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When my family took an Alaskan cruise over the summer, we were lucky enough to have a port stop in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia. Since we had no excursions planned, my mom and I decided to walk into town and see the sights. We already knew we wanted to have high tea at The Empress, but we had no idea we'd pair that experience perfectly with a horse drawn carriage ride through one of the prettiest places we've ever seen. (read more)
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VICTORIA BRITISH COLUMBIA HORSE DRAWN CARRIAGE REVIEW - LOCATION
If you're coming off the ship in port, you're going to be quite far from town. It's approximately a 25 minute walk, or you can take a cruise shuttle. There are also taxis available, but they are limited in supply, so you may or may not find one when you're ready to go.
There are no app based ride services (Uber, Lyft) in Victoria, so you're going to have to hoof it or pick an alternate option.
We chose to walk into town, it was very pretty, and you get to pass a wharf that has a lot of different water activities to choose from. The entire area is clean and feels extremely safe, so if you are capable of the long walk, I recommend it.
The path you take into town will leave you on the left side of the road. The horse drawn carriage services we saw were on the right side of the road. So, when you get into town (you'll know when you're there), just go ahead and cross the street.
If you're looking for a landmark so you know where to cross, we crossed at the Starbucks. And, since the horse drawn carriage services are directly across the street, it's a great place to grab a coffee before your scenic tour.
Looking at the picture below, you will be walking in from the ship, coming from the left side of the picture. You can see "Tally-Ho Carriage Tours" right there across the street. That's where we went.
I should note that there is another carriage tour service just across Menzies Street, but we didn't use that one, so I can't give you a review.
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VICTORIA BRITISH COLUMBIA HORSE DRAWN CARRIAGE REVIEW - COST
Look for the red umbrella across the street from Starbucks. Head on over, there will be an employee manning (or womaning) a podium. They'll give you a breakdown of the tours, the length of time, the cost, and where each tour goes.
You can choose anything from a 15 minute tour to an hour and a half tour. Tips are not built in. You can choose to tip at the start and build it into the upfront cost (which is handy if you're paying with a credit card), or you can wait until the end and tip in cash, should you feel so inclined.
Here are the tours offered (as of May when we went), scroll through to see the prices and duration. I tried to make the pictures go low to high, but that didn't work out, so you're seeing them high to low.
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VICTORIA BRITISH COLUMBIA HORSE DRAWN CARRIAGE REVIEW - DELUXE TOUR REVIEW
I'm not going to lie, spending $215 on a horse drawn carriage ride was not something I'd budgeted for, but when we looked at the options, we felt like the hour tour was what we'd enjoy the most.
Also, we have no idea when we'll get back to Victoria, so we sort of viewed it as a once in a lifetime activity.
We were not disappointed.
They begin the tour by introducing you to your driver (or drivers) and your horse. We had a big beast named Clay, isn't he handsome?
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The young woman who took our payment also offered to take pictures of us with Clay, and of us seated in the carriage. I thought this was a really nice gesture on their part. They know you're going to want these memories, and they make sure you don't have to ask.
But, by all means, if they don't mention it, do ask. They will take as many pictures as you want.
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VICTORIA BRITISH COLUMBIA HORSE DRAWN CARRIAGE REVIEW - WHERE YOU GO
I wish I could draw you a picture of our path on a map, but honestly I was so enthralled with the stories our driver was telling us that I sort of forgot to pay attention.
I do know for sure that we ended the tour by going through Beacon Hill Park which was beautiful.
The tour itself gives this as a description:
"Enjoy the perfect blend of tranquility, rejuvenation and discovery on this tour. Meander through the beautiful garden displays and natural landscapes of Beacon Hill Park, enjoy the refreshing air off the Salish Sea waterfront and return through the charming heritage district of James Bay."
We wound through neighborhoods, past local pubs, into historical areas with houses that were hundreds of years old, and we even passed a honest to goodness video rental store! I had no idea those places even existed, but here it is!
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Randy (our driver's trainer) answered all of our questions and gave us insights into the history of the area. For instance, did you know that people used to paint their houses as garishly as possible in order to show off their wealth?
Apparently you could only afford the peacock green and hot pink if you were really rolling in the dough.
The horse was calm throughout the tour, and the driver (who was not Randy, but was a nice young lady) was capable and also calm, which is important to me since I was basically at the mercy of this massive horse and the person holding his reigns.
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Our hour tour flew by, making me very glad we opted for the hour and not for less time. We felt a bit like royalty, nestled with a blanket against the plush, red velvet of the cushions. People waved, kids smiled, dogs barked, and mom and I rolled along, smiling, waving back, and admiring all things Victoria.
At the end of our hour, Randy pointed us in the direction of our next stop, made a few recommendations of things we might like to see, and tipped his jaunty black hat, on to the next set of sight seers.
If you get a chance to take a tour with Tally-Ho, we really recommend it. Yes, it's not cheap, but the carriage can hold at least four people, so that makes it less per person, at least.
It's a tour we'll never forget, and, as I said at the start, it was the perfect set up for our fantastic high tea at The Empress. Check out that review here.
We hope you love your tour!
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