Fun things to do with kids at The Butchart Gardens, just half an hour from Victoria, BC
The Butchart Gardens are a National Historic Site and one of Vancouver Island’s most popular attractions. Located in Brentwood Bay (half an hour northwest of Victoria), these gorgeous gardens were established by Jennie Butchart in 1904 and are now world famous. With over 900 varieties of plants and flowers on 55 acres, visitors can explore lush landscapes and vibrant gardens that have been delighting visitors for over a century.
I have fond memories of coming here as a kid, so it was cool to bring my kids and see what they liked best. If you’re anthophiles (flower lovers) like us, you could easily spend half a day here; but with younger kids, plan for about 2 hours including a treat from the coffee shop or gelateria.
Here are the best things to do at The Butchart Gardens with Kids:
1. Go for a whirl on the Rose Carousel
The gorgeous Rose Carousel has 30 hand-carved animals and two chariots to sit on. See if you can find your favorite animal! Located on the west side of Butchart Gardens, past the Sunken Garden. $2/ride.
2. Complete a Family Discovery Walk Activity Sheet to win a prize!
Keep little kids busy with the Family Discovery Walk scavenger hunt activity! Pick up a Family Discovery Walk Worksheet, clipboard and pencil at the Visitor Information Centre, then let kids draw what they find along the way. When the kids have completed the worksheet, they can take it back to the Information Centre to get a special prize.
If you’re traveling with bigger kids, get them to find and photograph each of the following items (DIY photo scavenger hunt):
- 1 Water wheel
- 3 Fountains
- 2 Totem poles
- 3 moss animals
- Tacca the bronze wild boar sculpture: Rub its snout for good luck!
- Red Japanese Torii gate
- Building with vines growing on it
- Purple tulips (in spring) or yellow roses (in summer)
Additional optional activity: Bigger kids might also enjoy identifying flowers with the complimentary Flower Identification Sheets available at the entrance.
3. Get gelato at the Italian Garden
The gorgeous Italian Garden, where the Butchart Family’s tennis court used to be, features 18 flowerbeds and a pond in a beautiful courtyard. Enjoy the vibrant colors, then treat yourself to some delicious Italian gelato or sorbetto at Gelateria Benvenuto! Choose from 18 flavours of authentic (& yummy!) gelato and sorbetto made in house from locally-sourced ingredients.
4. Climb The Mound for Sunken Garden views
Climb 51 stairs to reach the top of The Mound, for panoramic views of the Sunken Garden. This garden was the first one created at Butchart Gardens, back in 1912, after Robert and Jennie Butchart’s limestone quarry shut down. Jennie Butchart’s goal was to beautify the space, and the rest is history! Once the Sunken Garden was done, the Japanese, Italian, and Rose Gardens were made. Fun fact: After several generations, the Butchart Gardens continue to be family-owned and operated.
5. Watch the Ross Fountain Show
From The Mound, follow the path to the far end of the Sunken Garden to watch the Ross Fountain, built in 1964 to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of The Butchart Gardens. Dancing streams of water are mesmerizing day or night. *The Ross and Dragon Fountains are illuminated by LED lights at night!
6. Savor Afternoon Tea in The Dining Room (11:30 am – 3 pm)
The Dining Room is an award-winning restaurant in the Butcharts’ original home. Reserve a table for scrumptious Afternoon Tea (gluten free, dairy sensitive, vegetarian, and vegan options available with 24 hours notice) served daily from 11:30 am to 3 pm. Tea service at time of writing includes trifle, scones, savory sandwiches, and sweets.
7. Criss-cross bridges and take stepping stones across the pond in the Japanese Garden
Walk through the red Torii gate and enter a sublime spot filled with water features, bridges, and stepping stones across a pond. Look for the Sturgeon Fountain, mini dragon sculptures, and maple trees as you explore this exquisite garden.
8. Smell the Roses
Come summer, the roses are in bloom and smelling heavenly in the Rose Garden. Take a family photo beneath the rose arches and take in the fragrance of 2,500 rose plants.
9. Summer evening fun: Weekend concerts, Night Illuminations, and Saturday Night Fireworks
If your kids are night owls, you can catch a concert on the stage at 8 pm (Fridays and Saturdays), watch fireworks on Saturday nights, and enjoy seeing the gardens illuminated with 3,000 light fixtures. Evening entertainment, fireworks, and Night Illuminations are free with admission in July and August.
10. Get a souvenir at the Butchart Gardens Gift Shop
Butchart Gardens Gift Shop offers a wide variety of souvenirs and gifts that will make your visit to the gardens even more memorable. From locally crafted jewelry to unique art pieces, you are sure to find something special for yourself or someone else. The girls got cute bracelets and I bought some seeds, so we can (hopefully) grow fancy flowers in our own garden!
Know Before You Go
- Running, shouting, throwing (playing frisbee on the lawn isn’t allowed), and wheelie shoes aren’t permitted to keep a tranquil environment at the gardens. If your kids need to burn off steam, take them for a hike at Tod Inlet first. It’s a short walk down to the water where you can see lots of sea birds, and sometimes seals and jellyfish (we saw both!).
- The gardens are BIG – 55 acres – so choose a meeting spot in case you are separated from your kids. The Information Centre is a good spot.
- Reservations are recommended for the very popular Afternoon Tea held in the original Butchart family home.
- Most of the grounds are stroller and wheelchair friendly, however some sections have stairs or are steep. See garden signage for alternate routes.
- Wheelchair and stroller rentals are available by deposit from the Information Centre.
- There’s free wifi at the gardens so you can post selfies or check your email (but I hope you can relax at the gardens!).
- Dogs are permitted in the gardens (except during Christmas season from 3 pm to 8 pm) provided they’re kept on a short leash and you pick up after them.
Where to Eat
In addition to The Dining Room (Afternoon Tea spot) and Gelateria Benvenuto, you can dine at the Coffee Shop and The Blue Poppy Restaurant. If you have dietary restrictions, you will have more options at The Blue Poppy.
When to Go
The Butchart Gardens are open year round, even on Christmas Day, but the best flower viewing is from late March to September. Return in autumn for fall colors, and December for Christmas lights! Early spring is fairy quiet, but you can enjoy indoor blooms at the Spring Prelude. See the Events Calendar for special events throughout the year.
July and August is peak season and very busy, but as a bonus, evening concerts and Saturday night fireworks are included with your admission.
We like visiting in April, first thing in the morning before it gets busy. March and April are the best times to see cherry blossoms.
It’s a 30-minute drive or 45-minute bus ride from Victoria to The Butchart Gardens. Visit BC Transit for the current bus schedule. Nearby Tod Inlet is a lovely spot for a walk and wildlife watching. Look for otters, seals, herons, and jellyfish!
Partnership Disclosure: The Butchart Gardens generously hosted us for review purposes, but all words and opinions are my own.
For More Information
To learn more or get tickets, visit The Butchart Gardens.
Tickets for kids are very affordable: Kids under 5 go free, 5-12 are $2 in spring and fall / $3 in summer and Christmas, and Youth (13-17) tickets are half the Adult rate.
What to Bring
- It’s almost always breezy by the shore, so a windproof-waterproof jacket or fleece-lined rain jacket is a must year-round.
- While Victoria, BC boasts a milder climate than most of Canada, it’s still cool in early spring (high or 11 C and low of 1 C) and feels colder when the humidity is high, so bring a fleece jacket or down jacket.
- Waterproof boots or waterproof shoes are recommended so you don’t need to bring multiple pairs of footwear (also, spring can be a bit rainy in Victoria). I recommend waterproof leather boots and waterproof sneakers.
- The road to Butchart Gardens is winding, so if anyone in your family gets motion sickness, you should bring anti-nauseants. We like chewable ginger Gravol for road trips and regular Gravol or Dramamine for whale watching.
Where to Stay
Family-friendly and affordable hotels near downtown Victoria include the following:
- Best Western Plus Inner Harbour (412 Quebec Street, 900 m from Royal BC Museum): Offers a lot of bang for your buck including free buffet breakfast, in-room fridge and microwave, gym, sauna, steam room, seasonal outdoor pool, laundry, and parking ($15/day) – and is highly rated by Expedia guests (8.6/10).
- Hotel Zed Victoria (3110 Douglas St, 3 km from Royal BC Museum) is a family favorite with its funky decor, indoor pool and hot tub, free bicycle rentals, free parking, Arcade/game room, in-room fridge, shared microwave, and laundry. Rated 8.8/10 and it’s pet friendly too!
- Sandman Hotel Victoria (2852 Douglas St, 3 km from Royal BC Museum) boasts good prices and amenities including an indoor pool, hot tub, gym, laundry, and free parking. Family suites with kitchenettes are available. Average rating of 7.6/10.
- Exploring Victoria, BC’s Inner Harbour
- Dallas Waterfront Pathway and the Breakwater Lighthouse
- Camping at Goldstream Provincial Park
- The Best Seaside Campgrounds on Vancouver Island
- Walking on the Wild Side in Ucluelet, BC
- Backpacking (parts of) the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail with Kids
- 10 Tips for Backpacking the West Coast Trail