Victoria with Kids: 5 Things to Do with Toddlers in Victoria, BC

A reader writes in:

We are planning a family vacation to Victoria in June with our 2 year old.  Do you have any recommendations for kid-friendly hotels and activities?  Thank you so much for your help! — Jessica

I’m so excited for you. Victoria is one of my favorite destinations, particularly with toddlers.

My first suggestion — buy my book! In Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver, I lay out Victoria activities picks by age, and you’ll find more hotel and dining options than I have here.

But here are additional suggestions:

Kid-friendly Victoria BC Hotels:

I like staying at the Royal Scot Hotel & Suites, because I like the kitchen-equipped rooms, particularly when staying anywhere with kids, and I like how big the suites run (one bedroom separate from living area with a pull-out couch). There’s also an indoor pool and jacuzzi, always a hit with kids.

If you’re not particularly concerned about room size, The Fairmont Empress offers luxe rooms (some with views of the Inner Harbour) and a fun little kid’s activity pack at check-in. The Admiral Inn also provides simple, kitchen-equipped rooms, but the suite dimensions are slightly smaller.  I have more hotels (including kid-friendly Victoria bed and breakfast options) in my book.

Things to do in Victoria with kids:

  • Beacon Hill Petting Zoo. I know, you’ve probably visited a bazillion petting zoos already in your son’s short life. But this one is super cute. It’s only a few loonies to get in, and once inside, your toddler will be wowed by the Running of the Goats and the chance to groom the goats. I write more about Beacon Hill Children’s Zoo in this post, “Victoria Pick: Beacon Hill Petting Zoo.”
  • Butchart Gardens. Your child will mostly love running up and down the paths, poking the flowers (the Gardens is where my son learned the phrase “one-finger touch!”) and riding the carousel. You’ll love the spectacular diversity — sunken gardens, Japanese gardens, rose gardens. Don’t forget your camera, and don’t forget to check out these kid tips first. How to get to Butchart Gardens? You can always go with Gray Line Tours. But on a weekday, go for less on the city’s Route #75 bus. If you’re lucky, it’ll be a double-decker. Board at the first pick-up point to ensure a front-row seat on top. Toddlers and preschoolers LOVE the double-decker buses. If you bring a stroller, make sure it’s small and collapses easily to get it up the stairwell.
  • Royal BC Museum. The whole museum is fabulous — one of my favorites — but your toddler will love the Natural History Gallery, which has life-size, sound-rich exhibits showcasing of forest, seashore and ancient life. So a Woolly Mammoth towers overhead and a you’ll go toe-to-toe with a moose, right before you walk into the birdcalls in a seashore exhibit. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I really swear that seashore exhibit smells like the sea.
  • Fisherman’s Wharf. You can feed a seal! For real. Watch your toddler’s hands (some seals are grabby) and make sure the child doesn’t go over the wharf’s edge. I write more about the Fisherman’s Wharf on my “Island Time: 9 Fine Kid-Friendly Picks in Victoria, BC.”
  • Victoria’s Community Centers. If you brought your car (by traveling on either the Washington State Ferries or the M.V. Coho), you can drive to one of the fantastic Community Centre swimming pools. In Saanich, for example, check out these options at Gordon Head Recreation Center. Pirate ships, wave pools, swim toys, Tarzan ropes and toddler pools. They’re quite amazing, honestly.
  • With a 2-year-old child, you can take advantage of naptime in the stroller and shop downtown or shop along Fort Street (antiques). Oh, I miss those days…

What you might not do in Victoria BC with toddlers:

  • Victoria Bug Zoo. You’ll want to listen to the funny tour guides, and your child won’t, and you may feel frustrated at how quickly you have to leave. It’s a fantastic Victoria attraction — and I love it — but with a child that age, you might expect it to be more of a 20-minute stop, unless your child has a much longer attention span than the average toddler, and is far gentler (to hold the bugs without squishing them). The Victoria Bug Zoo can be a better choice for preschool-aged children and up.
  • Miniature World and Royal London Wax Museum. I don’t think either will hold his interest, unless he knows plenty of fairy tales. The wax museum has a very gory part that is best avoided unless your child is already watching PG-13 or R-rated films. Even I had nightmares afterward. But I am a big baby like that. It’s easy to skip the hallway though, without your child even knowing that you’re passing it by.
  • Pacific Undersea Gardens. I do not recommend this attraction to anyone, sorry. It’s currently rated #79 out of 79 attractions in Victoria, BC on Tripadvisor. If that doesn’t tell you what you need to know, then e-mail me.

 

Kid-friendly Victoria BC Dining: See my post on family-friendly Victoria restaurants. With a toddler, I would go with the Rebar, Hernande’z, Crumsby’s, Paradiso di Stelle and Noodle Box (all profiled in the piece).

That’s it! Remember, I love answering reader questions. E-mail me at lora AT cascadiakids.com with your questions and I’ll do my best.

About Lora

Lora Shinn writes about travel for regional and local publications, including AAA Journey, National Geographic Traveler, Bankrate.com, Natural Health and Whole Living.

Comments

  1. Great picks! We go to Victoria quite a lot since our extended family lives there. I totally agree with you about Pacific Undersea Gardens, too bad I hadn’t know that before I went a few years ago. Curious how it is still open.

  2. Fantastic profiles! You’ve hit the nail on the head with your descriptions of this fair town’s fave attractions. Some natural attractions that we local yokels like to do with our kids:

    Take a Harbour Ferry! Great little boats toodle up and down the Inner Harbour and Gorge waterway. Great for spotting all manner of wildlife. Stop off at Banfield Park – great playground, and Spiral Cafe is a very child-friendly coffee spot. Sailor Jack’s next door (not open on Sundays) is a fantastic kids consignment store.

    Wander the beach at Dallas Road – rocks to throw in the water, tidal pools that are safe to look at. Not recommended on windy days.

    Fort Rodd Hill! For just a few dollars you can pretend to be pirates or soldiers. Lots of run-around space. We like to bring along a copy of a West Coast plants & animals species book and try to identify the zillion different types of moss.

  3. I also recommend Pluto’s as a kid-friendly restaurant with good food. We’ve been there several times with our 2-year-old and 4-year-old and they have always been very welcoming. They have a kids’ menu, they bring the kids’ food out first, and they don’t mind a bit of noise. I recommend bringing your own crayons, though. Theirs suck. :)

  4. Thanks, Sue! Yes, I’ll have a free things to do in Victoria blog post coming up next week, so I’ll have more options.

    My issue with Harbour Ferries is that it can quickly add up, expense-wise, and the rides don’t go all that far. It costs $16 for a family of four to go one way between the Empress and Fisherman’s Wharf; $32 round trip. It just seems steep to me, but perhaps more doable for just a parent and child. Babies under 12 months are free. http://www.victoriaharbourferry.com/index.php/site/schedules_routes_fares/

  5. Yeah, I’m curious about that too, Mama. It’s such prime real estate and a great idea. But um, no.

  6. Good tips, and definitley agree with skiping Undersea gardens (unless you really want feel like you are stuck in a deleted scene from Das Boot with a hyper 3 year old running around in tight enclosed spaces).

    Also a very good cheap option is at the Oak Bay Marina. For a couple bucks you can buy a bag of frozen fish and feed the seals off the pier. My kids get a kick out of it. Willows Beach (sand beach, not rock) is just down the road with a nice little play park and old skool burger & ice cream shack.
    .-= Clint´s last blog ..When do you end the bedtime bath? =-.

  7. Absolutely! I have Oak Bay as a whole neighborhood in my book. Love those shops and restaurants (Ottavio! White Heather!) in Oak Bay and the community centre is nice as well.

  8. My husband and I had a wonderful romantic weekend in Victoria and I would love to take the kids in the future. It seemed like a very kid friendly place.
    .-= Bridget Smith´s last blog ..Five Family Fun California Vacation Activities That Your Kids Will Love =-.

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