A Weekend Getaway
Our small family is on our way to Prince George for a weekend getaway. The only objectives we have are to have fun, and visit the two craft breweries local to the area. As we soon learn, the opportunities to have fun and explore are expansive.
We pull into Prince George with nothing but breakfast in mind. Kyle, Gaia and I are discussing which meal of the day is our favourite. They’re team breakfast, I’m team dinner.
First stop is Grama’s Kitchen, a family dining space tucked inside a motel. The smaller seating area makes it feel like a communal dining space. My daughter, Gaia, and I order the french toast platter while my husband, Kyle, goes all in with an eggs benedict. As we wait for our food I admire the stunning glass prints hanging on the walls, highlighting the natural beauty of Prince George.
It is pretty obvious by the laughter ringing throughout the room that the waitresses love their jobs. They call out the orders of several of the customers like clockwork, and I overhear them joking with many of the regulars. As she walks up with our food, one of the waitresses tells us “if I’m not making fun, something’s wrong.” She gives us a quick wink and adds, “you can’t leave unless you eat the orange slice,” referring to the garnish.
The food is good homestyle diner food, and the portion is big enough for Gaia and I to share and still feel comfortable.
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We plan to walk off our breakfast at Cottonwood Island Park, a short drive from Grama’s Kitchen. The fall leaves are in full display. Vibrant trees overflowing with oranges and yellows signal the sides of the trail. Gaia jokingly grabs a discarded stick in an effort to ‘sweep’ the trails. She swishes it back and forth along the trail, hardly scratching the surface. Stacks of leaves momentarily swirl and shift before settling back in a random order. Chickadees light up the woods with song, swooping down to land on nearby branches. One section in particular sees a large influx of the melodic birds. Further down the trail, a squirrel runs up to Gaia and she leaps back in pretend fear. We follow the path along the river and loop back towards the bridge with no agenda in mind. Breaks in the trees provide a view to a shallow creek where mallard ducks drift along. My daughter exclaims, “I can’t believe something like this can exist in a city.” We take the time to enjoy the sights and sounds at a slowed pace.
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Hopping into our truck, we drive over to the Northern Lights Winery, the only winery in the area and Canada’s most Northern Winery. The establishment is a stunning piece of modern architecture. Behind the building is the orchard with its perfect rows of lush fruit trees. The river quietly runs alongside, creating a calm atmosphere. A few pergolas and a small covered tent add to the ambience. Across the road is a stunning outdoor amphitheatre for larger events.
Kyle picks a wine flight and knowing that he’ll share with me, I decide on the sangria of the day. While we wait for our food I wander around the gift shop which is loaded with handcrafted goods. There are candles made with recycled wine bottles, locally created tea blends, various fruit spreads, among many other things. The “Borealis” chocolate bar made in partnership with Rocky Mountain Chocolates immediately catches my eye. I continue to explore the tasting area and am surprised to find “Macaroni” the pet fish- an unlikely comrade for a wine room. I see that our food is almost up so I head back to our table.
As the food is set down in front of us, I silently rejoice about our choices. The colourful array of my salad looks like a winning combination and the Mezze platter- despite being marketed as “for one”- is a perfect sharer for our little family. The pasta is the perfect size for Kyle and Gaia to split, and the staff have kindly divided it up onto two separate plates. Kyle asks the waitress about the wines. She explains that there are no grapes in these wines, they are all fruit wines. Much of the fruit is grown in Prince George. All of the wines are delicious but if I was to choose a favourite I would probably have to go with the multi-award winning wine “Seduction.” It’s a strawberry rhubarb wine, a bit on the sweeter side but so smooth and tantalizing.
As we leave the winery I explain to Gaia that we are off to Gamechangerz for a virtual reality experience and her face lights up. “Really?!” she asks practically jumping with excitement, and I nod my head yes in return. None of us have tried virtual reality before so it’s exciting to all of us.
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Walking in, the place has a great layout. We line our shoes up on the shelf labeled ‘outdoor shoes’ and take it all in. Neon lights flash. Action figures line the desk. An assortment of sounds echo throughout the building. Gaia and Kyle choose racing as their first game of choice. As soon as the VR goggles go on her face Gaia exclaims “where are my hands?!” while waving them in front of her face. In her field of view, a racetrack with virtual hands replaces the space that her physical hands once occupied.
The two of them begin their race. It seems Gaia is a natural. Kyle gets a little over-ambitious and chooses the “pro” version which results in Gaia flying past him on the track several times. The video screen in front displays his car spinning out of control as Gaia takes the win.
The attendees show me the zero-gravity massage chairs for the parents that aren’t interested in partaking in a virtual reality experience. They look mighty appealing to me but I’m always up for trying new things, so I give the VR a chance. I opt to try out the “egg ride”. It’s one of the few games that require no skill. I sit in the multi-directional moving chair and place the goggles over my head. A roller-coaster track occupies my field of view, but it doesn’t seem too strange to me yet. The image starts sliding down the track, and the chair moves in sync. The sounds of the wheels sliding across the creaky track fill my ears. My stomach drops as we careen down an imaginary roller coaster and Gaia gives a small scream as our car is launched into the abyss. Giggles escape my mouth. I offer Kyle a turn, but after having played a few games he is starting to feel a little motion sick. I propose we take a drive up to Connaught Park for some fresh air.
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The drive to Connaught Park winds up a hill in the centre of town that I somehow never really noticed before. I’m truly blown away with how picturesque it is as we ascend up the road. A colourful garden marks the entrance. Hopping out of the truck feels good. Wandering around the park I spy a few photographers taking pictures of families and couples. I can see why this place is a photographer’s heaven. The deciduous trees create a colourful background and the evening rays of sunset hit the top of the hill so perfectly. We wander around to a relic, and enjoy the beautiful views of the city from a park bench. As we start to leave I ask Kyle to “stop the car,” so I can grab a quick snap of him and I. I just cannot leave this place without it, the conditions are too perfect. Gaia, being the gem she is, plays acting photographer and actually takes a great picture of Kyle and I.
It seems that wandering around parks makes one thirsty, so I suggest to Kyle that a craft beer would probably help with that.
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Driving towards Trench Brewing, one of the newer establishments in the area, I double check that we are headed in the correct direction. Though downtown, it’s a little off the beaten path. Trusting Google maps, we end up in front of a bright blue industrial style building with a “Trench Brewing” sign. Walking inside is a stark difference from the quiet streets nearby. It’s quite the happening venue with a high energy. The busy staff greet us with a smile despite the happy hour rush.
We are seated at one of the long tables in the centre of the tasting room. I love the ‘family dining’ style these long tables create. “It reminds me of a viking hall,” Kyle says. I have to agree. The big open area feels grand and the dimmed lighting makes for a bit of a norse vibe.
It’s pretty much custom when we visit a new brewery to get a flight so I order a flight with all the seasonal beers. As I chat with the manager on shift, she tells me about a beer cocktail that they have in the works so I ask her to deliver me her most picturesque one. She comes back with the “Pink Pine” – a combination of the Pine Pass pale ale, grapefruit juice, and gin. Am I ever glad she did, it is a heavenly concoction. Prior to this, I had never had a beer cocktail but now I feel like I’ve been missing out all these years. She also mentions that they sell beer slushies in the summer- a fun take on a summer favourite. The newly added patio looks like the perfect place to enjoy one of those cold treats on a hot summer afternoon.
Gaia is so happy with the activities of the day, she’s content to just sip on an iced tea and read a book. The waitress suggests a few things from the kid’s menu for her, but we have a dinner reservation so we regretfully decline. We won’t be passing up food next time though, the menu looks spectacular, and Gaia has her eye on the lucky charm cheesecake that periodically makes an appearance.
From the flight, the Caledonia Coffee Ale and the Intergalactic Mango Pale Ale stand out to me. I’m not typically a fan of coffee ales despite being a huge fan of both of those things individually, but there is something different about this one. The mango pale ale is creamy and delicious.
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The time arrives for our reservation at North 54 so we make our way over. A metal version of a red English telephone booth pinned to the side of the wall stands out against the exterior of the upscale restaurant. Gaia admires it curiously before the three of us walk in. Our waitress doubles as the hostess on this quiet Friday night, and she guides us to our table. Large, sparkly chandeliers hang from the ceiling. We collapse into comfortable upholstered chairs. Gaia looks around and gives the styling her seal of approval.
Our waitress is very knowledgeable about the menu and suggests some wine pairings to our choices. The delicious looking food arrives quickly. Gaia’s “half-portion” of fish and chips is a healthy size. I eye up some of her shoestring fries even though my chicken teriyaki is incredibly flavourful. By the look on Kyle’s face, he is thrilled with his steak which was aged in-house for 28 days.
I love a good homemade tiramisu so there is no way we are leaving this restaurant without trying the tiramisu. It lives up to my expectations upon first bite. There is no problem making it disappear between the 3 of us.
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With dinner done, there is nothing left on the agenda so we finally check into our hotel, the Prestige Treasure Cove. It’s been a long, fun day, and there will be no shortage of fun tomorrow.
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There's nothing like a great sleep!
All through my youth and teenage years, sleep had its own shrine. I was notorious for sleeping late. Sometime during my adulthood I’ve developed a significantly healthier sleep pattern and it’s rare that I’ll sleep past 7.
Luckily, Gaia and Kyle also have similar waking times so sharing a hotel room with them (or a tent as it often ends up being) works perfectly. Like clockwork, the first signs of life display themselves around 7AM.
Aubree’s, like Grama’s Kitchen, is nestled in a motel. Every table is full of smiling customers, it’s apparent that this place is a local hotspot for morning meals. While we wait for a table we have a chance to review the menu and pick out our breakfast.
Gaia’s eyes go huge when her platter of chocolate strawberry crepes land in front of her. She’s been talking about crepes all weekend and there is no doubt in my mind that these will fulfill that craving. The waitress proudly displays the meal that they’re most known for, the “Breakfast Poutine”. I can see why it’s so famous. Kyle receives his “Mama Meal” which, I decide, is the perfect meal for indecisive people. It’s a little bit of everything and looks absolutely delicious.
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It’s late morning by the time we get to the Farmer’s Market. There is a performer who goes by the name of “Cruise” belting catchy tunes while playing the guitar. Her voice drifts in and out of the temporary stalls bordering the streets. Everyone is layered up due to the low temperatures. We have a brief chat during an intermission and as she throws on an extra layer, she tells me that, “you have to be crazy to sing in the North.” An icy wind blows past me, making me shiver, and I have to agree with her.
The vendors offer such a variety of items, selling various goods from beeswax, photographs, soaps, a food truck, and even beekeepers from Vanderhoof. Gaia asks one of the vendors what ‘wheatgrass’ is. The lady responds “it’s a type of grass that is very healthy, but you need to have a juicer to use it. I tried it in a blender once and it was just awful.” She finishes with a laugh and all 4 of us are laughing now. “Really, really terrible,” she adds.
Further down, we walk past a vendor who offers Gaia some of her last sunflowers. I think the flowers look beautiful but she tells us that, “they used to be so much prettier until the cold weather hit.”
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With all of the stalls observed, we head to ‘The Makerie,’ a local coffee shop/craft bar. It’s quite a refreshing business model. You can reserve a craft table for personal projects, or purchase a crafting kit (prices vary per option). The Makerie provides all of the crafting supplies and instructions, all you have to bring is your creativity.
Kyle and Gaia grab a round of hot drinks but I am curious to try the locally made Kombucha. Creative juices are flowing as we paint, glue, and sketch our way through the afternoon. An hour goes by without hardly a word said, we’re so involved in our projects. On a typical day at home, I would be hard-pressed to get Kyle to sit and create for any length of time, but he’s perfectly content to do it in this setting. Gaia is proud of the Haunted Birdhouse that she created. She tells me that she wants to “bring the Makerie home with us.” I am pretty sure if they offered her a bed, she would move right in.
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Now it’s time for Betulla Burning. Just when I was starting to think I couldn’t eat anymore, we end up at this awesome pizzeria. The wood-fired pizzas smell so good. Despite the distinct chill in the air, the patio looks so inviting but I’m a sucker for heat so we sit inside. The open kitchen keeps Gaia endlessly entertained. Kyle immediately decides on the wagyu beef burger and I give him puppy eyes until he picks a salad as his side. Gaia and I share a pizza. The chili-oil is a perfect complement to the meat lovers pizza we chose.
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What’s the best friend of pizza? I’m pretty sure it’s beer. And even if it isn’t, it sure is today. So after lunch, off to CrossRoads we go. This downtown brewery is housed in a building that was originally engineered as a garage and car dealership 70 years ago. The only remaining hint of this are the glass garage doors overlooking the patio and giving the space a large “open-air” feel. I love the vast amount of natural light filtering in. The decor is fairly modern with a hint of steampunk. A fake skeleton hangs above marking the welcoming of Halloween.
Kyle and I both choose our own flight. Being a mountain biker myself and having heard lots about the trails in Prince George, I pick the Pidherny Pale Ale (named after a local biking area) as well as a porter and a couple of IPAs. All of the desserts are made in-house which make Gaia’s decision easy: pumpkin pie. If you were to ask her what her favourite dessert is, she would surely respond with either “pumpkin pie” or “gingerbread cookies,” before listing off every dessert known to humankind.
I duck out briefly and return to a half eaten pumpkin pie and our flights waiting. The flight sized beer glasses sit in a nicely curved board. One of my favourite parts of visiting different craft breweries (besides the beer of course) is admiring the flight boards. Each one is often as unique as the brewery itself. The Pidherny is delicious and the Chocolate Raspberry Porter also captures my attention.
The after-work crowd is filtering in, and the once quiet brewery is filled with cheer and chatter. I walk over to the bar to inquire about the ‘healthcare heroes fund’. The bartender tells me that CrossRoads initially started it with a $200.00 donation, but anyone can donate to it, as a way to give thanks to healthcare workers and first responders. They just need to show proof of employment when visiting the establishment to receive their first drink on the house (size and type of drink limit is in place).
Once our glasses are emptied, it’s time to say goodbye to this fun town. I am surprised by how little I knew about the community until visiting. There are so many experiences to be had. Now that the secret’s out though, we will surely be back to explore more.
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Since Ruby and her family visited Prince George, another brewery has opened there.
Erin and Brandon Baerwald launched Deadfall Brewing in June, 2022. The couple met while studying biology at the University of Calgary. They both went on to achieve PhDs, and along the way they got into homebrewing. While attending the University of Saskatchewan, Brandon became the head brewer at Nokomis Ales, a small brewery located about halfway between Regina and Saskatoon, and Erin also worked there, serving customers in the tasting room.
As they started to dream about opening their own brewery, they moved to Prince George when Erin took a professor position at the University of Northern BC. Brandon continued his brewing apprenticeship at Trench Brewing and Distilling, working there for a year before leaving to open Deadfall. He did much of the work setting up the brewery himself, all during the pandemic. Their partners in the business are their best friends who live in Vancouver — including yet another PhD, which makes three in total. (We’re sure the fourth is pretty smart, too.)
Deadfall is an inclusive brewery focused on sustainably producing hand-crafted beer in small batches with an emphasis on quality over quantity. The Baerwalds aim to create classic yet remarkable beers alongside interesting and creative beers that will keep you coming back to try something new. The beer names all involve biological terms to reflect the scientific background of its founders.
The 30-seat taproom tasting area is open Thursday to Saturday from 2-9pm. Although there is no food service, customers are welcome to bring their own if they want to eat and drink in the taproom.
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Produced In Collaboration With
Urban sophistication and spectacular wilderness live distinctively side by side in Prince George. We are the only community in northern BC that offers the amenities and benefits of a thriving city within mere minutes of beautiful, pristine forests. This land is the traditional home of the Lheidli T’enneh and Carrier Sekani First Nations people, Prince George is widely known as the capital of northern British Columbia.