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"Christmas Lights Extravaganza at the Gardens" Top 5 Page for this destination Butchart Gardens Tip by glabah

Butchart Gardens, Victoria: 60 reviews and 98 photos

  Christmas Lights at Butchart Gardens
by glabah
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One of the things Buchart Gardens advertises is their Christmas light show. So, today I visited the Christmas Lights Show.

As there is very little in bloom in the garden during this time, and since various plants are strung with electrical wires, and since various other areas that would normally be open grass feature various temporary sculptures and other such items, I am counting this as a different tip than a normal Butchart Gardens tip. The gardens simply are not at all the same as normal this time of year.

While the victoria Clipper from Seattle to Victoria is a decent deal during the winter, it is not a good deal to add the Butchart Gardens Christmas Lights tour to this package, at USA$52. This price might make sense if you absolutely do not want to find your way up to the gardens by public transportation ($2.50 each way, plus garden entrance fee). The fact is that one of the suggested things on Buchart Garden's web site is to pay the entrance fee and visit in the afternoon, then stay or visit again in the evening, so that one can see the gardens in both the daylight and lit up at night. If I had added this trip to Victoria Clipper, the tour wouldn't have arrived until after 5 at night - meaning that I would miss exploring the garden during the day, as well as being able to see the Japanese Gardens, parts of the Sunken Garden, and a few other pathways that were closed at 4 PM due to the desire to have some viewing orchestration for the light show.

However, it is possible to purchase just the Butchart Gardens tickets from the Victoria Clipper shop on the boat. This is only USA$26. This may seem to be a bit of a dig too, since the garden only reports the entrance fee as being only $23.57. However, keep in mind the prices listed on the garden web site, and at the entrance gate, do not include the 12% Harmonized Sales Tax. However, the USA$26 sold by the Victoria Clipper include all of the costs - so it really isn't that bad. On my trip over I paid for the ticket, received a voucher, and exchanged the voucher for an entrance ticket when I got to the garden.

Sure, it is winter time and there isn't anything at all in bloom today, and the chance of rain is good (I did get a bit wet!) but at the same time I might as well do what the garden themselves suggest and get the most out of my entrance fee - so I decided to not do the package tour with Victoria Clipper. Instead, I went there on my own, and arrived about 3 rather than the package tour time of 5.

The sheer number of lights was quite impressive, but there are a lot of pathways that you can walk down in the garden. To really see everything that is going on here, you really need to venture down a number of different side trails, and make several loops of the garden. Otherwise, parts of the garden that have decorations would be easy to miss.

By arriving before 4, it was possible to see some of the areas that had lights from a different angle than would be allowed after 4, as those areas were closed. For example, the sunken garden features an elevated viewing area which was closed for the Christmas lights event, but open before 4. The entire Japanese Gardens section was closed after 4 as well, and didn't feature any Christmas decorations - and considering the nature of the event probably it would be against the serenity tradition of the Japanese gardens to have a lot of loud animated sculptures at it.

This year, the light decoration theme was "12 Days of Christmas" and included decorations that matched the characters of the song. This included lighted wire forms, light forms, sculptures, and automated marionettes.

While it was a bit more difficult to get here than it would have been on the bus tour, I think it was well worth the extra effort to get here before the various parts of the garden closed for the evening. Darkness falls early here, and so staying in the garden also helped me to get some photos of the lights in partial light - which with a very light touchy camera is fairly important to do. Complete darkness with Christmas lights seem to make it very confused.

Getting Here:

VT member Goodfish pointed out this good page on the Buchart Gardens web site with all manner of instructions on how to get to the gardens. However, somehow while stumbling through their menu system, I did not find this page.

The best thing to do is to find a bus #75 that is going directly from downtown to the gardens. However, only a very few of them operate this complete route in the winter season, and many of those that do operate into downtown Victoria do not go to Butchart Gardens. You will therefore want to pay close attention to this timetable, as it may make things a lot easier for you. For example, had I left downtown Victoria at 1 in the afternoon, I could have taken the #75 all the way to the gardens from downtown. Otherwise, you have to take bus route #30, #6, or #31, or some other bus from downtown north to "Royal Oak Exchange" which is basically just a busy street intersection with a bunch of bus stops at it. I wound up taking #30 and then #75. The bus between downtown Victoria and Royal Oak Exchange turned out to be fairly time consuming and rather circuitous. Certain versions of bus 30 and 31 are express buses, and those stay on the main roads. There is also an express version of the #32 that seems to make a reasonably quick trip from downtown Victoria to Royal Oak Exchange, but it doesn't appear in the winter timetable. Bus route #6 also has a somewhat faster trip than the locals, but they all take between 20 and 30 minutes to get from downtown to Royal Oak Exchange.

Once at Royal Oak Exchange, your wait depends on how well you read the timetables. During many times of the day, #75 operates only once every half hour, and service levels quickly drop to hourly in the early evening. Traveling with the rush hour, however, it does operate once every 15 minutes.

My understanding is that #75 goes to downtown Victoria more regularly in the summer months as the gardens are a much more popular tourist attraction in the summer months. However, the Christmas lights show isn't during the summer months.

There is also a bus route that goes to the gardens from the ferry in Sidney. It is bus route #81, but it doesn't operate very frequently at all.

Of course, if you do decide to take the $52 Victoria Clipper tour, you don't have to worry about any of that as they have a dedicated motor coach to take care of that.

Driving to the garden is possible. Simply drive north on the Patricia Bay Highway and follow the signs once you get to Keating X Road. The road into the garden is very narrow and steep in places, and though they do run regular buses to the garden you probably don't want to be driving this thing with a full size motorhome or other huge vehicle. The bus takes up most of the road, and meeting between two such large vehicles on the narrow part of the road could be interesting at best. Parking is through the main gate and to the right. However, keep in mind this is a very popular tourist attraction, and parking may be frustrating at peak periods.

Address: 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC
Directions: Bus route #75 leaves from a location right near the ferry terminal, sometimes. See my comments in the text of the above.
Phone: 866 652 4422

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Dec 28, 2010
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