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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. Seven hundred varieties of flowers grow in the site's Japanese, Italian, rose, and sunken gardens. Highlights include the view over the ivy-draped and flower-filled former quarry, the dramatic 70-foot-high Ross Fountain, and the formal and intricate Italian garden, complete with a gelato stand.
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, try to come at opening time, in the late afternoon or evening (except Saturday evenings, which also draw many visitors), 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. Both Gray Line and CVS Cruise Victoria run shuttles from downtown Victoria, and CVS Cruise Victoria also operates a shuttle from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal.
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