Named for Queen Victoria, British Columbia’s capital offers a mix of new and old world charm.
Venture outside the city with these day trip itineraries.
Named for Queen Victoria, British Columbia’s capital offers a mix of new and old world charm, making a trip feel more like a brisk skip across the pond. See B.C.’s grand classical, renaissance and Romanesque Parliament buildings facing Victoria’s Inner Harbour and take a free-guided tour of the stately grounds and interior. In the afternoon, have tea in the historic Empress Hotel’s Tea Lobby—a city landmark since its opening in 1908. An English tradition, afternoon tea at the Empress feels like a childhood dream fulfilled with the traditional trappings of plush chintz chairs, floral rugs, antique tapestries and hand-carved tables. Perhaps a little more palatial than the tea parties you hosted with your favorite Teddy bear, the dainty china and signature Empress scones and pastries provide a glimpse into Queen Victoria’s ever-lasting influence on the city.
Get there: Victoria is 67 miles southwest of Vancouver. The most popular way to get there is by ferry. Ferries run every hour from Vancouver’s Tsawwassen terminal and Victoria’s Swartz Bay. Total cruise time is about 1 hour and 35 minutes. Though sailing through the bay offers a spectacular scenic tour, seaplane and helicopter rides are also available.
If you want to come face to face with a pillar of green energy, stand at the top of The Eye of the Wind, a massive wind turbine with a 360-degree observation area. You’ll not only see a complete view of Vancouver (perhaps the best in the city), but also the 121-foot rotating blades that fuel the eco-centric energy. For an unparalleled experience, attempt the Grouse Grind—“Mother Nature’s Stairmaster” as its lovingly referred to by locals. This hike is a steep climb at an elevation of about 2,800 feet, so if you’re a novice hiker, the 1.8 miles can be a grueling trek. If you forgot to pack your hiking boots (even if you don’t own a pair), take a zipline tour, which allows you to glide above the peaks and canyons of Grouse and Dam mountains at a speed of about 50 miles an hour. It may not be a high-octane cardio workout, but it’s still a thrilling expedition through the mountains. Afterward, replenish your electrolytes at The Observatory, which is perched on the top floor of Grouse Mountain’s Peak Chalet and offers fresh, West Coast dishes.
Get there: Take Grouse Mountain’s aerial tramway, the Skyride, which climbs 3,700 feet up the mountainside in a swift eight minutes. Though it’s a quick ascent, you’ll be able to catch views of the city, the Pacific Ocean, inlets and bays and the Gulf Islands as they stretch beneath you. 6400 Nancy Greene Way, 604-980-9311. Daily 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
Whether there’s snow covering the ground or not, the possibilities for outdoor adventure in Whistler are seemingly endless. In fact, perhaps your bigger worry should be deciding how many activities you can actually fit on your itinerary. Choose from a must-do menu of skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or tubing throughout Whistler’s snow-packed winter months, and ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola for all your mountain hopping. Linking Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains together at their peaks, the lift spans 1.88 miles at an elevation of 1,427 feet—an adrenaline pumping thrill itself. Careful not to neglect the warmer month activities, Whistler’s got you covered if you make the pilgrimage in the summer. In addition to hiking, canoeing and kayaking, you can cycle throughout the Whistler Mountain Bike Park and yes, even ski until late July. At Blackcomb Mountain’s Horstman Glacier you can ski or snowboard, so your skills are prepped by the time the season starts for everyone else. While time on the slopes is fun (perhaps even sacred), Whistler’s famed après scene provides a relaxing, yet vibrant atmosphere that you may be hankering for after a day atop the mountains. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience Whistler culture at the village’s restaurants, pubs and shops.
Get there: When planning a day trip to Whistler, the route along the way is as much a reason for making the voyage as the snow-covered peaks that await you. The unbeatable scenic route—the legendary Sea to Sky Highway—gets rid of the usual rigmarole of travel by offering a two-hour odyssey from the shores of Howe Sound up to Whistler’s 2,200 feet above sea level. As you skirt along Howe Sound, you’ll climb into the Coast Mountains through old-growth rainforests and waterfalls before being greeted by Whistler’s winter wonderland.