History Buffs: Experience Victoria Throughout the Ages

Today, Victoria is a tranquil seaside city of students, government workers, and retirees. But life in British Columbia's capital city has not always been so simple. Come discover a Victoria where wooly mammoths ruled the land; where Canada's First Peoples made their home; where pioneers came to work in the Canadian fur trade; where fortunes were made and lost in the Klondike gold rush; and where Victorian class and manners dominated high society.

Morning: Royal BC Museum


At the Royal BC Museum, you'll experience the history of British Columbia, from the Ice Age to the modern age. See Victoria's first settlers; watch as the fur trade and the gold rush revolutionize life in the province; see history through the eyes of BC's First Nations; and explore the many other wonders at that this museum has on display.

This museum houses three permanent galleries: natural history, modern history, and First Nations history, and also regularly features traveling exhibitions from around the world. Consult their website to see what's on right now.

The Royal BC Museum is conveniently located at 675 Belleville Street, right by the inner harbour, and across the road from the BC Legislature and the Empress Hotel.

They open every day at 10 a.m., and close at 5 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays, and 10 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Tickets are $21.60 for adults, $15.75 for students, youth, and seniors, and free for children 5 and under.

No day at the Royal BC museum is complete without a trip to the IMAX theatre. Seeing a show here will have you literally immersed in history, as stories unfold all around you on a giant movie screen, and you experience the sounds of history in full, 12,000 watt digital surround sound. Check their schedule for current show times and ticket prices. 

Insider's Tip: To experience a piece of history in real life, head across the street to the Fairmont Empress Hotel for their afternoon tea service. This is a tradition that has been a part of Victoria since 1908. For $59.95, you'll receive the royal treatment in the Empress' famed tearoom. Sip their special tea blend and enjoy a selection of biscuits and pastries prepared by award winning Executive Pastry Chef D'Oyen Christie. Their tea service starts daily at 11:30 a.m. and the last seating is at 4:45 p.m.

Afternoon: Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle

The city of Victoria takes its name from Queen Victoria, who ruled the English Empire from 1837 until 1901. Her reign gave rise to the Victoria era, which, for many British subjects, was a time of culture, refinement, and romanticism. This era is perhaps best encapsulated on Canada's west coast in Craigdarroch Castle. This castle is the former home of coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, who was the richest and most important man in Western Canada until his death in 1889. Dunsmuir's house and gardens have been exquisitely preserved; seeing them takes visitors straight into the lives of the Victoria's rich and famous in the 1890s.

Craigdarroch Castle is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $13.50 for adults, $12.75 for seniors, $8.75 for students, and $5.00 for children ages 6 to 12.

To get to the castle, drive or walk up Fort Street (away from the inner harbour) until you reach Joan Crescent. Turn right on Joan Crescent and you will find free parking either at the castle, or on one of the surrounding streets. This should be about a seven-minute drive, or a half hour walk.

Or, to reach the castle in full comfort and style, hop on the bus with either CVS or Grey Line Sightseeing for a guided tour of the city. Both companies offer hop-on-hop-off tours that start in front of the Empress Hotel and stop at multiple destinations throughout the city, including Craigdarroch Castle, Oak Bay Village, and Chinatown.

CVS' air-conditioned coach tours leave every hour on the hour between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., with an additional 4:00 p.m. trip on Fridays.

Grey Line's open-air double-decker bus tours leave every hour starting at 9:30 a.m., with the last bus leaving at 5:30 p.m.

Insider's Tip: For more on this historic mansion, come back in the evening for a special screening of the recently completed documentary, “Victoria's Castle.” This documentary tells the story of Craigdarroch through film clips, images, and first-hand accounts. Every Friday night throughout the summer, the castle opens its grounds at 6:15 p.m. for self-guided tours, and screenings of the documentary start at 7:00 p.m. Tickets to the film can be purchased for the cost of general admission plus $5.

Evening: John Adams' Ghostly Walks

At night, Victoria has a special atmosphere to it. Some might call it romantic, while others might call it haunted. For John Adams, ghosts are everywhere in Victoria – you just need to know where to look for them. His Ghostly Walks tour takes audiences on a guided tour of the city at night, where ghosts from the past come alive to haunt the city and its inhabitants. Even for those who don't believe in ghosts, this tour is a great way to get to know some of the characters from the past who have shaped what the city is today.

Insider's Tip: Those who really love to immerse themselves in history should also look for Adams' historic Chinatown walks and neighbourhood discovery walks. Each of these tours gives visitors a chance to experience Victoria's history in a whole new way.

Ghostly Walks start in front of the Visitor Information Centre, and leave nightly at 7:30 p.m., with an extra tour on Friday and Saturday nights at 9:30 p.m. Tours cost $14 for adults, and $12 for students and seniors. 

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P.O. Box 39047
James Bay Postal Outlet
Victoria BC V8V 4X4
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