Much is written about wineries in the Victoria area so it’s refreshing to take a look sat Victoria Beer Week.
From 4th to 12th March 2016 over 50 craft breweries from southern Vancouver Island and elsewhere in British Columbia will be showcasing their beers during Victoria Beer Week 2016.Teaming up with the Island Chefs’ Collaborative will result in foods which pair with favourite craft beers.
The opener is Cask Night on Friday 4th March with over 25 casks at Victoria Public Market. Events include tastings naturally, educational seminars and workshops, a brewers’ brunch, selected foods from vendors. Go to Beer School! There’s beer and pizza, beer and cheese, beer and storytelling, beer and a cruise, a beer-b-q, and, of course, a beer crawl.
The Royal BC Museum has welcomed back the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition from the Natural History Museum, London.
The quality of these stunning back-lit photographs becomes apparent when you discover that they are the top 100 selected out of over 42,000 entries. Many are nothing less than “awesome” (badly over-used word): of which we full of awe.
The Royal BC Museum is one of those “must-see” places to visit in Victoria. So much more than a typical museum it brings the past alive through its permanent displays, major summer shows and its ongoing exhibitions. The 2016 summer show will be Mammoths – Giants of the Ice Age.
Allow two or three hours at least just for the floors of permanent displays. An adjoining IMAX big-screen theatre adds to its impact with a continually changing programme of dramatic presentations.
New Year celebrations in Victoria BC have two distinct opportunities to roll out the old year and welcome in the new. As well as the calendar year, the Chinese New Year is more significant here than in many cities.
Parties and dinners are everywhere in Victoria on New Year’s Eve. Just about every restaurant, pub, club and hotel offers its own brand of celebrations. The sheer variety is impressive: elegantly formal or casual, themed, live music, dancing, and dining options galore. Check with your bed and breakfast innkeeper.
The Chinese New Year on 8th February 2016 is heralded as the new moon rises. In the earlier years of Victoria BC the Chinese community established the oldest Chinatown in Canada as a centre for their community and trading. After a decline, today the influence of the Chinese continues more broadly within the Victoria area and the Chinese New Year is as important as ever. On 14th February, you’ll see cultural demonstrations, displays and parades including dances such as the famous Lion Dance (about 11.00am), all set within the character of Chinatown around Fisgard Street with the Gate of Harmonious Interest and little Fan Tan Alley. Incidentally, the superb Chinatown display at the Royal BC Museum will form the basis of special tours on 2nd, 9th and 11th February at 11.00am.
The opportunities for celebrating Christmas in Victoria BC are broader than in most medium-sized North American cities due to the heritage of its cultures and architecture, fanned by the flames of tourism. Here’s a guide to a variety of events offering something for everyone.
The Victoria Classic Boat Festival sums up the best of Victoria rather well: a maritime tradition, vessels in the Inner Harbour, character and charm, tourism, and celebration. It promotes those warm fuzzy feelings that catch us by surprise as we enjoy a moment from our past (or imagined past). So from 4th to 6th September 2015 I’m going to wander around the boats in the Inner Harbour, soaking in the good feelings. Join me.
The Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend was established in 1977, inspiring the nautical community in Victoria to establish their own celebration of maritime heritage so in 1978 the The Victoria Classic Boat Festival was born. 32 boats participated that first year, now more than fourfold ranging from small motor vessels to tall ships. The festival website has many excellent photos illustrating the variety of fascinating vessels you will see.
The highlights will be on Sunday 6th September when the sailpast and classic sail race provide a spectacle from Ogden Point (by the Inner Harbour) to Clover Point, along the southern coast of Victoria. There are displays and demonstrations, live entertainment and food. Admission is free.
50 shows at 11 venues: that’s the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival 2015. You can catch over 300 performances from 27th August until 6th September 2015.
Fringe theatres are not for everyone but the variety is impressive: there’s drama and comedy, musicals and dance, the spoken word and magic. Participants are international, though chosen by lottery (yes!). The Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival has enlivened the downtown of Victoria BC since 1986. Families will enjoy the FringeKids Fest at Market Square on Saturday 29th August, 11am-4pm (it’s been a long time since I bounced in a castle).
A $6 button and a relevant ticket are required to see a show. Encouragingly, 100% of the ticket price goes to the artists you see. Tickets may be purchased in advance or at the door and passes are available. Drop into Intrepid Theatre at 2-1609 Blanshard Street for more information.
Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria is hardly the Tour de France but the excitement of the three Vancouver Island cycling races on 23rd August 2015 can be enjoyed on or off wheels.
Ryder Hesjedal is our local cycling hero, placing 5th in the Tour de France and winner of the Giro d’Italia. He established the charitable Ryder’s Cycling Society of Canada to support young Canadian cycling. Hence the Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria, though participants are young and old, experienced and novices.
Three courses are offered, from 45km for entry-level cyclists to 140km for the experienced enthusiast passing through the beautiful sights of southern Vancouver Island, including the Saanich Peninsula, the Highlands and Metchosin to the west. Most of us will be enjoying the sights of the cyclists themselves from vantage points en route, including downtown Victoria. The longer Epic route will be covered in 3.5 hours by the serious speedsters whereas those snatching views of the scenery and struggling with the hills may take the full day. The start at 7.00am and the finish is on Belleville Street.
For 20 years the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival has brought a splash of colour to summers in the Inner Harbour of Victoria BC. Culture and energy combine, on and off the water, for three days of one of the liveliest festivals you’ll encounter.
On 14, 15th and 16th August 2015 catch the vibrancy in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, joining up to 80,000 others on the grandstands and along the harbour walls. Highlights are the energetic dragon boat races on Saturday and Sunday from 8.00am to about 4.00pm. The boats surge through the water as paddlers crouch forwards following the strokes of the leading pair. Like rowing, strokes are synchronised but unlike the flowing movement of sculls dragon boats rise up out of the water with each rapid stabbing stroke. At the front of each boat sits a drummer who sets the pace of up to 70 strokes per minute. Races are held in numerous categories over the 500 metre course.
The Cultural Stage presents musical headlining bands and the nearby Forbidden City Food Court offers cultural delights.
Associated with the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival is Lights of Courage at Ship Point in the Inner Harbour. By purchasing a paper lantern for $2 you support the BC Cancer Foundation. On the lantern tag write a message of hope, love, inspiration or remembrance and hang it with the array of others which are illuminated after 9.00pm. Since 2008 this has raised over $500,000.
The Butchart Gardens Summer Festival of music presents free high quality music in a lovely setting. Sitting on the concert lawn within these magnificent gardens, you are serenaded by a wide range of musical concerts evening by evening in July, August and early September. Programmes change daily: from classics to pop classics, folk to celtic, big band to nostalgia, blues to rock and roll.
Sit on a bench or bring a blanket or folding chair. Victoria locals often bring supper too for alfresco dining with live music! Check the full Butchart Gardens Summer Festival schedule for artists and concert times, generally beginning at 8.00pm in July and 7.30pm in August. Saturday nights begin earlier – and this is the real value package. These concerts are free every evening but on Saturday nights the The Butchart Gardens fireworks go off with a bang free of charge too.
We visit the Gardens a couple of times every summer not just to enjoy the stunning floral displays but for the pleasures of a musical evening of our taste. Afterwards we always stay on as the light fades to wander through the night illuminations.
For many years I considered Sidney to be a quiet seaside town full of seniors, having a pleasant ocean-side walk and plenty of bookshops but where the greatest excitement was dodging electric scooters. While there’s some truth in all this I had failed to see that there are two faces of Sidney BC.
The town of Sidney is near the northern tip of the Saanich Peninsula, close to Victoria International Airport (YYJ) and the BC Ferries and Washington State Ferries terminals, 30 minutes from downtown Victoria. It’s true that its population of 12,000 is dominated by seniors but it is a thriving self-contained friendly community that offers interesting attractions for visitors.
Enjoy a walk along the 2.5 km (1.5 mile) waterfront walkway passing the fishing pier and small fish market, looking across to Sidney Island from the Sculpture Walk. A concert or play may take place at the bandshell. Yards away is the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. It is not surprising that you can enjoy whale-watching, kayaking, fishing and boating here but there’s also lawn bowling or a bowling lane. Beacon Avenue and side streets has all the shopping services you’re likely to need, punctuated by numerous bookstores in Canada’s only Booktown.
All this, set within a calm relaxing atmosphere is what you’d expect in a town with so many retired people. But the best aspect of Sidney is experienced on summer evenings.
Sidney Street Market
My favourite street market in the Victoria area is enjoyed on Thursday evenings, May to August at the Sidney Street Market. The sleepy town bursts into life as Beacon Avenue, the main street, is lined with booths and packed with crowds of happy people of all ages. Artisans predominate, with food and good musicians adding to the mix. It is a joy!
Sidney Days, during the Canada Day (1st July) weekend celebrates with happy faces at the parade, build-a-boat competition and fireworks. If your visit is at other dates there are special Sidney BC annual events.
Sidney is also handy as a venue of a British Columbia Tourism Information Centre.