We were in Victoria for a week without the kids this time, but we've gone several times in years past and will continue to go in years to come. It's a lovely city with an amazing climate, friendly people, local food, and gorgeous architecture. Not to mention, of course, that we have family there- and the ocean. The ocean is a big draw.
Without further ado: Here's the list of Things to Do! And these aren't in any particular order. Some are better for the kids so they will be marked accordingly. If we feel kids would be bored then we'll mark them "adult".
Bear in mind even if an activity is marked as a half day, at the very least you will need to plan on finding something to eat or drink after, and be flexible with your timing. We have learned the hard way not to make commitments to get somewhere right after a day trip- either it takes longer than we think or the traffic doesn't cooperate. When you're on vacation, just give yourself the freedom to take your time.
1. Butchart Gardens
-Plan for a day away! I went as a kid and hated it- got very bored very fast. (Adult)
2. City Tour, including Craigdarroch Castle
-Plan for a half day! (Adult)
-We went with CVS Tours, so that's who I linked you to. We enjoyed the tour so much- the bus was air conditioned and with tinted windows we could sit in comfort. The driver was fun to listen to, a good driver, and had so much to tell us. The Castle itself only takes about an hour/90 minutes or so to get through, so the half-day tour is mostly driving through interesting neighborhoods, hearing about the history of Victoria, and seeing places you probably wouldn't get to really see if you're focusing on driving.
-We highly recommend it as we learned so much about the city and saw so much of it.
3. Historical Food Tour
-Plan for a half day! (Adult)
-You start at the Victoria Public Market and explore the interesting local businesses, hear their stories, and sample their food...and then you walk. We enjoyed tasting everything from Olive Oil to Macarons to Peroghy.
-You will hear fascinating stores about Victoria- just like on the CVS tour- but from a street level. It was so much fun and we enjoyed the tastings tremendously.
4. The Bug Zoo
-Plan for a half day (Kids)
-The Bug Zoo is located downtown and housed in a small space with an amazing collection of bugs. If you and your kids like the wiggly and crawly, hairy, tiny, or huge bugs, this is the place to go. They offer tours- the staff will take small groups of people from habitat to habitat, often with the opportunity to touch and hold bugs.
-My kids were enthralled. It can take as short or as long as you like- we had to leave early once before my kids were ready, which resulted in an epic meltdown. Be sure to give yourself more time then you think you'll need.
5. Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
-Plan for a full day (Kids)
-So much for adults as well, if you love the ocean as much as I do. The exhibits are phenomenal, so beautiful and so important. Like most aquariums, there is a huge element of education involved. They have worked hard to educate and teach the public about the Sea and all that lives within and depends on it to live.
-I've only been there once, several years ago, and we are definitely going to revisit when we return next time.
6. Willows Beach
-Plan for a half day- but be prepared for a full one (Kids)
-So much for the adults as well. This beach has easy parking, food, washrooms, and a playground. Lovely sand to play in and water easy to wade into. Hit up the dollar store to pick up some sand toys to enjoy and gift to another family when you leave :)
7. Gonzales Bay
-Plan for a half day (Adult)
-This is great for kids too, but with no on-site parking, washrooms, or food available it's less family friendly. You will definitely still find sand that's playable and ocean that's walkable, and the views are amazing.
8. Whale Watching
-Plan for a half day (Kids)
-Our tour was with Prince of Whales, so that's who I linked you to- but I think all the companies in Victoria are driven to promote respect for the ocean and its inhabitants. I know they work together to help watchers see whales. There's never a guarantee because ocean creatures are free to go where they want to, but we've now been on 3 different tours (one in Southern California, and twice in Victoria) and we have always seen whales- Humpbacks twice, and Killer Whales once.
-You never know what the weather will be like out at sea- it's best to bring a light jacket, a hat, and sunglasses. One whale watching tour we did in July when my second was an infant was so cold we almost needed a toque and gloves, so be warned- it's very different on sea then on land.
-If you think you or the kids might be prone to seasickness, it's best to bring Gravol (motion sickness medication) with you. You may also consider a day pack with bottled water for each, a battery charger for your phone, and a good camera that snaps pictures quickly. The whales will appear (often without warning) and then are gone, and if your camera takes its time to load you may miss capturing the experience on film.
-Many companies offer photographs taken by their staff during the tours, so ask about that option so you can just enjoy the day without worrying about what photos you may be missing.
I'm sure you'll enjoy Victoria as much as we did. Drop me a line and let me know what treasures you have discovered there!
Travelling with kids puts a new spin on "hangry".
I know in my last post I discussed why food shouldn't be the "cure all". I still stand by that. However, after a couple of long days of travel with some significant meltdowns I'm more aware of the signs of low blood sugar related tantrums. Experiencing them first hand gives me a new appreciation for teachers who work with these little balls of energy all day, every day.
Some common signs of blood-sugar related "hangriness" include:
Filling up with high glycemic foods (such as the above examples) doesn't keep them happy for long. These foods typically lack fibre, which means they digest quickly and can leave the person feeling worse than before. This is due to an insulin spke that occurs after ingesting foods that are high in refined carbohydrates- white flour and loaded with sugar are the usual suspects.
I'm writing this as much for me as for my readers. We had a long drive here, which means a long drive home. Avoiding similar hangry outbreaks will make a much more pleasant drive.
Some of the ways we can avoid these types of meltdowns begin with common sense. I did pack snacks for the kids between stops, but most of them began and ended with high-gi foods- I know better, but they're so much easier to pack and distribute in the car. I think there is room for easier snacks- let's be realistic about the trials of long car rides- but if we support those higher in refined carb foods with a good variety of healthier choices, the sugar spikes and insulin crashes will be significantly reduced.
My plan for the way back has shifted as I think about it. We'll probably follow the same path we took to get here, which means being on the road for about 7 hours the first day, and 10.5 the second- 9.5 of that is driving time, with a few breaks scattered throughout. We have a plug-in cooler, which we'll load up and store on the seat between the kids if we can. We will stock it with sliced whole-grain cheese and meat and plain old peanut butter and jam sandwiches, sliced apples, cheese strings, baby carrots, snap peas, and yogurt. We'll throw in some nuts and raisins, dry cheerios, and bottled water, too. For the less than stellar choices they can eat a granola bar, crackers, or snack bags of potato chips.
On our way down we stopped at whatever random town we were passing through when we were hungry, which meant we ate at Tim Hortons, Wendys, or McDonalds.
Hopefully the way back is more relaxed and less hangry than the way here! What have your experiences looked like?
Enjoy your weekend, friends.
I know, one day is much the same in the passage of time. But somehow Friday seems to make a difference in how I perceive the day. Monday seems to start at the outer edge of a deep chasm, and it's hard, sometimes, to fathom crossing to the other side. But we start going on faith, with one step after another, and suddenly you notice a ratty rope bridge you set up for yourself a long time ago, but forgot about. And before you know it, welcome to Friday.
This weekend is off to a good start, mostly because it was hot lunch at my second son's school today, which meant I didn't have to wake up my brain enough to make his lunch before enjoying my coffee. A morning of studying, course calls, and baroque classics on Stingray, and I'm in a peaceful, happy place. The weekend stretches ahead like an oasis, blissfully unplanned and open. I know it's going to be less than idyllic because...life...but I can enjoy the illusion right this second. My picture shows the state of my mind at this moment...ahhh...
Now, what are your weekend plans? I have some grand ideas lined up for myself. I am going to cook a dozen breakfast sandwiches, to store in the freezer for breakfasts this week, as well as boil a bunch of eggs and make a pot of oatmeal. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, but since coming home from my trip I've been scarfing down a hastily constructed peanut butter sandwich. Hardly the stuff of dreams.
I've also got this strong desire for blueberry and saskatoon crumble. So I think I'm going to make one of those for "now", and one of those for the freezer. I'll use this recipe, but berries instead of apples. We actually have vanilla ice cream in the freezer. It's going to be a tasty weekend.
And, we're going camping in a few weeks, so I should really be thinking ahead about what foods we're going to bring, and start cooking ahead. I like camp stove cooking, but it's got to be easy, and ingredients have to be easily packed, space being the premium it is, with all our camping equipment and supplies stuffed on the roof, in the back, and around the kids. I was going through my bookmarks and came across this Ziplock bag camping article. I thought it was worth the re-read, and so I'm sharing it with you today. I hope you enjoy it!
If you get some time, fill me in on what your weekend looks like! I can't wait to hear about your adventures, from wherever you reside on our lovely blue planet. Until next time, happy eating and drinking, and enjoy every moment.
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Every year, around this time, I remember that turning on the oven and/or stove is a bad idea, even with air conditioning, but I don't want to order in or eat out, either. Most of these require little-to-no time on the stove, one uses the slow cooker, and a few use the barbecue.
I know it's summer vacation, but it's still a good time to meal plan. For me, somehow summer is more expensive than I expect it to be, and I find if I don't plan for our meals I spend too much on impulsive buys at the grocery store.
With a little bit of advanced planning, most of these meals can be prepared just by packaging your leftover cooked meats when you cook them in the spring. For example, the last time I cooked a pork loin, I sliced what we didn't eat and packaged it separately in zipper freezer bags in my freezer. The same goes for chicken and turkey. Cooking ahead can be a godsend when it's way too hot to cook, and will always be better for you than eating out.
I've compiled a list of meals I turn to when the weather is hot. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of fruits, vegetables, sandwiches, and shakes consumed in our house this time of year!
What sorts of meals do you turn to when it's hot outside? Do you have a go-to recipe you can share? Enjoy your weekend, friends.
We took the family to Drumheller over the last week. If you haven't been there, you should add it to your list. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is an amazing museum all about dinosaurs set right in the badlands of southern Alberta. We stayed at River Grove Campground. We would stay there again. Of course we packed the cooler up with everything we needed, though we did allow ourselves to stay for lunch at the museum the one day.
3 years ago we decided to make sure we took some sort of holiday with the kids each year, whether it was an extravagant, long-saved-for vacation or a staycation. I'd always thought of staycations as smaller, less expensive, closer-to-home adventures. Not always "at home" each night, but not far either.
Last week my friend and I had a discussion about staycations. She thought of them as things you do in your city or area, that travelling away and setting up a tent counts as a vacation. Wikipedia seems to think both answers could be correct. What do you think? What do you do when you "staycate"?