Digital Ambassador Workshop in the Prince George Visitor Information Centre - "HelloPG" Community Ambassador Program.

On June 6th 2016 I hosted the first Digital Ambassador Workshop in the Prince George Visitor Information Centre as part of our new "HelloPG" Community Ambassador Program. The turn-out was much more than I expected and very encouraging: the enthusiasm of our digital content creators is remarkable.

What is the Community Ambassador program?

With support from Destination British Columbia's Visitor Services Innovation Fund, Tourism PG has been able to take a new initiative for engaging more visitors outside of the Visitor Information Centre (VIC). The HelloPG Community Ambassador Program operates on three fronts: 1) Providing keen locals, especially customer service employees and event volunteers, with bi-weekly information packages about events, exhibits, shows and tours; 2) Attending events and visitor hot-spots with a Pop-Up VIC (tent, table, guidebooks, maps, etc.); 3) Engaging the community's digital ambassadors to help fill in online-content gaps, and to foster regular communications so that our team doesn't miss important new digital content.

So, what is a digital ambassador? Our community is rich with content creators already doing ambassador tasks: blogging, posting journals and guides, publishing videos and photos, making maps, writing reviews, answering questions on forums, travel sites, and social media.  The HelloPG program provides digital ambassadors with ideas for taking their activities further, though these self-starters rarely need much guidance; even more important is to formally recognize our digital community and give them a convenient venue to collaborate and share ideas with the Tourism PG team.

The Look and Feel of BC Tourism Media

I knew that most of the attendees were already seasoned content creators and didn't need tips on SEO or photography basics, so I wanted to talk about the style of tourism media in BC.

This is an obvious departure from established tourism video tropes: gone are perfect blue skies, studio lighting, contrived composition, smiling models, sappy sentiment and twangy stock music. Instead, the style of the video rests on mist, darkness, dappled light, slow-motion close-ups, and golden hour shooting.  

Moving on from the provincial overview, I thought it was important to show a regional video too. BC is organized into six tourism regions: Northern BC, Cariboo Chilcotin, Kootenay Rockies, Thompson Okanagan, Vancouver Coast & Mountains, and Vancouver Islands. Destination BC has recently released a video for each region, but in the interest of time I only showed our Northern BC video.

 

If you were to watch all the regional clips, the Northern BC story would immediately be set apart by the narrator's solitary journey, where as the narrators in the other regions are travelling as couples or groups.

Travellers in Northern British Columbia aren't necessarily characterized by travelling alone, but are remarkably independent and free spirited. The opening line of the narration, "Travelling, for me, is coming in without a plan," resonates with me as a traveller, and I think hits home for most of the RV and camping road-trippers that flock to Northern BC every summer.

To complete the series of video examples, I showed Tourism PG's new outdoor adventure clip.

The video took approximately one year to shoot and edit. With a focus on adventure recreation and action sports, our clip doesn't fully match the ponderous pacing of Destination BC's videos; however, we did adhere to the visual style wherever possible.

Destination BC's previous flagship video, The Wild Within, prompted travellers to reassess questions about nature: "What is big? What is power?" Our clip further asks visitors to question their experience of nature: "What is real?" Those who travel to Northern BC seek genuine, authentic, experiences with spontaneous local connections and discoveries that stem from their own agency as self-sufficient road-trippers.

Tourism Media and Visitor Services

Sublime nature and freedom to roam is the big appeal of Northern BC, but with media that hinges on seemingly endless wilderness, travellers get the impression that Northern BC is far less developed than it is. They are often surprised by the size of Prince George and the services offered here. We get some surprising questions: Are the roads paved? Are there sidewalks? Is the city open in the winter? Therefore, it is important for us to represent our City with fresh, high quality visuals and look for opportunities to add more content; for example, locations on Google Maps that unexpectedly don't have an image uploaded. It's also important to have a vibrant and welcoming social media presence: not just from corporate accounts, but from locals as well.

Digital Ambassador Activities

With knowledge of our visual/editorial style (being "on-brand") and the type of travellers in our region, Digital Ambassadors can undertake some specifics to promote their favourite areas and activities, and engage with travellers on social media. Most attendees at my presentation are doing a combination of these activities already:

  • Share inspiring photos with media outlets that reach general travellers; commonly:
    • Destination BC, @hellobc, #explorebc
    • Global BC, @GlobalBC, #globalbc
    • Northern BC Tourism (@Northern British Columbia on Facebook), @travelnorthernbc #travelnorthernbc
    • CKPG News (for the close region), #CKPGsnapshot
  • Share/create content for industry or interest specific sites: e.g., mountain biking articles and videos for Pinkbike.
  • Keep us at Tourism PG in the loop! We're always happy to hear about your activities as a content creator. Specifically, tag your photos with #takeonPG on Twitter. We're able to share those posts directly to our new Tourismpg.com website: not just on the #takeonPG page, but also on the pages for specific locations or activities.
  • Get involved with relevant conversations, encourage travellers to post more, and answer questions where you can on social media channels like
    • TripAdvisor
    • YouTube
    • Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
    • Questions & Answers of P.G. (Facebook)
    • Hell Yeah Prince George (Facebook)
  • Make contributions to Google Maps/Apple Maps (photos, reviews, new locations)
  • Finally, join my group of Digital Ambassadors: we will have bi-weekly informal meetings at a local hangout to collaborate on new ideas, present recent contributions, and track the success of our efforts. This is a volunteer commitment of up to 2 hours per week; you are supplied with an ambassador information pack, cutting edge new TPG merch, and training in any of the above tasks.

The HelloPG program, and becoming a Digital Ambassador, is a great way to collaborate with your peers, engage with visitors, and most likely learn a few new things about your area. If you're interested, please email me, stanyer@tourismpg.com, and simply let me know you would like to join HelloPG as a Digital Ambassador.

Here is your chance to learn from one of Canada’s top digital minds on how your business can best represent itself online.

Please join us June 21 11:00am-11:30am (a 30 min webinar)
Cost: FREE

Miss604, aka Rebecca Bollwitt, is ranked as one of this countries top digital media experts. She’s built up a digital empire that has received international acclaim and a presence the George Straight was awarded nine of the past 10 years as Vancouver’s top blogger.

Tourism Prince George continues to make investments in online and digital advertising. This workshop is to help empower you on how to better participate online and represent your business.

During the 30 min workshop you can expect to learn:

^How to engage with reviews already made
^How to generate positive review engagement
^How to turn a negative comment into a positive customer service moment
^How to encourage reviews - from on-site signage to social media engagement with tags, comments, and crowdsourcing

Why is this important to you?

In the past 10 years the growth of online has been staggering. Stats are showing travellers are in front of a smartphone or computer screen for upwards of six hours a day. Many are searching for online information on where to travel next and once they make that destination commitment, they are then searching for things to do, places to stay and adventures to be had within that community. If you’re online reputation is weak, many may simply scroll right past you. Here is your chance to ensure your business doesn’t get passed right on by.

Who is Miss604?

It was this past April Rebecca was in Prince George, working with a team of digital influencers on the delivery of a smartphone content and social media aplification workshop for Tourism Prince George stokeholders. As part of that experience, this one minute video was shot, showcasing some of Rebecca’s top tips on social media strategy: https://youtu.be/bW5YihNETqg

Rebecca Bollwitt - aka Miss604 - @miss604/miss604.com

Rebecca was an early adopter of social media and has racked up a long list of successes. She's been blogging about life in B.C. since launching her website Miss604.com in 2004. She co-founded sixty4media, a WordPresss website development firm in 2008. Her career took off in 2010 when she wrote the book, Blogging to Drive Business. The Vancouver-based Rebecca has received many awards, including being named one of BC's Top 100 Women of Influence. Miss604 has also been voted "Best Vancouver Blog" for the past nine years. Rebecca is also strong supporter of many local causes. When it comes to social media, she says, "It is now 2016 and whether you are engaged or not, there is a conversation happening online about your company - so you might as well be a part of it.”

Preview YouTube video Social Media Strategy with @Miss604

#takeonpg

We recently had the opportunity to host three social media influencers from Vancouver, Edmonton, and Seattle in our fair town for a brief 48 hours. We crafted an itinerary with the goal of showcasing some of our city's finest attractions while promoting four major summer events.

Read on to learn about how our guests experienced:

  • PWB and Winery tours
  • zombification
  • canoeing the Nechako River
  • snakes at The Exploration Place
  • Two Rivers' MakerLab
  • chocolate making
  • and much more!

Wednesday

Our guests arrived at 12:05pm on a Pacific Coastal Airlines flight from Victoria and we hoped they would be ready for a jam-packed two days with us!

 

After checking into the Prestige Treasure Cove Hotel we brought them for a late lunch to Nancy O's -a local favourite restaurant in downtown Prince George. There we debated what dish to order and what beer would best accompany it (did you know that Nancy O's has over 60 beers from around the world?).

Continuing on with our beer theme we headed over to Pacific Western Brewing (PWB) on the shores of the Nechako River where Matt lead us on a tour of the facilities and we learned some fun facts about our local brewery, such as:

  •  PWB is Canada's longest running, British Columbian-owned brewery;
  •   They were the first Canadian brewer to export to mainland China (1991) and Russia (1996);
  •  In 2003 they were the first ISO 9001 (highest level of certification) certified brewery in North America; and 
  •  PWB was the first brewery to use cans instead of bottles in BC (1965).

Next we travelled downstream to visit BC's northern-most winery: Northern Lights Estate Winery. There we had another delightful tour lead by Doug, an operating partner and developer for the winery. We toured through the cellar and the orchards. We also learned how the winery and orchards are strategically placed on the banks of the Nechako River, at the base of the iconic cutbanks, to allow for a slightly lengthened growing season. Doug told us how the orchard's location extends the growing season, but you'll have to go for a tour and find out yourself!

 The best part about these two tours was talking with Matt and Doug and learning from them. As a lifelong resident of Prince George I have known some of the facts of the brewery and winery's history, but I never knew why certain choices were made.

After the winery we took our guests to Cimo Mediterranean Grill and everyone enjoyed a relaxing evening with delicious food, an array of wine and excellent service.

Can you believe we did all this in less than ten hours?

Thursday

Thursday dawned with a beautiful spring sun shining in clear blue skies. We were thankful that the weather was so perfectly suited for some time on the water.  Our bloggers' first activity was a paddle down the Nechako River with members from the Two Rivers Canoe Club. This excursion was so appealing that even our CEO, Erica, brought her canoe and father-in-law along for the ride!

 

While most of our group was travelling down the Nechako waterway in good company, our food blogger, Traca, was visiting Garrett at Nancy O's Restaurant. Not only was it a unique experience to be in a closed pub at 10am with the cooks making gentle clunks and clinks in the kitchen, but I also got to be a fly on the wall while Traca and Garrett conversed. 

Listening to Garrett detail their vision for Nancy O's and their inspiration for creating such a unique and welcoming atmosphere increased my admiration for them even more. I learned that Irish pubs were a significant influence in the design of the restaurant. I learned that family ties and relationships are vital to their business. I learned that they value atmosphere and hospitality as highly as they value their food (and we all know how much their love their food).
Most of all, Garrett reaffirmed what I had sensed in the past: that Nancy O's want to be an integral part of Downtown Prince George. They desire to increase our vibrancy as a city and they want to be responsible in the way they source their food. They want to be a welcoming place where talent (musical and culinary) can be appreciated. They want to help other restaurants and businesses flourish. 
I learned I want to become a regular of theirs and be a part of their endeavours and experience it all first hand. 

Thursday Afternoon

 Next, we visited The Exploration Place and Christian toured us around and taught us about Prince George's dinosaurs, Prince George's history, the 2015 Canada Winter Games (hosted by Prince George), the Iron Jock, and Cream (their snake ambassador).

 Even though I am a local and have lived in Prince George my entire life, I can honestly say that I learn something new (and interesting) each and every time I visit the Exploration Place! I love that the staff have a wealth of fascinating information to share and that they are so passionate about their work.

Next we went to Ms Lorea's School of Esthetics and Nail Technology. There we had the exceptionally talented Melissa transform two of our guests into terrifying zombies! In just two hours she performed her magic and it was incredible to watch!

We cannot express our thanks enough to Melissa, Dee, and everyone at Ms Lorea's; without them this certainly would not have happened. Thank-you!

Our busy day continued with chocolate making at Ohh... Chocolat Cafe where we indulged in some fine Belgian chocolate and made some unique creations. Caroline shared some stories with us about her business, and what inspired her to become a Master Chocolatier. It was interesting to hear Caroline's perspective of the 2015 Winter Games because I never knew about all the legwork and research they had done in advance. They worked hard and their preparation and insight paid off. We're so happy that they were able to showcase their product to the nation last February!



Thursday Night

Later that night we visited Two Rivers Gallery and their 2RG MakerLab that is held every Thursday night. I've only been to MakerLab a handful of times and every single visit I'm astonished at how welcoming and friendly everyone is and the incredible creativity that overflows! In case you don't know, MakerLab takes place upstairs in Two Rivers Gallery on Thursday nights. Makers are welcome to use the available equipment, including the 3D printer, laser cutter, sewing machines, woodworking equipment and much more. In addition, the tables are ginormous and easy to work at and stools are abundant. 

We ended this busy and educational day by unwinding at Twisted Cork to the soft crooning of Britt AM at Twisted Cork. I think we were all so tired that not many pictures were taken. I did manage to snap this one of the spread of tapas that we all shared before everyone dug in!

Friday

Friday morning we let our guests sleep in and took them on a meandering tour of Prince George before dropping them off at the airport. We visited the University of Northern British Columbia and Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park. 

 Hosting our three out of town social media influencers was an excellent and memorable experience for all involved. Our guests gathered quality content to share through their networks, they increased traffic to our social media (especially Twitter) and they expressed pleasant surprise at how much Prince George has to offer.

I also enjoyed touring our guests around Prince George in the 48 hours that turned out to be a blur. I gained a new appreciation for all the passionate people who have chosen to grow roots in this place and share their creativity and talents with our residents and visitors. I was able to participate in or witness conversations that ran deeper than normal. I heard our visitors ask questions I had never considered; this resulted in me gaining a refreshed perspective on our town and the array of high quality amenities that we are able to offer. Places that I had taken for granted because I grew up visiting them drew compliments and admiration from the three bloggers. People I had met in the past demonstrated incredible hospitality and kindness to our guests. This, and many other factors, made me proud to show off the place I call home and eager to share my experience with other residents. 

 

Tourism Prince George is pleased to announce the PG Ambassador Program for the summer of 2016

Tourism Prince George is pleased to present the HelloPG Community Ambassador Program. This program will give enthusiastic local ambassadors a new set of tools and skills to do what they love: making new friends and telling people about the area.

Ambassador Updates are a series of bi-weekly e-newsletters that summarize upcoming events, shows, conferences, exhibits and competitions, along with reference material for commonly requested traveller information.

Special Event Ambassadors are equipped with marked clothing, as well as guide books, maps, signage and tablets to help visitors at large events. You will get training and resources to become a local knowledge specialist and support the other volunteers at competitions, festivals, trade-shows and conferences.

Don’t be stumped for answers or caught off guard by questions like, “is the city open in the winter?” A short training session for front-line employees and event volunteers will get you caught up on city and regional tourism info, including attractions, events, trip ideas and, of course, your greatest info resource: Tourism Prince George. As a little extra, we’ll send you updates through the summer so you can deliver the fresh goods to customers and travellers (or discover something new for yourself).

Digital ambassadors are photographers, videographers, writers, Google Maps contributors, and content creators for everything online. Join our network to connect with our staff and show us what you've got. Plus, we hold meetings and workshops so you can collaborate with your peers and take projects to the next level.

The full breadth of this program is made possible through funding from the Destination British Columbia Visitor Services Innovation Fund.

For more information or to get involved, please contact Michael Stanyer: stanyer@tourismpg.com.

 

Photo credit: gh sasaki, 2015 Canada Winter Games

Having recently started a family of my own, my eyes have suddenly been opened to the variety of activities that are offered in Prince George for children and families. I always knew they were there, but I’m just starting to realize their value! There is so much to do with kids in our city, and everywhere we go, people are very friendly and welcoming to all. I know Prince George is a great place to live, but what a great place to stop for a visit too!  You can experience new things, show the kids some great scenery and learn some things along the way. There’s a lot to love about PG and many reasons to visit; here are just a few:

 Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park

Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park is a great place for families to stop while traveling through Prince George, whether for a picnic, an afternoon walk, or a chance for the kids to burn off some energy. Accessed from 18th Avenue or 20th Avenue, just off Queensway Blvd., the park is an easy detour off Highway 97 South or Highway 16 East. There is plenty of green space for running around or spreading a blanket, as well as picnic tables and benches scattered throughout. There’s a large playground complete with swings, jungle gyms, and more.  Another highlight is a kids’ waterpark for the hot days. For extra fun, extend the park visit to the Exploration Place for some science and history (see below)!

The Exploration Place

Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre, located downtown at the 20th Avenue side of Lheidli T’enneh Park, offers fun for the whole family and is a unique stop for both locals and tourists. Instead of stopping for lunch at a rest area on the side of the highway, travelers can stop here to give the kids a break, stretch and eat lunch; then the kids can visit the play area and view the science and history exhibits to sneak in some summer learning during their playtime. Try to visit the Exploration Place at a time when the Little Prince is running! This steam engine trail weaves for a couple kilometres through the park and is a delight for everyone – the young and young-at-heart! After the train ride, be sure to hop off for ice cream in the train station.

 Central BC Railway and Forestry Museum

If you have a child who likes trains, the Railway and Forestry Museum, just off 1st Avenue/Highway 16 East on River Road, is a must stop attraction. The opportunity to explore will entice both kids and kids-at-heart (aka adults who still like to play). Sure, you can view trains and more models of chainsaws than you thought existed, but what makes the Railway and Forestry Museum really unique is that you can actually climb into the trains, push the buttons, and pull the levers. You won’t find many “do not touch” signs here – what a way to entertain an inquisitive kid! You can walk through the Takla coach to see where workers used to reside and eat meals, and then compare that with the classy Nechako coach, which was at Expo ’86, and where Prince Charles and Princess Diana once took their tea. The Museum has a train playground and many special events throughout the summer and beyond, such as Friends of Thomas Days and Family Day, where the Cottonwood Minitrain runs, giving kids a chance to look at the trains while riding one! Also be sure to check out the Urban Orchard: over 100 fruit trees (including haskap, blueberry and raspberry bushes), which help the museum to be self-sustainable and showcase what can be grown in PG. Some of the produce goes to the Northern Lights Winery and some goes to local shelters.

Park Drive-In Theatre

With only three drive-in theatres left in British Columbia, there aren’t very many chances to bring your kids back to “your era”; leave the iPads at home and experience a bit of history and entertainment at the Park Drive-In Theatre in Prince George. Located on Chief Lake Road (accessed off of Highway 97 North), movies on the 3200 square foot screen at the Park Drive-In Theatre run from May to September.  And don’t worry about snacks – the concession offers all the classics you need for the movies, from nachos and hot dogs to candy and popcorn – yum! The park area also has go-karts and mini-golf on the weekends, so make it a full day of fun!

Web: jessicaquinn.ca
Email: jessica@jessicaquinn.ca 
Twitter: @jessicaleequinn
Facebook: facebook.com/jessicaquinnsocialmedia

You’re hungry. You need a drink.  You’re going out for dinner or lunch. But it’s gorgeous outside and the thought of sitting in an air-conditioned restaurant makes your heart sink. No worries –Prince George has a great offering of fantastic patios to choose from, for whatever you’re craving and whichever part of town you’re in. It was tough work, but I took the liberty of indulging myself at the best of them to let you know which are the best of the best.

 Cimo Mediterranean Grill

Hands down, Cimo Mediterranean Grill is my favourite restaurant in Prince George. And the fact that they have a stellar patio in the summer is icing on the cake. Located downtown PG along Victoria street, they have pasta to die for, great sandwiches, delicious coffee and a fantastic wine selection. When it comes to lunch or dinner, I usually go intending to try something new, but at the last minute cannot resist my favorite: the angel hair pasta. It seems simple with baby shrimp, roma tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil but it’s seriously the best, and you’ll love it… again and again and again. Grab a spot in the sun on the cozy patio, start with the tapas platter and a flight of wine and you’ll be beyond satisfied when you leave! The service is true class all the way too.

 The Keg

The Keg is the Keg in any BC city from what I’ve seen – you know you’re always in for a good steak, or my favorite, king crab legs – but their patio in downtown Prince George is a gorgeous escape from the hustle of George Street, and the fact that it’s a short trip from where I work makes it a great spot for an after-work glass of sangria on a sunny day.  The patio here is quite unique, with comfy cushioned seating and a pretty water wall at one end. I usually order an appy or two with my red wine sangria and couldn’t ask for more.

Earls

Similar to the Keg, you’re in for a consistent meal at our PG Earls, but many locals will tell you that this patio is the best in our city. Situated in the middle of town, along Highway 97, their patio is definitely one of the biggest in town and has canopies for the summer sun and heaters for the evening cool. When I went recently, I ordered the fish tacos with an amazing pomegranate vanilla mojito, which along with the palm tree décor, made me feel as if I were almost in the tropics. This patio is definitely great for lounging with friends during the afternoon, meeting for lunch or fueling up for a night on the town. The servers are beyond friendly here too! 

The Alpine Pub & Grill

At the north end of town, in a quiet, laidback area called “The Hart” – a happy spot for me, given this is where my family lived in my teen years – resides the Alpine Pub & Grill, on the corner of Kelly Road south and Vellencher Road. My visit here for this post was my first time on the patio and I was impressed with the simple, chill feeling of the place. As you may have guessed, the pub looks like a Swiss alpine style house and the patio is surrounded by trees and bushes, and is very quiet. The food is decent – your usual pub fare is available, with good daily specials – and the service is friendly. I had the turkey clubhouse, which was tastier than most I’ve had. This is a true “locals” pub with a friendly spirit.

 

Honourable mentions

I wanted to highlight the best places for a full meal, complimented with adult bevvies, but if lighter fare, coffee or dessert is your pleasure, there are a few great places worth mentioning:

  • Café Voltaire at Books & Company – The patio outside Café Voltaire is a very quaint little spot to have a coffee or latte, read a book and watch the people come and go from the bookstore. They also have a good selection of sandwiches and salads for lunch.
  • Ohh… Chocolat Cafe – Downtown Prince George, this local café has delicious paninis and amazing treats! Choose from a huge assortment of chocolatey goodness like truffles and chocolate covered sponge toffee (you can even watch them making these through the window!) or baked goods like big crumbly muffins and scones, then take your treat and Mayan hot chocolate (one of their specialties) to their small sidewalk patio and watch the people go by.
  • Ice Cream Express – I’ll take a double scoop of chocolate espresso ice cream in a waffle cone please. Whether you’re looking for an afternoon refresher on a hot day or a quick dessert with the kids, this ice cream stand along Highway 16 is the best, and has several picnic tables to chill out on (pun intended) as you eat your chilly treat.

 

Originally written for the HelloBC blog. 

Web: jessicaquinn.ca

Top 5 walking trails - Tourism Prince George

We are so lucky to have access to so much green space in Prince George. Locals and tourists alike can appreciate our selection of beautiful parks within city limits, whether for picnics, walks or a much-needed break from travel.

Cottonwood Island Park

Situated along the Nechako River, Cottonwood Island Park is a system of trails good not only for walking, but biking and running, and with many paved sections, is accessible to everyone and anyone. There are many different entry points, including the main one next door to the Prince George Railway and Forestry Museum along River Road, accessed from 1st Avenue/Highway 16. You’ll find picnic tables and a covered picnic area here as well. If you’re up for a longer walk, one trail even crosses underneath the train bridge and Highway 16 East, and connects to Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park.

Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park

In the heart of downtown, Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park flanks the Fraser River, giving stunning views of where our two rivers connect and the cutbanks across the Fraser. There are many trails throughout the park, with picnic tables and benches, as well as a playground and a water park for the kids. There are tons of leafy trees in the park, offering midday shade or beautiful lighting when the sun starts to go down.

LC Gunn Park

Located right across the Fraser River from Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park, and accessed off of Highway 16, is LC Gunn Park, a 3.5 km trail along a steep bank above the river. This quiet walk gives you amazing views of the city and is also good for biking. And if you’re afraid of heights, don’t worry – plenty of fencing will protect you at the viewpoints while you take it all in!

 Connaught Hill Park

Make sure you visit Connaught Hill Park, off of Queensway Blvd., in the summer so you don’t miss this amazing panoramic view of the city. Walking around the top of this park will give you views of everything from UNBC to the Fraser River and the Nechako River and is a great spot to break for a picnic as well. 

Cranbrook Hill Greenway

One of my favorite places to stroll with my dog (leashed only) is the Cranbrook Hill Greenway behind UNBC. There are tons of different trails (over 25 km of them!) and access points to this area (like Forests for the World, another fave!) so there’s always somewhere new to go on any given day. The trails are beautiful and quiet, and there are lookouts and a couple small lakes to visit. Wildlife, including moose and bears, are known to frequent the area, so keep an eye out!

Originally written for the HelloBC blog. 


Web: jessicaquinn.ca
Email: jessica@jessicaquinn.ca 
Twitter: @jessicaleequinn
Facebook: facebook.com/jessicaquinnsocialmedia

Top 5 Local Dishes - Tourism Prince George.

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind about Prince George, but this city has a wide variety of locally owned restaurants. And even more than that: the food they create is amazing. Our restaurants seriously serve some of the best meals I’ve ever had, and there are many stops that visitors to PG must try before leaving. This list can by no means do justice to the many local restaurants that stand out, but these are what I’d consider to be the top five local dishes to indulge your senses in Prince George.

Angel Hair – Cimo Mediterranean Grill

Cimo Mediterranean Grill is my favourite restaurant in Prince George, largely due to the fact that they serve the absolute best pasta dish I’ve ever had –the Angel Hair.  The dish seems simple, with baby shrimp, Roma tomatoes, garlic, and basil, but served atop pasta that is made fresh in house, and with local focaccia bread and a glass of red wine, it’s a dinner (or lunch) that can’t be beat. The service at Cimo is incredibly friendly and, located along Victoria Street, the summertime patio offers great people watching too in the heart of downtown.

Beef Noodle Soup with a side Spring Roll - Thanh Vu Restaurant

One fact that often comes as a pleasant surprise to out-of-towners and newcomers is the abundance of ethnic cuisine that our city boasts. From Indian to Thai and Japanese to Persian, Prince George has whatever your tummy desires. So of course, at least one of my top dishes has to represent this amazing array of cuisines. You can get phenomenal sushi and amazing butter chicken here in Prince George, but my absolute favourite ethnic meal comes from Thanh Vu, a Vietnamese restaurant on Highway 97 South, across the highway from the Treasure Cove Hotel and Casino. The beef noodle soup is a huge bowl of steaming hot delicious broth filled with (wait for it…) noodles and beef (surprise!); it’s packed with flavour and super satisfying. Don’t forget the hot sauce! I always order my soup with a spring roll or, if I’m there with other hungry folks (which is always), the deluxe appetizers platter, which has a couple spring rolls, salad rolls, Imperial rolls and dragon prawn rolls. You can’t go wrong with any of this –Thanh Vu is a must try!

Flaming Nancy Burger – Nancy O’s Restaurant

If you’re into hip, trendy joints with friendly staff, live music on the weekends and a huge beer selection, you must visit Nancy O’s. You can read all about what a great place this is on the HelloBC blog, as I’m here now to tell you that if you’re craving a burger, definitely go for the Flaming Nancy Burger. This burger is huge, juicy and messy – everything a good burger should be – and it’s over the top with the heat from jalapeno and poblano peppers, and jalapeno Havarti cheese. Order this with a side poutine and your favourite bottled beer. Trust me. Nancy O’s, located on 3rd Avenue, is the perfect last stop after spending an afternoon perusing some of our great shops downtown –and I say “last” because once you see their beer menu, you won’t want to leave. 

Fish Tacos - White Goose Bistro

Who doesn’t love a good fish taco? Fish tacos may be a novelty lately, but hopefully they are a menu item that will stay on at the White Goose Bistro. They certainly know how to do it right. Crispy tortilla, tangy house made pico de gallo and a good sized extra crispy piece of fish –along with their standard two sides of salad and fries- makes for a very satisfying meal. Recognized as an outstanding business by the PG Chamber of Commerce the White Goose, located on the corner of 3rd Avenue and Dominion Street, is a staple of our downtown core. Be sure to stop in for lunch or dinner and try this great meal.

Milkshake – Hart A&A Burger Bar

While technically not a “dish” per se, the last item on my list has to be included simply because I will go out of my way and drive the 15 minutes up the Hart Highway (Highway 97 North) from downtown just for this one thing: a butter pecan milkshake from the Hart A&A Burger Bar. Whether you’re just pulling into PG or on your way out, the Burger Bar is a must stop and will be a family hit.  With over 25 unique flavours to choose from such as English toffee, bubble gum, fruit punch, and the well-known classics, I’m sure you’ll find your favourite (and probably several).

What trails to ride your bike in Prince George, BC.
Where to ride is a tough decision these days in Prince George.

While trying to decide what trails to ride one day, my riding partner and I mutually commented that there were almost too many choices.  Although not a bad thing, I will admit I have a difficult time riding all our local trails in a given season.  Prince George has multiple areas to ride, with levels to suit all abilities and interests.   Otway has added close to one new trail every year for the past 5 years and I am almost certain the Pidherny Recreation Area has exceeded that. 

Along with the growth of our trails, is the growth of the riders.  People ask me all the time why I think there has been such a huge growth.  My answer is simple and always the same: because it’s fun!  As a mountain bike instructor, I coached about 40 brand new riders this past season.  When I say “brand new”, I mean people who have never ridden on dirt before.  Some of these people literally bring their fresh new bike to the lesson and have not even ridden it yet.  And the best part is seeing their smiles when we are finished! 

For a beginner starting out, the best place to visit would be Otway.  These trails are located in the midst the Otway Nordic Center ski trails on Otway Road and are all single-track trails.  There are 2 full green trails, many blue rated options with a few black mixed in for a lot of variety.   For a beginner, I recommended doing a loop of Home Run and Tin Can Alley.  If you have a little more experience but questionable fitness, take Home Run-Inside Passage-Midway-Karma; and yes, there are maps posted at all the major junctions making navigation a breeze.  If you are more experienced and like a good workout, get yourself up to the Doghouse via Curves-Espresso or Karma-Twister-ACDC, all great climbs.  You can do a couple loops up top including Java, Cyclone and Cross Cut to easily fill an hour and a half.  If you like “old school” technical riding, check out Tree Hugger and Adams!  Otway has something for everyone, even some fun little air time opportunities on Cyclone and Tornado Alley.

Pidherny is generally considered a little more advanced than Otway, only because it has some steeper/ technical sections that are not as easily avoidable.  If you are a beginner rider, I would suggest parking at the top parking lot on Foothills Blvd., which is directly across from Vellencher Road.  A beginner option would be to take the green Foothill Access trail all the way to the Ten Dollar/Flow Job trailheads.  Both Ten Dollar and Flow Job are blue rated, but do-able for a beginner; just ride slower your first time so you don’t accidently get air on some bumps or roots.  Both these trails take you down to the mid-way point of Pidherny, where you can do repeated loops going back up Ten Dollar.  Note that Ten Dollar is the only two-way trail to get you back to the access trail, so caution when going both directions.  I would not recommend going much further down if you are a beginner, because you still need to get back to your vehicle at the top.  Some people will park a vehicle at the bottom and shuttle up to avoid the climb back out. 

If your skill level suits some steeper descents, start with the blue access trail from the top parking lot all the way to the start of Papa Woods.  You can then take any of the trails from here including Papa Woods, Carcass and Dixie noting that all have Technical Trail Features (TTF’s), most with ride arounds.  If it’s your first time down one of these, ride with caution and check out the features first before attempting them.   You can also descend the more advanced Valve Job or New England Clam Chowder (NECC), which both come off the blue access trail before you reach the Papa Woods trail-head.  These will pop you out on a quad trail; hang a right, then a left, bringing you down to the start of Ditch Pig, which will take you a little further down.  If you need to get back to the top parking lot, you can head back up to the road and then up Ten Dollar and along either access trail.  Or you can plan to shuttle and avoid the climb.  

Pidherny also has some extremely challenging technical cross country loops that are better accessed from the lower parking lot, and are located on both sides of Pidherny Road.  These include Climb It, Pulaski, Front Porch, McLeod on the east side of the road as well as Gus’ Grind, GXC, Peanut Butter, Big Ass Hill, Sidewinder and Ridge XC on the west side.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you that most of these have advanced technical sections and some challenging climbs!  Note that the east side trails are currently not on the Pidherny Recreation Site trail map, as they are out the previous boundary; this includes the bottom of Valve Job and NECC.  The future map will have these east side trails as the boundary has been extended.  I highly recommend you have a map on hand as there are currently no trail maps posted within the trail network, only in the parking lots.  Even with a map; however, you may still get a little lost.  If getting lost if not your thing, I recommend you try to ride with someone local who knows the trails. 

Be sure to bring water with you and maybe even a small snack.  Also, a spare tube or patch kit, tire levers and a pump may prevent a “less fun” walk out.  You can access links to trail maps and other local cycling information at www.pgcyclingclub.ca.  Stay safe and have fun!!

 

Lynda Foreman

PMBI Level 1 Instructor

Fem Bike BC

 

PR Tourism - Prince George arts take centre stage

Perhaps because the outdoors are so beautiful and impressive here, or because sports culture and facilities are so exceptional, many people might not think of Prince George as British Columbia’s northern arts capital. Having made a life in the arts here, I can tell you confidently that it is just that, and I’m always excited to share with visitors and locals alike why I think so. The opportunities to experience and engage with professional and community arts here are hugely outsized for a regional centre.

The Prince George Symphony Orchestra is Canada’s northernmost professional orchestra, and one of the longest continuously operating professional orchestras in Canada. (Full disclosure: I am thrilled to be the PGSO’s General Manager). Every year, the PGSO hosts outstanding guest soloists from all over the country and indeed the world, but what’s really amazing is our local musicians. The orchestra has a core of highly-trained professional musicians who lead sections made up of a combination of local pro freelancers and skilled volunteers (and a few freelancers flown in from other centres to supplement key roles). All the PGSO’s professional musicians are involved in the arts community in multiple other ways; many are the music teachers who form the next generation of local talent, and all play in other musical ensembles and settings.

Theatre North West has had one of the highest per-capita subscription rates of any professional theatre company in Canada. (Full disclosure: I used to be TNW’s Marketing and Development Officer). As a member of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, TNW hires professional actors, designers, and theatre artists from all over the country, creating its own teams and productions from absolute scratch every single production. I’ve often heard remarks to the effect that people are amazed that the quality at Theatre North West matches what’s available in major centres—but it should come as no surprise, not least given that TNW brings you literally the same individuals you would see onstage in those very cities, here united around a northern heart beating at the creative centre. What also surprises people all over this country is that Prince George is not just a town with a theatre, it’s truly a theatre town, whose support for TNW rivals the support shown to any professional theatre in Canada.

Two Rivers Gallery curatorial insight, exacting conservation standards, and inviting community outreach bring the city not just beautiful art of the highest quality, but lively aesthetic and intellectual challenges. I must especially applaud their commission of “Balance” by Peter Von Tiesenhausen, which stands right outside their front doors, and which is a thought-provoking and superlative sculpture that I think could be a serious contender for the next Mr. PG.

Judy Russell and Enchainement Productions bring us incredible dance and musical theatre opportunities that invite comparisons to all-professional productions. (Full disclosure: the PGSO is about to undertake its biannual collaboration with Judy’s dance company on their production of The Nutcracker; so excited!). This past summer, the Sound of Music was heard by an impressive succession of packed houses at the PG Playhouse, and I’m sure Evil Dead: The Musical will be this fall as well, before they launch into The Nutcracker just in time for Christmas.

As a winter city, it’s perfectly apt that ColdSnap!, our folk and popular music festival, livens up our winter with some of the best Canadian and international artists around, up close and personal in intimate venues around town. I would be remiss not to mention the contribution some of our most stalwart arts venues have made—and not just the big ones like the CN Centre and Civic Centre. Books & Company, Nancy O’s, Groop Gallery, the University of Northern British Columbia, the Exploration Place, the Prince George Public Library, and the College of New Caledonia all provide a home not just to music and visual art, but also to Prince George’s thriving literary arts scene. We are home to a range of brilliant and widely recognized local writers, especially poets, to the degree that no less a luminary than Toronto publisher and poet Jay MillAr called Prince George “the secret poetry capital of Canada.”

With all the amazing talent we have working on both the creative and management sides, and with the inspiring level of support the community provides to its artists and arts institutions, I am so glad to be a part of the city’s forward momentum in the arts. I’m hopeful that the national recognition and community pride stirred by the Canada Winter Games will continue to bring out the best in us, and without a doubt, it’s the arts’ turn to take centre stage in our city. 

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