Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m not huge on Christmas. My general strategy is to avoid the hustle-bustle as much as possible in favour of finding quieter, simpler ways to get into the festive spirit.
Thankfully, last weekend The Vic Life was invited to attend a Tourism Victoria Instagram tour that showcased some really fun, non-anxiety-inducing Christmas activities. Not only was I was delighted to partake in some classic Victoria experiences, but I also met some really lovely local social media superstars (check out some of their great shots below).
1) Craigdarroch Castle
Somehow I’d never visited Craigdarroch Castle until last weekend. To be honest, it wasn’t even on my list. However, I’m happy to report that I ended up visiting on the perfect day. Wind was howling down the chimneys, rain was lashing against the windows — and the house was fully decorated for Christmas. I can’t imagine a better time of year to see this grand old mansion.
Completed in 1890, Craigdarroch was commissioned by Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal and who died before the castle was completed.
As if that isn’t dramatic enough, the family history reads like a season of Downton Abbey — disputes over the estate, controversial marriages, untimely deaths, you name it. Craigdarroch’s own website uses the catchphrase “lavish lives and wayward daughters.” Ahem.
By 1919, the castle had been converted into a military hospital for World War I veterans. It fell to various other sad fates before it was restored as a historic house museum, which now attracts about 140,000 visitors a year.
Okay, back to the Christmas decorations. Let’s just say it takes a month for staff to set them up. There are 14 fireplaces. That means 14 mantlepieces. Plus, there’s a hair wreath. Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like. I’m not going to include a photo because it really must be seen in person to be fully appreciated.
2) The Festival of Trees
Normally The Festival of Trees, which benefits the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, is held at The Fairmont Empress, but because of ongoing renovations, the festival has moved into the halls of The Bay Centre this year.
For a minimum donation of $2, you can vote for your favourite tree and help improve the lives of B.C.’s sick children. Last year, more than 20,000 votes were cast, raising $129,000. Sixty-five incredible trees are on display — including this gorgeous creation.
It's December in Victoria & that means the #FestivalOfTrees is in full effect @thebaycentre in support of the @bcchf – This gorgeous gown aptly named Treeyonce was my favourite..like come on..that dress tho!! ❤️🎄❤️ #VictoriaHOHOHO #amazing #nothingisordinary #FOTyyj #DonateToVote #winterwonderland #explorebc #thisisvic #vancouverisland #ig_canada #allwhatsbeautiful #wonderful_places #weihnacht #happyholidays
The festival is on until Jan. 5, 2016 and will even be open Christmas Day from 12 to 5 p.m. if you’re looking for something to do with the fam.
3) Gingerbread Showcase
Last year the Inn at Laurel Point’s Gingerbread Showcase raised $38,000 for Habitat for Humanity. It is a ridiculous display of what can be done with gingerbread, what I presume is super-charged icing sugar and ingenuity. The designs blew me away.
Yea, that's right, it's a gingerbread longhouse. And it's in the amateur category of this year's Gingerbread Showcase at @innatlaurelpoint. If this is "amateur,"can you imagine what the professional ones look like? It took eight students from Spectrum Community School 26 hours to make this masterpiece. Head down to vote for your fave. Proceeds go to Habitat in Humanity and last year $38K was raised. Bam! #yyj #yyjeats #Christmas #holidays #victoria #vancouverisland #firstnations #indigenous #VictoriaHOHOHO #TRC @tourismvictoriabc
Whenever I have an extra hour of downtime in my life, I usually jump right into my kitchen & crank out a dramatic gingerbread house to enjoy the happiness of Christmas! Ok..no I don't & I think it's obviously a lie cuz I said kitchen & me in that place gives me the chills..but if you seriously want to see some super chill Gingerbread Houses like this one, cruise on over to @innatlaurelpoint for the Gingerbread Showcase as all proceeds go to the Victoria Habitat for Humanity- and that's what's Christmas is really about! Plus you get free gingerbread..ok no I lied again – you don't! 😍🎅🏼🏡 #VictoriaHOHOHO @tourismvictoriabc #yyj #GingerB2015 #vancouverisland #explorecanada #everythingisawesome #tasty #gingerbreadhouse #christmastime #ig_cameras_united #thisisvic #explorevanisle #yummy #gingy
The Gingerbread Showcase is on until Sunday January 3, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day. Pssssst … I highly recommend treating yourself to a candy cane martini at Aura while you’re at it. It is Christmas after all.