramas your kiddies will get to feel like giants! Please note that admission is not free but very cheap!
#20. Oak Bay Marina
If you have never fed a seal you need to! If you have already fed a seal you know you need to do it again! Simply grab a Toonie and head down to the Oak Bay Marina. Make a quick stop at the gift shop to grab a baggy of little fishes and get ready for the time of your life.
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