Cool things to do in all NHL cities
The Fours near the Boston Garden is the place for suds and memorabilia
Keep an eye out for players hanging at Denver's ChopHouse & Brewery
In Toronto, it's the Hockey Hall of Fame and Gretzky's Restaurant, naturally
Welcome to our 30-city tour of the NHL. If you are thinking about taking a road trip to cheer for your team in enemy territory, or simply want to visit an array of arenas while watching a variety of match-ups, you've come to the right place. After 16 years of constant travel covering this good old game we call hockey, your humble correspondent might as well be of some service. Fodor has yet to come out with its NHL travel guide, but I've got plenty of tips for what to do and see wherever you may go.
Before setting out on your journey, always remember a couple of hard-and-fast rules for the modern road warrior: never, ever check a bag and always, but always, be nice to the agents at the airline and rental car counters. These are the humans who have the power to make sure you either get to your destination in reasonable order or spend the night at the Motel 6 in Moose Jaw.
OK, let's do this in alphabetical order. This might not be the most economical of itineraries, but you've got all the dollars, loonies, krona (that's Swedish money) and rubles (Russian) you'll need to have a wonderful trip.
Anaheim -- Disneyland. 'Nuff said. And fantastic L.A. is within spitting distance. More on that later.
Boston -- A trip to the Old North Church (where Paul Revere warned of the British coming, or warned the British that his horse had a gun, or whatever) is a must. Dinner anywhere in the Italian North End is a double must. After watching the Bruins at the Garden (don't ever refer to it as anything else, and may the original barn RIP), a postgame Sam Adams at the Four's across Causeway Street is a triple must. Pay proper homage to all the pictures of Boston sports legends that cover every inch of the walls and drop the bartender a good tip along with your R's.
Buffalo -- The wings at the Anchor Bar, of course. They're the original. Read up on the history of Niagara Falls, it's fascinating, and on an off night, make the drive up to there. Bonus points go to the visitor who sports a vintage Gerry Desjardins sweater.
Calgary -- Sample the raw oysters at Joey Tomatoes, a downtown restaurant that almost certainly will have a few players from the visiting team eating there the night before the game. But the biggest must of any trip to Calgary for the serious hockey fan: a visit into the old Corral arena across the street from the Saddledome. Most days, you can simply walk into that vintage barn and gaze at some incredible framed photos all around the concourse. My favorite is of Maurice "Rocket" Richard in a cowboy hat and rodeo clothes.
Carolina (Raleigh) -- I once drove the three hours to Mount Airy, N.C., the town in which Andy Griffith grew up and made forever famous by renaming it Mayberry for a TV show. One of the best things I ever did: get my haircut in Floyd's City Barber Shop. It's still there in original form, and I got my trim from Floyd's original partner, a man named Russell Hiatt. To think I got my hair cut by the same guy who cut Andy Griffith's -- well, now THAT is a bragging right. And I'll never forget the pork chop sandwich next door at the place that inspired the diner -- a place called Snappy Lunch -- nor the old-timer local who instantly recognized an out-of-town visitor and struck up a sincerely friendly conversation. No wonder Andy loved that place so much.
And while in Raleigh, please visit a place called Ole Time Barbecue. My goodness, you will thank me for it. This is where the locals go.
Chicago -- So many great places, so little time. Stop in the Cape Cod Room at the famous Drake Hotel and eat the red snapper soup. Start there, then walk in any direction and you'll find plenty of fun things to do. At the United Center, appreciate the great organist, Frank Pellico. He once let me play a couple keys of his Barton organ. That's another serious bragging right. Feel the surge of patriotism during the national anthem. You will get goose bumps.
Colorado (Denver) -- Well, since I live here and all, I've got a couple of tips: drink plenty of water upon arrival. The altitude really will hit you if you don't hydrate. Walk up and down the 16th Street Mall, admire the silhouette of the wondrous Rocky Mountains during sunset, and have an Avalanche postgame ale at the Denver ChopHouse & Brewery, where you might run into a player or two. Stare at the pictures on the wall of Ray Bourque and Patrick Roy with the Stanley Cup and marvel at how they ended up in Denver.
Columbus -- Dinner in any of the restaurants in the German Village part of town.
Dallas -- It was a terrible event, but one so indelible in the nation's memory that any trip to Dallas would be incomplete without walking around the grassy knoll and taking a tour of the Sixth Floor Museum. The Zapruder camera is right there, and the creepy window in the corner is exactly as it was that awful day in 1963. It'll give you the chills all right. Then shake 'em off with dinner at Bob's Chop House. Say hello to frequent diner Mike Modano.
Detroit -- Drive to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, about 20 minutes outside the city. I'm telling you, the place is amazing if you like history. The Wright Brothers' original workshop is right there on the vast grounds. The rocking chair that Abraham Lincoln was shot in is right there in a little glass booth (you can still see the blood stains). Thomas Edison's workshop is there. The limousine JFK rode in Dallas is there. The original Rosa Parks bus is there. Henry Ford didn't mess around when it came to collecting. He just picked up entire houses and entire train lines and relocated them to the grounds. You'll spend all day there.
Edmonton -- Though I'm not a fan of malls generally, I would recommend a trip to the West Edmonton Mall. It's HUUUGE. It's got an indoor beach, a hockey rink and an amusement park as just part of the trillions of things to see there. A postgame hot roast beef sandwich at the Sherlock Holmes bar and grill downtown is recommended, and don't forget to buy your 50-50 lottery tickets at the Oilers game.
Florida (Sunrise) -- There's nothing to do around here, and getting to the arena is a pain because of the byzantine roadways. So drive to Fort Lauderdale. It's not too far away. Most of the visiting teams stay there for good reason.
Los Angeles -- Bring lots of patience. You'll need it driving the 48-lane highways that are always jammed. LA Live, what they now call the area around Staples Center, is actually a really fun place. Drive to Manhattan Beach on the off day, walk up and down the Strand and drool with envy over the people who live in the many houses that face the Pacific.
Minnesota (St. Paul) -- Don't leave without trying the wild rice soup at the St. Paul Hotel across the street from Xcel Energy Center. Bundle up for any visit between November and, oh, June. It's freezing.
Montreal -- Dinner at Gibby's in Old Montreal. A great restaurant set among old fashioned lanterns and cobblestoned streets. The legendary hot dogs on toasted buns at the Bell Centre are mandatory, along with a smoked meat sandwich with mustard. The PA announcer in the building has the most booming voice in the league, and he's got to announce everything twice, in English and French.
Nashville -- Lunch at Jack's Bar-B-Que. Order any sandwich and take a momentary gastronomic detour to heaven. Then drive to a suburban town named Franklin and walk the old-world style main street. If you're into Civil War history, visit the Carnton Plantation -- memorialized in the best-seller "The Widow of the South."
New Jersey (Newark) -- There's a pizza place right across the street from the Prudential Center that produced one of the greatest slices I've ever had in my heavy pie-eating life. Can't remember the name, but I snapped this picture of the second slice I ordered to forever remember it.
New York (Islanders) -- When in Uniondale, be sure to visit the really great antique hockey museum and marvel at how far technology and architecture have come since 1972. Oh wait, that's not a museum, it's the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, home of your 2011-12 Islanders and the grand old dynasty's Stanley Cup banners. Right nextdoor those ancient ruins, in the Marriott Hotel, is Champions Sports Bar where you can run into a player or two hoisting a tawny flagon.
New York (Rangers) -- I never knew until last year that Madison Square Garden sits on top of Penn Station, a massive rail hub. (Really, I didn't.) I find that fact to be unbelievably cool and fascinating. That's how little I'd been to NYC over the years. Somebody definitely took one look at me and said "Hayseed" during my last visit. Anyway, I understand that Manhattan is a pretty sleepy place, but Penn Station comes in handy for grabbing a train out to Long Island after they roll up the sidewalks in the city as soon as the Rangers game ends.
Ottawa -- Skating on the Rideau Canal when it freezes over: An unforgettable experience. Save plenty of time for the interminable drive to Kanata for the game.
Philadelphia -- A visit to the City Tavern -- where Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John (or was it Craig?) Adams and Ben Franklin actually ate and drank on a regular basis -- is a must. Take a tour of Franklin's original house. It's incredible. Postgame, Pat's for a steak really hits the spot.
Phoenix -- No need to worry about getting a ticket to a Coyotes game. Phoenix is really beautiful at night, though. The city twinkles from a distance. On the off night, drive into Old Scottsdale, otherwise known as "Cougarville." Rowr.
Pittsburgh -- Once considered one of the league's more dreary stops, the city has been transformed into a place of great food and culture. The drives on the country roads outside the city are some of the most peaceful and pretty in this nation. There's also some guy named Crosby who (soon, we hope) plays hockey there.
St. Louis -- Dinner at Mike Shannon's Restaurant downtown. There are some great old photos of the Cardinals' 1960s glory days on the wall. Stay at the Union Station Marriott up the street from the rink. Nice, piano-playing, old-school bar and lounge at night, with a surprising amount of Blues/hockey talk.
San Jose -- Dinner at Original Joe's downtown. All the Sharks eat there regularly. Drive to the Apple Campus in nearby Cupertino and pay respects to the late, great Steve Jobs. RIP.
Tampa Bay -- Though the legendary original restaurant isn't around anymore, Malio's Steakhouse has been resurrected elsewhere and still serves a great meal. The old Malio's was the longtime original hangout of people like George Steinbrenner and renowned for its adjacent dance lounge that catered to an older crowd. I still remember when a woman who could have been my grandmother asked me for a dance.
Toronto -- Hello, the Hockey Hall of Fame is here. You'll easily burn three hours in there, no matter how many times you've visited. Wayne Gretzky's restaurant is in Toronto too, and the food is actually really good. His joint is next to The Second City, if seeing some improv comedy and grabbing some yuks is your thing. Every morning, drink a double-double (two cream, two sugar) at Tim Hortons. There's one every 15 feet.
Vancouver -- Ah, Vancouver. Best food of any city in the league, at least the seafood is, anyway. Best place to eat: The Salmon House on the Hill, in West Vancouver, overlooking the harbor. I am thinking of the buttered pecan cedar plank salmon right now and my mouth is watering over all my keyboard. Ecch. Drive up to Whistler for a night there, too. The scenery is spectacular.
Washington -- There's a place called The White House that may be of some interest. Ford's Theater is another morbidly fascinating place, but the best thing about Washington now is how young and vibrant it is down by the Verizon Center. It's just a fun time all around, and the subway system is just unbelievably incredible architecturally.
Winnipeg -- Your humble correspondent has only one trip to Winnipeg, but one thing was certainly memorable: It was COOOOOLD. Very, very, very cold. Bundle up. Also, hang out in some of the city's music joints -- you never know when legendary native Winnipeggers such as Burton Cummings (the Burton Cummings Theatre For The Performing Arts is on Smith Street) or Neil Young might walk in and play an impromptu set. It's been known to happen, say the locals.
Well. here we are back home. Fun, wasn't it? Next week we'll take a tour of all the AHL cities.
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