Victoria on a budget: fun things to do in Victoria, BC
Victoria, BC is one of the most beautiful and well known cities in Canada. While there are no end of options to spend a lot of money, you do not have break your piggy bank to enjoy all Victoria has to offer.
There is an abundance of free and cheap things to do in Victoria for kids (and adults). Victoria was the playground and back drop of my childhood. Here is my top list of places I return to again and again, with my kids, family and friends.
25 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Victoria, BC With Kids:
- Pretend you are a pirate on the salty seas at the Royal BC Museum
- Wander the Totem Poles at Thunderbird Park
- Walk along Inner Harbour & be entertained by performers
- Run with the goats at Beacon Hill Children’s Farm.
- Grab a bite to eat to go at Fisherman’s Wharf and have a picnic at the Park across the road
- Stroll the Breakwater at Ogden Point
- Collect beach treasures at the many small beaches along Dallas Road
- Fly a kite at Clover Point
- Discover the city’s secrets in a Self-guided Walking Tour
- Wind your way down the narrowest street in Canada, Fan Tan Alley
- Peruse locally made and grown products at Public Markets
- Kick it old school. Play video games at Qazar’s Arcade
- Play board games at Interactivity Board Game Cafe
- Bike or walk along the Galloping Goose Trail
- Ride a wave and the waterslide at Commonwealth Pool
- Cool off at a Water / Splash Park, bring a picnic to make a day of it.
- Paddle or walk around Elk / Beaver Lake
- Hike to the top of Mount Doug for views of the city
- Watch the sunset at Mount Tolmie
- Identify native plants and wildlife at Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary
- Take a guided hike or program through the CRD Regional Parks Program
- Travel the wheelchair accessible interpretive trail at Francis/King Regional Park
- Touch a sea anemone or starfish in the tidal pool at Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea aquarium
- Explore the old fort and lighthouse at Fort Rodd Hill
- Imagine yourself a superhero at Hatley Castle
This list is just the tip of the ice berg, or in this case the bloom before the flower of free and cheap activities available in each destination. Check out each place below for more ideas to explore the beauty and wonders of Victoria.
25 Free and Cheap Things To Do In Victoria, BC With Kids
1. Royal BC Museum
Location: 675 Belleville Street
Hours: Open 10am – 6pm every day but Wednesday
For those rainy Victoria days, and trust me they happen frequently, the Royal BC Museum is the perfect family outing. This natural and human history museum has collection of over 7 million objects.
The human history section takes you through 10, 000 years of history of First Nation, Euro-American, European and Asian cultures in what is now known as British Columbia.
My favourites as a kid were the wooly mammoth, the modern history section (check out the mining town and objects through the decades) and the Indigenous collections of art, ceremonial objects and tools.
Board the ship “Discovery“, and imagine yourself as captain of the high seas. Then wander the replica old town complete with with cinnamon smells wafting from a “freshly” baked kitchen pie.
The Royal BC Museum sits on the traditional territories of the Lekwungen (Songhees and Xwsepsum Nations).
Tip: To minimize admission costs, visit during community days (by donation) or buy an annual family membership and return often.
Cost: Regular admission is free for children 5 and under, $11 for Youth, Adult Students and Seniors and $18 for Adults. There are also 2 day packages and Museum with Imax tickets available.
2. Thunderbird Park
Location: 675 Belleville St (corner of Belleville and Douglas Street)
Thunderbird Park is home to an outdoor gallery of totem poles and a traditional Kwakwaka‘wakw “big house”. It is located next door to the Royal BC Museum. You can often watch demos done by local artists.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of the totem poles and their restoration efforts check out the Royal BC Museum website.
3. Inner Harbour & Buskers
Location: Runs along Belleville and Government Street, Downtown Victoria
Visit the epicentre of downtown Victoria, and wander the causeway in front of the Legislative buildings and the Empress Hotel.
During the summer months especially, this area is full of street performers, artisans, First Nations artists, food vendors and people.
The Inner Harbour is an amazing spot to people watch and catch a musical, magical or acrobatic performance. Available May to September. The causeway is always open for strolling. Don’t forget your camera.
4. Beacon Hill Children’s Farm (aka The Petting Zoo)
Location: Circle Drive, Beacon Hill Park
Cost: By donation
The Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, locally known as the Petting Zoo, brings farm animals to us city folk.
Wander around this urban mini farm featuring miniature horses, peacocks, alpacas, rabbits, chickens, and my favourite, the pot bellied pigs.
The highlight for kids and adults alike are the adorable baby goats to pet, brush and have climb on your back. Watch out for dangling bits of cloth and hair, these kids love to nibble.
If you want to catch the goat run, it happens daily at 10:10am and 4:10pm. Imagine running of the bulls, but a more humane kid friendly version. This is one of our favourite things to do in Victoria.
Entrance fee is by donation, which supports the care and feeding of the animals year round.
Note: The petting zoo is temporarily closed, but you can still see the animals through the fence.
Not to worry, there is still a lot to see and do in Beacon Hill Park itself. Check out my Top 5 Favourite Parks in Victoria, BC post (Hint…Hint…Beacon Hill Park is on this list)
5. Fisherman’s Wharf & Park
Location: 12 Erie St.
Cost: Free to wander around.
Fisherman’s Wharf is an eclectic village of food kiosks, shops and colorful house boats.
Wander along the docks, enjoying the views of Vic West across the harbour, and the occasional seal looking for food. Ponder what it is like to live on a house boat (some are rented out as AirBnB’s for the curious).
Grab some lunch and head across the parking lot to the Fisherman’s Wharf Park for a picnic. Here you will find picnic benches, a nautical themed play/climb area, and large grassy knolls. Plenty of room for the kids to run their energy out.
The Fisherman’s Wharf sits on the traditional territories of the Lekwungen.
6. Breakwater at Ogden Point
Location: Ogden Point on Dallas Road
Stroll along the popular Breakwater pathway which juts out from Dallas Road towards the Juan de Fuca Strait, ending at a small lighthouse. This cement structure is 1.6km roundtrip and takes about 30 minutes to walk.
This is a prime spot to view cruise ships, seagulls, people fishing off the rocks and the sunset.
Up until a few years ago the Breakwater had no hand railings. Arguably the walk is now safer for both kids and adults, however I do miss the days of unobstructed views and calculated risks.
7. Dallas Road Waterfront Pathway
Location: Dallas Road
The Dallas Road Waterfront Pathway runs 4km from Holland Point Park to Hollywood Crescent. You will pass the Mile Zero monument, Beacon Hill Park, Spiral Beach and Clover Point.
This dedicated off road path is the perfect jumping off point for many small beaches. Collect beach glass, rocks and and enjoy the sunshine.
This path is also suitable for strollers, joggers, and walkers, both of the dog and human variety.
8. Clover Point
Location: 1250 Dallas Road
Clover Point is a popular spot to park, watch the ocean waves and walk along the waterfront pathway. Kids will love flying kites at this windy point. You can also watch paragliders coast along the bluff’s edge and windsurfers and kiteboarders below.
9. Self Guided Walking Tours
Location: Downtown Victoria
Do you and your family want to explore the mysteries of haunted Victoria, learn the secret stories of criminals or glimpse what Victoria was like during the Gold rush? Do you want to learn more about the history of Victoria’s Chinatown?
A self-guided walking tour is an interesting (and free) way to experience Victoria. Download the free self-guided walking tour maps from the Downtown Victoria website and head downtown.
10. Chinatown & Fan Tan Alley
Location: 500 Fisgard St.
Wind your way through Chinatown. Stop first at the Gates of Harmonious Interest and then enter Fan Tan Alley, “the narrowest street in the country.”
Here you will find locally owned shops offering clothing, jewellry, decor, natural body products, ice cream, and more. Perfect for an hour of window shopping.
To learn more about the history of Chinatown visit here.
11. Public Markets
Location: James Bay Market – Corner of Menzies Street & Superior Street
Moss Street Market – Temporarily moved to Porter Park (1350 Fairfield ) and Brooke Street Park (1425 Brooke St).
Markets are a good way to support local growers, artisans, artists, musicians and food vendors. They also make for an entertaining afternoon with the kids.
Some of my favourite are the outdoor summer markets that typically run May to September. Two are still running this year:
- James Bay Market – Saturday 9am – 3pm
- Moss Street Market – Saturday 10am – 2pm
12. Video Games at Qazar’s Arcade
Location: 1215 Government Street
Cost: 1 token is $0.50. Most games cost 1 token, most pinball machines cost 2 tokens.
Introduce your children to the games of your childhood at Qazar’s Arcade. Quazar’s is an all ages 80’s inspired arcade, with pinball machines as well.
13. Board Games at Interactivity Board Game Cafe
Location: 723 Yates Street
Cost: $6 / per person ($3 under 12) to stay and play. Choose the Family Friendly side with the kids, or the separate 19+licensed section for just the adults.
Play a board game at Victoria’s first board game cafe, the Interactivity Board Game Cafe. They have over 800 games to choose from and over 30+ flavours of milkshakes.
Or shop at their retail store, with Victoria’s largest selection of board games is still open daily.
14. Walk or Bike Along the Galloping Goose Trail
Head out on the Galloping Goose, a multi-use 55 km trail. Enjoy a bike ride or a walk through farmland, wilderness, and urban landscapes. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do it all!
The trail begins at the south end of Selkirk Trestle at the foot of Alston Street in Vic West.
Tip: Our favourite snack stop for a delicious croissant and coffee along the way is at Fol Epi organic bakery and Caffe Fantastico, an organic fair trade coffee/deli shop. Both are located at 398 Harbour Rd in Dockside Green.
15. Commonwealth Pool
Location: 4636 Elk Lake Dr.
Kids will love spending a day in this mini waterpark like setting.
The Commonwealth Pool has something for all age groups. There is a shallow tot pool, a wave pool with shipwreck, a waterslide, diving boards, steam room, hot tub and sauna.
Tip: The Child Summer Swim Pass for ages 5 to 12 provides access to the Saanich Commonwealth Pool and Gordon Head Pool fun swims, as well as daytime leisure and family swims respectively. The pass is valid end of June to end of August and costs a reasonable $35 per child.
16. Water / Splash Parks in Victoria
Cool off at one of 9 Victoria Water Parks. Kids love water. Waterparks are a great way to spend a sunny day, when you don’t want to be emptying sand from your shoes for the next two weeks.
- Watering Can at Beacon Hill Park – off Douglas Street (Victoria)
- Rotary Water Park – Carnarvon Park, Henderson Road (Oak Bay)
- Beckwith Water Park – Beckwith Avenue & Quadra Street (Saanich)
- Fraser Street Adventure Park – 535 Fraser Street, (Esquimalt)
- Splash Park at City Centre Park – 1089 Langford Parkway (Langford)
- Glen Lake Beach Park – Shoreview Drive (Langford)
- Centennial Park – Carlow Road (Langford)
- Langford Lake – Leigh Road (Langford)
- Iroquois Park – Fifth Street & Ocean Avenue (Sidney)
17. Elk/Beaver Lake
Location: 5267 Patricia Bay Highway.
Elk Lake Entrance: Brookleigh Road
Beaver Lake Entrance: Elk Lake Drive
Elk / Beaver Lake has something for everyone. You can swim, canoe, hike, fish, picnic, and even ride horses on the equestrian trails.
If your family is up for a 2 hour hike, try the easy 10km loop around Elk & Beaver Lake. It’s a fairly flat, well marked path with some exposed rocks and roots.
18. Mount Douglas
Location: Summit – Churchill Road off Cedar Hill Road
Drive, or hike to the top of this urban forest park. You’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the city, as well as views of Saanich Inlet and the Straights of Georgia and Haro.
Mount Doug has 21 km of well marked trails for all different fitness levels, beach access and washroom facilities.
Tip: Drive to the top of Mount Doug from the entrance off Cedar Hill Road, if you don’t have time to walk up, or need accessible access.
19. Mount Tolmie
Location: Mayfair Drive
Mount Tolmie, located near Uvic offers a spectacular 360 degree view of the city. On a clear day you can also see Mount Baker, the Olympic Mountains, and the San Juan Islands in the distance.
The summit is accessible by car, or by 1.5km of trails through garry oak forest.
Tip: Visit Mount Tolmie at sunrise. The summit will be far quieter than at sunset, the most popular time of day.
20. Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary
Location: 3873 Swan Lake Road
The Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary is a lesser known gem in Victoria. You can enjoy a walk through the marshland of Swan Lake or the rockier Garry oak meadow on Christmas Hill.
The Swan Lake loop is an easy 2.5km. The marshland is home to many bird species, wildlife and native flora and fauna, perfect for the budding naturalist and bird watcher.
The Christmas Hill trail is a bit more challenging, with the summit at 109 metres above sea level. Visit in Spring for the carpet of wildflowers that bloom across the meadow.
Be sure to stop in at the Nature House and browse their library of natural history books, and visit their bee hive.
Tip: Pick up some duck food in the gift shop at the Nature House before you start your walk. The ducks and your kids will greatly appreciate it.
21. Guided Hikes and Programs – CRD Regional Parks Program
Location: Across the Capital Regional District
Nature lovers unite! The CRD Regional Parks Program offers guided walks hikes and programs for free. Most are drop-in, unless otherwise noted, and run 1.5 – 2 hours rain or shine. Their events page lists all upcoming programs.
Tip: Book ahead, as the programs fill up quickly.
22. Francis/King Regional Park
Location: Munn Road (20 minutes from downtown Victoria)
Francis / King Regional Park offers eleven kilometres of gentle woodland trails from the accessible Elsie King trail, to the moderate level Centennial Trail.
The Elsie King Trail, is an accessible 800 metre interpretive trail on cedar boardwalk. This forest loop has rest areas with benches, a shelter and an accessible toilet and water fountain.
Experience 500 year old Douglas Fir trees in Heritage Grove, some of the tallest in the region.
23. Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
Location: 9811 Seaport Place, Sidney (30 minutes from downtown Victoria)
Cost: Annual family membership costs $86.50 for 2 adults and 4 children/ youth. Daily passes vary.
The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is a new addition to our family favourites. This aquarium is located on the Sidney waterfront, on the traditional territory of the W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) people.
The aquarium is home to over 3,500 animals from the Salish Sea. Kid favourites are watching the floating jelly fish, the orca skeleton and the hands-on-experiences in the touch tidal pools. Beautiful Coast Salish art is found throughout.
While the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is not the cheapest option on our list, the family membership is a more affordable option if you plan on returning more than once.
Tip: Passes are good for the day. Take a wander around Sidney, have a picnic by the water, then return to the aquarium for another look.
24. Fort Rodd Hill
Location: 603 Fort Rodd Hill Rd (20 minute drive from downtown Victoria)
Cost: $7.90 per adult, but youth 17 and under are free.
Fort Rodd Hill is a fun destination for a half or full day exursion by the sea. Explore secret bunkers, meander through garry oak meadows and take a 10 minute stroll to Canada’s oldest West Coast Lighthouse.
25. Hatley Castle
Location: 2005 Sooke Rd, Royal Roads University
Cost: Free to walk the Hatley Park trails and grounds
Superhero fans might recognize Hatley Castle as the setting for Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngesters, from the recent X-Men & Deadpool films.
On a more mundane note, Hatley Castle is now home of Royal Roads University and is a National Historic Site. You can explore the beautiful gardens, and trails through their 560 acres of old growth forest. The view facing Esquimalt Lagoon is spectacular.
I always feel grateful for the beauty and abundance of Victoria. This city holds a special place in my heart, no matter where I roam.
There are so many amazing free and cheap things to do in Victoria, BC that both kids and adults love. This list is just the starting point. Once you start exploring, you might never want to stop. Some of our favourite parks and places aren’t even mentioned.
Leave us a comment below if we’ve missed your favourite free and cheap kid-friendly things to do in Victoria.
Related articles on family friendly destinations:
- Top 5 Favourite Parks of Victoria BC
- 15 Super Fun Things To Do In Parksville, BC
- Easy Money Saving Tips for Frugal Family Road Trip
- Cool Things to do in Yellowknife, NT
25 Free and Cheap Things To Do In Victoria, BC With Kids
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