Butchart Gardens Review
This stunning 55-acre garden and National Historic Site has been drawing visitors since it was planted in a limestone quarry in 1904. Highlights include the dramatic 70-foot Ross Fountain, the formal Japanese garden, and the intricate Italian garden complete with a gelato stand. Kids will love the old-fashioned carousel and will likely enjoy the 45-minute mini-boat tours around Todd Inlet.
From mid-June to mid-September the gardens are illuminated at night with hundreds of hidden lights. In July and August, kids' entertainers perform Sunday through Friday afternoons; jazz, blues, and classical musicians play at an outdoor stage each evening; and fireworks draw crowds every Saturday night. The wheelchair- and stroller-accessible site is also home to a seed-and-gift shop, a plant identification center, two restaurants (one offering traditional afternoon tea), and a coffee shop; you can even call ahead for a picnic basket on fireworks nights. To avoid crowds, come at opening time, in the late afternoon or evening (except ultrabusy fireworks Saturday evenings), or between September and June, when the gardens are still stunning. The grounds are especially magical at Christmas, with themed lighting and an ice rink.
The gardens are a 20-minute drive north of downtown; parking is free but fills up on fireworks Saturdays. You can get here by city Bus 75 from Douglas Street in downtown Victoria, but service is slow and infrequent. CVS Cruise Victoria (www.cvscruisevictoria.com; 877/578–5552) runs shuttles from downtown Victoria as well as from Swartz Bay ferry terminal.
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