Making the Most of Your Time
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Making the Most of Your Time
You can see most of the sights in Downtown Victoria's compact core in a day, although there's enough to see at the main museums to easily fill two days. Many key sights, including the Royal BC Museum and the Parliament Buildings, are open on some summer evenings as well. You can save time by prebooking tea at the Empress Hotel and buying tickets to the Royal British Columbia Museum online.
You should also save at least half a day or a full evening to visit the Butchart Gardens. The least busy times are first thing in the morning, or on weekdays in the late afternoon and early evening; the busiest but most entertaining time is during the Saturday evening fireworks shows. If you have a car, you can make a day of it visiting the nearby town of Sidney and some of the Saanich Peninsula wineries.
An extra day allows for some time on the water, either on a whale-watching trip—it's fairly easy to spot orca in the area during summer—or on a Harbour Ferries tour, with stops for tea at Point Ellice House, a microbrew at Spinnakers' Brewpub, or fish-and-chips at Fisherman's Wharf. You can also explore the shoreline on foot, following all, or part, of the 7-mi (11-km) waterfront walkway.
With more time, you can explore some of the outlying neighborhoods; visit the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Craigdarroch Castle, or the delightful Abkhazi Gardens in the Oak Bay and Rockland areas; or head east to see Hatley Park and Fort Rodd Hill.
It rains often in Victoria, so if you get a fine day, set it aside for garden touring, whale-watching, kayaking, or cycling. Car-free bike paths run north to Sidney and east to Sooke.
If you're here for a while and, ideally, have a car (or really enjoy cycling), the wineries of the Cowichan Valley and the beaches past Sooke warrant a full day each—although it is possible to see both the West Coast and the Cowichan Valley in a one-day circle tour from Victoria. Salt Spring Island can be done as a day trip (market Saturdays are a highlight), though ferry schedules mean that the other islands usually require an overnight. Be warned, though: many people have planned day trips to the islands and ended up staying for years.
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