February is the month for romance and celebration. Of course, this is not too surprising, as Valentine’s Day is the main holiday in February people tend to think of. However, Valentine’s Day does not have to be just a day for couples, it is a great time to do something nice for anyone in your life that you care for, whether that is your significant other, your friends, your siblings, your parents, your grandparents or even your pet. When it comes to treating your loved ones, the sky is the limit. Take them to a show or out to dinner, send flowers or a card or simply just give them a call to let them know you are thinking of them. Conversely, Valentine’s Day is not the only cause to celebrate this month. The Chinese New Year is a few short days later on February 19th and is another great opportunity to spend time with family and enjoy the variety of February things to do in Victoria.

Do Something Sweet for Your Sweetie

Rose. Credit Victoria Clipper.

Rose. Credit Victoria Clipper.

Voted as the third “Most Romantic North American City” by a USA Today Reader’s Choice Award contest in February 2014, Victoria is definitely a great destination for a Valentine’s Day getaway. To begin with, there are a number of romance and spa packages at Victoria hotels, allowing you and your sweetheart to get pampered with champagne, chocolates, breakfast, late checkouts and relaxing spa treatments. Besides fine accommodations, you can enjoy sumptuous, multi-course dinners at Church & State Wines and Merridale Ciderworks. Of course, you cannot forget dessert, especially on the day when chocolate is de rigueur. Make sure to stop by the Death by Chocolate Buffet at the Empress’ Bengal Lounge to delight your senses with the amazing chocolate confections created by their award-winning pastry team.

Finally, there activities available for all interests throughout Valentine’s Day weekend. Nature lovers can take a romantic stroll through The Butchart Gardens or take their romance on the water with Victoria Harbour Kayak Tour. The tour makes a couple of stops at popular landmarks along the way, so you may want make a date of the excursion and pack a picnic lunch or bring along your wallet to taste some of Victoria’s famous seafood. Likewise, those who enjoy the arts can listen to music from a variety of genres at the Valentine’s Special Traveling Roadshow or those with four legged friends can have their pooch join in on the Valentine’s Day fun by bringing him or her to the Valentine’s Day Dog Party, costumes for you and your pet are encouraged and there are opportunities to win prizes!

Spend Lunar New Year Exploring and Celebrating in Chinatown

Chinatown Gate. Credit Benjamin Madison.

Chinatown Gate. Credit Benjamin Madison.

Another big event happening this month is Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, which marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar Calendar and is a time to celebrate the new year and spend time with loved ones. As such, why not celebrate the Year of the Sheep in Victoria’s historic Chinatown, which is the oldest in Canada and second in age to San Francisco’s in North America. Make a weekend getaway out of your visit with the Victoria Overnight Chinese New Year Package, featuring a round trip Victoria Clipper cruise, accommodations at the Hotel Grand Pacific, a welcome gift upon your arrival at the hotel a special Chinese New Year afternoon tea service, featuring Asian inspired treats handmade by Chef Rick Choy and limited edition Chinese loose leaf teas.

Once you have settled in, explore Victoria’s Chinatown, which remains an active place and there are a several cultural events that have been planned to help ring in the new year as well as opportunities for shopping and dining. The Victoria Chinese Commerce Association kicks off the celebrations on February 11, with their special Gala Dinner and Live Auction, including a tasty dinner at Don Mee Seafood Restaurant, delightful auction items and fun. During the week of Chinese New Year, the Royal BC Museum will be offering three 30 minute guided spotlight tours of the Chinatown exhibit in their Modern History Gallery. Called “The Chinese Community in British Columbia,” the tours explore the contributions that the Chinese community has made to BC.

If you are into tea, you can learn even more about several of the Silk Road teas you enjoyed at Grand Hotel Pacific during the free Chinese Tea Ceremonies and tastings on February 21 and 22 at Silk Road’s Chinatown location. The Chinese New Year festivities culminate on February 22 with a parade, lion dance, Kung Fu and Tao demonstrations and dragon performances. However, before you leave Chinatown, you should also make sure to visit the famously narrow Fan Tan Alley and the “Gate of Harmonious Interest,” which was created in Victoria’s sister city of Suzhou, China.

More February Things to Do in Victoria

This February, Seattle is all about romance, food and events. If one of your goals for the year is to improve any aspect of your life, you are in luck as a variety of conferences come to Seattle this month, providing you with the opportunity to pick up the tools and knowledge for a variety of projects. Likewise, Valentine’s Day is coming up, making it a great time to take your sweetie or even your friends out for a night on the town to explore Seattle’s culinary and arts scene. Or enjoy tasty Asian food, dancing and fireworks as the Chinese New Year begins on February 19. With all the February things to do in Seattle, you are sure to find something that suits your fancy.

Visit Seattle to Learn Something New

Wights display garden. Courtesy of the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

Wight’s display garden. Courtesy of the Northwest Flower & Garden Show

Kicking off the series of events in town this month is the Seattle Boat Show, which features more than 1,000 recreational watercraft and is the largest boat show on the West Coast. In addition to boats indoors, there are a whole slew of boats afloat on South Lake Union, with a free shuttle running every 30 minutes to transport you between the two locations. However, there is more to do than simply admire your dream boat. There are more than 225 boating and fishing seminars so you can learn all about how to maintain, travel and have fun on your boat as well as the latest fishing and boating accessories to ensure you stay on trend.

The other popular show coming to town this month is the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. In honor of the show falling on Valentine’s Day weekend, this year’s theme is “Romance Blossoms,” and you are sure to fall in love with the thousands of flowers found in beautiful summer colors. Explore the impressive and creative Show Gardens (don’t forget to vote for your favorite) and check out the patio gardens created for small spaces in the City Living Exhibit. You can also learn to create stunning designs through a number of seminars at the show and then shop the 300 booths in the marketplace to bring home the supplies you need to do so. You are sure to leave blossoming with ideas for your next garden project. Don’t forget to bring a camera!

Enjoy Sweet Celebrations all Month Long

Valentine's Day Chocolates. Creative Commons Licensed by John Hritz.

Valentine’s Day Chocolates. Creative Commons Licensed by John Hritz

While being surrounded by flowers is a potentially romantic way to spend your Valentine’s Day, there are other options for date ideas around the city. Partake in the city’s outstanding culinary scene by taking your sweetie on either Savor Seattle’s Gourmet Food Tour where you will enjoy a progressive meal at Seattle’s best restaurants or their Chocolate Indulgence Tour to sample the city’s sweet side through desserts. For more chocolate, as well as brews and other savory snacks, head over to the 7th Annual Pike Chocofest.

After you fuel up, listen to the sweet sounds of the Northwest Symphony Orchestra at their special Valentine’s Day Concert. Or, if you would rather your date be on the lighter side, give the gift of laughter by taking them to the Comedy of Love, where you can enjoy stories about an awkward first kiss or outrageous wedding day.

Seattle Chinese New Year. Creative Commons Licensed by Joe Mabel.

Seattle Chinese New Year. Creative Commons Licensed by Joe Mabel

Not long after Valentine’s Day is the Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year Celebration, the most important festivity in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Ring in the Year of the Sheep by stopping by the Chinatown-International District for a parade, cultural activities (like calligraphy drawing and origami), Lion and Dragon dances, and fireworks. Many of the restaurants in the area will also be participating in the Annual Lunar New Year Food Walk, offering $2 tastes and a great opportunity to sample food from around the globe.

Finally, don’t forget to cheer on the city’s beloved Seattle Seahawks on February 1, as they take on the New England Patriots at Super Bowl 49. While the event is not actually in Seattle (it is being hosted in Glendale, Arizona) it is one of the biggest events happening for sports fans this year, drawing the community of Seattle together. Besides, if the Seahawks are lucky enough to claim another victory, the city will treated to a parade in the following weeks.

More February Things to Do in Seattle

Dusk at Paradise, Mt. Rainier. Credit Lauren Riker

Dusk at Paradise, Mt. Rainier. Credit Lauren Riker

Since the winter months are colder in many parts of the world, often necessitating finding indoor activities to enjoy, they provide the perfect opportunity to cozy up to a fireplace with a good book. Not sure what to read? Why not dive into some historical fiction to experience life through the lenses of the many communities in the Northwest or grab a non-fiction title to learn more about the background of your own town. Whether you are you dreaming of a Pacific Northwest getaway or want to learn more about your own “backyard.” You may even discover more fun and interesting, things to do in Victoria, Seattle and other cities throughout the region. Here are a few books to inspire you and get you in a Northwest state of mind.

1) The Good Rain by Timothy Egan:

A native of the Pacific Northwest himself, Timothy Egan dives deep into the history, culture, geography and flora and fauna of the region. He travels through Washington, Oregon and Victoria on Vancouver Island, exploring salmon fisheries, redwood forests, Okanagan Valley, the Columbia River and the volcanoes of the Cascades. The book contains an abundance of information and is great for lovers of the Pacific and newbies alike.

2) Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey:

Although “Sometimes a Great Notion” is purely fictional, the book provides a look at what life would be like as a logger in the 1950s working in a small lumber town on the Oregon coast. The book is incredibly well written and depicts the rainy season in Oregon perfectly, causing many critics to describe it as “the quintessential Northwest novel.”

3) Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer:

Nature lovers and adventures alike will be drawn into this book as Krakauer retraces the tragic journey of Christopher McCandless through the West in order to determine what caused the young man with such a bright future to give up everything. While Krakauer is unable to provide an answer about McCandless’s demise with absolute certainty, the book serves as an excellent example of what it is like to venture into the northern wilderness and is a good reminder about the power of nature.

4) Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle by Murray Morgan:

Ever wonder what Seattle was like before grunge, coffee, tech companies and professional sports put it on the map? “Skid Road” provides a narrative history of Seattle’s first 100 years. The book’s compilation of short stories discussing Seattle’s pioneers, towns, landmarks and community, gives you an informative and engaging look at how Seattle developed into the city it is today.

5) The Weather of the Pacific Northwest by Cliff Mass:

Not just for scientifically-oriented (although they are sure to geek out over the graphs and denser sections of this book) this book offers a breakdown of the weather in the Northwest that a layperson can understand. In it, popular radio commentator, blogger and University of Washington Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Mass explains how our geology effects the weather, includes history on sever weather events and even offers tips on how to predict the weather yourself.

6) The Jump Off Creek by Molly Gloss:

While some people may have learned how tough it was to survive as a pioneer playing the computer game “Oregon Trail” from the ‘70s to the ‘90s, this book provides a more in-depth look at what the experience would have been like if you were a women doing it on your own. Such is the story of the fictional Lydia Sanderson, a widow who sells everything in her home town of Pennsylvania to travel to Oregon and homestead on a mountain. Author Molly Gloss draws from pioneer diaries, journals and stories from her own family to exemplify the hard physical conditions and rituals of frontier life.

7) A History of Pacific Northwest Cuisine: Mastodons to Molecular Gastronomy by Marc Hinton:

Those of who live in the Pacific Northwest, and even those who do not, know one thing is for certain – our food Is delicious! Our lush landscape provides an array of tasty edibles from fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood and even wine and beer! In this book, Hinton studies the history of food in Washington and Oregon (from potlatches to five-star restaurants) and how it has shaped our meals today. Of course, there are also delicious recipes thrown in!

8) Natural Grace by William Dietrich:

When people often think of Seattle, Portland and the rest of the Pacific Northwest, they often think of city life and culture. However, animals and nature still play important roles in the Northwest life. Dietrich explores what we can learn from these plants and animals, and encourages others to do the same, in this collection of natural history essays adapted from articles he wrote for Pacific Northwest Magazine.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with one of our frequent Clipper ferry travelers, Liana Bugslag, who has made an impressive 35 round trip visits between Victoria and Seattle in the past year and a half. Liana explained much of the inspiration for her travel is to visit her university sweetheart and partner, Jessie, who she has been dating since her senior year at the University of Arkansas. Following graduation, and a year of living in Arkansas while Jessie finished his Master’s degree, Liana and Jessie made the trek up to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Liana moved back to her hometown of Victoria, BC and Jessie settled in Seattle, WA. Ever since Liana and Jessie have established themselves in their respective cities, the Victoria Clipper has been the gateway for their cross-border relationship.

Of course, all the trips have made Liana a bit of an expert on riding the Clipper ferry. Liana states, “As someone who is a frequent ‘Clipper-er’ and Commodore member, I have gained some valuable insight for travelers making the three-hour voyage.” Luckily, Liana was kind enough to share a few of her tips, so when you travel on the Victoria Clipper you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride and scenic views.

Have travel tips of your own? We love hearing your feedback. Whether it is your favorite restaurant, a trendy place to shop or secrets for exploring the Pacific Northwest, please share in the comments below. See you aboard soon!

Jessie and Liana

Jessie and Liana

Tips for Traveling on the Victoria Clipper Ferry

By Liana Bugslag

1) Reserve Early. You receive your boarding number based on when you made your reservation, not when you get to the ferry terminal. Book earlier to take advantage of a low boarding number, and lower fares!

2) Pick up your boarding pass prior to your trip. The Clipper Vacations allows you to pick up your boarding pass the entire week prior to your travel date. Not only will this save you significant time on your day of travel but it a will also allow you to avoid the line at the ticket counter (unless you need to check in luggage the day of).

3) Bring a sweater. Sometimes the temperatures in the Clipper ferry run a little cooler, to prevent people from getting overheated. Therefore, even in the summer, a small sweater will keep you comfortable. You can also borrow a blanket, if needed, from the Clipper’s service counter onboard.

4) Turn your phone off, or on to airplane mode, once on the ferry. Remember that you are crossing the border while still on the boat, so unless you have an international plan, you will likely be charged unexpected roaming costs if you are using your phone to browse the web or sending messages.

5) Sit near the back of the ferry to get off first. The ferry unloads from the back. If your goal is to get off as soon as possible, sit as close to the opposite back corner as you can. The Clipper ferry also unloads in two groups, first for people who don’t have checked luggage, and then for those who do have checked luggage, so keep this in mind if you have somewhere you need to be upon docking.

6) Talk with the people around you. I have met the most fascinating people from not only all over Canada, and the United States, but also from multiple areas around the world. You never know the story of the person who is sitting next to you! I have met everyone from a couple who was celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary, to a young couple from Australia traveling the west coast of North America. The Clipper ferry really does offer a great opportunity to learn about different cultures, as well as learn local favorite restaurants and activities in and around Victoria and Seattle.

In my experience, Clipper Vacations has been the most convenient, and pleasant way to travel between downtown Seattle, and downtown Victoria. With no unexpected lines at the border, smooth sailing and a knowledgeable staff, I highly recommend their service to anyone traveling or thinking about making a trip to visit our friendly neighbors across the border.

Don’t forget to enjoy the view!

For many people, the new year is traditionally the time to stop, take inventory and work to improve upon areas in our lives that could be even better. Here at Clipper Vacations, we take this philosophy for self-improvement to heart and stop our vessel operation every January for about 10-11 days to allow time for improvements, updates, general maintenance and a deep cleaning of our vessels. It is hard to complete many of these big projects when our boats are full of passengers, so we transport our vessels to a dry dock where our engineering team can perform the necessary improvements. As such, the vessels will not operate from January 5-16.

The Clipper IV in dry dock.

The Clipper IV in dry dock.

These are a busy few weeks for our engineering staff. In order to provide you with a better idea of what happens to our boats when they are not transporting you to and from Seattle and Victoria, we took a trip over to Ballard to see the process in action at the Pacific Fishermen Inc. Shipyard. While we were there our engineer Brad gave us a tour of facilities and we were able to learn some interesting facts about the Clipper vessels and the dry dock itself.

Our engineer Brad showing us the ropes.

Our engineer Brad showing us the ropes.

For those who are not familiar with the dry dock process, it is more straightforward than you might think. The dock is submerged underwater in order for the ship to be navigated into the dock. Once the ship is secured, the dock and the boat are raised above water. Now that the vessel is out of the water, all our improvements can be completed. When the ship is updated and ready to set out on the water again, all leftover metal pieces and access materials are removed from the bottom of the dry dock, so they do not pollute the Sound. The dock is then lowered again to place the ship back into the water. The upgrades on the boat are then tested in the water before the ship resumes sailing.

When it comes to improving our vessels, one of the annual maintenance items is removing the jet pumps for upgrades, renewing the stern tubes and cleaning the water jet tunnels, which we got to witness on the Clipper IV. Since the jets and pumps are key to moving the ships forward, this process ensures all parts are top-of-the line and running efficiently.

The Clipper IV getting its jet pumps and tubes maintained.

The Clipper IV getting its jet pumps and tubes maintained.

Using a lay to renew stern tubes.

Using a lay to renew stern tubes.

Shiny, new stern tube.

Shiny, new stern tube.

Likewise, during dry dock the vessels often receive a hull cleaning and a fresh coat of paint to keep their familiar red, white and blue colors bright.

The Victoria Clipper receives a fresh coat of paint.

The Victoria Clipper receives a fresh coat of paint.

Finally, one of the improvements we are most excited about is installing a motion damping service (MDS), which has been flown in all the way from Norway. This part is designed to help prevent the boat from rocking as much, providing you with a smoother ride. In addition, you can look forward to new leather bolsters in the Clipper IV as well as new Lexan windows to provide a sharper view during your travels.

We hope these upgrades will better your experience with us and provide a more comfortable journey onboard our Victoria Clipper vessels. A few of these improvements have come from your feedback, so please continue to let us know what we can do better. Thank you to those of you who have traveled with us and we look forward to meeting those of you who will travel with us this year. Happy sailing!

Portland City Lights at Night. Credit: Brandon-Godfrey

Portland City Lights at Night. Credit: Brandon Godfrey

It is one week into 2015, and many of us are well on our way to setting goals and creating long term plans for the year. However, now that the holidays are over, this is often the time that the winter doldrums start to hit. The best way to combat these slower days is by taking advantage of this freer time to relax and check out events and activities taking place within no more than a couple of hours journey from you. Luckily, you are sure to find plenty of January things to do in Portland that will keep you busy well into the month.

Explore Portland’s Culinary Scene and Feast Throughout the Month

Truffle. Creative Commons Licensed by Moi-Meme

Truffle. Creative Commons Licensed by Moi-Meme

If you made it through the holiday season without getting tired of food, you can look forward to sampling even more tasty delicacies this month. In fact, if you schedule your activities right, you can practically have a three course meal. First, there is the Oregon Truffle Festival, where you can taste small plates created with Oregon black and white truffles accompanied by beer, wine and spirits. You can also go on a real truffle hunt, sample truffles and other artisan foods at the Oregon Truffle Marketplace or watch dogs compete to determine who is the best at sniffing out truffles. This event often sells out, so make sure to get your tickets soon. Next up is First Taste Oregon, which features some of the best culinary masters, winemakers, craft brewers and even artists. Most exhibitors will offer bites of their specialty food or drink for free and you can also purchase additional “tastes” at the event. With over 50 food and beverage vendors, you are sure to find something you love, and likely some food or art to take home.

The third culinary-related event of the month allows you to stray from the course of the traditional meal and eat dessert first! At ChocolateFest, you can sample local and international chocolates (there are over 60 vendors, so you are guaranteed a lot of chocolate to sample) and wine, view chocolate presentations and cooking demonstrations and gain in-person knowledge from chocolatiers about how their treats are created. Finally, a tour of Portland cuisine would not be complete without seafood. Stop by the 10th Annual Seafood and Wine Festival at the end of the month and enjoy fresh coastal seafood and other snacks. There will even be face painter and balloon artists for kids, making the event something your whole family will love.

Learn More About Arts and Animals

Rose City Classic. Creative Commons Licensed by Ron Armstrong

Rose City Classic. Creative Commons Licensed by Ron Armstrong

If you need a break from food, never fear, there are other events to keep you entertained. Animal lovers will delight in seeing their favorite dogs or cats on display at the Rose City Classic or the International Cat Show. The Rose City Classic is the biggest dog show in the West, with over 175 breeds, while the International Cat Show features over 250 cats, providing plenty of opportunities for furry cuddles. At the cat show you may even find a new friend to adopt and take home.

If you prefer the arts, you can enjoy some of the greatest musical works ever written during the Winter Festival of Chamber Music. This week long festival will provide you with five amazing performances throughout the week, covering works created by musicians such as Beethoven, Bartok, Schumann and Stravinsky. Similarly, you can geek out at the Wizard World Portland Comic Con. Expect to see a variety of specials guests from popular TV shows such as Game of Thrones, Burn Notice, The Walking Dead and more! With a variety of January things to do in Portland, you certainly will not be bored. Before you know it, the only blues you will be facing will be the sunny blue skies.

More January 2015 Things to do in Portland

Happy New Year! As we begin 2015 it is time to work on creating those New Year’s resolutions. While you may dread this activity, making a to-do list for the year is not all bad as it often does inspire you to tackle that project or trip that you have not gotten around to doing. If one of your goals for the year is to get out and travel more, there is no better place to do so than Vancouver, BC and no time better than the present to get started. Throughout the month of January there are a variety of fun events that will allow you to explore either the culinary and artistic sides (or perhaps a mix of both) of Vancouver, as well as learn about the city’s history. Start 2015 off on the right track and begin exploring the city.

Kick Off 2015 with Food, Art, Adventure and Fun

Canadian Coast Guard Diver In Pacific Canada. Courtesy of Vancouver Aquarium.

Canadian Coast Guard Diver In Pacific Canada. Courtesy of Vancouver Aquarium

Although the year has just begun, there are enough January 2015 things to do in Vancouver to please every type of enthusiast, from foodies to history buffs. If you are an adventurist who enjoys exploring our oceans locally or worldwide, you will enjoy the 16th annual Diver’s Weekend at the Vancouver Aquarium. This exhibit will feature diving demonstrations, displays created by diving clubs and organizations, talks and fun activities for kids. Of course, you don’t have to be a driver to appreciate this exhibit, it is great for people who are considering getting into diving or who are just interested in learning more about the topic.

Dine Out Vancouver Festival. Courtesy of Tourism Vancouver.

Dine Out Vancouver Festival. Courtesy of Tourism Vancouver

Foodies will relish the variety of food and beverage options available to them during Dine Out Vancouver Festival. Dine Out Vancouver is the largest culinary festival in all of Canada, and provides a multitude of ways to enjoy the flavors of the city. Over 250 restaurants around town offer three (or more) course prix-fix meals at reduced rates, so you have the ability to check out some of the hottest new restaurants. However, the opportunities to tickle your taste buds do not end there. Over the course of the 17 day festival you can attend culinary and cocktail tours, cooking classes, dinner and film pairings, debates, guest lectures, BC wine and craft beer tastings, street food markets and more! While you are out exploring the local food scene, make sure to check out some of the other fantastic events in town. One great option is the PuSh International Performing Art Festival, which celebrates the performing arts. During the PuSh Festival you can watch acts of all kinds, including magic shows, dance, theater and even acrobatics. With these two festivals occurring nearly simultaneously, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect date night or girls or guys night out.

Le Grand Continental® at the PuSh Festival. Credit: Robert Torres

Le Grand Continental® at the PuSh Festival. Credit: Robert Torres

Discover the History of Vancouver

Musqueam Happy Face Carving. Courtesy of Museum of Vancouver

Musqueam Happy Face Carving. Courtesy of Museum of Vancouver

With all the culture-filled events taking place in Vancouver this month, it is a great time to take a moment to celebrate the people of the Musqueam First Nation, who have helped shape the City of Vancouver. Together, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), the Museum Vancouver (MOV) and the Musqueam First Nation have collaborated to develop a series of three exhibits, called the “c̓əsnaʔəm, the city before the city”, which explores one of the largest ancient villages and burial sites, c̓əsnaʔəm (also known as the Marpole Midden), and how its ongoing significance to the Musqueam people has influenced Vancouver’s culture. These exhibits also provide a more in-depth look at the knowledge, culture and history of the Musqueam community that has often been overlooked in the past. The hope is that through this exhibit, locals and visitors alike will discover and reflect upon the history of Vancouver. As such, if you do not know the full the background of this wonderful city, the new year provides the perfect opportunity to learn.

Now that the December holidays are mostly over, it is time to start preparing for 2015. One of the best parts of the upcoming new year is the chance to begin again with a fresh start. As such, why not get out, explore and try something new? Instead of merely putting up with cooler weather, embrace it and do something fun involving the outdoors or perhaps even the snow. Or if you really are dreaming of traveling somewhere new, start planning your vacation now to ensure you accomplish your travel goals this year. After all, there is no time like the present!

Enjoy Frosty Fun in the New Year

Polar Bear Plunge. Creative Commons Licensed by Joe Mabel

Polar Bear Plunge. Creative Commons Licensed by Joe Mabel

If you really want to start the year off with bang, take part in a Seattle New Year’s tradition of braving the frigid waters of Lake Washington off of Matthews Beach Park for the Polar Bear Plunge on January 1. Not only is the plunge fun, as participants are encouraged to come dressed in festive costumes, but it is also a great way to wash off the past year so you can begin the new year renewed and rejuvenated.

The frosty fun continues throughout the month of January with the Bavarian Icefest in Leavenworth. Throughout the festival the town is still all decked out in lights, so if you didn’t get to see the town lit up during the holidays this is your chance. During Icefest you can also compete (or just watch) in the snow sculpture contest or show off you skiing and snowboarding skills in the Rail Jam hosted by Stevens Pass. In addition, there will be opportunities to ride on either a dog sled or (if you are feeling more adventurous) on a sled pulled by a snowmobile, live ice carving, a chili crawl and fireworks to cap off the event on Sunday evening. If you don’t get your fill of beer while you are in Leavenworth, make sure to check out Belgianfest on Seattle’s waterfront. You will get to learn about another European culture, Belgium, and sample over 80 beers crafted by Washington state. Thus, you can learn something new, while going local at the same time, that’s definitely a win-win.

Explore Your Adventurous Side and Try Something New

The Seattle Boat Show

The Seattle Boat Show

Since the new year is all about transforming yourself, get inspired by watching a show with the same theme. In “KURIOUS – Cabinet of Curiosities” from Cirque du Soleil, you will be transported to world that disorients your senses and challenges your perceptions as a determined inventor tries to reinvent everything around him. As a result, you will get to view a number of stunning curiosity and acrobatic acts that will leave you wondering what is real and what is just your imagination. Speaking of imagining things, if you are like a lot of people, the cooler winter months may have you dreaming of sailing away to warmer climes. However, turning those dreams into reality may be easier than you think. At the Seattle Boat Show there are more than 1,000 recreational watercraft to explore as well as a variety of seminars that will teach you all about owning, maintaining and traveling with watercraft. You may be sailing off to explore new waters before you know it!

More January 2015 Things to Do in Seattle

The past year has been wonderful, but now it is time to look forward to and celebrate all the opportunities that 2015 will bring. Ring in the new year at one of many New Year’s Eve parties in downtown Victoria or spend your post-holiday downtime by getting out and exploring local museums or festivals. However you choose to end 2014, make sure to do something that allows you to rejuvenate so you can take full advantage of the new year.

The Empress at Twilight. Credit: Anne McKinnell

The Empress at Twilight. Credit: Anne McKinnell

Toast to the New Year in Parties Around Town

If you want to go out on the town for New Year’s Eve, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate. Sip on only the finest brews and cocktails at the Lighthouse Brewery’s “Happy Brew Year” extravaganza. In addition to sweet drinks, you will also be treated to dessert bites, savory treats and a tour of the brewery conducted by the resident brewmaster. There is also the option of dancing the night away at four of the hottest clubs and parties during the Victoria NYE Club Crawl or rocking through the ages at the Decades of Rock New Year’s Celebration featuring music of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

If you are looking for a swanky affair, consider attending either The Empress’ New Year’s Eve Gala Buffet or The Empress Room New Year’s Eve Dinner and then spend the rest of the evening dancing.

If you are not partied out after your night out, you can continue the celebration on New Year’s Day. The Inn at Laurel Point is hosting a Morning After Brunch so you can get your day off to a great (and tasty) a start. Then, spend the rest of the day relaxing with music, song and dance as the Victoria Symphony presents a Viennese New Year’s.

Whisky Tasting. Creative Commons Licensed by Paul Joseph.

Whisky Tasting. Creative Commons Licensed by Paul Joseph.

Discover Another Side of Victoria with Cozy Indoor Activities

January may not be one of the sunniest months in Victoria, but there are still plenty of fun things to do can that can be done indoors. For instance, from January 15 to March 15, the former family residence at The Butchart Gardens is opened up for visitors to explore and see how the family lived. You’ll be able to walk through a few of the rooms and view original furnishings, letters, photographs and memorabilia the Butchart family collected.

If you prefer wildlife over plant life, make sure to check out the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 exhibit at the Royal BC Museum. More than 42,000 stunning, award-wining photos from 96 countries are on display to remind us of the beauty and magnificence of the world we live in. Many of these photos are taken by some of the world’s most respected nature photographers and wildlife experts and are sure to take your breath away.

Finally, if you need another way to warm up on a blustery day, stop by the 10th Annual Victoria Whisky Festival at the Hotel Grand Pacific. In addition to getting to sample some of the best whisky around at the Consumer Tasting, you can attend classes taught by leaders in the industry, enjoy a dinner that combines great food with exceptional single malts and even learn how to pair whisky and chocolate.

More January 2015 Things to Do in Victoria

It is hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away and that Hanukkah has already begun. With only a few days left for holiday shopping, hopefully you have been able to get most of the gifts you need for your friends and family. However, if you have been struggling to find the time or simply the right gift, you do still have this weekend and the following couple of days to continue your search and wrap up your shopping. To find something truly unique, try exploring the collection of fun and unique boutiques and shops in downtown Victoria. Not sure where to start? A few of the savvy shoppers on our team have rounded up a list of their favorite stores around Johnson Street and Government Street, some of the trendiest places to shop in Victoria.

The Regional Assembly of Text

The Regional Assembly of Text. Credit: Michelle Stewart

The Regional Assembly of Text. Credit: Clipper Vacations

This adorable stationary store features nearly anything and everything you can imagine that it is, you guessed it, related to text. For instance, at The Regional Assembly of Text you can expect to find unique cards, as well as small gifts like buttons, journals and books. If you want to get even more customized, there is a button making station in the store where you can bring in a template with your design and create them yourself. In addition, they have old-school typewriters that you can rent to write letters the old fashioned way!

Oh Sugar

Does your giftee have a sweet tooth? If so, pop over to Victoria’s favorite and most unique sweet shop, Oh Sugar to pick up some delectable chocolate and candy. This family owned store features treats from over 40 different countries, making them unlike any other sweet shop in town.

The Fan Tan Gallery

Fan Tan Gallery. Credit: Michelle Stewart

Fan Tan Gallery. Credit: Clipper Vacations

Clipper Vacations

This home and gift store has been in Victoria for over 40 years and has become a staple for great home decor and gifts out of recycled material like recycled cans and tin, distressed wood furniture, book shelves, lamps, colorful plates, funky socks, and cozy throws. They also have chalk boards, vases and a multitude home accessories. Make sure to say “hi” to the very sweet big, black cat who is their shop cat while you are there.

Roberta’s Hats

If you’re looking for a gift that is different, try exploring Roberta’s Hats. This eclectic little shop is Victoria’s oldest hat store and features hats that run the gamut from outrageous to trendy in styles for people of all ages.


Suasion. Credit: Michelle Stewart

Suasion. Credit: Clipper Vacations

The perfect spot to find on trend gifts for your girlfriends, Suasion is a clothing store with hip, modern clothing, shoes and accessories for women. They carry brands like Citizens of Humanity, Line and Dot and Sam Edelman and have an urban, edgy style.


With a focus on women’s accessories, the name of this popular store, SheSheShops is very apropos. After all, everyone knows shoes and bags are a girl’s best friend. The shop also features tights and fun socks that have patterns like kitten or puppy faces, burgers, bacon and macaroons that sure to delight anyone.

Silk Road

Not only does the Silk Road tea house offer a large selection of loose leaf and bagged teas, tea ware and body care products, but it is also a spa. Therefore, after you’ve picked up your gifts, you can treat yourself to a massage and a cup of tea. Of course, these make great gifts too.

With a large variety of shops to choose from, you are sure to find the perfect presents for your loved ones. Best of all, you may even find something for yourself too!

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