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. Here’s how I would plan a trip.
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. Of course, there are also Airbnb stays to choose from, too.
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.”
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! 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.
The whole museum is fabulous, 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.
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 Not to 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 your toddler far gentler (to hold the bugs without squishing them). The Victoria Bug Zoo can be a better choice for preschool-aged children and up.
Tea Time at the Empress
It’s a beautiful tradition, but taking a toddler here isn’t likely to end up in a good time for anyone. Too expensive ($95/pp, as of summer 2023), too many breakable items, and too many diners sitting nearby. Even the Fairmont Empress notes that its “Prince and Princess Tea for Children” starts at age 5 ($52 per child). Save the once-in-a-lifetime experience for a future vacation, when your child will also remember it. A toddler is too young for tea at the Fairmont Empress.
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.