"The Garden City"
The Fairmont Empress is the only place I have stayed in Victoria so far and there is nothing like it. Boats dock right outside and it only takes a few minutes from the harbor. The rooms are decorated minimally which plays into the modern-yet-classic feel that I got from the place. It was just so relaxing and clean that it was the perfect place to unwind. And the views? AMAZING! It was great to sit on my bed and watch the sunset while enjoying the spectacular room service. The lounge here is world class and everyone from the front desk people to the bartenders were super friendly and informative. It truly is the perfect place to take a load off and be carefree.
So I have this friend and usually we meet up at some swanky place in Midtown or a Dive in Lower Manhattan, which is very unimportant to the story (actually all of this is) and a few drinks later he always says he wants a "drink in a barrel". Now, be advised he is not an early 90s video game character and I always assumed he was just a little tipsy (to say it nicely), so I always wrote it off but one night I asked him and he was quite flustered that I had no idea what he’s talking about. Next thing I know I'm in an Uber (NEVER drink and drive people!) and we are in route to his "favorite bodega" on the UES. Being the philanthropist he is, he purchased two drink barrels for a whopping I don't know, like maybe $1.25 and that's the story of me learning about what years of late night rambling was. It was very sweet, but pretty good. Probably horrible for you.
I digress, so here I am in a different country and I'm walking around enjoying my company and stumble upon a place called the Bodega Tapas Bar and immediately start laughing, thinking about the above mentioned story. In short, I like bodegas, I love tapas, and no one say can no to a good bar, so the name spoke to me and I COULD'NT BE HAPPIER THAT IT DID. Definitely a go-to spot that you should check out.
Also, be sure to eat at OLO Restaurant. It's expensive and so worth it. The steaks were phenomenal and they have a wine list that is out of this world! Well...it's more like worldwide! Its quite the extensive list and there is a glass to pair with literally every menu item they have. All of the food is farm to table and locally sourced so no processed stuff and you can feel good about being an asset to the local economy. So eat up people!!
Besides from enjoying the local North Cascades National park, the town itself and all the shops it has to offer I would definitely recommend going whale watching with a company called Prince of Whales. It was such a great day trip and not only did we see a ton of wildlife we got to experience the serenity of the water and the beauty of the Island and mainland alike. Willows Beach was very nice, there was so much going on at the beach as they have large green-spaces so there were all sorts of people and vendors. It was really cool!!
The Churchill is a great place to try a fantastic array of both food and drinks. Most of the beers are locally sourced so be sure to try a couple of them - they are all great and the bartenders are beyond helpful when it comes to providing suggestions based not only on your personal preferences but also on the food you are ordering. The place must have had 50 beers on tap so don’t expect to try everything unless you're in the area for a couple nights but I could only imagine how fun it would be to attempt to work your way down the line =). It gets pretty packed out a night so be sure to tip your bartender and be friendly!! Everyone here was so nice, I even got a couple drinks bought for me because they said I HAD to try one thing or another. It was so much fun!!
Victoria is no Ibiza. It is a very classy town that does not have a crazy nightlife. It's definitely a place to go and relax! But while you're there have some drinks at the Tapas bar. They have a great menu that is all tapas style so you can try a bunch of different things and not be uncomfortably full. And if you're trying to live on the healthy side this place is perfect because they also serve gluten free and vegan plates. Definitely ask the bartender to get creative and make their favorite drink for you. I did and it was superb!