Many Canadians like to escape the cold winter weather by travelling to warmer places. Florida, Hawaii, Texas and California are popular destinations. Others may prefer to go on a cruise to islands in the Caribbean or to Mexico.
However, Canadians don't necessarily need to leave the country to escape snow and cold weather. Victoria BC is a great destination, and it is cheaper to visit in the winter than it is in the busy summer months.
Victoria is not as warm as Miami or San Diego, but it certainly has the best climate in the country for a few months of the year. I live in Victoria, having moved here several years ago from central Canada. This article will give you some tips for planning a winter vacation in Victoria.Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Empress_Hotel_at_Night,_Victoria,_BC_-a.jpg
A Typical Winter in Victoria
I have lived in Victoria for twenty years now. I love a green Christmas and don't miss snow at all. We have winter flowers here which you will see in the many parks we have in this area. Pansies and primrose are the most common here. We also have winter heather which I love to grow in my front yard.
Victoria has a lot of evergreens and shrubs. We even have a few palm trees. The picture here was taken in January at Beacon Hill Park. This park is just a short walk from the Inner Harbour downtown.
We seldom get snow here, and when we do, it's generally gone in a day or so. Daytime temperatures are usually above freezing all winter long. In fact, it doesn't go below zero very often at night either.
Average daytime temperatures in December and January are usually about 7 or 8 Celsius, or about 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
The period from November to March is the rainiest time of the year. However, we get less rain than Vancouver and Seattle. Some people think we get rain here almost every day, but that simply isn't true. We have frequent sunshine in the winter, We get more rain in November than we do in January most years.
Snowdrops or Galanthus flowers begin to bloom as early as January. Then we enjoy the crocus flowers. We have many varieties of trees and plants that bloom. This includes Dogwood, Apple, Magnolia and Chestnut. Blossom time in Victoria is from about February to May.
In March we have the daffodils. April is the month for tulips and rhododendrons. There are always many colorful displays at the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings.
Advantages of Having a Winter Holiday in Victoria
At the present time, the Canadian dollar is worth about 90 cents US. A holiday in Canada is cheaper right now for Americans, due to the favorable exchange rate.
Some Canadians do not want to leave the country due to the high cost of health insurance. It can be very expensive to purchase insurance when travelling to the United States, particularly for extended periods. This is one reason why seniors often like to come to Victoria for a holiday.
Hotels and motels often have extended stay packages. The prices are quite reasonable and much cheaper than what you would have to pay in the summer time.
What To Do in Victoria in the Winter Time
There are several places where you can have afternoon tea in Victoria. The Empress Hotel is very popular, although it is expensive. A cheaper alternative for tea is the James Bay Tea Room, located just a block from the Parliament buildings.
The BC Museum is across the street from the Inner Harbour. There also is an IMAX theatre which features a variety of films during the year.
Thunderbird Park is located next to the museum, and Beacon Hill Park is just a couple of blocks south. Beacon Hill Park is nice to visit at any time of the year. The park extends to Dallas Road. This road hugs the coastline and offers wonderful views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Olympic Mountains in Washington state. The Strait is what separates British Columbia from Washington. At night-time on a clear day you can see the lights of Port Angeles.
Dallas Road becomes Beach Drive and continues into the community of Oak Bay. There are many waterfront condos and homes here and the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. The hotel offers waterfront views, fine dining and a dinner theater.
The world renowned Butchart Gardens is open even in the winter months. My favorite month to visit is April, because the flowers and blossoms are so beautiful. However, the gardens are interesting in the winter, with the shrubs and trees and winter flowers on display.
The town of Sidney is about 45 minutes from downtown. Sidney has a wonderful waterfront which is a great place to go for a walk. There are plenty of restaurants at the waterfront or close by. Sidney also has a few privately owned shops and boutiques. It's a popular retirement community.
Credit: my own
Getting to Victoria
The international airport is near Sidney. There is shuttle service available to the downtown area. Car rentals are available at the airport. If you are staying downtown, a car isn't essential. Victoria has good public transit. Many downtown attractions are within easy walking distance.
There are seaplanes that arrive at the Inner Harbour from Seattle and Vancouver. These airplanes can only fly during daylight, and are very subject to cancellations in the winter if the weather is not ideal. They cannot fly in fog, or if it is really windy. This is something to keep in mind if you are travelling in the winter.
There are several ferry options for travellers. From the lower mainland area, the ferry arrives in Swartz Bay, which is about 45 minutes from downtown. The Anacortes ferry travels from Sidney to Anacortes in Washington, with one sailing daily.
The Clipper travels from downtown Seattle to the Inner Harbour. This is a passenger only ferry. If you are travelling by car, the Coho ferry goes from Port Angeles to the Inner Harbour.
The Anacortes and Coho ferries do not run all year, so you should check the websites for availabilty. The other ferries run all year.
Victoria really is a wonderful place to visit any time of the year. I think April and May are the most beautiful months here, but winter has it's own appeal. It certainly is a welcome break for those who want to get away from cold weather and snow.