Destinations / GO
VIC TORIA WAS ONCE a sleepy British enclave, but not any- more. Thanks to a recent echnology boom, the city is bursting with energy and
now more well known for brewpubs and
neighborhood coffee roasters than for tea
and crumpets. While it still has vestiges
of its British charm, there are even more
compelling reasons to plan a trip, including
convenient direct flights from SFO, access
to the outdoors, and a vibrant local food and
cocktail scene. Best of all, you can easily
enjoy it without renting a car.
• A Regal Stay
Dating back to the early 1900s, the Fairmont
Empress is the most iconic hotel in Victoria.
The building is undergoing a $50 million
renovation, and the upgraded rooms are more
comfortable than ever, while still managing
to retain plenty of old-world allure. The halls
are now decked with old black-and-white photographs documenting the hotel’s illustrious
history and famous guests. Even if you don’t
stay here, you’ll want to stop by for a drink at the
Q Lounge, which offers great views of the harbor
and terrific cocktails; it’s a regal setting domi-
nated by splashy murals of Queen Victoria.
• Get Outdoors
The city’s parks and waterfront are ideal for
families and are bike friendly to boot. While
the Fairmont Empress provides bikes free of
charge to President’s Club members on a first-come-first-serve basis, you can also rent a bike.
The Pedaler offers bike rentals as well as guided
or self-guided tours that allow you to explore
neighborhoods and sample local food and craft
beer, or take the opportunity to bike back to
town from the famous Butchart Gardens.
Beacon Hill Park is easily accessible from
downtown by bike, foot or horse-drawn
carriage. Its 200 acres include landscaped
gardens, ponds, a large totem pole, a waterfront trail and a petting zoo for kids. Watch
out for peacocks crossing the road.
For a longer trek, either on foot or bike,
consider the Galloping Goose trail, a 34-mile
greenbelt that runs from Victoria to Sooke
and begins at the Johnson Street Bridge. It’s
a converted rail line, and after the urban
section with views of the ocean, it meanders
through forests and farmland.
• Diverse Culture
A visit to the Royal BC Museum is one of the
best ways to experience the rich diversity
of the region in a fully immersive way. The
museum is divided into galleries, which show
natural history, modern history and first
peoples history in the province. The exhibits
are presented in engaging ways with video,
artifacts and dioramas and the building is
surrounded by one of the first native plant
gardens on the West Coast.
• Eat and Drink
One of the top new restaurants in all of Canada
is Agrius, self-described as a “contemporary
regional restaurant inspired by French cui-
sine.” It offers a versatile menu of small and
large plates as well as a tasting menu and
focuses on locally sourced ingredients often
prepared in imaginative ways. The luscious
lamb tartare is quickly becoming a signature
dish and changes with the seasons, served
with sumac, sorrel and pear one week and
with turnips, greens and croutons the next.
Creamy rice from Abbotsford in British
Columbia is another favorite dish, often
presented with local wild mushrooms. The
charcuterie and breads are outstanding and
are made in house.
Victoria has a thriving cocktail scene and
one of the best places to indulge is at Little
Jumbo. The beverage menu changes every
six weeks and the location set back from the
street adds to the speakeasy vibe. The most
popular drink is the Spurs and Saddles made
with Bulleit bourbon, Cointreau, house-made
root beer syrup, lime juice and Angostura bitters, served in a glass with a hickory-smoked