Meandering through the corn maze at Galey Farms in Saanich on Vancouver Island last Saturday afternoon, we quickly lost sight of my six-year-old grandson and his friend as they ran ahead to explore alone.
Moments later, as we turned a corner, the pair leaped out at us from behind some corn stalks growling like zombies. I can attest at least one of us adults screamed with genuine fright. I won’t embarrass anyone by mentioning names (Judy). To say the boys laughed hysterically would be an understatement.
The maze is just one of many popular attractions Galey Farms incorporates into its annual PumpkinFest and Festival of Fear leading up to Halloween. I say popular because we were joined by hundreds of other grandparents, parents and kids of all ages Saturday as we listened to live music, rode the train past witches, goblins and roaring dinosaurs, screamed through the haunted house and chose just the right pumpkins to take home.
We had the option to take a trolley out to the farm’s large pumpkin patch to pick our own, but an unexpected rain shower brought with it visions of a muddy field and we managed to convince the boys they should pick theirs from the market where large boxes overflowed with the round orange gourds.
It was a moot point, really, since both boys were already pretty much covered in mud from crawling through the corn maze, but the mess only added to their fun. Despite the large number of adults and kids at the farm, staff does a great job of handling the crowds — our lineup for the train was less than 10 minutes.
I don’t know if it’s because Victoria is so steeped in history, but the city and surrounding burbs seem to embrace Halloween with lots of enthusiasm.
We were in the city to celebrate an early sixth birthday and Halloween with my grandson, but there were too many events taking place to fit them all in. Adults will want to check out a walking tour hosted by John Adams, one of the city’s foremost historians, who leads the Ghostly Walks in October with a focus on eccentric characters, hangings, murder and ghosts. Year-round tours include Chinatown Walks, Discovery Walks and Gold Rush Tales. The city also closed down part of Government Street downtown for a day-long event called Wicked Victoria on Oct. 25, which included a bouncy pirate ship, balloon artists, live music, food, vendors and spooky displays.
For our family weekend, we stayed at Hotel Zed on Douglas Street, the now defunct Blue Ridge Inn, which has been converted into an eclectic, hipster hangout complete with vintage-style furniture throughout — my grandson was amazed at the rotary phone. But ironic moustaches and plaid shirts aside, Hotel Zed is a great option for families because there’s so much to do. In fact, a day at the hotel was going to be our Plan B should the weather fail us completely. Even as we were heading to Galey Farms, the boys were eying the outdoor “Zedinator” waterslide, which ends with a splash in the indoor pool.
The lobby of this pet-friendly hotel also acts as an activity centre complete with a typewriter station, listening area with a record player, vinyl and headphones, board games, free bikes to borrow, and ping pong tables and Wii terminals downstairs. We enjoyed brunch at The Ruby, which takes up the front half of the lobby, and I can highly recommend the chicken and waffle. The price is right too — rooms and apartments typically run between $100 and $150 a night.
The hotel uses a 1976 VW bus as a free shuttle, which we used to get downtown Friday night to check out a few hot spots along what’s become known as Victoria’s Cocktail Trail. There’s been a lot of hype around craft beer tours of late, so we were happy to find Victoria’s enthusiasm for cocktails just as high. We started at Clive’s Classic Lounge on Burdett Avenue, which came highly recommended by several Vancouver friends, before heading to North 48 on Langley Street for a tiki-inspired Zombie, it being Halloween and all. Other cocktail bars on the trail include Little Jumbo, OLO by Ulla, Cenote, Veneto and the Bengal Lounge in the Fairmont Empress.
But Halloween isn’t the only holiday Victoria celebrates with enthusiasm. Some upcoming Christmas and holiday events include:
· Island Farms 2015 Santa Light Parade: Join Santa, the Grinch and all their friends to officially declare Christmas in Victoria open beginning at 5:45 p.m. Nov. 28 at the Parliament Buildings. Downtownvictoria.ca.
· Eighth Annual Centennial Square Christmas Tree Light-Up: From 4 to 5 p.m. Nov. 28, at Centennial Square with free treats and a visit with Father and Mother Christmas. Downtownvictoria.ca.
· Festival of Trees: From Nov. 18 to Jan. 5 at the Bay Centre in support of B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation. Bcchf.ca/events.
· Gingerbread Showcase: From Nov. 23 to Jan. 5. Visit the Inn at Laurel Point to check out sculptures and art constructed from gingerbread by professional and amateur chefs. Laurelpoint.com/christmas.
· IEOA Truck Light Convoy: Starting at 5:45 p.m. Dec. 5, festively decorated trucks will parade from Ogden Point, through Oak Bay and Downtown Victoria before passing through View Royal and Langford. Ieoa.ca.