Travel: Things to see and do in Victoria

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2005

Here are some of the most popular attractions in Victoria, British Columbia.

• Butchart Gardens - Victoria is known as the city of gardens, and Butchart Gardens is probably the best known of the many gardens around Greater Victoria. Butchart Gardens is located about a 25-minute drive from downtown Victoria and is near Brentwood Bay and Tod Inlet.

Robert Pim Butchart, who was one of the pioneers in the manufacture of Portland cement in Canada, was manager of the Saanich Lime Company and its nearby rock quarry. While Robert Butchart was building the Vancouver Portland Cement Company, his wife Jennie, began planting plants and shrubs around the property. The first garden was opened to the public in 1904, and this past year marked its 100th anniversary.

In 1906, the Butchart family hired a Japanese landscape artist named Isaboru Kishida to build a Japanese garden and then hired Hugh Lindsay as the head gardener. When the limestone quarry was exhausted in 1908, they created the sunken garden, which is one of the featured attractions. Later they added an Italian garden, a rose garden and the star pond.

Butchart Gardens is open all year, and during December there are holiday lights strung through the 55 acres of gardens and special night tours. Afternoon tea is served in the historic family residence every day. If you don't have a car, GrayLine buses have daily tours to Butchart Gardens that leave from the bus terminal behind the Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria.

• The Royal British Columbia Museum - The museum houses three main galleries - the First Nations Gallery, the Modern History Gallery and the Natural History Gallery - that track the human and natural history of British Columbia. These galleries include dioramas and other exhibits designed to create authentic settings. The museum also houses the National Geographic Theatre, where visitors can watch Imax movies.

• The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria - This is the area's biggest art gallery and it houses about 15,000 pieces of art in an historic 19th century mansion called Gyppeswick. In addition to its permanent holdings, the gallery brings in visiting exhibits such as the French Masters that runs from Dec. 4, 2004, through Feb. 20, 2005. This is a collection of 19th century French Realism masterworks on loan from the National Gallery of Canada. The gallery also houses a permanent collection of Emily Carr paintings (Carr is the best-known painter to come from British Columbia and she lived in Victoria).

• Go whale watching or fishing, go kayaking or paddle a Songhee canoe - Several types of tours are available from the Inner Harbour, and many of them can be booked at the Tourism Victoria Info Centre above the harbor.

• Take in a sports event - While Victoria is the home of Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash, the main sport here is hockey. The Victoria Salmon Kings are an expansion team in the ECHL (the minor hockey league that also includes the Alaska Aces from Anchorage) and games take place at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. The Salmon Kings will host the Aces five more times this season, on Jan. 4-5 and again on Jan. 21-23.

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