Victoria is the capital city of the province of British Columbia in Canada. It is known as the garden city due to the favorable year-round climate. Many exotic plants will grow in Victoria with a little care. The winters are mild, compared to the rest of Canada. Spectacular gardens are available for viewing at Butchart Gardens, the provincial legislature and Government House. As well, many of the local people are hobby gardeners and they do their best to present horticultural wonders. Each year, garden tours are organized offering people a chance to see some equisite presentations of plants in stunning settings at some of the most beautiful estates in the city.
Summers are also mild in Victoria. The temperature seldom rises above 90F or 30C. On those days where it does, the humidity usually goes down. As a result, the hottest days are quite comfortable and can be enjoyed outdoors with a cool drink. The Pacific Ocean almost surrounds the city which provides onshore breezes. This has the effect of moderating both the winter and summer temperatures. As well, biting insects, such as mosquitos and flies, are rarely seen in Victoria. Winter low temperatures are above 0F or -17C. Snow is seldom seen and only rarely accumulates. Some Victorian winters have been completely devoid of snow. On those days when snow is encountered, the city is rarely prepared to cope with the phenomenon. There are few snow removing devices in the city. The government owns few snow plows and the home owners few snow shovels. Historical snow events, where significant accumulation has occurred, (perhaps 10 or more inches), have essentially paralyzed the city. On those few events, such as the winter of 1996, the rest of the Canadian population has been amused by the plight of Victoria. Where other areas in Canada endure and thrive with abundant amounts of snow, the effect on Victoria can be devastating. Citizens have few snow shovels, as mentioned. The city has scant snow removing equipment. The major roads have steep hills. Many vehicles in Victoria have poor winter tires. All this contributes to extremely negative experiences in snow.
Luckily for Victoria residents, the incidence of snow is rare. In addition, snow rarely lasts very long. In fact, many residents ignore the snowfalls and wait. The usual weather patterns of rainy days with warmer temperatures are common and serve to melt any snow in the city. In 1996, a major snowfall paralyzed the city with accumulations of 24 inches or more in many areas. This lasted a few days. Then heavy rain came in from the Pacific Ocean which washed the snow away in a day or two. Many residents were not as affected by snow at this time as by the quantity of rain and melt water that had to be drained.
Victoria is home to the provincial legislature, an impressive historical building located on the Inner Harbour. It was designed by Francis Rattenbury who won a competition held to choose a design for the legislature. There are other buildings in Victoria that were designed by Rattenbury. These structures are local attractions, many of which are listed in a historical registry.
Visitors to Victoria may want to experience the following notable attractions:
- Legislative Parliament buildings, Inner Harbour. The spectacular buildings designed by Francis Rattenbury. They also offer visitors elegant gardens that highlight the growing conditions of the city.
- Butchart Gardens. An amazing horticultural display north of the city. Tours leave downtown to take tourists to this wonder. In the summer, fireworks are set off at night. In the winter, a fantastic display of Christmas lights is installed.
- The Empress. A grand, elegant hotel on the Inner Harbour near the legislature. This facility is the epitome of luxury and has been so since it's opening in 1908. It is famous for it's English High Tea served in the finest tradition. The Bengal Lounge is a relaxed social gathering point for the members of Victoria's society.
- Beacon Hill Park. A large park at the southern edge of the city, along the ocean front. Gardens and a small zoo are maintained. Visitors can enjoy peaceful scenes after a 5 minute walk from the downtown core. The peak of the park is an easy hike which offers visitors a panaramic view of the Straight of Juan de Fuca. Ships can be seen in the straight as well as the snow capped Olympic mountains of Washington State.
- Royal British Columbia Museum. This attraction is located between the legislature and the Empress Hotel. It contains a collection of artifacts that represent frontier life in British Columbia. Visual displays include an ice-age scene complete with a life-sized wooly mammoth, a representative sawmill and a 17th century exploration vessel. The museum also contains a spectacular collection of local native Indian art and other artifacts. The National Geographic IMAX Theatre is located within the museum building. Feature presentations include nature documentaries and first run movies. The IMAX screen is over 50 feet high and 80 feet wide.
- Chinatown. Formerly a 19th century ghetto, Chinatown is now a vibrant commercial hub in the downtown region. Many of the original buildings have been preserved and restored. Visitors experience the sights and sounds of real Chinese markets, souvenir shops and busy restaurants. Entry into Chinatown is through the spectacular Gate of Harmonious Interest.
- Whale Watching. Tourists can board a fast boat at the Inner Harbour and experience a thrilling glimpse of whales just off the Victoria waterfront. Humpback, Gray, Minke, Orca, (Killer), whales are encountered along with many other species including seals and sea lions. Tours operate year-round and in almost all weather conditions.
- Craigdarrock Castle. Begun in 1887, this massive stone building was built for Robert Dunsmuir as proof that he was the richest and most powerful man in British Columbia. It towers over Victoria and is easily visible from the downtown area, 1.5 miles away. It contains magnificent wood panelling and a fine collection of stained glass windows.
- Coho Ferry. This 50 year old vessel travels to Victoria daily from Port Angeles in Washington State. Many visitors arrive via the Coho which docks at the Inner Harbour after a 1.5 hour trip. Port Angeles is located on the Olympic Penninsula which is a famous tourist destination itself.
Victoria, British Columbia offers visitors and residents ample attractions in a compact region. It is a modern city that has avoided many of the difficulties found in larger centers. Many of the residents are visitors who were intoxicated by the local charm who never left. Tourists should be made aware of the dangers that may result from a visit to this wonderful city. Victoria is the gateway to the spectacular scenery that may be found on Vancouver Island.