Planning a trip to Victoria, British Columbia with kids and want a totally do-able Victoria itinerary? Keep scrolling to check out how to spend the weekend in Victoria, BC with kids!
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It’s really hard to beat summertime in the Pacific Northwest. So, it’s easy for all our weekends to get booked with local adventures with friends and families.
I’ve had the Malahat SkyWalk on my bucket list since it opened a few years ago. When I realized we had a free weekend, I immediately booked a quick overnight weekend in Victoria BC so we could check it out.
Keep scrolling to find out exactly what we did.
Don’t have time to read a bunch of Victoria blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Victoria with kids.
Popular Victoria Tours/Activities
- Whale Watching Tour (a must-do in the summer)
- Butchart Gardens Express Shuttle (easy way to get there if you don’t have a car)
- Hop-On-Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus Tour (easy for families with kids who are tired of walking)
- Chinatown Food and History Tour (see more than just the famous Fan Tan Alley)
- Flytographer photo shoot (they are easy to book are really affordable)
Kid-Friendly Victoria Hotels
- Fairmont Empress (amazing location with afternoon tea and a pool)
- Inn at Laurel Point (great harbor location with an indoor pool)
- Best Western Plus Carlton Plaza Hotel (budget-friendly option in a good location)
- The Magnolia Hotel and Spa (great location within walking distance of most attractions)
- Victoria Regent Waterfront Hotel & Suites (the suites have full kitchens)
How to Get to Vancouver Island from Washington State
We have personally experienced taking the Victoria Clipper from Seattle, riding the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles, and driving onto BC Ferries from Tsawwassen (Vancouver).
I’ll give a brief summary of our experiences with each of them below.
I took this with my boys when we visited Victoria during Christmas a few years ago. We parked in downtown Seattle and headed over to the Clipper terminal.
There’s a whole process of showing passports and checking in. And you have to arrive early enough to do all of this.
The Victoria Clipper itself is a fantastic experience! It takes less than 3 hours and you’ll get dropped off at the Inner Harbour right in the heart of Victoria.
This is my top recommendation if you are leaving from the Seattle area and won’t need a car (it’s just for passengers). Check the latest rates and availability.
Black Ball Ferry
We did this when my husband and I had a romantic getaway to Victoria BC years ago. We took a ferry from Edmonds to Kingston and then drove to Port Angeles.
It’s a bit cumbersome to do it this way because it involved two ferries and we were really stressed out about missing the Edmonds/Kingston ferry.
But the Black Ball Ferry itself was nice. We even saw a whale right next to our boat!
It’s another great option that will get you right into the Inner Harbour.
This is what we did for this trip because we were already in Skagit County, which is only about an hour from the Canadian border. Using BC Ferries was the fastest way for us to get to Vancouver Island.
Pre-pandemic, there was a ferry from Anacortes to Victoria. That is currently suspended until 2030. Boo. That would have been the easiest way to get to Victoria BC.
We ended up catching the ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. If you’re visiting during the summertime, you’ll definitely want to make advanced reservations online a few weeks before your trip.
Our ferry was huge and there were kids’ play areas, a video arcade, lots of dining options, coffee, etc.
It took about 90 minutes on the ferry to get to Swartz Bay, which is about 20-30 minutes from downtown Victoria.
Where to Stay in Victoria, BC with Kids
For this trip, we stayed at the Hotel Grand Pacific right in Downtown Victoria. We had a waterfront view and a balcony that was perfect for sipping coffee and people-watching.
It’s in a great location right across from the Black Ball Ferry and Clipper terminals. And it’s just a short walk to the Fairmont Empress Hotel and Downtown Victoria.
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2 Days in Victoria, BC with Kids
Before I really get into this Victoria weekend itinerary, I want to point out that we’ve visited Victoria BC several times in the past. Our main reason for visiting Victoria this time was to check out the Malahat Skywalk.
In the past, we’ve explored Butchart Gardens, played at Fisherman’s Wharf, visited the Royal BC Museum, and so much more. This time, we did a few things we haven’t done in previous trips.
Book a Family Photo Shoot
Whenever we travel, we almost always book a family photo shoot with Flytographer. They are super easy, affordable, AND it guarantees that I’ll be in some photos. You can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code HAWAIITRAVEL.
DAY 1: Malahat Skywalk and Afternoon Tea at the Empress Hotel
Ferry from Vancouver to Swartz Bay
We actually had to wake up at 5:30 a.m. so we could get everyone out the door by 6 a.m. We grabbed coffee on the way to the Canadian border.
Since it was so early on a Saturday morning, there were only a few cars ahead of us in line. And they didn’t even need to open up the Nexus line.
Then, we drove to Tsawwassen and got on the 8 a.m. ferry to Swartz Bay. We arrived at about 9:30 a.m. and drove to Malahat SkyWalk.
Since visiting Malahat SkyWalk was the primary reason for our weekend in Victoria, we figured we’d swing by first.
Basically, it’s a spiral wooden ramp that leads up to a 32-meter viewing deck that showcases panoramic views of sea inlets and mountains.
The whole thing is stroller-friendly and it’s easy enough to do with little kids but teens are also interested. We saw a lot of multi-generational families visiting together.
My 9-year-old also loved the 20-meter spiral slide that goes a lot faster than you might expect. He actually did it twice and didn’t complain about having to climb back up the ramp!
It was AMAZING and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a half-day trip from Victoria. It’s also a must-do for any Vancouver Island itinerary. Check the latest rates and availability.
We spent about 2 hours here and enjoyed some vegan ice cream before hopping back in the car.
I’m pretty obsessed with London Drugs. They have a great assortment of Canadian snacks and we always stop here whenever we’re in British Columbia.
I sent my husband in for All-Dressed Chips. Guess what he forgot to get?
But, we were fully loaded up with all kinds of candy bars!
Checked Into the Hotel Grand Pacific
At this point, we thought we’d try to check into our hotel a little early but our room wasn’t ready yet.
So, we ended up going to their new lounge area called Fathom to get some drinks and snacks. Warning, it’s $10 for a kids cup of juice.
After about an hour or so, our room was ready and we got inside and just zoned out for about an hour. With such an early morning, we just needed to relax for a bit.
Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel
Victoria BC is pretty famous for its afternoon tea options. The most well-known one is high tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.
We ended up getting a 5:30 p.m. reservation. This is sort of late for tea, but it was nice to not have it as an “in-between” meal.
The food was quite delectable and the tea itself was truly rich and full of flavor.
They had a kids version with different items and they recommended a few herbal teas that our kids enjoyed trying.
I will say that having tried several afternoon teas in Victoria (and in London), I’m not sure this one is really worth the steep price tag. It takes place in a lobby and the ambiance isn’t as great as other spots in Victoria.
But, I enjoyed this experience and I’m glad I did it!
Shopping and Henna Tattoos
After we did Tea at the Empress, we figured we should probably walk around for a bit.
So, we did some shopping around town and found some cute souvenirs for the kids.
They also begged to get henna tattoos from a stand right next to the Inner Harbour. They both chose Pokemon tattoos and they were SO careful not to mess them up while they were still drying!
Then, we headed back to the hotel for an early-ish night.
At this point in the evening, I was pretty exhausted and went to bed around 9 p.m. Our boys were ready for “2nd dinner” and convinced my husband to get room service.
They ended up getting chicken fingers and my husband got a steak. I think they were just craving protein.
DAY 2: Chinatown Food Tour
Since we knew we were doing a food tour, we didn’t want to make the rookie mistake of eating too much for breakfast.
So my husband and one of our sons walked across the street to grab Starbucks. We sipped our coffee on the hotel balcony while the kids ate pastries and did screens. Win-win.
Check Out of Our Hotel
After a leisurely breakfast, we packed up and left our luggage with bell services. I don’t like leaving luggage in our vehicle when we’re traveling.
Then, we took a leisurely walk to Chinatown to meet up with our tour guide.
Chinatown Food Tour
Since Victoria BC is home to Canada’s oldest Chinatown, we figured it would be worth doing a history/food tour to learn more about the area.
Our tour guide Brenda lives in Chinatown and she was a wealth of information when it came to historical facts as well as current day-to-day life in Chinatown.
I just assumed that all the food on the tour would be Chinese food. So, we were surprised to try Thai, Mexican, and Italian food, as well as macarons and a stop at a pub.
But, I’m so glad that we did because all the food we tried was stellar! We were so full that we ended up taking some of it with us in a to-go bag.
And we did get Chinese bao and dumplings! Check the latest rates and availability.
Ferry from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen
After our food tour in Chinatown, we did some quick shopping on Government Street and then walked back to the hotel to pack up our car and head to the ferry terminal.
We didn’t have a reservation for the direct ferry to Tsawwassen, so we wanted to get there as soon as we could to see if we could catch any of the ferries.
We lucked out and we made the 4 p.m. ferry!
As soon as we parked on the ferry, we raced up to get window seats. The views of the water and the little islands were amazing!
McArthurGlen Vancouver Designer Outlet
Another place that we always stop when we’re in Vancouver is the Roots Outlet. There’s one at the McArthurGlen Vancouver Designer Outlet right next to the airport.
We made a fairly quick, 30-minute stop to go shopping and grab churros.
Chinese Takeout in Richmond
Since we were already in Richmond and they are famous for their Chinese cuisine, we placed a to-go order at MaxNoodle House to get wonton min to bring home with us.
We also made a stop at London Drugs so I could clean them out of All-Dressed chips. It was just 4 bags but they were on sale!
At this point, it was about 8:30 p.m. on a Sunday and the border line was LONG. Thank goodness we had Nexus passes and we sailed right through.
Well, until we realized that my husband didn’t activate his renewed Nexus pass and we had to go inside to the office and talk to border control to activate it.
BUT, it was still faster than waiting in the regular border crossing line!
We made it home at almost 10 p.m. and we were all pretty wiped. We slurped up our soup and hit the sack.
Tips for Visiting Victoria BC with Kids
Book Ferry Tickets in Advance
So, this trip was fairly last-minute for us (we booked it about 2 weeks out) and by the time I looked at ferry reservations, the direct ferries were all sold out.
But, we were able to make reservations to take 2 ferries to get there via Salt Spring. It wasn’t ideal but we had it as an option.
However, you can always check the website and go on standby to try to get on the direct ferry. That’s what we ended up doing.
It’s the same price to book ferry tickets in advance. However, there is a $25 cancellation fee. For us, it was worth knowing we had a backup option.
Stay Near the Inner Harbour
The most convenient place to stay in Victoria BC is near the Inner Harbour. This is especially true if you’re taking the Victoria Clipper or the Black Ball Ferry since that’s where you’ll get dropped off.
Victoria is a very walkable city but there are also lots of tours that depart right from the Inner Harbour. Staying there will make your life a whole lot easier.
Ask Your Kids What THEY Want to Do
Our first day was primarily things that I wanted to do: Malahat SkyWalk and Tea at the Empress Hotel. So, it was only fair to see what my kids wanted to do on the second day.
They were pretty passionate about doing the Chinatown tour so that’s what we went with.
Dress in Layers
As a true PNW local, I always know to bring layers with me anytime we’re traveling around our region. It always helps to have a light jacket or sweater even in the summer.
I was glad I brought sunglasses but I was bummed that I left my sun hat in the car.
What Else Can You Do on Vancouver Island with Kids?
Vancouver Island, beyond Victoria, is full of family-friendly activities. Here are a few options:
Visit the Ucluelet Aquarium
This catch-and-release aquarium offers a close-up look at the diverse marine life of the Pacific Northwest.
Renowned for its beaches and surfing, Tofino is also home to the Rainforest Trail, a perfect outing for families. You can also go on a whale-watching tour.
Check out the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre
Near Parksville, this facility cares for ill, injured, and orphaned wildlife and offers educational programs.
Explore the Horne Lake Caves
For the more adventurous families, these caves offer a chance to delve into an underground world.
Take a Dip at Parksville Beach
This beach is known for its warm waters and sandcastle-building opportunities.
Visit Coombs Old Country Market
Famous for the goats on its grass roof, the market also has a variety of shops and eateries.
Explore the BC Forest Discovery Centre
Near Duncan, this museum offers a look at BC’s logging history, with train rides available.
How to Visit Victoria BC in 2 Days FAQs
When can you do whale-watching tours in Victoria BC?
The best time for whale watching in Victoria, BC is from April to October when various species, including orcas, humpbacks, and minke whales, are commonly seen.
Is the Royal BC Museum kid-friendly?
Yes, the Royal BC Museum is very kid-friendly. It offers interactive exhibits, a natural history gallery with lifelike dioramas, a First Nations gallery with totem poles, and various programs for children.
What can you do on Fisherman’s Wharf?
At Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria, you can enjoy local seafood, view unique floating homes, go kayaking, take a harbor ferry tour, and see wildlife like seals.
Why is Fan Tan Alley so famous?
Fan Tan Alley, in Victoria’s Chinatown, is famous as the narrowest street in Canada. Its unique architecture, history, and array of local boutiques, shops, and eateries attract many visitors.
Is Victoria BC part of the San Juan Islands?
While geographically close and sharing similar coastal beauty, Victoria, BC is not part of the San Juan Islands. Victoria is located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, while the San Juan Islands are a part of Washington State.
What’s worth seeing at the Butchart Gardens?
The Butchart Gardens in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia, are a spectacle of floral beauty, featuring a range of themed gardens that bloom seasonally.
Popular sections include the Sunken Garden, created from an old limestone quarry, the Rose Garden with its multitude of vibrant roses, the Japanese Garden, the Italian Garden, and the Mediterranean Garden.
Is Beacon Hill Park worth visiting?
Absolutely, Beacon Hill Park, located in downtown Victoria, is a gem worth exploring. It’s a perfect place for a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or a game of frisbee.
Highlights include the park’s beautiful landscaping, the totem pole, the petting zoo, the picturesque Goodacre Lake, and the stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the park’s highest point.
What are the top things to see in Victoria BC?
A few popular sightseeing spots in this beautiful city include the Royal BC Museum, Beacon Hill Park, the Inner Harbor, Fisherman’s Wharf, Butchart Gardens, the Fairmont Empress, Market Square, and the British Columbia Parliament building.
Kid-Friendly Weekend in Victoria, British Columbia Wrap Up
A weekend in Victoria, located on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, can offer a remarkable array of kid-friendly activities.
This 2-day Victoria itinerary enables families to thoroughly explore Victoria, from the awe-inspiring views of the Malahat SkyWalk to a sophisticated afternoon having Tea at the Empress. Even a leisurely Chinatown tour can turn into an exciting adventure for little ones.
A family trip to Victoria is a chance to create unforgettable memories and inspire a love of travel and exploration in your children. By the end of your 2 days in Victoria, you’ll undoubtedly be planning your next family adventure on Vancouver Island.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, Victoria continually surprises and enchants you with its blend of natural beauty and cultural experiences. Get ready to fall in love with this family-friendly city!