Travel Crush: Vancouver

Every time I’m in Seattle, I find myself wishing I’d planned a visit to Vancouver as part of the trip. Somehow though (likely because there are so many great things to do in Seattle), I’ve never made it across the border.

This upcoming year, one of my best friends from childhood is getting married in Seattle, which means I’ll be back in the Pacific Northwest a few times, and am determined to pop up to Vancouver during one of those trips.

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Why am I so excited about Vancouver?

It’s a city that embodies the PNW- laid back vibes, plenty of parks and hiking trails, a budding foodie culture, phenom distilleries, local markets, and a great art scene. Vancouver is a city home to endless adventures.

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I’m already envisioning morning hikes in stunning landscapes, refueling with delicious brunch, going for an afternoon stroll on one of the city’s beaches, and rounding out the evening downtown, visiting a gallery or two and enjoying a cocktail.

Is it any wonder my daydreams have me saying, Oh, Canada?

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Photo credits: RTW Girl

Visiting World Famous Gardens in British Columbia

Victoria lies at the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Smaller than Vancouver, it’s a picturesque, charming city.

When I visited Victoria last summer, it was part of a trip to Seattle. In under three hours, you can take the Victoria Clipper from Seattle to British Columbia. It’s a scenic cruise, and not uncommon for passengers to see whales on their journey.

If you, like me, only have one day to enjoy Victoria, you’ll be happy to know it’s easy to get around the city and there are a lot of cafes, restaurants and shops to explore.

One thing you must do before leaving Victoria? The Butchart Gardens.

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Photo via @TheButchartGardens Instagram

Covering 55 acres, the Butchart Gardens are a living kaleidoscope with an incredible number of flowers, shrubs and trees planted throughout.

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Butchart Gardens are one of the most famous gardens in the world, walking through them is absolute heaven.  Each garden has its own theme, I really enjoyed walking through the Japanese Garden.

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You really can’t put into words how magical this place is. If you visit the gardens, don’t miss the Sunken Garden- it’s particularly stunning.

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As part of my reservation on the Victoria Clipper, I opted to book a roundtrip bus tour to the Butchart Gardens. If you’re crunched for time while visiting Victoria, don’t plan on renting a car and want to see the gardens, I recommend this option. I got off the ferry and hopped on a bus waiting in the parking lot. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the gardens, during which time, we had a short city tour.

Once we arrived at the gardens, we had two hours to explore at leisure. Two hours was just the right amount of time for us to explore all of the gardens and spend a bit of time reflecting in the Japanese Garden.

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If you plan on visiting, I’d recommend coming for a morning or afternoon- although it’d be lovely to spend an entire day in the gardens, it’s not necessary if you want to see other attractions in Victoria.

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EXTRA KNOW BEFORE YOU GO INFO

  • Admission (to the gardens): Fluctuates depending on the season, but generally ~$23-33 USD
  • Identification (for Victoria, B.C.): Valid passport
  • Currency: Canadian dollar
  • Language: English
  • Wifi: Signal is scare at the gardens, but a lot of restaurants and coffee shops in Victoria have wifi

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24 Hours in Victoria, B.C.

Victoria lies at the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Smaller than Vancouver, it’s a picturesque, charming city. Downtown Victoria is very compact and walkable, and there’s a lot more to the inner harbor area than parliament buildings.

When I visited Victoria last June, it was part of a trip to Seattle. In under three hours, you can take the Victoria Clipper from Seattle to British Columbia. It’s a scenic cruise, and not uncommon for passengers to see whales on their journey.

If you, like me, only have one day to enjoy Victoria, you’ll be happy to know it’s easy to get around the city and there are a lot of cafes, restaurants and shops to explore.

One day in Victoria, B.C.

  • My ferry arrived early in the morning. As part of my reservation, I opted to book a roundtrip bus tour to the Butchart Gardens. If you’re crunched for time, don’t plan on renting a car and really want to see the gardens, I recommend this option. I got off the ferry and hopped on a bus waiting in the parking lot. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the gardens, during which time, we had a short city tour. Once we arrived at the gardens, we had two hours to explore at leisure
  • Butchart Gardens are one of the most famous gardens in the world, walking through them is absolute heaven. Covering 50 acres, the breathtaking views are a sight to behold. Each garden has its own theme, I really enjoyed walking through the Japanese gardens and floral displays

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  • After spending a morning at the gardens, come back to the city for afternoon tea at the Empress
    • The Fairmont Empress Hotel’s Victorian architecture and elegance warrants a visit even if you’re not planning on having tea. But, if you do decide to have afternoon tea- know you’re in for a treat. Loved spending the afternoon drinking the Empress special blend and munching on little sandwiches and mini pastries

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  • After you’ve had your fill at tea, walk around the Inner Harbor for a few hours. The city is built around the Inner Harbor, and it’s fun to watch the floatplanes, ferries and boats come and go throughout the day
    • Wander up Government Street, which is a bit touristy, but also home to Roger’s Chocolates and Munro’s Books (said to be the best bookstore in Canada)
    • Stroll down Johnson Street to explore a bunch of fun boutiques and restaurants near Market Square
    • While you’re in the area, Victoria’s Chinatown also warrants a quick visit
    • If your afternoon explorations leave you hungry, any of these places are good options:
      • Willie’s Bakery & Cafe: B.C.’s oldest bakery offers an all-day breakfast and lunch menu. The banana french toast with maple cream cheese drizzle is incredible
      • Victoria Public Market: Wander from stall to stall, sampling a bit of this and that from each one. The market reminded me of Chelsea Market in New York City, loved that there was something for everyone
      • Bon Macaron Patisserie: Sweet and savory macarons, try the goat cheese & fig, as well as the salted caramel for a balanced taste
      • Tacofino: Locals line up for the baja-style fish tacos
      • Fernwood Coffee: Hand crafted, fine roast coffees make this the perfect place for an afternoon pick-me-up

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  • Before the sun sets, head over to Fisherman’s Wharf to wander through colorful, whimsical floating homes and quirky shops

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Since I was only in Victoria for a day, I didn’t opt to go whale-watching (I’ve also been before on a previous trip to Seattle), but Victoria’s whale-watching tours are known for black-and-white orca sightings and famed marine wildlife.

Extra Know Before You Go Info

  • Identification: Valid passport
  • Currency: Canadian dollar, although USD is accepted at most places as well
  • Language: English
  • Wifi: Most coffee shops and restaurants in town have wifi available

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