Vancouver is one of Michael Russo's favorite NHL road trips.
Maybe the coolest part of my job (if you want to call writing about hockey for a living a job) is the traveling.
Actually, to be honest, the act of traveling can be a drag sometimes—early-morning flights, little sleep and exercise, poor diet, flight delays, the fact that I have lived between six and seven full years of my life in a hotel room.
But I do get to cover 41 road games in some of the most awesome cities in North America. I get to sightsee in incredible places, go to warm-weather climates when, sorry, you’re battling the bitter cold, experience amazing restaurants and absorb the excitement of hockey in lively arenas and hockey hotbeds.
The most common question I get from hockey fans besides, “What the heck do you during the summers?” and “When is Zach Parise going to be named captain?” is “If I were to take a Wild road trip, where should I go?”
Obviously, a lot has to do with the schedules—yours and the Wild’s. I like different cities for different reasons, so here are the top five road trips that always have me excited to pack:
I can’t convey how many times in my career I have boarded a 6 a.m. flight out of Edmonton or Calgary (I love both these cities and especially the arenas, by the way), am exhausted, a little moody, and the second we begin to descend into Vancouver, I look out the window, see the gorgeous mountains, the harbor and the glass skyscrapers and am instantly refreshed and ready to explore.
First thing you should do is walk around Stanley Park, the Vancouver Harbor and English Bay. Head to Granville Island or Robson Street for fun, take a short trip to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park for incredible views and fun walking atop giant trees, grab lunch at the Cactus Club Café, dinner at the Fish House or Gotham Fish House and a drink at Joey Bentall One.
If you’re a skier, you’ll love Whistler. There’s fun for all ages in Vancouver.
I am a sightseeing fanatic in our nation’s capital. There has never been a time that I haven’t walked down to the White House just to look. Last year, I got myself, my colleague from the newspaper across the river and the TV broadcasters a private tour of the Capitol. The year before that, I went to the Newseum (an absolute must-see, and devote some time) and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (where they make money). The Pentagon tour is still on my short list and the most meaningful place I’ve probably ever been to is the Holocaust Museum.
As for somewhere to eat, there’s too many to list, but grab a bite at Old Ebbitt Grill (famous and affordable and right next to the White House).
If you’re a country music fan, you can’t go wrong in Music City before, during or after games. Besides the fact there’s always a band playing in the arena during intermissions, just walk up and down Broadway at night, mosey on in to every bar and you’ll get your honky-tonk on and be blown away by the live music.
Tootsie’s is a must. There are three floors, and each one has a live band. If the weather is nice, my favorite part is the top floor because of the outside patio. Legends and Honky Tonk Central are other fun spots. I don’t find it a great foodie place, but The Southern is good and I love Merchants.
I love the California trips. The sunshine, the ocean, the great restaurants and the sightseeing makes hockey in California perfect.
The chance to walk around Beverly Hills, see celebrities (I just walked right into Larry King at Nate ‘N Als in October), eat at L.A. Live, go to Studio City or Burbank or University Studios, it’s all fun in L.A. and the O.C.
That’s southern California, but I love San Jose, too, if for no other reason than a chance to go check out the Redwoods, San Francisco, or, to be frank, the wineries of Napa and Sonoma. Check out the caves at Miner or Pride Mountain.
This is a copout, mostly because I’d say I love the majority of road trips. So here are some other roadies I love taking:
• New York: It’s where I was born, it’s where I have the most friends and it’s where I feel the most alive. The energy of New York City can’t be topped.
• Chicago: I love walking along Lake Michigan, the Chicago River and exercising in Grant Park. The restaurants are second to none, and frankly, so is the experience at United Center.
• Montreal, Toronto and Boston: Combining this one because it’s hockey history. The nightlife and food is incredible in Montreal and the experience at a Habs game is electrifying. The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto is a must-see if you’re a hockey rube like me. Boston, the history of this city, you just feel it everywhere. Oh, and go to Little Italy.
• Carolina: You have to go to the Angus Barn.
• Denver: It's one of my favorite places. Downtown is cool (except for the vagabonds everywhere). The restaurants, arena and hotels are great. Red Rocks, the greatest musical venue I've ever been to, is not a far drive.
Michael Russo covers the Wild and National Hockey League for the Star Tribune. He co-hosts a podcast on malepatternpodcasts.com, can be heard weekly on KFAN and as seen on Fox Sports North.