Victoria, British Columbia, is popularly conceived of as a quiet retirement community, but there’s more to the Garden City than swarms of aging boomers waiting out the clock. While thoroughly modern, Victoria maintains a quaint colonial charm in its historic architecture, manicured public gardens and easily walkable, accessible layout. And with half of Canada’s navy headquartered across the harbour in Esquimalt, you’re sure to see some hot men in uniform during your stay.
Walk back through time by spending a day taking in Victoria’s colonial history. The downtown core is packed with historic buildings, including the opulent Fairmont Empress hotel, which dates to 1908. You can find interesting antique knickknacks in many of the shops on Fort Street. The cobblestone streets between Government and Douglas streets are also full of interesting shops and historic buildings.
Just to the north, you’ll find one of Canada’s oldest Chinese communities, on Fisgard Street, between Government and Store streets. Buildings are decorated with traditional Chinese designs, and on your way in you’ll pass through the Gates of Harmonious Interest. You’ll find some truly excellent cuisine in this bustling little neighbourhood.
After dinner, take a walk along Victoria’s charming harbourfront, where you’ll find buskers and musicians performing, and watch the sunset over Victoria West across the water. Cross the bridge for a dramatic view of the BC Parliament Buildings at night when they’re all lit up. They’ll be to the south, across the water, in Victoria proper.
Despite being home to more than 300,000 people, Victoria remains close to nature. True story: once when walking home from a club through the Fairfield neighbourhood, I spotted a family of deer grazing on a front lawn. They followed me for a block. A short walk from the city core, you’ll be able to see starlight as if you were in the country.
But there are plenty of options to get even closer to nature. Whale-watching tours are popular, and some operators will guarantee that you’ll spot some of the local orcas on your cruise. The temperate climate makes hiking a year-round option, and there are lots of great fresh and saltwater beaches just a short drive from downtown. Be warned: none of them are what you’d call cruisey gay beaches.
Victoria’s gay scene is small but mighty. There’s only one official gay bar, Paparazzi, and it’s open seven days a week. But many gays prefer to hang out at the welcoming straight clubs, especially the modish hipster bar Lucky and the dance club Hush. The Victoria Pride Society organizes the annual Pride Day and Pride Parade, as well as other events during the year.