Dine Around and Stay in Town

Dine Around and Stay in Town is an annual promotion in Victoria that many of us await enthusiastically. The simple reason is that we are offered a wide range of fine dining at very fine prices.

Each year Dine Around & Stay in Town runs from mid February until early March. You can select from three course menus costing $20, $30, $40 or $50 per person at over 60 Victoria restaurants. It’s our annual opportunity to sample local cuisine or to return to favourite venues to re-experience their offerings at excellent prices.

This year my wife and I went with in-laws to a restaurant we had been intending to visit for over 25 years but we had never quite got around to it. It was such a tasty meal – the range and high quality of food and wine which Vancouver Island offers is impressive, fresh foods from our community.

For accommodation during this event you can select from these Victoria bed and breakfasts.

Summer Festivals in Victoria BC

Summer Festivals in Victoria BC add spice to a visit to Vancouver Island. It’s a pleasant surprise to stumble upon a festival but better to plan a visit to coincide with one of your choice. Here’s a summary of the major varied summer festivals in Victoria BC.

May
Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival – over 150 years of fun and muscle.

Swiftsure International Yacht Race – four races contested by 200 yachts as the Inner Harbour gets thoroughly nautical.

June
Victoria International JazzFest – over 300 musicians in many styles.

July
Victoria International Buskers Festival – remarkable street performers give free shows throughout downtown.

Moss Street Paint-In – outdoor art created by 160 of Vancouver Islands leading artists. 30 years on.

August
Symphony Splash – join 40,000 people in Victoria’s Inner Harbour on the first Sunday in August. Ends with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and fireworks.

Victoria Dragon Boat Festival – 90 dragon boats with 2,500 paddlers race in the Inner Harbour.

Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival – 50 shows at eleven venues downtown.

September
Saanich Fall Fair – our agricultural show on the Saanich Peninsula since 1868.

Victoria Classic Boat Festival – 40 years of admiration of these craft.

Victoria International Chalk Art Festival – stumble across street art unfolding before your eyes.

Click on the above weblinks for full details about these Vancouver Island events and spectacles.

North Saanich Flavour Trail

The North Saanich Flavour Trail Festival is a very pleasant annual event exploring the roads less travelled on the Saanich Peninsula.

Each year the North Saanich Flavour Trail takes place at 15 or more venues from in late August. Think of a pub crawl where the pubs are farms, markets, vineyards, bakeries, garden centres and the like.

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed this self-guided tour last year using their mapNorth Saanich Flavour Trail map and information on the Flavour Trail Festival website. You’ll be delighted by the quiet rural charm of the back roads in this northern part of the Saanich Peninsula, just a short drive from bustling Victoria.

Watch sheep dogs at work herding (or should I say flocking?) sheep, smell 30 varieties of lavender, sample local wines, learn about fruit trees (some you’ve never heard of), meet the horses and other animals at a stables, and be deluged with fresh fruit and vegetables at every turn. Such a variety of tasty fresh food!

We also enjoyed the sense of community; meeting the locals proudly sharing the produce of their land and learning more about this lovely area blessed by its fine climate in a lovely natural setting.

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Swiftsure International Yacht Race

The Swiftsure International Yacht Race is a series of yacht races from Victoria BC on the last weekend of May that has been drawing crowds to view the off-shore spectacle since 1930.

The race Starts and ends in Victoria BC, being called the Swiftsure International Yacht Race because the courses run to midpoints in U.S. waters. In its eighty years the race has evolved into nine races sailed over four courses in the Juan de Fuca Strait.

Crews race to the Swiftsure Lightship and back in courses of up to 140 nautical miles with winning times for the longest course often under 24 hours, largely dependant on the weather. If winds are poor crews have named it “Driftsure” yet one year 130 boats were blown out of the race soon after the start.

There can be plenty of drama. At the start one year a heavy tide pushed most boats back two miles and at the midpoint a boat hit the lightship when turning around it. Boats have been grounded at Race Rocks in fog. A finish saw a boat cross the line stern first after it lost its main masts just before the line, and one year a single second decided the winning yacht.

So set sail for Victoria this May!

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit has become a favourite in Victoria. In recent years, the Royal BC Museum has been hosting this exhibition of photographs from the Natural History Museum in London. The 2014 competition was the 50th (one wonders what those earlier pre-digital photos were like) and it now attracts over 30,000 entries from over 80 countries.

The exhibition is on display at the Royal BC Museum, Victoria each spring. Entry to this magnificent museum, one of the best in North America, includes entry to the photographic exhibit. There are 100 new photographs in 18 categories set in backlit displays.

Rain is, er, not unknown in Victoria during the spring so a visit to the museum would be an excellent way to spend several hours.

Who wouldn’t be proud of snapping one of these marvellous photos? You never know, on a trip to Vancouver Island you may see and capture one of those unique wildlife moments.

The Arts in Victoria

Is it the lifestyle, the culture, even the weather, that draws so many artists to enrich the arts in Victoria? The city may not be large but it has so much to offer artistically to residents and visitors alike.

“Big names” play here occasionally, although the heartbeat of the artistic community is locally-based, the ones who create artistic cultures from the ground level. Victoria is bursting at the seams in many genres. Musical offerings include classical, jazz, hard rock, blues. Clubs, pubs and bars present them all. Theatres feature both professional and amateur drama, films too.

Victoria galleries showcase First Nations art to a wide range of contemporary art. If you are here in mid-July do visit the Moss Street Paint-In with over 180 artists lining the street.

Creative artisans proudly present their wares at craft fairs and markets like these summer markets: the Bastion Square Market, the Friday and Saturday evening Ships Point market and the big Thursday evening Sidney street market. On any summers day enjoy wandering along Victorias Inner Harbour causeway for visual and musical arts; you may spot the one man band. Buskers come to town for a July festival.

The Arts in Victoria enrich our lives with a wide range of music, drama, film, and visual art. Artists and artisans abound for our pleasure. Best of all is the fact that there are so many small venues, each focusing on a niche artistic presentation. Add them all together and there’s something for everyone. Enjoy!

Christmas in Victoria

Christmas in Victoria offers highlights and low-lights to fill your visit here on mild southern Vancouver Island. Its a time to enjoy traditions from the past, sometimes with a modern twist.

Warm, cosy feelings are assured when you walk through the Butchart Gardens marvelling at the lights of their Magic of Christmas. Magic indeed! Look for the Twelve Days of Christmas displays and then go ice skating on the outdoor rink followed by hot chocolate.

Craigdarroch Castle’s traditional Christmas and New Year celebrations have a Scottish touch. The glittering elegance of their seasonal decorations are magnificent. Its sister, Hatley Castle, has special events too.

Wandering round Victoria’s Inner Harbour by day or night has a distinctive holiday feel during December. Many of the moored boats are decorated after the Santa Parade and the red, green and white lights of the Parliament Buildings sparkle across the water. Wander through the Empress Hotels Festival of Trees among about 70 Christmas trees decorated by local organisations with donations supporting children’s charities. Walking further to another hotel, the Inn at Laurel Point, brings you to Victorias Gingerbread Showcase with remarkable baked creations, again in support of charity (Habitat for Humanity).

Music is an integral part of our celebrations. Try your hand (voice) at joining in the Hallelujah Chorus at the annual Sing-Along Messiah at the Alix Goolden Hall. Enjoy popular classics with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. Carollers stroll through downtown Victoria which is illuminated delightfully.

Then there are Victoria’s many craft fairs. Some are juried with artisans creating fine crafts, such as the Dickens Fair at James Bay Community Hall or the Out of Hand Artisan Fair at the fascinating Crystal Garden.

These are just some of the highlights of Christmas in Victoria so do check with your B&B hosts or with Tourism Victoria Info Centre for further information.

The Magic of Christmas

The Magic of Christmas is a highlight for many of us in the Victoria area as well as those visiting southern Vancouver Island in December and early January. It is my very favourite time at The Butchart Gardens when my wife and I take a friend or two to wander around the familiar yet magical gardens.

It is not really gardens that we’ve come to see but the Butchart Gardens winter lights, tens of thousands of them. They transform 50 acres into a winter wonderland (and that’s not hype) at Benvenuto, the Butcharts family home.

Younger children will be entranced by the miniature train scene and most ages will enjoy skating on the outdoor ice rink. Then children of all ages will not want to miss a ride on the Rose Carousel.  And that’s before you set off to explore the gardens. The highlight is always the Sunken Garden, with the Rose Garden, Star Pond, Italian Garden and many other delights along the way including the Twelve Days of Christmas displays. My favourite is the eight maids a-milking.

The Magic of Christmas is open at The Butchart Gardens from the beginning of December until 6th January each winter. Should your visit coincide with one of Victoria’s rare snowfalls this is even more magical.