We love to travel, but as our son becomes more active and less interested in sitting in a car for long periods of time we are increasingly interested in quick and easy vacations from Seattle. Early one Friday morning, we drove a mere fifteen minutes from our home, boarded the Victoria Clipper and set out for a long weekend in Victoria, BC. It had been several years since we last visited Victoria and word on the street was Victoria is rapidly becoming a young, vibrant, fun and hip place to be. Due to sky rocketing real estate in Vancouver, BC many young families are relocating to Victoria making it a great place to visit, especially for young families like ourselves. We hadn't visited Victoria since we had become parents, so we were eager to see all Victoria had to offer.
The biggest perk of catching the early ferry is you can hit the ground running once you are in Victoria. When traveling with a toddler two of the most important factors are food and speed. During our boat ride we were able to eat breakfast and then spend the rest of the time checking out all the boats and beautiful scenery out our window and chatting with the interesting people on board. Once in Victoria we took a short taxi ride to our hotel and without much fuss we were able to be settled into our room and get a bite to eat all before noon. Since it was so early in the day, we then had the rest of the day to explore Victoria at our leisure. We had such a long list of things we wanted to do we really appreciated being able to get up to Victoria so fast and with such ease on the Victoria Clipper.
We stayed three nights at the newly renovated Magnolia Hotel. The Magnolia Hotel is located one block from the harbor and close to the city's best restaurants, shops and entertainment. The hotel's tag line is "Timeless elegance in the Inner Harbour" and we found that to be a true representation of our experience there. We stayed in a Diamond Harbor View room and found it be well appointed, thoughtfully decorated and provided a wonderful respite at the end of each day.
We enjoy staying at boutique hotels for many reasons, but the biggest is the staff's ability to engage with us, give us advice and do all they can to make our stay more fun and enjoyable. When you are a parent, one of the most important things is how your children are treated by others. The staff at the Magnolia Hotel was quick to greet Jasper each morning and he got a real thrill out of seeing their pet fish each day at the front desk. It is hard to find this kind of undistracted, unmatched service you can experience at a boutique hotel. At the Magnolia Hotel the staff is interested in going the extra mile, they offer fresh fruit and bottled water during the day and a nightly turn down service where they leave miniature chocolates at your bedside at night.
The Magnolia Hotel is conveniently located in close proximity to all the places we were interested in visiting. And as an added bonus the hotel boasts stunning views of the harbor from many of its rooms. Shortly after we arrived it was evident Jasper would have been completely content sitting on the bed or with his nose pressed to the window watching all the seaplanes take off and land or the boats coming in and out of the harbor.
When we stay at a hotel one of the most important factors is how comfy the bed is. I am happy to report the bed at the Magnolia Hotel was large, luxurious and provided the perfect place to rough house....I mean unwind, after a busy day of exploring.
The view from our Diamond Harbor View room.
Jasper is fascinated with planes right now, so he made certain to yell out and point whenever he saw one take off or land.
Our room at the Magnolia Hotel was so comfortable, light and bright we ended up spending many an hour reading books or just enjoying our view. Traveling with a toddler is a much different pace then traveling with an infant so it was nice for Jasper to be able to have a familiar space he could enjoy each day.
As an added incentive when you book directly with the Magnolia Hotel you are given breakfast vouchers. One morning we decided to take it slow and order room service. To this day, ordering room service still gives me a thrill. Having food delivered straight to your room always feels like one of the biggest luxuries to me because this is something we rarely do.
During our entire stay we were fortunate to have gorgeous weather. Each day we experienced blue skies, sunshine and the temperature hovering between 75-80 degrees. Perfection!
One of the most memorable and fun activities we did as a family while we were there was utilize the Magnolia Hotel trail maps. We were able to take out the free hotel bikes and spend a relaxing afternoon biking up to Beacon Hill Park, making important stops at the Beacon Hill Drive In for burgers and ice cream and visit the gigantic watering can so Jasper could run around in the water. The best part of these trail maps is how they have been created to allow interesting experiences for their guests. One map shows shopping highlights while another map shows places to stop for small bites and drinks. We utilized their biking map to explore places in the city we had never visited before and also explored sections from their walking maps during our time there.
My favorite part of traveling is the people I meet along the way. During our stay at the Magnolia Hotel we interacted with so many kind hearted, enthusiastic people whose only desire was for us to have a memorable vacation. From the door man to the bell hop each person gave us their undivided attention and helped us along the way. I had to laugh when it took five of us to figure out how to get Jasper properly installed into his bike carrier. It just goes to show you how important it is for their staff to get things right and that our safety was their number one concern.
Beacon Hill Park is a treasure trove of ponds, bridges, a petting zoo, gardens, an outdoor stage etc. In our short time there, we saw peacocks roaming around and heard an orchestra performance in the park.
Summer is a fantastic time of year to visit Victoria because the city is bursting with color, the harbor is buzzing with activity and you are bound to have a couple days of glorious weather.
Our favorite souvenirs are always the edible ones. We made it a point to head straight to Victoria Public Market once we arrived for a quick lunch. We loved being able to sample some of the local flavors and get a sense of a place through the local flavors we try. Roast meat and sandwich shop, Victoria Pie Co. and Salt Spring Island Cheese were some of our favorites. The Victoria Public Market is reminiscent of what you would find in The Ferry Building in San Francisco.
Beacon Hill Drive In had the best soft serve I have ever eaten. It is the kind of place I will dream about whenever it is hot and I am craving ice cream.
We loved being so close to the harbor. We loved to walked down there at night and check out the various vendors and food carts. We never tried of watching the boat traffic or people watching.
If it hadn't been for an uncooperative toddler I could have easily spent a fortune at some of the fantastic boutiques in Victoria. There were many stores that I walked into and felt like the pieces had been curated specifically for me. Even my husband, who is a hard guy to find clothes for had success shopping at several of the great men's boutiques.
The best part of most vacations is always the food. There was no shortage of delicious, local and inventive things to eat in Victoria. The food scene in Victoria is on fire right now. Here are just a few of our favorites we tried during our stay: Olo, 10 Acres, gelato at Pour, and ice cream at Kid Sister to name a few.
During our time in Victoria we had the opportunity to go whale watching with Prince of Whales. In a few short hours we were able to see orca and humpback whales, harbor seals, sea lions, a variety of birds and plenty of spectacular scenery. The boat was fast, the staff was knowledgeable and Jasper was so comfortable he was even able to sneak in a nap on our way out of the harbor.
In order to make the most of our time in Victoria we teamed up with the experts at Tourism Victoria. With our attractions pass we were able to gain free admission or heavily discounted admission to most attractions in Victoria. In our three days there we ran out of time to do everything we wanted to, but we were able to enjoy the Sightseeing Victoria bus, the Royal BC Museum, enjoyed an IMAX about the National Parks, visited Miniature World, took a harbor cruise and went whale watching.
In all the traveling we have done, we have never taken a hop on/hop off bus. We found it to be a great way to rest our weary feet and get the lay of the land. On our tour, we were able to figure out which places we wanted to come back to and visit when we had more time.
Watching the sunset from our room at the Magnolia Hotel.
When our long weekend was through and we boarded the Victoria Clipper to head back home we felt sad to be leaving such a fantastic place. On our way back home the Victoria Clipper all of the sudden slowed down and we were pleasantly surprised when they announced over the intercom we had come across two pods of orcas. The Victoria Clipper was kind enough to slow down not once, but twice in order for us to take in all in. And in that moment I was once again reminded the beauty is in the journey.