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Sep 18, 2013 11:02 AM

Family trip to Victoria in October

Hi All. I am sure there are tons of threads on this though my search didn't turn up much. My family is heading to Victoria at the end of October for a week. My parents (60s), my sister, her husband (30s) and two littles (2 and 7mo), myself and my husband (30s) and our two littles (4 and 2). We have rented a lovely house (and a large 12 person van :)) for the duration of our stay in Victoria. We are staying close to downtown near beacon hill park. I'm really looking for some suggestions of good places to eat and things to do during our visit. We love good food (and good wine and beer) but don't much care for trendy eateries (I once spent a small fortune on a meal that consisted of freeze dried slivers of vegetables in Chicago and wondered why I hadn't just gone out for deep dish). We'll have the kids with us at most times, though I was thinking of taking my 4 year old daughter to tea. Looking forward to some suggestions!

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  1. reading that you have young guests with you - here are some ideas -

    James Bay Tea Room - this is kind of handy to walk to if you're in the neighbourhood - pleasantly low-key if you go at certain non-touristy times - it's not great food but it's old time - unfort there is not a complete website right now -
    maybe the "new ownership" or whatever is happening will have improved the service etc (it needed it)

    seems like someone enjoyed it recently - see UrbanSpoon (and there are some google reviews too fwiw

    there is also Murchies which is old-time BC history - so if you need easy-to-pack souvenirs for tea friends back home, there is the Empress Blend ---- they have a cafe in this store on Gov't St in downtown

    i'd also take a walk over to Ogden Point Cafe for a coffee - it's again, nothing especially special -
    but great views and you may see wildlife etc. Just don't go there when the big cruise ships are lumbering over the breakwater - lots of tourists around - it's that time of year when several of the ships will be around - tho maybe you'll be just after they finish the Pac NW season and move on south.

    i'm sure you've found info on here about the fish takeout on the wharf and the charcuterie and various restaurants

    as far as sightseeing - well, Beacon Hill Park offers great views from the top of the hill - over to the Olympic Mtns (a national park in WA State) --- and there are some pretty gardens w/in that park

    the Royal BC Museum is worth a few hours and is a great way to get an encapsulated version of our history

    i'd for sure go on the little "water taxis" - there are several companies - this is just one that i googled so you could see photo -----

    i'd definitely go in the Empress Hotel ( and look around - it's been added-on to over the years, the main entrance used to be out front where now they serve tea etc. Go and see if they have a "meet here and we'll tour you around" type tour at the concierge - they used to do that.

    the BC Legislature Buildings offer tours - you will have to go thru security (obviously) - it's interesting if you like old architecture and history.

    if you have golfers in your group - maybe they have inter-club privileges ---- this one is gorgeous - they used to allow walkers / riders - not sure if they still do, haven't been in a while.

    if you take a drive - check out the threads on here about "Cowichan" or Duncan or Nanaimo --- lots of farmgates and other places to explore.

    Victoria is an odd city in terms of blatant very tacky touristy-ness (wax museum anyone? Butchart Gardens is borderline in our opinion - but i suppose everyone has to go there once :) vs little neighbourhoods that have some interesting finds.

    1. For " high tea" avoid the Empress - overpriced IMO. I've heard good things about the White Heather Tea Room though. Also in Oak Bay, check out Blighty's Bistro for a nice dinner option with kids.
      I would second the recommendation for Beacon Hill Park for the little ones if the weather is cooperative: beautiful gardens, duck ponds, good playgrounds and if the petting zoo is open it's great that time of year it's great. Pizzeria Prima Strada (the Cook St Village location) would be a close walk and very kid friendly. And no kid I've met has been able to resist the soft serve cones at the Beacon Hill Drive-In (rest of the offerings are meh, but the ice cream is an institution in Victoria)
      The Royal BC Museum might be a bit advanced for kids as young as yours but it is great. Re: tacky tourist traps, avoid the Undersea Gardens like the plague! I can't believe this place is still around.
      The little 1 block Chinatown is fun for kids, particularly Fan Tan Alley and the little curio shops. Several bakeries offering BBQ Pork Buns and Honey Buns for a snack/lunch.

      5 Replies
      1. re: islandgirl

        your insight re: the bc museum reminded me of when we were little way back when - our big hilite was the cafeteria (cuz we didn't have modern food at home!) - oh and the canoe fountain (i don't think it's there any more - can't find it now) - and the stuffed horse (that's not on the cafe menu btw) and the small town displays!

        ps - islandgirl - if these visitors have a vacation rental house (and presume cooking facilities) - is there a farmer market they could walk to on a certain day?

        1. re: Georgia Strait

          Re: the museum, don't forget the "apple pie" smell in the Ol' time kitchen upstairs - ah, memories.

          I actually don't live in Victoria anymore but we visit my family often with our little ones. I haven't been to check it out yet but the new Victoria Downtown Public Market might be of interest for self-caterers:

          The Moss Street Market will still be in operation if they are there on a Saturday:

          We rarely eat out in Victoria as my mum is a great cook and loves to feed us but we've been out for lunch with the kids to both Swans and Spinnakers with good success.

          1. re: islandgirl

            The Public Market is still getting going - great for Vij's new place Sutra and the carvery at Roast - there's also sweet/savoury pies (but grocery is still coming, Cow Bay Seafood will be running by then). If you hit a Wed, the farmer's market is set-up out back - veggies for purchase and more food options (raclette, pulled pork, doughnuts).
            For supplies near you - Cook st village (where one Pizza Prima Strada is), has a great butcher. And I love Big Wheel Burger (classic burgers a la Shake Shack in NY) - plus they have a kids meal (meat ground daily, local/fresh, that sort of thing). Bubbie Rose's in the Village is also good for B,L or D.
            Also a good wine store there (access from the back parking lot behind the Pure Pharmacy).
            There's a thread you can search for on Vic/Vanc Grocery that has lots of suggestions.
            Are you looking for particular cuisines (Chinese? Japanese? Something you don't get where you're from?).
            (wax museum {hugely popular} has been shut for a couple of years) - new pub coming to same building, currently has Robert Bateman gallery.
            Tea at the Empress is ka-ching (but an experience - currently $60, but may drop by end of Oct - kids under 12 are 50% off).

            1. re: islandgirl

              yes, the cinnamon ... and the breeze wafting the kitchen curtain and the sound effects of the farm dog barking out in the farmyard beyond the curtain (were there also "clip clop" of horse hooves too?)

              - absolutely one of my fav RBC museum memories of all time - whoever curated that did a great job - is that display still there? i hope so because -------

              i think that very display instilled in me a fascination for farm and fresh and real - ie food that is close to its origins - and that, afterall, is what we appreciate here in BC

          2. re: islandgirl

            FWIW I was formulating a response in my mind that was almost exactly what islandgirl wrote : -). I consider a trip to Victoria wasted that doesn't find me ingesting a cone from the Beacon, though I still recall with pain the time I tried to eat a large sized one. They are massive.

            Red Fish Blue Fish is the fish takeout mentioned by GS and would be great with kidlets if you can hit it when there isn't a monumental line. It is very busy even at off hours, I've found.

          3. Thanks to all for the fantastic ideas. We will need to do some farmer's market shopping as we love to cook and will do some meals in. Cassie, we're from central CA so we have a pretty good variety but looking forward to the fresh seafood! Thanks again :)

            2 Replies
            1. re: kaconway

              maybe at the market you will find some HERITAGE apple varieties that you can't get at the farm market in Bay Area / Inland (my friends live in Nevada City / Auburn - is that still central? - i don't know if that climate supports nice crisp apples)

              that area of Vanc Island is known and well suited to old varieties - Merridale Cidery?

              those apples with some extra aged white cheddar

              and hazelnuts (filburts) as a contrast to your almonds so prevalent in that part of CA

              if in the supermarket, just look for Baldersons cheddar - it makes the sodium worth your while ; ) It is usually NOT in the plain old cheese area - it is usually in any decent supermarket "deli" - ie the place where you get salad by the container and olives and stuff like that.

              if at a cheese shop - then ask them what they recommend - might be Baldersons again. I notice that is one big diff betw/ Cdn and USA is the cheddar - price is more up here but it's worth it - esp for the aging or local cheeses ----

              more cheese - look for Poplar Grove (Okanagan Valley cheese (and wine) - and also an artisan brand called "Little Qualicum" which is SPCA approved (something we appreciate) - and is further north up the Island (by which i mean Vanc Island) but is avail in many nicer supermarkets

              1. re: kaconway

                I think the Moss St Market (Sat) may be one of the few farmer's markets still running (thru Oct). Peninsula & James Bay close mid-Oct this year. Rootcellar is a good source for as much local that's available outside a market (plus they've recently expanded into meats and deli items).
                The butcher in Cook St also has seafood. Finest At Sea (FAS), is great for ocean-wise and fresh seafood (plus they have tanks). Thrifty Foods is also pretty good for seafood - Fairfield location has live tanks, can't remember if James Bay (closest to you) does or not.