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We're going on an Alaska cruise next month and we dock in Victoria on a Saturday from 7pm - midnight. What should we do? Is it worth it to go to the gardens that late? We had an excursion for a high tea, but the time was at 10pm which is too late in our opinion. Need help and any advice! Thanks 🙂

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The best (indeed ONLY) thing we ever do on a Victoria evening cruise stop, is go to the pub! Victoria is one of the longest-standing hubs of Canadian microbrewing, and is undoubtedly the best place on the continent to drink British style beers (both Swans, my fave, and Spinnakers actually maintain two cellars - one at proper beer drinking temo of 8-10C, and another at 4C for all the poor unfortunates raised to believe that beer should be drunk straight from the refrigerator).

 

If it's a Friday or Saturday in summer, then the Royal BC Museum may also be open (it's a great museum, and even if it is not open they do have an IMAX cinema that stays open late, sometimes even showing regular movies as well as documentaries etc.) Otherwise it's basically shopping - many downtown stores will stay open until 9pm or so on cruise days.

 

Personally I don't think the gardens are worth it in darkness, UNLESS it is a fireworks night! Sunset might be late enough you can get some sightseeing in before dark though - if you're here late June sunset will be after 9pm so an excursion arriving at 8pm would be pretty much idea for a quick walk around for photos in daylight, a little more wandering when the lights come on, then fireworks (no later than a 10pm start IIRC) before heading back. A midnight departure makes it very safe to visit the gardens even independently - traffic is a bear right at the gardens when everyone starts to leave as they all pile out within a very short time, but you'd have about an hour of padding (plus if your cab or rental car is stuck in traffic, so are the cruiseline buses...)

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Posted (edited)

The Butchart Gardens don't open up for evening hours until June.  So if you're arriving in May you are out of luck as they close at 5PM.   Fireworks happen on Saturdays from First weekend in July until 10 weeks later End Aug/Beg Sept depending on the calendar.   The weather in May can be nice and warm in the evening but with a brisk breeze.  It won't be dark until 9 ish and the late evenings on a warm night are magical downtown. In June it is light until 930 PM and duskish until 10.  

Whenever you visit stop and have a beer at one of the pubs downtown.  And you don't have to go far to get a micro brew almost every bar carry the locally made stuff.  When you consider the exchange rate you get a good price on it also.   The museum is on winter hours until the 16 of May.  Which means they close at five.  After that when they go onto summer hours (read...do it for the cruise ship pax) they stay open late on Fridays and Saturdays, usually to 10 PM.  I know it sounds like it would be a dry place to visit but it isn't at all. 

To be honest, the cruise lines do their passengers no favours by having those weird visiting hours, they only stop because they have to for US cartage laws.  Also, we can only get 3 ships at a time in the harbour so sometimes they have no choice but to come in after the other lines have spent a day here.  They are trying to expand in the next couple of years and even trying to make Victoria a start/end point, to get more of the lucrative pre and post visit benefits.

Edited by Aesop081

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17 hours ago, Aesop081 said:

The Butchart Gardens don't open up for evening hours until June.  So if you're arriving in May you are out of luck as they close at 5PM.   Fireworks happen on Saturdays from First weekend in July until 10 weeks later End Aug/Beg Sept depending on the calendar.   The weather in May can be nice and warm in the evening but with a brisk breeze.  It won't be dark until 9 ish and the late evenings on a warm night are magical downtown. In June it is light until 930 PM and duskish until 10.  

 

I wonder if they open up for ships at night because I have gone several times at night in May on cruise ship excursions. I love the gardens.

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5 hours ago, Coral said:

I wonder if they open up for ships at night because I have gone several times at night in May on cruise ship excursions. I love the gardens.

I would love to be definitive about this but I don't know for 100% certain.  I do know they have an early morning (1 hour prior) breakfast in the cafe for some tour groups but they're not allowed into the garden until the soft opening 15 min prior to official time.  This stops a rush of people at the beginning of the day.  So maybe at night.  Never heard of it though.  

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5 hours ago, Aesop081 said:

I would love to be definitive about this but I don't know for 100% certain.  I do know they have an early morning (1 hour prior) breakfast in the cafe for some tour groups but they're not allowed into the garden until the soft opening 15 min prior to official time.  This stops a rush of people at the beginning of the day.  So maybe at night.  Never heard of it though.  

I did a quick search for Butchart Gardens stay open for ships in May and came across several that indicated such "for cruise ship passengers only". I know I have been there at night in May. A simple email to Butchart Gardens will indicate such. Also, if ships are selling tours for that time, they do.

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Here's a chart for sunset and hours of daylight - Victoria, BC.   Sunset is late in May.

https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/canada/victoria?month=5

The downtown and inner harbor area are beautiful in May with abundant flowers.  Even if you are unable to tour Butchart,  the gardens surrounding the Fairmont Empress and Parliament Building are photo worthy.

Many of the shops on Government Street stay open later when there is a cruise ship in port.  Roger's Chocolates, Murchie's and Munro Books are some that have been open into the evening.  Carriage rides are usually available at the corner by the Parliament Building.

There are many cruise ships that dock in the late afternoon and depart late evening.  Victoria tourism doe not shut down at 5 pm.

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Is there a shuttle available to get downtown?  We've visited Victoria several times via cruise ship and have walked to the downtown area each time.  This time I'd like to just shuttle it if possible.  I couldn't remember what was available at the cruise terminal.

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Shuttle should always be running on cruise days, but are poor value. US$12 was the reported rate last season, which means that if you are a solo traveler it's OK value but two people taking a cab each way for CAD$10 save money right off the bat, plus have total flexibility in where you get dropped and picked up - whereas shuttles tend to have at most three stops: the pier, inner harbour near Empress, and sometimes also Fisherman's Wharf.

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13 hours ago, LHARTWICK said:

Is there a shuttle available to get downtown?  We've visited Victoria several times via cruise ship and have walked to the downtown area each time.  This time I'd like to just shuttle it if possible.  I couldn't remember what was available at the cruise terminal.

Shuttle is now $15...or it was last week when we visited.

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