September in Victoria BC

Traditions run deep in Victoria: July begins with a bang, August with a splash, and September in Victoria BC always begins with all the fun of the fair.

The Saanich Fall Fair has shown local agricultural exhibits, music and crafts –  since 1868 at Saanich Fairgrounds in the centre of the peninsula on the Labour Day weekend. A final summer bash.

That same weekend has a delightful sight in the Inner Harbour: the Victoria Classic Boat Festival, now in its 40th year. The boats may not be the biggest or most spectacular but they are classy and beautiful. See a sail-past and a steam boat parade, watch a rowing regatta in the Gorge Waterway and dory races (small shallow-hulled fishing boats).

For me, the best part of September here is the combination of fine touristy weather (an “Indian summer” is not uncommon), the gradual softening of colours as early fall sets in, and the easing off of the busy crowds. It’s a good time to discover Vancouver Island. One might say that September compares to July and August in the words of Robert Frost “I took the one less traveled by, and that has been all the difference”. So come and take the quieter road: September in Victoria BC.

 

 

August in Victoria BC

August in Victoria BC begins with a splash. On the first Sunday of the month a large crowd happily descends on Victoria’s Inner Harbour for Symphony Splash,  one of the biggest annual orchestral events on the continent. It always ends with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with carillon bells and cannon fire with fireworks concluding a memorable evening.

Festivals and special events run throughout the month. Take in the spectacular annual Victoria Dragon Boat Festival, from 18th to 20th August in 2017. Watch 2,500 paddlers in 90 colourful dragon boats dramatically race. The festival includes many opportunities to learn about native culture.

The Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival runs from 23rd August to 3rd September 2017 at numerous locations featuring 350 artists in 58 shows. Buy a festival button or attend one of the free events. There’s drama and comedy, music and theatre.

Free Summertime Movies are screened on Friday and Saturday evenings in Beacon Hill Park at the Cameron Bandstand. The 2017 programme includes the original version of Dirty Dancing.

Summer markets continue with local artisans and growers proudly displaying their ware: Bastion Square, James Bay, The Hudson, Saanich Fairgrounds, North Saanich and the Sidney street market.

Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria (20th August in 2017).  Cyclists bring speed, verve and colour on three routes, from 45km to 140km for beginners to experienced riders.

Arts and Music in the Gardens on 26th and 27th August – over 50 artists set up in the nine acres of themed gardens at The Gardens at HCP on the Saanich Peninsula.

… and don’t forget the impressive illuminations and concerts every evening at the Butchart Gardens and their Saturday night fireworks.

July in Victoria BC

July in Victoria BC always starts with a bang: Canada Day. Join in with the local celebrations even if only to ooh and aah at the fireworks displays. In 2017, Canada Day celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday.

Visiting Victoria BC in July has something for everyone, from regular summer activities to festivals and events.

For example, the Royal BC Museum presents a major exhibition each summer in addition to its highly impressive regular exhibits. In 2017 “Terry Fox: Into the Heart of Canada” celebrates the inspiring story of this heroic young man. Also: visit the Terry Fox monument at Mile 0 of the 8,000km Trans-Canada Highway, at Beacon Hill Park. While there enjoy a stroll through our favourite park with its floral displays, pond and bridge, heronry, petting zoo, cricket pitch and more.

When I visit a new city I like to check if there are any special festivals taking place. One of these in July in Victoria BC is the Victoria International Buskers Festival. In 2017, this runs from 14th to 23rd July. If you miss the Festival you’ll catch a variety of performers on the Inner Harbour causeway every summer day. Look for the one man band (how many instruments does he play?).

The Butchart Gardens are a must for any itinerary, with many hours of delights. These end invariably with a concert on the lawn each evening in July. A wide variety of high quality music is enjoyed in a glorious setting. Afterwards, stay to wander through the illuminated gardens where lights replace flowers for colourful displays. On Saturdays in July there’s the additional bonus of a 15 minute firework display accompanied by music.

Summer markets abound where local artisans and farmers proudly present their wares in a buzz of activity. My favourite is the Thursday evening street market in Sidney, just north of Victoria.

Explore the area – the lakes, beaches, hills, wineries and farms and the Vancouver Island coastline that surrounds us for kayaking, sailing, whale-watching.

Do ask your B&B hosts for information about the events and activities that might interest you. Alternatively, visit the Tourism Victoria InfoCentre in the Inner Harbour for details about all that’s happening in July in Victoria BC and southern Vancouver Island.

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.