Want to do Victoria on a budget? Explore our list of 27 free things to do in Victoria BC:
Explore the 565 oceanfront acres at Hatley Park where you will discover the Japanese, Italian and Rose Gardens. At the centre of the magnificent property sits Hatley Castle which is open for tours however not included in the free garden tour.
You don’t have to be a historian to enjoy this 45-minute guided tour of the majestic BC Parliament Buildings. Afterwards, head to the lower level Legislative Dining Room for casual breakfast or lunch prepared by an award-winning chef (not included in the free tour). Hours are based on the schedule of the Legislative Assembly.
If you’re here on Father’s Day then you will have the opportunity to attend one of our favourite free things to do in Victoria BC. The Outdoor Discovery Days takes place at the Victoria Fish and Game Protective Association property located on the Malahat. It is a chance to try your hand at fishing as well as shooting sports such as skeet, trap, black powder, cowboy action and more.
With the beauty of the bird sanctuary on one side and the ocean marine traffic sailing by on the other, the Esquimalt Lagoon has always been a magical place to clear your mind and feed your soul. Add local artist Paul Lewis’ evolving collection of Bark Birds, and you have even more reasons to visit.
If you’re in town over the Victoria Day Weekend then your timing is perfect to take in the Island Farms Victoria Day Parade. One of the largest and longest running parades in the Pacific Northwest, this parade attracts floats, marching bands and visitors from across Western Canada and the United States.
For 360 views of the city and peninsula, you can’t beat either of these two options. Mount Tolmie is perfect for those who want to drive to the top while Mount Doug (as it is more commonly called) requires a short hike from the upper parking lot to reach the summit. You will not be disappointed by the views from either of these spots! Both are favourite things to do in Victoria for locals and visitors alike.
If you enjoy history and architecture – particularly intricate Edwardian millwork - then a stroll through the Empress Hotel lobby is a must. Designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1981, the Empress is also considered one of the world’s most iconic hotels.
This is where the Lieutenant Governor lives and works. It is also where prominent politicians and royalty typically stay when in Victoria. The house is generally open for tours however will be undergoing extensive renovations in 2020 and will not be available until the late fall. The gardens though will continue to be available to tour throughout the year.
Victoria’s Chinatown is small but mighty and you could literally spend hours exploring all the interesting shops and sampling some of the food. A must visit is Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada and while you’re there, indulge in some local, from-scratch ice cream at Kid Sister Ice Cream.
If ever a space can be calm yet chaotic at the same time, it has got to be Victoria’s Inner Harbour and Ships Point. Spend just a brief time at the harbour and you may see international ferries, seaplanes, kayakers, whale watchers, harbour cruises, water taxis, tug boats and personal yachts all coming and going with the harbour police conducting the marine traffic like a grandiose symphony orchestra. It is beautiful to watch.
Visiting Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the coolest things to do in Victoria BC because of all the funk they have managed to pack in to a relatively small space. You’ll stroll past incredibly colourful and eclectic floating homes, each distinctly decorated by their live-aboard owners. There is unique gift shopping, food kiosks serving up tantalizing meals and eco-tourism shops welcoming you onboard. Further down the docks are working fishing boats where you can buy fresh seafood right off the boat. Fisherman’s Wharf is a must-see gem in Victoria.
Any time of year if the right time to visit Goldstream Provincial Park. Just a short distance from downtown Victoria, Goldstream is a perfect destination for a walk through old-growth rainforest or a hike up Mount Finlayson for the more adventurous. Bring some firewood and enjoy a fire at one of the parks fire pits for the ultimate back to nature experience.
You can visit Goldstream throughout the year for all the reasons above, but if you happen to be here between mid-October and early December, then you simply must visit to watch the natural phenomenon of the annual salmon run where over a period of approximately 6 weeks, about 30,000 salmon will return to their place of birth to spawn and die.
Did you miss the salmon run? Don’t worry, mother nature isn’t done yet. Visit Goldstream Park in December or January to witness eagles feasting on the salmon carcasses. The park has closed the estuary to the public and this has resulted in many eagles coming to the area to feast – over 250 in a single day!
Located on the grounds of the Royal BC Museum, across from the Inner Harbour, Thunderbird Park is home to several hand-carved totem poles from the museum’s collection. Seeing all these free-standing totem poles in one place is another example of some of the pretty cool, free things to do in Victoria BC.
The breakwater is a large, concrete structure that juts out approximately 0.8 km into the sea and is home to the Breakwater Lighthouse at the end. It is an incredibly picturesque walk that is very popular for locals and tourists alike. Due to the wind and waves, it is not recommended to walk it in times of inclement weather.
The Victoria Heritage Foundation have created several neighbourhood walking tours, focusing on the history and architecture of each district. Two of those in the downtown area are The James Bay Heritage Walking Tour #1 Emily Carr Walk and #2 Ogden Point-Inner Harbour. Pick up brochures at the Visitor Centre or download from their site and follow along throughout the very walkable James Bay neighbourhood. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.
Named one of the 11 most unique playgrounds in the world by Fodor’s Travel Guide, Cadboro-Gyro Park is a destination all by itself. Located on the eastern coast of the island at Cadboro Bay, the park is home to massive cement structures for kids to play on, an accessible play area, zipline and more. Come see what makes it so special.
If you’ve got access to a vehicle and want to get out of town for a few hours, driving the Pacific Marine Circle Route might be just the thing for you. The entire drive is just under 300 km and will take you from one side of our island to the other and back along the south coast. This is one of those road trips you will not forget!
Bring the lawn chair or grab a blanket and enjoy a good old-fashioned outdoor movie experience. So far we’ve been unable to locate a complete listing of 2020 movies but we’re working on it. Locations that have participated in the past include Cameron Bandshell at Beacon Hill Park, Bullen Park in Esquimalt, Millstream Village and Westshore Parks and Recreation.
The Victoria Public Market is a year-round indoor market, located in the historic Hudson Building. Drop by to meet the local vendors and take home a taste of Victoria.
In addition to the indoor market downtown, Greater Victoria boasts several outdoor farmers markets throughout the summer months (some with live entertainment). Here you will find numerous vendors who employ the grow, make or bake philosophy meaning that many of the offerings are either grown by the farmer, made by the artisan or baked by the baker. Our markets regularly win awards and we’re happy to show you why on your next visit.
Memorial Park in Esquimalt is the place to be on Tuesday evenings from mid June until the end of July for the free Memorial Park Music Fest. Expect to be entertained by live music and find local food vendors with a variety of multicultural snacks and beverages for purchase.
May 8 -10, 2020 are the dates for this years Buccaneer Days taking place at Bullen Park in Esquimalt. Unlike many small fairs, there is no gate charge making this another terrific free thing to do in Victoria BC with your family.
Located just minutes from the Inner Harbour and with over 200 acres of parkland, manicured gardens, play structures and sporting fields, there truly is something for everyone at Beacon Hill Park. Two highlights though are the free-roaming peacocks and the children’s petting zoo (admission by donation to the zoo).
The Esquimalt Adventure Park is one of the newest children’s parks in the region and it is attracting a lot of attention for the quality and variety of structures for kids to play on. Add to that the spectacular splash pad and you’ve got a recipe for fun. The park is located beside the Esquimalt Rec Centre and is open year-round with the splash pad being operational May through September, weather permitting.
Across from the Breakwater District in James Bay is a very short street packed with enormous fun. Along the boulevard the property owners have created amazing little vignettes featuring fairy doors and gnome homes. It will only take a short time to stroll this street and you are guaranteed to smile the entire time.
I hope you enjoy these fabulous and free things to do in Victoria.
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