The legislative buildings downtown lit for the holidays

My home city of Victoria is a wonderful city any time of the year, but there is something especially magical about the Christmas season.  For one thing, while the rest of Canada is usually bitterly cold, temperatures here remain very mild.  We seldom get snow, and when we do it melts quickly.  The temperature rises to above freezing most days, including December.  

It's also magical to take a stroll in the Inner Harbour area.  The provincial parliament buildings, pictured here, feature lights all year, but at Christmas time they change the lights to red and green, and the evergreen trees are adorned with lights as well.

The lamp posts, which have hanging flower baskets in the summer, are adorned with holly, large red bows and lighted stars.  It's a wonderful place to visit and to live.  There are several other attractions worth seeing in Victoria at Christmas, which I will highlight in this article.  Every event listed here is free to attend, except Butchart Gardens, and all of them are suitable for any age.  

The National Gingerbread Showcase at the Laurel Point Inn

The Laurel Point Inn is located just a short walk from the Parliament Buildings.  They host the annual Gingerbread Showcase from 9 AM to 9 PM daily.  This year, the event will take place from November 23rd to January 5th.

You can expect to see gingerbread houses that are incredible works of art.  They are created by both amateur and professional bakers.  It's really a magnificent display that people of all ages would enjoy.  Guests can vote for their favorite by making a donation to the Habitat for Humanity organization.

Also at the hotel is the Aura restaurant, which boasts beautiful waterfront views.  Here they host a gingerbread tea.  The tea costs $10, and $1 also goes towards the Habitat organization.   Here you can enjoy a gingerbread dessert along with tea, coffee or hot chocolate.  

Each year the hotel features brunch with Santa.  Kids can have lunch and some time with Santa.  The event is now completed for 2013. 


The Festival of Trees at the Fairmont Empress

The Fairmont Empress Hotel is located across the street from the Parliament Buildings.  The lobby of the hotel has a gigantic Christmas tree.  Elsewhere, the halls are decked with dozens of beautifully decorated trees which have been donated by various local businesses and entrepreneurs.  

This year, the event runs from November 21st to January 7th.  There is no charge to attend, although donations to the BC Children's Hospital are appreciated.  A donation is requested  if you wish to vote for your favorite tree.  There are over 30 trees to see at this event.  

The Empress Hotel  is well known  for its afternoon tea ,  and reservations are strongly suggested if you want to enjoy this, as it a busy place.  If you would like something less formal and expensive, the Empress has a very nice pub style restaurant.  It has a lovely ambiance with wood carvings and a large, cozy fireplace.  

It's very easy to attend both the Gingerbread display and festival of trees on the same day, since both hotels are within easy walking distance. 

Christmas Ship Parade at the Inner Harbour

The Ship Parade

The annual Lighted Ship Parade took place this year on Dec 6th.  It features an amazing display of boats with the Inner Harbour and Parliament Buildings as a backdrop.  

Visitors are encouraged to bring non perishable food or used clothing in good condition, which is donated to homeless shelters.  This is a popular event that is attended by thousands of people.  The setting is beautiful and everyone enjoys seeing the colorful light display.  

Centennial Square Christmas Lights

Centennial Square is just a short walking distance from the Inner Harbour.  This is where our city hall is located.  Here you will see a giant sequoia tree brightly lit.  It's simply beautiful and draws lots of people. There are other light displays here, and for the first time, a ferris wheel will be available.  

The square often features free entertainment.  

Butchart Gardens at Christmas

Butchart Gardens has five seasons.  Spring, summer, fall, winter, and Christmas. It really is unique and beautiful at this time of year.  It is the second most popular time of the year for people to visit.  

From December 1st to January 6th, the gardens are transformed into a gorgeous light display.  Poinsettias decorate the main dining room and cafeterias.  

Also available here is an ice skating rink.  Carollers entertain guests dressed in Victorian costumes.  This is a very fun event for the entire family.  Just be sure to dress warmly, as it is colder here than in Victoria.  

There is plenty of hot chocolate and other treats to enjoy, and the cafeteria is also available for meal service in the evening.  The cafeteria also has hot apple cider and seasonal foods and treats.  

It gets dark early here at this time of year.  You can arrive at about 430 to enjoy the light displays.  

Bastion Square in Downtown Victoria

Bastion Square Downtown

Shopping in Downtown Victoria

Government Street downtown has many interesting shops. Here you can find Irish linens, designer clothing, imported teas, and many other items.  Also in this area is the Bay Center, which is a large indoor shopping area with over 80 stores.  A couple of blocks away is Market Square, which features artisan shops, bakeries and other shops. 

Many of the stores are beautifully decorated.  It is especially pretty  here in the evening.  I love visiting at that time to enjoy the lights and displays.  

There are many coffee houses here.  In fact it seems there is one on every corner downtown.  A popular eating spot for lunch on Government street is Sam's deli.  They make delicious sandwiches and salads.  It's a busy place, so if you want lunch it is best to go early to get good seating.  

Milestones is at the Inner Harbour and has outstanding views.  The food here is good too.  This is a very busy and popular restaurant with fairly reasonable prices.  

Buskers are also common downtown.  During the Christmas season carollers sometimes entertain as well.  

Another popular shopping area is the Uptown Center.  The plaza features a 54 foot high tree, which is beautifully decorated for the holiday season.  Also located here are many upscale shopping boutiques, cobblestone walkways, a fountain,  and a Walmart Supercenter.  At the time it was built, the Walmart was the largest in North America.  

As you can see, there are lots of things to do in Victoria at Christmas time.  The mild climate makes it ideal for outdoor activities.   We seldom have white Christmases.  If we do get snow, it usually melts the same day, as most days the daytime temperatures are above freezing.