Let’s get into some pre- and post-game analysis of the beautiful British Columbia capital.
Obviously, the Victoria Public Market is a block away from the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. Housed in the historic former Hudson Bay Company department store, it’s where you want to enjoy fresh-made tacos, porchetta sandwiches, and teriyaki bowls to fuel up for the games. It’s a good feeling.
At one time, Jaromir Jagr drank 10 cups of coffee a day. If you too are jonesing for java, the on-site 2% Jazz Coffee offers amazing Americanos and espressos. Alternatively, Sidney Crosby’s personal favourite chain, Tim Hortons, is just a few blocks down Blanshard Street.
Canada’s oldest Chinatown, a 10-minute stroll from the arena, beckons you through the Gate of Harmonious Interest with classic Chinese fare at Don Mee’s. It’s about doing the little things, like dim sum with shrimp dumplings and spring rolls.
Yeah, it’s special to go to Spinnakers, a short drive over the new Johnson Street Bridge. Obviously, U20 players can’t fully appreciate the beer-and-chocolate pairings at Canada’s first brewpub, founded in 1984. But fans can enjoy the ale-battered wild Pacific salmon with chips for a few minutes before refocusing and getting ready for the next meal. There are no bad meals at this brewpub.
Downtown, the Blue Fox Cafe offers huge brunch dishes, Rebar delights vegetarians, and Pagliacci’s celebrates its 40th anniversary of serving New York-style Italian food in 2019.
You obviously want to keep it simple. So head down Government Street toward the Inner Harbour. The classic Victoria Creams at the 1885-founded Rogers Chocolates are always a big hit. And at Munro’s Books, the award-winning independent bookstore in a neo-classical former bank building, you can score books like Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater and Ken Dryden’s The Game.
At the end of the day, the Fairmont Empress Hotel is obviously one of the real elite hotels out there. The Francis Rattenbury-designed masterpiece picturesquely faces the Inner Harbour, and it’s just steps away from the domed roofs of the Parliament Buildings. Afternoon tea with scones and strawberry jam is kind of a cool British tradition.
The Empress is also home to Miniature World. It’s a group of smaller guys with a high skill level. Stunning dioramas include the Great Canadian Railway, the richly detailed circus, and the recently added King Arthur exhibit. Take note, Martin St-Louis and Johnny Gaudreau fans: Miniature World rules.
If you lean more toward Zdeno Chara or any given Philadelphia Flyers draft, cross Belleville Street to visit the Royal British Columbia Museum. The huge, stuffed woolly mammoth brings a real physical presence. For highlights you won’t see on TSN, check out the replica Old Town with its cobblestone streets and movie theatre showing Charlie Chaplin flicks, and the ceremonial native house and totem poles in the First Peoples Gallery.
Stay positive and get some fresh air in Beacon Hill Park, featuring 150 acres of flowers and gardens. Cross the stone bridge at Goodacre Lake and say hi to the mallard ducks. Or climb up Beacon Hill for a magnificent panorama of the Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. If you love dogs as much as John Tortorella or David Backes, the number of canines out for a stroll on the Dallas Road waterfront should prompt a good celly.
You don’t want to get caught up in what the media is saying. But obviously, the New York Times calls the Butchart Gardens “legendary” and the Washington Post hails its “beautiful and lush floral displays.” Located half an hour north of downtown, it’s Victoria’s biggest tourist attraction. Over the holidays, visitors can enjoy colourful lights, an outdoor rink, hot chocolate, and gingerbread.
If you’re a fan of the WHL’s Victoria Royals or the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings (or even the ECHL’s defunct Victoria Salmon Kings), keep giving 110 percent and getting royally rewarded by visiting Government House in the heritage Rockland neighbourhood. You might spot deer roaming near the palatial 1957-constructed residence of the Lieutenant Governor, Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in British Columbia. Admission to the on-site gardens is free.
A few blocks away, tour Craigdarroch Castle, a 39-room Scottish Baronial mansion built for coal magnate Robert Dunsmuir in the late 19th century. It’s hosted Hollywood film shoots from 1994’s Little Women to 2016’s The Boy. Based on those titles, Craigdarroch Castle should probably bid to host its own IIHF junior tournament.
To get back and forth between Vancouver, you need a good transition game.
You can take a 35-minute Harbour Air or Helijet flight to downtown Vancouver’s Canada Place. Check out the Gulf Islands scenery on a leisurely 3.5-hour cruise with V2V Vacations. Or move forward as an organization and sail with BC Ferries from Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal (Victoria) to Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal (Vancouver). From one downtown to the other, budget between three hours (by car) and four hours (by public transportation).
Obviously, Victoria is a great provincial capital. If you just stay in your room playing Fortnite between games, it’s unfortunate. As a tourist in Vancouver Island’s biggest city, you can achieve your goal of getting better every day.