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Museums



Visiting a museum is always a unique experience, as each one has its own distinct characteristics, style, and of course, content. Museum subjects vary greatly from city to city, and can range from firefighter's museums to fine art, to sports. If you need help making a selection, our 10Best list highlights the top spots to visit in Victoria.


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British Columbia Aviation Museum


This unique museum is dedicated to Canada's history in aviation. In addition to pictures and memorabilia, you can view over 20 restored vintage aircraft, including WWII fighters, a 1929 Eastman Flying Boat, and a Gibson Twin that was built in Victoria in 1911. Thursdays are "work days" so visit then to watch the restorers in action. Group tours available.

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Craigflower Manor and Schoolhouse


This early farming community was organized by a subsidiary of the Hudson's Bay Company to transform the area into a permanent settlement and to reduce the need for imports from abroad. Established in 1853 along the Victoria Gorge Waterway on the lands of the Kosapsom Nation, ancient artifacts have been found dating back 2500 years. The Georgian manor house was built in 1856 and is decorated to teach about the life of its residents circa 1860. The adjacent school is the oldest standing school building in western Canada. Youngsters enjoy the reenactments of the educational process during the Victorian age.

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Art Gallery of Greater Victoria


With over 15,000 pieces, this is British Columbia's largest public art collection. Highlights include one of Canada's best Asian art collections complete with an authentic Shinto shrine, and paintings by Victoria-born artist and writer Emily Carr. Youngsters and the young-at-heart will enjoy the king-sized dollhouse.

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Elk Lake / Cordova Bay
Centre of the Universe


Amusing name aside, this science center is actually quite interesting and educational. Part of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, the centre features a number of interactive exhibits and a planetarium, and offers special theatre presentations that will engage youngsters as well as their parents. Be sure to check out the impressive 1.8-metre Plaskett Telescope. In fact, you may want to time your visit to coincide with the centre's evening hours, when the telescope is actually used for public star viewing. Hours vary widely by season, so call ahead.

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Maritime Museum of British Columbia


Explore British Columbia's rich maritime history in this museum's extensive collection. There are 70 model ships, uniforms, weapons and artifacts that highlight the early fur trade, whaling industry, royal navy and ocean liner era. Other exhibits include a history of the BC ferry system, and an exhibit dedicated to the circumnavigation of the globe. Currently on display is the "Tilikum," the first dug-out canoe to make the attempt. Captained by John Voss, she set sail from Victoria in 1901 and arrived in England in 1904, having tackled three of the world's angriest oceans. Be sure to take a ride on the museum's ornate, gilded lift that dates from 1889 – it is the oldest operating birdcage elevator in North America.

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Elk Lake / Cordova Bay
Heritage Acres
Photo courtesy of Cameron Whalley


A 29-acre site devoted to the display of the Saanich Historical Artifacts Society's massive collection, Heritage Acres also includes numerous trails and picnic spots. Original and replica buildings (including a school house, log cabin, blacksmith, mercantile, chapel, boat house and sawmill) depict BC life circa 1900. Artifacts range from small household items to farm machinery; some are housed in the museum building, others are scattered around the property. Sharing the land is the Vancouver Island Model Engineers Club which occasionally offers rides on their scale model trains (call ahead to get the current schedule).

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This is one of Victoria's premier attractions, and Canada's most visited museum, dedicated to teaching about the land and people of coastal British Columbia. The Natural History gallery presents BC's coastal and rainforest ecosystems from the ice age to the present, the Modern History gallery features a real frontier town and the excellent First People's gallery houses native art and artifacts including an authentic longhouse. The IMAX theatre shows National Geographic films.

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UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA
Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery


Closed for renovations until early spring 2011. Located at the heart of the University of Victoria's campus, this museum houses two collections. The Maltwood Collection is an internationally renowned selection of decorative arts from the Arts and Crafts movement. The University Collection features contemporary Western Canadian art in a variety of media.

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Inner Harbour
Miniature World


If you happen to be in Victoria during one of its rainy spells, this is the ideal attraction to visit. Spend a couple of hours examining dozens of tiny exhibits depicting scenes from all over the globe. You'll visit the Great Canadian Railway, European castles, Olde London Towne of 1670, outer space, the Canadian frontier, and the Swiss Family Robinson tree house. There's also an array of intricately decorated dollhouses, and the world's smallest operational sawmill. Imagine how much space these exhibits would require if they were life-size!

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