Last summer when I visited Victoria, British Columbia for the first time, I was so enchanted by its charm and character that I didn’t think it could ever get better. This weekend as I was hosted by Magnolia Hotel & Spa to experience Victoria during the holidays, I was proved wrong—it gets better every time you visit.
It’s exciting to experience the magic of Christmas far beyond the borders of your own home. I decided to bring my mother along on the girls-only weekend, and as soon as we were off the three-hour ferry ride from Anacortes to the Sidney ferry terminal on Vancouver Island, it was Christmas carols all the way.
Since we arrived late morning, we spent some time exploring before checking in to The Magnolia. Our first stop was Crust Bakery for lunch and post-lunch treats (the black current tart is not to be missed). Another place to spend some significant time is Russell’s Books right next door—stacked floor to ceiling with titles, it’s a reader’s paradise.
However, once we checked into our room at Magnolia Inn & Spa, we found it pretty hard to leave! We were booked in a Diamond Harbor Room with a cozy fireplace that we barely moved away from. The room was clean and elegant, and with a view of the Inner Harbour off in the distance. My favorite part was the Bailey’s hot chocolate nightcap we found waiting for us on the table! It was such a sweet setup and a thoughtful touch that you definitely won’t find at a chain hotel.
We embarked on the Festive Trail bright and early after a restful night. The Magnolia offers a variety of maps tailored to traveler’s interests, giving you 7 to 10 suggestions of where to go if you’re interested in shopping, the Christmas sights, the tea scene, and more all over Victoria. The Festive Trail was perfect for my mother and I—after late morning high tea at Venus Sophia, we headed to the Victoria Public Market for some Christmas gift shopping. It’s stop number 5 on the Festive Trail, and we definitely didn’t leave empty handed.
Farther down the street, the Festival of Trees at The Bay Centre is definitely a spectacle. Dozens of companies sponsor one Christmas tree each and take it upon themselves to decorate it. Viewers vote for their favorites by donating $1 to charity. There were so many fun trees that it was hard to choose a favorite!
Next on the list, the Gingerbread Showcase, where 20 gingerbread houses are built by chefs who have applied by donating a substantial fee to charity and somehow finding time to schedule in hundreds of hours of work to create stunning works of gingerbread art. Some of them are so intricate it takes a lot of convincing to believe they’re made out of gingerbread at all!
However, our next event was the one I was most looking forward to all day. I am a s’mores nut (seriously, I eat them for breakfast any time I go camping), and you can make your own right on The Veranda at the famed Fairmont Empress Hotel. My mother and I were right on time at 4:00 p.m., purchased two sets of s’mores ingredients and made ourselves comfortable around the firepit as the sun went down over the harbor. Let me just say, they use Lindt chocolate in their s’mores at the Empress. They are not messing around. For those without a sweet tooth, they also offer hot chocolate (spiked or not) and mouth-watering bratwursts with pretzel buns and the fixings.
Not only is the Empress decked out in twinkle lights holidays, but the Parliament building, boats moored in the Inner Harbor, and surrounding areas are all done up in red, white, and green for the holidays. Despite the gusts of wind and grey skies, the Christmas color and sparkle brings all of the warmth and light you could wish for on a cold December night. After one last hot breakfast at Catalano next door to the Magnolia, my mom and I finished up some last minute shopping on Government Street before catching the ferry back to reality. Victoria is a city that truly embraces the Christmas spirit, and no one does it better than the Magnolia Hotel & Spa!
Thank you so much to the Magnolia Hotel & Spa for hosting our stay.