Seattle & Victoria, BC, vacation ideas?
June 19, 2005 7:18 PM   Subscribe

I will shortly be taking a couple of preteen boys to Seattle and Victoria, BC. The weather looks like rain, although probably not all day. Any suggestions on things to do, places to see etc., especially which might interest the boys. I have some familiarity with Seattle, but it has been a few years. I have never been to Victoria and could really use some ideas for there. Also, what kind of documentation do I need to take these days for the boys to enter Canada and more importantly, to get home.
posted by caddis to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
When I went to Victoria last summer, all I needed was *a passport* OR *a birth certificate AND some form of ID (driver's license, those state ID card thingies)*. According to this site, this will be true until December 2006. I can't really recommend things for preteen boys to do - you can take a carriage ride around historic Victoria, and there's shopping. It's also got some beautiful ocean-frontage, etc, but I traveled with a group of adults, so we mostly just drank a lot.
posted by muddgirl at 7:36 PM on June 19, 2005

You need proof of ownership. Seriously, they will want to see proof that you are their father. If you are not, they will want to see passports, birth certificates, proof of guardianship, and probably a notarized permission from Mom.

Check the tide tables and head north of Victoria to Botanical Beach. It is apparently something amazing (an intersection of four ocean environment boundaries that presents an immense variety of sea life). There are some neat toy stores in Victoria, geek-oriented gizmos and such. The Provincial Museum. Cool arcade (meaning "shops-facing-into-courtyard style") mall, with the requisite high-priced kid's shops. Good long walkable seawall. Esquimalt naval base, might have some Navy vessel tours. A ton of tourist-trap things like wax museums, undersea walkways, stuff like that. A nice high hill with a helluva view. Farmers' markets, fish mongers. Good art community, lots of that stuff.

At least, this is what I remember from my pre-teen and subsequent visits. I distinctly remember bits of that museum, some unique and big stuff in there. Likewise the seashore, seabreak, ship viewing, and nifty toy store.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:46 PM on June 19, 2005

If they're not your kids, I would come prepared.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 7:56 PM on June 19, 2005

Response by poster: They are my sons. I was counting on bringing birth certificates, if we can find them around the house (hence the question just to get a sense of how furiously we should search). Mostly, I am curious about what to do in Victoria. My relatives live in Seattle and I used to live nearby so that is not such a big deal, but Victoria is a great unknown.
posted by caddis at 8:07 PM on June 19, 2005

There's the Victoria Bug Zoo, the Beacon Hill Children's Farm, and Miniature World at the Empress Hotel. You can also easily rent boats or bikes, or take a Harbour Ferry ride. Victoria is very tourist-friendly; you won't have any trouble finding things to do.
posted by obloquy at 8:08 PM on June 19, 2005

Also, the Maritime Museum, and ...oh, I was gonna say Crystal Gardens, but it's apparently gone. There's a Visitor Information Centre near the Inner Harbour, within walking (or bicycling) distance of all of the attractions I've listed.
posted by obloquy at 8:18 PM on June 19, 2005

Best answer: In Seattle, the EMP (Experience Music Project) and science center are a must. Both are very cool, for kids and adults.
posted by Amanda B at 8:19 PM on June 19, 2005

Victoria is VERY tourist-trappy, so I don't think you'll be hurting for things to see and do. I just moved back from there last fall, so I have some good ideas fresh in my memory:

There's an outfit on the inner harbour that will rent you kayaks. On Sunday mornings they guide paddle out to an island with Seals. Very cool. If not, hang out in the harbour (Wharf Street) and check out the buskers, and all the fancy rich-people boats.

I second the seawall walk West to Esquimalt. (you can take a water taxi back if you're lazy, complete with historical narration).

Walking is actually pretty popular in Victoria. Another nice walk is Cook Street South to Beacon Hill Park. Cook has a nice little cafe district, and Beacon Hill has some pretty gardens, and a gorgeous Ocean shoreline. It's a popular spot.

If you're up for some driving, there's a few spots that are worth the trip. The Sooke Potholes, Goldstream Provincial Park (better in the fall when the salmon run), and The Juan de Fuca Trail, or any of its beaches to get the Pacific West coast / temparate rainforest experience.

Next weekend is Jazzfest, with free shows at the Market Square beside city hall.

Man I miss living in a vibrant city.
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:26 PM on June 19, 2005

Hey, next week is also the Victoria Tall Ships Festival!
posted by Popular Ethics at 8:44 PM on June 19, 2005

There is a ton of things to do in Victoria around the Inner Harbor and it can be quite pleasurable to stroll along Government Street (which is the street that runs in front of Empress Hotel to Chinatown). It seems like most tourists who come to Victoria head right for Butchart Gardens but unless you're really into gardens, I think they tend to be over rated and over priced. Royal Roads University has very nice gardens for free and the castle where the X-Men movies were filmed. I would think your kids might like whale watching or kayaking and you can find a ton of different places to arrange these things on the inner harber. I moved to Victoria last October and (warning: self links) have written down in more detail some of my favorite places and day trips.
posted by Staggering Jack at 9:09 PM on June 19, 2005

EMP (Experience Music Project)

I was there yesterday. With all due respect, I very much doubt that preteenage boys would enjoy this, unless they are already very much into music (as in, playing instruments), and even then, much of the exhibits are historical (as in, dead people).

In Seattle, the Pacific Science Center (in the Seattle Center) has Imax films and an all-year butterfly garden, plus other neat permanent exhibits.

If the weather is bad, another option is the Museum of Flight - although this isn't particular interactive, it's a big indoor space.

If the weather is good in Seattle, consider taking a ferry to Bainbridge Island - you don't even need to get off. Or a boat tour of Lake Union and parts of Lake Washington.

The boys probably would also like the Duck tour of Seattle; a bumpy ride, and not that cheap, but memorable. (Very close to Seattle Center.)

Not fun: Underground Tour of Seattle.

P.S. If you take the Victoria Clipper to Victoria, be aware that there is no reserved seating (at least as of a few years ago; you'll know if you don't get seat numbers), so you should try to be in line at least an hour in advance, in order to get sit together and not be facing backwards.
posted by WestCoaster at 9:25 PM on June 19, 2005

Just a note for entering/leaving Canada with children. If you are just one parent, i.e. the mother will not be joining you, you need a signed letter from the mother saying it's OK for the children to enter/leave the US. The Border Patrol isn't super picky about this, but sometimes they are. I live in Seattle, and occasionally take my boys up to Vancouver, and I have my ex-wife give me a signed letter. And most times they do ask for it at the border.
posted by patrickje at 9:45 PM on June 19, 2005

These are all good ideas. For pre-teens, I'd definitely recommend some tidal pools, and the Royal BC museum is great and very kid-friendly (they've also got an IMAX theatre).

I always liked Fort Rodd Hill as a kid. A bit outside of town, but it's got nifty World War II gun emplacements. Beware of swimming at Sooke Potholes--kids drown there occasionally because of the swift current, eddies, etc.

I'd recommend going to the Tourism Victoria information booth, which is free and dead in the centre of downtown Victoria (kitty-corner to the Empress and across the harbour from the Parliament buildings).

There's also whale watching, but it's pricey and (for me, at least) unethical.
posted by dbarefoot at 10:38 PM on June 19, 2005

Best answer: Rebar is a fun, wholesome place to eat in Victoria.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:54 PM on June 19, 2005

And don't forget to kick our low-life premier, Gordon Campbell, in the shins. You'll find him skulking about the provincial government buildings.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:44 PM on June 19, 2005

In Seattle, they might like the aquarium and possibly the waterfront in general (Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe has much to appeal to boys, I'd think).
posted by kindall at 12:01 AM on June 20, 2005

If anyone took me to Seattle and did not take me to Archie McPhee's, I would be all sulky and hideous company for days. I would also require a ride on the monorail, and perhaps a trip up the Space Needle.

I second kindall's recommendation of Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe -- see if you can spot the Feejee Mermaid in there. Okay, a Feejee Mermaid.

In Victoria is Craigdarroch Castle, which may be fun for them as well. I'd recommend Anne Hathaway's Cottage, but it's all tea and Shakespeare, now that the tour with the ghost stories doesn't run.

If you're flying into Seattle, I recommend taking the Clipper ferry straight from there, rather than ferrying from Vancouver, if it is not a destination. It's fun for kids, and less traumatic for the driver. Plus, you can often spot orcas on that route. You wouldn't even need a car, as there are plentiful taxis and sufficient fun things to do within walking distance of the Victoria terminal.

I hope you have a great time!
posted by Sallyfur at 3:53 AM on June 20, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you for lots of great ideas.
posted by caddis at 7:27 AM on June 20, 2005

For Seattle, I second the Curiosity Shop and also the Seattle Underground tour. Young boys may also like the Museum of Flight.
posted by 445supermag at 7:56 AM on June 20, 2005

Best answer: I've lived in Victoria most of my life. By pre-teenaged boys I assume you mean in the 8-12 zone. I second some of the ideas above: the bug zoo is a good diversion, the Royal BC Museum has some very engaging exhibits (and an IMAX theatre). There are cheap little water ferries that zoom around the inner harbour, you can walk the sea walls and get back without retracing your steps that way. Whale watching is cool, but expensive. At this time of year you are almost guaranteed to see orcas and dolphins, and not much else. Victoria is very very touristy. You need to get north of Yates street to get out of tourist hell. There are usually

The Tall Ships festival looks like it will be good -- I've seen where they wil be taking (for a fee) people out on the tall ships for mock gun battles and so forth. That could be an awesome experience for a kid. Undersea Gardens is in many ways a bullshit tourist trap but they do have some nice fish and a diver who plays with the octopi. The Maritime Museum is pretty static, lots of good boats and boat models but fun for kids? With kids, I would definitely skip the various gardens and stuff, especially Butchart's gardens ... expensive! Though they have fireoworks on some nights of the week.

If your kids are into outdoors stuff (and you have a car) I would second some of the above: Botanical Beach is about a two hour drive north of Victoria -- make sure you go there at very low tide and there are INCREDIBLE tidal pools. Be very careful of the slippery rocks and swell -- people drown off the beach there fairly regularly. There is a terrific greasy spoon at Jordan River on the way up there. For a nice tea, Point No Point is also on the way and has great views and crumpets. French Beach and China Beach are more accessible that Botanical, and the tide isnt an issue. The best beaches, imo, are Mystic Beach and Sombrio. Mystic Beach is now accessed from China Beach parking lot, you hike about a mile on decent trail and then down to the beach. It has a waterfall that cascades over a cliff down onto the beach, some neat boulders, and is a great place to take a light picnic. The above are part of the Juan de Fuca trail mentioned above,. If your kids are into boogie boarding there are a lot of good beaches for that -- even right in Victoria, such as Gonzales Beach and Willow's beach. Sooke Potholes is also awesome. Cold water but amazing.

The basement of Capital Iron (while not what it used to be) still has some intriguing junk to browse through. There are usually buskers, clowns, etc on the lower sea wall.

For good food for kids -- if they like good food:
Rebar is excellent, and vegetarian. Try the almond burger.
Pagliacci's is good italian food in a very kid-friendly but adult-fun atmosphere. Excellent pasta. Music on most weeknights. Very reasonable prices. No reservations.
Foo Hongs in Chinatown has the worst food, the worst service, the worst wallpaper, and a framed card from the Queen to "her loyal subjects at Foo Hongs". Hence a Victoria Institution.
John's Place on Pandora has good food and a kid-friendly atmosphere --good burgers, etc.
Patisseries Daniel -- you can grab great muffins, buns, treats, bread, etc.
Barb's fish and chips at fisherman's wharf (walkable or take one of the little harbour ferries) is right on the dock. There is a tame seal there who hangs around the docks and you can buy herring to feed him. Ten minutes with that seal for the cost of a herring is pretty well as good as a watching whales from 300 metres away for 150 bucks.
Sam's Deli is downtown and does very good sandwiches.

If you get time to yourself:
Canoe Club has a nice atmosphere and brew great beer -- near Capital Iron on Store St.
Swan's brews excellent beer and has the best private collection of aboriginal art I have ever seen.
Spinnakers brews their own beer.
All of the above also have restaurants attached so kids could imbibe.
There are a lot of good small pubs in Victoria and area: Garrick's Head, and Oak Bay Hotel's "Snug", the 'Irish Times", Bartholomew's are all ok.

Lower Johnson St has some funky shops, as does Market Square (adjoining) -- good browsing there. Cross Pandora, cut through Fan Tan Alley and you are in Chinatown.

Good cafes, (most have sandwiches, etc)
Chinatown: Bean Around the World
Cook St Village: Cafe Fantastico or Mocha House
Upper Cook St: The Parsonage (also get bagels at Mt Royal Bakery, and there is a Patisserie Daniel there.
Downtown: Terrfaziones (Gvt at Yates has best coffee). Willie's cafe (Johnson). The Solstice (Pandora). Murchie's (Government) has good coffee, but especially tea and hot chocolate.
Demitasse: (Johnson at Douglas)
Cascadia (north downton on Douglas near Herald)
Ogden Point cafe -- after walking the breakwater.

For breakfast:
Blue Fox cafe (Fort St)
Avalon Cafe (Fort St)
John's Place

Ross Bay Cemetery and the Chinese Cemetery at Gonzales Bay are both above average places to walk around.

You can rent kayaks and paddle up "the gorge" -- despite its name a very gentle inland waterway.

You can watch glass being blown for free at the Starfish Glass Works -- Yates St at Broad St

Get a Honey Bun at the "red tile" bakery beside Foo Hongs on Fisgard St. Also has good soup.

There is an aviation museum out in Sidney, mostly old waterbombers and float planes and so forth. Out there you can also do round trips on the Gulf Island ferries -- Swartz Bay to Pender - Mayne - Saturna - return -- takes about four hours and is a like a very utilitarian but beatuiful sea cruise. No disembarking though.

Documentation: call ahead. But if you are travelling without the other parent, it is essential to have documentation of consent, especially if you are the father. Have a phone number on the letter, and make sure the other parent is at that number when you anticipate passing through immigration. You will need picture ID and a birth certificate or a passport.

Bookstores: Munro's (ex husband of Alice Munro) is a beautiful book store. The tobacco shop next door is cool in an 1880's sort of way.

The book "Songhees Pictorial" by Grant Keddie is an excellent introduction to the local aboriginal culture.

OK, there's my brain dump - emails in profile if you have any questions.
posted by Rumple at 10:53 AM on June 20, 2005

Does Butchart Gardens still have fireworks on Saturday nights? Every pre-teen boy I ever met liked to watch stuff asplode.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:00 PM on June 20, 2005

Butchart Gardens fireworks
You have to like Gardens as well for the $$ to be worth it. There will be various fireworks displays on July 1 - Canada Day - if that overlaps with Caddis' trip.
posted by Rumple at 12:10 PM on June 20, 2005

Response by poster: Now that we are back I want to add a follow up to some of the comments above for those who may be searching the archive. First, a big thank you to everyone who commented. There were some really great suggestions here.

One area of some contention is the Experience Music Project. A lot of people, and not just on AskMe, recommended against taking my sons there. If you are expecting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they are right. However, my sons both play guitar, piano and drums, and can manage on a bass, and one of them can sing well. EMP has a Sound Lab with guitars, basses, keyboards, and drum kits, plus microphones and mixing boards. They spent a total of about 7 to 8 hours over two days in this room alone jamming. There are multiple sound-proof rooms with differing set-ups, plus some individual instruments spread around the room. The latter have tutorials. Quote from one son, "This is the best place on Earth." The electric guitar exhibit was also great. For the junior rock artists this place rocks.

They also both liked the Seattle Underground tour. The tour itself is pretty much a boring walk through some very old basements, but it still fascinated them and most of the other kids. The history of Seattle was interesting to me, but would probably bore you if you already know the basics of early Seattle.

Rebar was as good as advertised.

Sorry fff, I missed Mr. Campbell.
posted by caddis at 7:28 PM on June 30, 2005

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