For the second year in a row, we included a trip to Bright Nights in Stanley Park to ride the Stanley Park Christmas Train. Though Ianiv is right in calling it the “Gong Show Nights”, I consider Bright Nights to be a highlight of the holidays. I love walking around looking at Christmas lights and would, if our kids didn’t go to sleep so early, consider many more such outings during the holidays (Van Dusen, Trinity Street, etc). As it was, we had to book our train trip at 5pm and go home right after to get the kids in bed – Aiden fell asleep in the car.
2011 and 2012 Bright Nights in Stanley Park
We missed out on some of the Bright Nights festivities, like choirs, but we had a nice walk around to look at the lights and enjoyed some popcorn and chestnuts. Aiden was quite impatient to ride the train, as we expected, so there was a lot of whining too ;)
The train did not disappoint. I was surprised to notice that the train ride had been themed this year, with elements of the lights and the performances (as well as the synchronized music) altered since last year. I honestly thought it would be exactly the same. So, nice surprise.
Aiden loved the train ride (we got the front seat!) and Damien was mesmerized too – looking all over the place, taking it all in. Great night.
Although this was not our first trip with Aiden, it was a different kind of trip to be taking as a family. Without beaches or parks integrated into our schedule, we played ‘tourist’ as best we could… with 2 kids. There are some things I learned about taking 2 kids to Victoria that I would perhaps change for our next trip.
We definitely discovered on this trip that our particular child is more into activities that involve physical activity than observation. While it may have seemed that a bug zoo would be interesting to a toddler, I think Aiden may have had a better time walking at a lighthouse or running around in a park. We tried to choose activities that had ‘a lot to see’ rather than ‘a lot to do,’ and I think our next trip would balance the two.
When we arrived in Vancouver, our hotel provided a great pamphlet on Family Friendly activities in Victoria. Our trip included visits to:
If I were to re-plan the trip, I would probably skip Butchart Gardens (until Aiden is not afraid of the carousel) and the Bug Zoo – instead, I’d find a local park for one outing and perhaps consider another outdoor-based activity that involved more walking.
Here are some other family-friendly ideas for Victoria – some we’ve done, some we want to do on a future trip!
Are there other family-friendly activities you would suggest for Victoria?
Just down the street from the Butterfly Gardens in Victoria is the famous Butchart Gardens. Though not originally on my list of things to see with Aiden, its proximity to the Butterfly Gardens made us change our minds. Additionally, I was hoping to give Aiden something ‘fun’ to do (as opposed to another ‘observation-type’ activity with a visit to the Rose Carousel.
Despite my best intentions, Aiden was too afraid to go on the Rose Carousel (which was an extra fee). Going a whole weekend without a nap (while still normally napping), Aiden spent most of the trip in the provided strollers (nice perk!), though he did walk and explore the Japanese Gardens, up and down the twisting paths and stairs.
A visit to the gardens is not something to be taken lightly. It’s an expensive trip, quite outside of Victoria, though many of the tour buses make a stop there. There are many dining options – from cafeteria-style to cafe to sit-down eating – making it possible to extend your visit with kids who may not appreciate the gardens as much as you do!
The gardens does offer a Family Discovery Walk pamphlet geared to much older kids. If I were to make a suggestion, it would be to make a second pamphlet for younger kids that is more of a scavenger hunt with pictures of flowers or landmarks that they have to seek out; would be a fun way to get them involved.
See all our photos here.
On our way out of Victoria, we paid a visit to the Butterfly Gardens, an amazing 12,000 sq ft enclosure of tropical colour and life. Featuring over 3,000 butterflies, flamingos fish and other insects, the gardens boasts an amazing experience. As a larger facility, there was more to keep Aiden engaged with than at the Bug Zoo, though I admit the adults were more fascinated with finding (and photographing) the beautiful butterflies.
The most beautiful butterfly there is a gorgeous deep blue (the Blue Morpho), but it’s also the hardest to photograph – signs there explained that it almost never lands for long enough to snap up a photo!
See all our photos here.
In an effort to see the ‘kid friendly’ activities in Victoria, we paid a visit to the Victoria Bug Zoo, a small two-room collection of over 40 species of insects and spiders. There were terrariums set up with spiders and praying mantids and scorpions but the key attraction is Canada’s largest ant farm. With a ‘bug guide’ to demonstrate the inhabitants of the zoo, it’s a fun stop for any bug lover.
Our little Aiden didn’t really have the patience for the bug zoo, unfortunately. Just like with the aquarium, he is happy to look at a tank once briefly before moving on – in this case, you can see his attention wasn’t held for long.
The gift shop here had some fun items for kids and adults alike! Bug infused lollipop, anyone?
See our photos here.