Victoria may be considered a small city, but we're BIG on culture, community and adventure. There is never a shortage of things to do as long as we're willing to explore, and while some things may be an hour or two away (yes, I know the Torontians are scoffing at us for that), they are always worth the drive. The views along the way aren't so bad either!
We are truly lucky to call this place home, and I find it important to instil this gratefulness in my son. Showing off this great city and all the Island has to offer has been my most fun way of doing so.
Here's my list of 101 activities for you and your kids to do together before they're all grown up, and PLEASE do add comments below with any of your own ideas. I'd love to try them too!
SpringVictoria often sees bursts of warm weather during Spring, making it the perfect time to get back out in the great outdoors. As the tulips start to show and the cherry blossoms fill the streets, you can't help but catch the happy vibes from locals.
1- Get tickets to Be A Tourist in Your Own Hometown. My favourite way to check out the attractions on the cheap!
2- Enjoy the cherry blossoms downtown. View Street in particular is stunning.
3- Stroll down Fan Tan Alley in China Town. In the heart of the oldest China Town in Canada is also Canada's narrowest alley filled with quirky shops. Try bubble tea while you're there.
4- Ride down the gigantic indoor waterslide at Commonwealth Pool and jump off their diving boards (they go up to 10 metres high!)
5- Bring blankets on a clear night and stargaze from Cattle Point in Oak Bay- one of the places in Greater Victoria with the least amount of light pollution.
6- Play games at the Board Game Cafe. For only $5 you can sit in and choose from any of their 800 GAMES. They have tasty snacks and milkshakes too.
7- Bike ride along the Galloping Goose Trail.
8- Hike in Mount Work Regional Park. Check trails beforehand, but there's options for all levels. McKenzie Bight is great for young ones (very little incline), or for a more challenging hike with rewarding views, do Mt Work or Squally Reach.
9- Visit the petting zoo in Beacon Hill Park for the Goat Stampede. Think running of the bulls... But with baby goals and clapping kids. This happens every day at 10:10am and 4:10pm and typically opens up in March for the spring and summer.
10- Celebrate Easter at a community-wide Easter egg hunt.
11- Have a tea party at Island View beach. We West Coasters don't have to wait for summer to enjoy the beach!
12- Climb the cadborosaurus at Gyro Park. Or visit another one of Victoria's best playgrounds.
13- Drive to Ladysmith and get tasty treats at the Old Towne Bakery (arguably the best cinnamon buns on the island!)
14- Walk around Swan Lake. This nature sanctuary is often overlooked, but is home to an incredible array of native plants and wild animals.
15- Zipline through the forest and get your adrenaline pumping.
17- Find sea urchins, crabs, sea stars and more in the tidal pools of Botanical Beach. Make sure you go when it's low tide to get the most out of finding creatures.
18- Play lazer tag at LazerCity Fun Centre.
19- Go camping on May Long Weekend. Victorians recognize this long weekend as the first weekend of camping, often symbolizing that summer is just around the corner!
SummerWhen this place really comes alive! And because of that... It is dubbed our favourite season here on the Island. We love seeing parents and children outside and taking advantage of the sunny skies and (mostly) comfortable weather.
20- Walk the breakwater at Ogden Point. This is one of the best places to catch an amazing West Coast sunset.
21- Take the 10 minute ferry to Sidney Spit and spend the day on the sandy beach.
22- Get ice cream at Beacon Drive In, the best soft serve in town.
23- Feed the seals at Oak Bay Marina. You can visit their cafe for ice cream too!
24- Cheer on the HarbourCat's and get a photo with Harvey the HarbourCat.
26- Ride a harbour ferry downtown and see the city skyline from the water.
27- Visit the Sidney Market along Beacon Ave, which happens every Thursday night during the summer.
28- Cool down at a splash park on a hot summers day, for free!
29- Go crabbing off of a pier. The Sidney Pier or James Island Pier are good go-to's.
30- Practice putting at Beacon Hill. Did you know every summer Beacon Hill opens up a small putting green for golfers and goofballs alike to practice their putting skills? Bring your old club and ball.
31- Go whale watching. Such an amazing experience to see orcas in real life! If you make a few trips to Vancouver you might catch them from the ferry too (they announce it).
32- Watch talented buskers on the cosway in the inner harbour, maybe even get your own charicature sketch!
33- Go to Sooke Potholes Provincial Park. One of the most popular swimming spots for locals and most memorable places for out-of-towners.
34- Take a day trip to Saltspring Island on a summery Saturday to visit the market.
35- Watch the Canada Day fireworks in the inner harbour.
36- Kayak along the Gorge.
37- Check out the annual Oak Bay Tea Party in June, there's carnival rides with beautiful views of Willows Beach and Mt Baker, plus fireworks to top it off!
38- Try out Geocaching on a hike, they are everywhere in our neck of the woods. It adds a little extra element of fun to hikes.
39- Trek over the suspension bridge for a swing at Mystic Beach.
40- While you're in the area, stop at the lesser-known Sandcut Beach and find the waterfalls. When the water is high, you can go right underneath!
41- Pick wild blackberries. Towards the end of summer, blackberries become-a-plenty! Often scattered around random trails, or if you want the jackpot, Lochside trail has tons.
42- Cheer on LOVE at the colourful and vibrant Pride Parade downtown.
43- Watch the Symphony Splash, the annual event that draws tens of thousands to the inner harbour on the Sunday of August's long weekend.
44- Go for a float at Durrance Lake. This clean lake doesn't have a lot of beach space, but join the many floaters who flock there on a warm and sunny day.
45- Spend a beach day at one of the incredible Oak Bay beaches. Willows Beach is sandy, with a park, change room, and concession making it a great option for families. Gonzales Beach is smaller and packed with people but awesome for trying out skimboarding!
46- Go see the incredible sandcastles at Parksville during their annual sandcastle competition.
47- Walk the entire boardwalk in Sooke. Despite all my times of being in Sooke, I only discovered this wonderful walk last year!
48- Watch a movie under the stars! Here's a schedule of outdoor movies put on by the community that are totally free- just bring a blanket and some snacks.
49- Walk along Fisherman's Wharf and check out the cute and colourful house boats.
51- Listen to free live music in the park at the Cameron Bandshell.
52- Eat fish'n'chips at Red Fish Blue Fish. Warning- You may have to wait in a loooong line, but that's the price you pay for the best in town. But at least the line is waterfront views.
53- Go for High Tea, a very Victorian thing to do. If you want to be fancy, The Empress is naturally your choice. However, Abkhazi Garden is more affordable and in my opinion a more pleasant experience.
54- Rent stand up paddle boards in Brentwood Bay and paddle through the inlet.
55- Spend a day tubing down Cowichan River.
56- Close off the summer at the Saanich Fair which happens every year on Labour Day Weekend. Yes, all good things come to and end...
AutumnWe know you'll FALL in love with Victoria during this time of year. Get it...? Ha. When the leaves start changing colours it's time to bring out cozy sweaters and wool socks, and it always seems to come at that perfect time when you're starting to feel like you need a break from the heat.
58- Take in a film on the IMAX at the Royal BC Museum.
59- Watch the Salmon Run at Goldstream. If your children have never seen the salmon run this is a must do! Imagine thousands of brightly coloured salmon swimming upstream right in front of you. It’s remarkable!
60- Go caving at Horne Lake.
61- Get lost in the Vancouver Island Corn Maze at Pendray Farms. The largest maze on the Island and they even incorporate a fun scavenger hunt into it!
63- If you're feeling gutsy, go on a walking ghost tour.
64- Go to a local Pumpkin Patch to pick out a perfect pumpkin... Let's be real, it's a pretty good photo-op too ;)
65- A personal favourite- check out the Bug Zoo where you can see giant walking sticks, scorpions, tarantulas, and more. Sometimes they'll let you hold them. My kids love this place!
67- Try a fun and unique drop-in class together. Cook Culture has great cooking classes on weekday evenings.
68- Check out the parasailers who jump off the cliffs at Clover Point on windy days.
69- Feel like a giant in Miniature World.
70- Go thrift shopping to make your very own and unique Halloween costume.
71- Visit Galey Farms for their Festival of Fear. There's a haunted house for kids, or a much, much scarier Carnevil Haunted House for the bigger kids who are brave.
72- Go trick-or-treating in your neighbourhood!
West Coast WintersSure it gets "cold" here in the winter, but nothing compared to our Canadian counterparts. Make sure your family takes advantage of our mild weather, just bundle up!
73- Visit an indoor play place! Here's our list of all the indoor play areas in and around Victoria to help you discover something new.
74- Watch a Victoria Royals game. As Canadians, hockey is in our blood.
75- Find unique gifts at a Christmas craft fair. This city has by far the most craft fairs (trust us- we operate in MANY cities across continent).
76- Eat tasty cupcakes and let your kids play while you sip a fancy coffee at Crumsby's. There's two locations, one in Royal Oak and one in Estevan Village.
77- Go ice skating at your nearby recreation centre.
78- Storm watch in Tofino or Uclulet. It may be rainier at this time of year, but it's cheaper and just as cool! Make sure you stop at Cathedral Grove along the way to get close and personal with ancient, 800 years old Douglas Firs.
79- Visit the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea. If you can't bring your kid to the ocean, bring the ocean to your kid! Experience 160 species of local marine life and learn more about our waters.
80- Go inside a real life castle at the famous Craigdarroch Castle.
81- Watch a movie in recliner seats at the Odeon, they're a game changer.
82- Visit Fort Rodd Hill, Canada's oldest West Coast Lighthouse and an icon of Victoria. Fun fact- the park is free for 2017!
83- Walk along the Westsong Walkway for nice views of the inner harbour. At this time of year because it gets dark so early, you'll see the Parliament Building all lit up.
85- Check out the Gingerbread Showcase and get inspired by the impressive Gingerbread creations, before you go home and build your own. Note- this year it is at Parkside Hotel & Spa instead of Laurel Point Inn.
86- Do a driving tour of the best Christmas lights in town in your PJ's.
87- Get photos with Santa at one of the downtown malls.
88- Sing the 12 Days of Christmas as you find each walking through Butchart Gardens. The Christmas lights are amazing at this iconic Victoria attraction!
89- Watch the Lighted Truck Parade through downtown, or any of Victoria's spectacular annual Christmas parades.
90- Ride the ferris wheel in Centennial Square.
91- On a sunny day, road trip up island to Chemainus to see all of their wonderful murals and stop at the BC Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan to ride on the Christmas Train!
93- Try skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, or tubing at Mt Washington.
94- Join the polar bear swim at Elk Lake on New Years Day at noon. That's one way to kick off a new year!
95- Take advantage of the promotion at the Royal BC Museum where the first week of the new year is admission by donation. A great way to visit without breaking the bank!
96- When we DO get snow, take the kids to a nearby hill for tobogganing.
97- Put your boots and toques on and go for a walk through the forest when we get a dusting of snow- it will feel like winter wonderland!
98- Warm up in Butterfly Gardens. Their warm climate they keep indoors to keep their plants and thousands of butterflies happy makes for an mini tropical vacay.
99- Go for a jump in the Flying Squirrel indoor trampoline park.
100- Watch a play or performance in the Royal Theatre, where many of this century's great performers have graced its stage.
101- Go ice skating in the great outdoors at Panama Flats when it freezes over.
Phew! There you have it. 101 ideas for things to do with your children in Victoria and Vancouver Island before they grow up.
Whether you yourself have grown up on the Island or are a visitor, I hope this list keeps you busy and offers some ideas you hadn't already thought of. Happy exploring!