Best things to do in Victoria, BC, During Your Alaska Cruise
While it’s part of Canada and not Alaska, Victoria, British Columbia, makes for a fascinating stop during an Alaska cruise. Victoria, located at the tip of Vancouver Island, serves as the provincial capital and has often been compared to a slice of old England transplanted to the Pacific Northwest. You’ll quickly see why with the city’s array of formal flower gardens, Victorian-era streetlights, horse-drawn carriages, tearooms and British-style pubs. It’s the next best thing to crossing the Atlantic – an unexpected bonus on your voyage to Alaska.
Here are our picks for the best activities in Victoria, BC, during your Alaska cruise:
The Inner Harbor is the heart of Victoria and the site of several key attractions. The first thing you’ll notice is the regal Fairmont Empress Hotel – designed by architect Francis Rattenbury in 1908 and distinctive for its Gothic dormers and roof turrets.
One of the most time-honored Victoria traditions is Afternoon Tea at the Empress, served in the hotel’s ornate tea lobby replete with tapestries, rich fabrics, and vintage furnishings. Along with specially blended Empress Tea poured into china cups, you’ll be served freshly baked scones, pastries and a variety of sweets presented on sterling silver. The afternoon tea runs from noon to 3:45 p.m., but if your ship makes an evening call to Victoria, you can still have tea from 7 to 9 p.m. in summer on Thursday through Saturday nights. Allow at least an hour to enjoy the indulgence. (721 Government Street.)
The Royal BC Museum, founded in 1886, is nearby, as is the Parliament building, also designed by Rattenbury. Ferry boats and yachts travel in and out of the harbor, and you’ll find restaurants and a variety of other entertainments as well. The Royal BC Museum specializes in the human and natural history of British Columbia. Its permanent collections trace local history from the Ice Age to the Russian fur trade, and from British Captain Vancouver’s nearby landing into modern times. You can also meet up with life-like grizzly bears and other regional wildlife. Temporary exhibits take on subjects like the Vikings and the BC Gold Rush. The current museum dates from 1968 and is located in the Inner Harbor area at 675 Belleville Street. Near the museum, you can see a nice collection of totems at Thunderbird Park. The Royal BC Museum recently won the Keck Award for their conservation work on the Chinese Freemason’s Lantern featured in the photo below.
The provincial BC Legislative Buildings grounds are nearby as well, complete with a statue of the city’s namesake, Queen Victoria. The Parliament Building — also designed by Francis Rattenbury, in the 1890s – has marble columns and stained glass inside and gardens and fountains outside. The building is especially impressive when illuminated at night. If you’re there during the day, you can tour Parliament weekdays when it’s not in session. (501 Belleville Street.)
A few blocks north along Government Street you’ll find Victoria’s Chinatown, the oldest in Canada, dating from the mid-19th century. Although not as large as it once was, it still retains its ethnic flavor with the street-straddling Chinese-built Gate of Harmonious Interest, the narrow Fan Tan Alley, restaurants, and various historic buildings. (Fisgard and Government streets.)
Victoria is filled with beautiful gardens, but the most spectacular – the famous Butchart Gardens — are located about 14 miles north in Brentwood Bay (cruise shore excursions travel there). The imaginative floral displays – which include rose and sunken gardens among its 55 acres — are no less than dazzling. The gardens are illuminated at night, so if your ship pays an evening call to Victoria, you may see them at their most magical. Adjacent is the Victoria Butterfly Gardens, a tropical complement to the very English Butchart Gardens.
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Kimberly Wheeler joined the team at CruiseExperts.com in September 2014. Her role as a Social Media Marketer is to pass on the expertise of the agency to help travelers understand the world of cruising through blogging. Kimberly has an extensive background in Public Relations and Marketing and a passion for engaging the public. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism with an option in Public Relations from Fresno State University in May 2014.