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Originally published May 12, 2012 at 7:01 PM | Page modified June 21, 2013 at 10:51 AM

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Victoria blooms with museums

Museums abound in British Columbia's capital city of Victoria, from the well-known Royal BC Museum to lesser-known gems such as Craigdarroch Castle and Point Ellice House.

Seattle Times NWTraveler editor

If You Go

Victoria, B.C.

Get information on sights, events and lodging at www.tourismvictoria.com
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There's a museum with something for everyone in Victoria, B.C., from evocative exhibits of native history to tea and croquet on the lawn of a 19th-century home-turned-museum.

Here's a sampling:

Royal BC Museum

This don't-miss museum, the city's biggest, has a world-class First Nations gallery (with ceremonial masks, totem poles and more artifacts of British Columbia's native groups); natural-history galleries with lush sea and forest dioramas; and a child-pleasing reconstruction of a 19th-century town's main street, complete with life-size shops, antique-filled hotel rooms, a train station and more.

Coming up are two temporary exhibits. "Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries" runs May 17-Sept. 16.

For something completely different, almost 100 photographs of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, by royal photographer Cecil Beaton, will be displayed June 1-Sept. 3 in honor of the queen's 60 years on the throne.

The museum is by Victoria's Inner Harbour, the city's visitor hub, next to the Fairmont Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings. Info: www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca

Craigdarroch Castle

An imposing stone mansion with what seems like acres of oak paneling inside, it was built by a coal baron in the late 1880s as a lavish family home. Now a stately museum filled with antiques, it showcases everything from a parlor maid's bedroom to an ornate dining room.

Wander through 39 rooms with their little touches that bring the mansion to life, from silver hairbrushes on a bedroom vanity table to a china and silver tea service in the dining room.

Craigdarroch Castle sits atop a knoll in a quiet residential area, about 1.5 miles from the Royal BC Museum. www.thecastle.caEmily Carr House

Painter and writer Emily Carr (1871-1945) was inspired by the moody forests and native peoples of the British Columbia coast. The Victoria home where she grew up has been turned into a museum, with rooms furnished in early 1900s style. It's a quick, compact look at the life of the eccentric artist, beloved by many British Columbians. Sit in the glassed-in side porch and have tea and cookies with other devotees. Emily Carr House is about a half-mile from the Royal BC Museum, tucked among other heritage homes of the James Bay neighborhood. www.emilycarr.com/

Point Ellice House

Tour a genteel Victorian family home, built in 1861 and now a national heritage site, with antique-furnished rooms and period knickknacks. In the garden, where roses and hollyhocks bloom, sink into a wicker chair for a proper afternoon tea with scones and mini-sandwiches. The museum, which sits on the Gorge waterway, opened Friday for the summer season: www.pointellicehouse.ca.

Point Ellice House is about 1.5 miles from the Royal BC Museum. An enjoyable way to get there is by water taxi from the Inner Harbour to the museum's dock; www.victoriaharbourferry.com

Maritime Museum

If you're a fan of maritime history and ship models (there are dozens in glass cases), you'll love this museum. Even if you aren't, it's worth a visit for the eclectic displays, including the Tilikum, a little sailboat that started life as a cedar dugout canoe, then was sailed around the world in the early 1900s. On the top floor of the imposing 19th-century building, once the province's Supreme Court, is an ornate, old-fashioned courtroom. www.mmbc.bc.ca Art Gallery of

Greater Victoria

Housed in an 1889 mansion and in adjoining modern galleries, this museum focuses on Canadian and Asian art. There's an extensive exhibit of Emily Carr paintings and Chinese and Japanese textiles, paintings, and amber and ivory carvings.

Among the more eclectic displays: A vintage dollhouse is tucked into a corner and outside in the Asian garden is a Japanese Shinto shrine. www.aggv.ca.

Kristin Jackson: kjackson@seattletimes.com

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