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The night may have ended with wet socks, but the walk through Goodsir Nature Park was well worth the journey. I was invited by Tourism Prince George to tour Goodsir Nature Park along with some City of Prince George Councillors; the description read that we were going to tour a botanical garden…in northern BC. I definitely wasn’t prepared for the beauty that would unfold before me that evening as we followed the manmade mossy path throughout the private park.
Goodsir Nature Park is 160 acres of privately owned land off Old Summit Lake Road in Prince George, British Columbia – the owner, Jim Good, is the most passionate Canadian I’ve ever met and he greeted us at the end of his driveway with freshly brewed coffee and snacks before we embarked throughout his park. Our tour started with a trek through his private museum which contained several thousand Canadian plant specimens as well as dioramas – a most excellent display of Canadian geography.
After the museum, we went on a tour of the park which encompassed beautifully groomed camping sites for tenters - all available by donation; lush trails and even a private pond. The many rare specimens throughout the park have been marked with signs, showing their name and the natural Canadian climate they originate from. From the Arctic White Spruce that originated from the Arctic Circle in Inuvik to the Whitebark Pine that originated from the Cascade Coast Mountains, there are a variety of botanical beauties that would stun even the most prestigious of botanists.
Prince George is many things – eclectic, spontaneous, beautiful – and the things you find here never ceases to amaze. I encourage all citizens to take in the beauty of Goodsir Nature Park and all that it has to offer; if its beauty does not amaze you, its botanist most definitely will.
Sean Bickerton is the BC Director of the Canadian Music Centre and "a champion for the extraordinarily talented and endlessly invented Canadian composers who enrich our lives". He recently made the trip to Prince George for the Casse-Tête Festival of Experimental Music. Read about his travels north and his time at the festival on his blog: http://seanbickerton.com/2016/07/16/my-trip-to-casse-tete/.
I may not have known what I was getting myself into when I offered to volunteer for Mary Poppins, but I didn’t even hesitate when Judy Russell asked if I was available for every performance.
The art of theatre is more than meets the eye and rather than learning just about props and moving sets, I also learned the language of community theatre; stage left, stage right, upstage, downstage, flies, spikes, trucks – it’s a magical language that brings a brings a production together.
I volunteered for Mary Poppins late in the game – the actors, dancers, choreographers, set builders, and more people that I could have imagined had been rehearsing for the three months prior; needless to say, I learned just how challenging and rewarding a production can be.
From the set design to the costumes – there is so much required to make it a magical experience for the audience. One may think that volunteering behind the scenes might ruin the magic of it all, but it is quite the opposite – there is a deeper appreciation for the work and you have more time to fall in love with the characters…in other words, the things that make it magical come to life.
Tonight is opening night and I’m not nervous – last night, among the chaos of set moving, prop shifting and costume changes, I found myself smiling at the small moments that make the show: the warble in Mary Poppins (Amanda Spurlock) voice as she sings her heart out, the glances Bert (Adam Harasimiuk) shares with the audience, the emotion in Winifred’s (Amy Blanding) soliloquy.
Mary Poppins is more than a musical, it is a glimpse into a magical past that captures the hearts of many, and this collaboration will deliver in spades. Mary Poppins runs from July 19th – 31st and tickets are available at Central Interior Ticketing.
Yesterday we hosted a webinar with western Canada' s most award-winning blogger, Rebecca Bollwitt. We have a copy of the slideshow she presented to share with all of our stakeholders. Watch this short video to learn about how to engage with reviews, how to generate positive review engagement, and how to turn a negative review into a positive customer service moment.
During the webinar some participants inquired about where to get social media stickers to display. The Facebook and Twitter logos that Rebecca shared in the presentation were hand made. To get your own, Google search Facebook and/or Twitter logos, find one that is a high resolution and send it to a graphics store. Personalize it by adding your organization's handle and/or hashtag.
Get Trip Advisor's logo by following this link: https://www.tripadvisor.com/TripAdvisorInsights/n571/5-free-tools-remind-guests-write-reviews (look on the right hand side of the page) and Yelp's logo at this link: https://biz.yelp.com/blog/want-a-find-us-on-yelp-sticker-request-one-here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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)
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.”
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:
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:
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 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.
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!
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 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 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: email@example.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!
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 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.
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.
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:
Originally written for the HelloBC blog.
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