Canada’s unofficial start to the summer – Victoria Day

Queen_VictoriaFirst things first: if you live in Western Canada, you’ll say May Long, and if you live in Eastern Canada, you’ll say May two-four. Same thing!

The May long weekend is officially called Victoria Day which is a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday – May 24th. She ruled from June 20, 1837 until her death on January 22, 1901 which is the longest reign of any monarch, 63 years and 7 months. After her death, an Act was passed by the Parliament of Canada establishing a legal holiday on May 24 (or May 25 if May 24 falls on a Sunday) under the name Victoria Day.

Victoria Day is less than a month away, so we thought we’d give you some ideas of how to spend your long weekend. And what better place to celebrate Victoria Day than Victoria, a city that bears the same name.

Butchart GardensSince Victoria Day marks the beginning of summer, or at least that’s what Canadians would like to believe, take a trek to Victoria’s scenic Butchart Gardens. A National Historic Site with 55 acres of beautiful gardens, this is the perfect opportunity to catch the floral sights in full bloom.

Bastion Square, located in the heart of downtown Victoria, looks out on the Inner Harbour and features the city’s best restaurants and cafes. On Saturdays, it’s home to an artisan market with locally made arts and crafts, and on Sundays, features a Farmers’ Market with locally grown produce and fruits, homemade breads and pastries, authentic Mexican food, and much more.

The British Columbia Parliament Buildings exhibit the province’s true history. The Neo-baroque buildings face the Inner Harbour and are kiddie corner to The Empress Hotel. A statue of Queen Victoria stands on the front lawn as well as a statue of a soldier to commemorate the province’s World War I, World War II, and Korean War efforts. Free guided tours of the buildings are offered year-round.

thetislake_filterIf the outdoors are more your thing, you’re in luck. The Victoria area is full of stunning lakes and forests.

Thetis Lake refers to two freshwater lakes (Upper and Lower Thetis) in Thetis Lake Regional Park and is home to many Garry Oak and Douglas fir trees. The park includes several beaches and forest trails and is extremely popular in the summer.

swanlakehummingbird

Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary is an excellent place for year-round bird watching. The marsh around Swan Lake provides the perfect habitat for many birds and small animals, including muskrats, river otters, and minks.

When Monday rolls around, make sure to take-in the Victoria Day parade complete with marching bands, colourful floats, clowns, and over 100,000 spectators. The parade lasts about three hours, so bring a blanket, snacks, and don’t forget an extra jacket and umbrella. It is, after all, spring on the West Coast. The parade starts at Mayfair Mall at 9am and proceeds along Douglas Street, finishing at the intersection of Douglas & Humboldt in the downtown core.

There are so many attractions and beaches  to visit. But whether you decide to spend the weekend sightseeing or hiking, make sure to include Sandman Hotel Victoria in your Victoria Day long weekend plans!

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