Even though I don’t like that we feel forced to homeschool, there are some aspects of our homeschooling journey I cherish. One of the things I love the most is getting my kids out of the “classroom” and into the world. I love it when they learn by experiencing something, by being engaged and hands on. Learning from life. So when we went on a family vacation to Victoria, B.C., Canada, we had a blast embracing our worldschooling ways. We compiled our top 10 favourite things to do in Victoria with kids that also sneak in some inspiring educational opportunities.
Top 10 Educational Things To Do In Victoria With Your Kids
Although we’ve been to Victoria many times over the years as a couple, this was our first time bringing the boys. It was a fantastic adventure and a wonderful experience for everyone!
Where to stay in Victoria
First if you are traveling as a couple and want a romantic, memorable stay you MUST check out Abigail’s. We have stayed there many times over the years and can’t recommend it highly enough. Since we were traveling with the kids this time, we needed to find a family friendly place. We ended up choosing Best Western Inner Harbour and it was excellent. The room was a good size with a full kitchen (including a full sized oven and stove top!). The staff were fantastic, hot breakfast is included and best of all, it’s an amazing location! We were able to walk to many places in Victoria, but for more distant adventures we were able to quickly scoot our way out of the downtown core to drive farther afield.
Now onto the educational adventures in Victoria!
Although technically outside of Victoria, about a 30 minute drive, Butchart Gardens is well worth the drive. With over a million visitors a year, expect it to be busy, even in the off season. I admit, I was really concerned when we first arrived. It felt like we would get nothing more than fleeting glimpses of flowers as we shuttled along like cattle, staring at the backs of the people in front of us. Eventually we entered an area where we were able to spread out and find some space away from the crowds and boy was it worth it! The history of the place and sheer scope of it is incredible.
For my tween, the flowers were very interesting. In fact I heard, “this is morning” a few times. Then he asked if he could use my camera. Butchart Gardens is a photographers dream and he loved practicing his camera skills in such an inspiring place. Plus, through the lens, he found his own way to engage in the whole experience and he truly enjoyed his time there. He snagged this picture of himself in one of the huge garden globes.
On your way to the Butchart Gardens you will pass the Butterfly Gardens and their new Insectarium. This was a beautiful stop! The insects were very cool to watch, but the butterfly gardens were stunning! There were hundreds of different butterflies and they leave out fruit to encourage the butterflies to land so you can study them or take pictures. There are also frogs, turtles, exotic birds, lizards and flamingos!
They have some interesting displays up, including a fascinating wall of butterfly chrysalis. It was interesting to see how different they all were and learn which chrysalis went with which butterfly. It was a great way to spend a couple of hours.
When we told friends and family we were looking for educational things to do with kids in Victoria the one place that came up over and over again was Beacon Hill. Everyone raved about it, and when I told my boys there were peacocks in the park, they insisted we HAD to check it out.
Beacon Hill is located south-east of the harbour. At 200 acres there is a LOT of walking and exploring to do in the park. The best part? When we arrived and parked our car, a peacock walked up right up to us. It was like our own special welcoming committee. We were instantly enthralled! The first day we spent 3 hours at Beacon Hill, but that wasn’t enough for our boys. We ended up returning for another day of exploring.
Since we traveled in May, it was mating season for the peacocks, which meant we were able to witness almost constant flares and mating dances. These were beautiful and mesmerizing. Having never seen a peacock flare in person, I still found it fascinating, even after the 100th time!
There are hidden treasures everywhere, including birds of all types around the park, plus lots of gardens and flowers. Again, since it was spring we found lots of baby ducks and geese to watch. All freshly hatched, fuzzy and adorable. However, since it was spring, the rose gardens and some of the other flowers were not blooming yet. That didn’t slow us down though.
Another big attraction was the large trees. We come from an area that has only tiny, weedy trees. Our trees are not good for climbing and my kids were shocked by the sheer size of these trees. It was as if they had stepped right from the pages of a fairy tale.
Throughout Beacon Hill there are also turtles and sculptures, beaches, and so much more. Plan on a good amount of time for exploring, but bring your own drinks and snacks.
Beacon Hill Children’s Zoo
While you are at Beacon Hill you should check out the children’s zoo. It is donation based for admission and a beautiful little corner of the park.
Once inside they have a variety of animals to watch, but the only animals you are actually allowed to pet are the goats. But oh the goats! My kids fell in love and spent so much time playing with the goats. There were goats of all ages and sizes, including two brand new babies that were born just a few hours before we got there. The petting zoo can get crazy with schools and groups, and on weekends. Try and time your visit during off hours for a more peaceful time with the goats and the chance to talk to the volunteers to learn more about the animals.
Willows Beach (Oak Bay)
My oldest has aspirations to be a marine biologist, so one of the things we wanted to do was beach exploring. The front desk staff at our hotel recommended Willows Beach in Oak Bay so we decided to check it out. It was only a 15 minute drive from the hotel. It’s a very family friendly beach with playground and a small cafe. We walked down the waterfront to a rocky area with tidepools and spent a couple of hours exploring.
We found some HUGE crabs, rock fish, some eels and so many little creatures. Plus of course lots of shells. It was a great beach to explore and play, but the water was VERY cold in May! But not cold enough to keep the kids out!
The great thing about the Inner Harbour is how much it changes every day. We walked through it almost every day and each time we were greeted by different artists and buskers. There was so much to see, plus checking out all the boats and even looking for fish and other critters in the water.
Take a 10 minute walk along the harbour to Fisherman’s Wharf to see some really cute houseboats, floating restaurants and even a seals and birds that call the Wharf home.
Victoria Bug Zoo
After walking around the Inner Harbour, head in a couple of streets to the Victoria Bug Zoo. This place is small. Really small. It is just one room. But the guides are a wealth of information for curious kids (and adults!).
They answered all my kids many questions about the different bugs and insects. The best part? Getting hands on with so many of the bugs! My boys loved being able to hold so many different bugs and see them up close and personal. Make sure you go when it is quiet so you can really experience spending time with the guide in a small group. If it is crowded and busy, it will be difficult to get as much out of the experience. My son ranked the GIGANTIC ant farm here as one of the highlights of the trip!
Royal BC Museum
One of the stops I knew we had to do was the The Royal BC Museum. While planning our week of activities I went online and discovered they were hosting a special event called “Surprising Science”. The event promised that staff and community members would be set up at stations throughout the museum allowing for some great learning opportunities. It sounded right up our alley, so we planned to visit that day.
The museum was a very short walk from our hotel and allowed us to tour the Parliament grounds on our way to the museum. The Royal BC Museum is perfect for an educational outing in Victoria. There is really something for everyone. This place is HUGE! Plan to spend at least a few hours there. Just as I thought the kids were done we stumbled upon the marine exhibit and they easily spent another 30 minutes exploring and learning. This was also by far the most interesting Surprising Science station we came across (we only found 3). The marine biologist stationed there was fantastic at teaching us about all the various critters she had on display and answering my son’s many questions.
Overall, the Royal BC Museum is a must visit covering so many different science and history topics specific to the region and Canada. There is definitely something to interest everyone.
Whenever we traveled to Victoria as a couple, we always stopped to visit Craigdarroch Castle. This Victorian style mansion is stunning. I love walking the halls, seeing all the antiques, reading stories, and seeing so many traces of the history still visible in this historic building. My favourite is reading the names carved into the walls by naughty school kids from when the building was used as a school. The idea of learning in such a beautiful, historic building is inspiring to me. This building is a wealth of beauty and stunning architecture, with lots of information and stories shared in almost every room.
The boys were given a special I Spy game by the staff that they could play in the castle. They had a lot of fun and only wished there were more things for them to spy and search out. A great way to travel through history with your family in a gorgeous setting.
Salish By The Sea Aquarium
Whether you arrive by ferry or plane, more than likely you are coming onto Vancouver Island through Sydney. I thought it would be a great adventure to spend our last day exploring Sydney before heading home. When I discovered Salish by the Sea Aquarium in Sydney my son was so excited. He has been begging to go to an aquarium for ages.
Salish by the Sea is an interesting facility, but it is small. I really over estimated how much time we could spend there. The kids toured the whole place in about 40 minutes.
The best part though, was the whale expert who taught the boys all about the Orcas in the region and how to identify them. It was a fascinating discussion that the kids really loved. It was wonderful to learn the names of all the Orcas and some of their history. I just wish the facility was much, much bigger.
Our Top 10 Inspiring and Educational Things To Do In Victoria BC
So that’s our list! Next time we have plans to travel the island more and perhaps take a whale/sea life watching tour if budget allows, but this time it was perfect keeping things close to Victoria and the kids loved it. They learned so much and are still talking about all the things they experienced. It has lead to some wonderful post trip studies and learning. Learning on the road is a wonderful way to bring some energy and inspiration to your homeschool! And you don’t have to travel far to make it happen.