Cocktails, Canapes & Croquet make for a ‘wicket’ day at Fairmont Empress

Where better than the iconic Fairmont Empress in Victoria to host a leisurely garden party and croquet tournament.

On August 26, 2018, don your best summer garden party, cricket-friendly attire and join MC Joe Perkins of CTV Vancouver Island as the Fairmont Empress brings the beloved pastime to the front lawns of the restored grand hotel.  Just as the hotel has gone under a $60+million rebirth to bring new life to the hotel’s rooms and interior spaces, the social scene is returning to the hub of Victoria’s Inner Harbour.  Like the social affairs of the colonial era, the verdant front lawns of Fairmont Empress, have been transformed to roll out a civilized Croquet tournament. The lush flower gardens Victoria is famous for, bloom around comfortable lounge seating, as the participants and guests enjoy culinary treats and craft cocktails from the Fairmont Empress team of chefs and bartenders, creating an ‘only in Victoria’ afternoon.

No experience is required to participate in the tournament, croquet attire consists of grass friendly footwear (flats, sandals, or wedges, no heels on the lawn), a sun hat to shield your eyes, and your smartest summer outfit to  impress and intimidate the competition. Prizes are awarded for best dressed croquet team.  If you don’t want to play, spectator tickets are available also.

Register, on Eventbrite, as a team (two people), or as a single to be paired with a teammate at the event:
$89 per person plus tax & gratuity after August 1, 2018 at 5pm (must be 19+ to attend)

Included in ticket price:

  • Pimm’s Welcome cocktail
  • Passed canapes, finger tea sandwiches, sweet bites.
  • Access to social lawns including lounging, games, food and cash bar
  • Minimum of two rounds of croquet play on the front lawns of The Empress


Getaway for Christmas at The Empress

Many of the Christmas traditions we know and love were established in Victorian England, and that Christmas charm lives on in the city of Victoria.  Central to Victoria’s Yuletide spirit is the famed Fairmont Empress.  The grand Castle on the Coast is making spirits bright with Christmas at the Empress, the first festive season following its grand $60 Million restoration; events and festivities throughout the hotel.

Friends and relations send salutations over Festive Tea at the Empress, pouring until January 2, 2018. Traditional afternoon tea with famous seasonal offerings and classic desserts is made extra special for Festive Champagne Afternoon Tea including a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne. On December 16, 17, 23 and 24, live carolers singing Christmas favourites in the Lobby Lounge add even more Christmas spirit to the festivities.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, until December 23rd, take the chill off and enjoy the Inner Harbour views from the Fairmont Empress’ Winter Veranda. Find a selection of hot beverages and holiday bites while making s’mores around a fire.  If adult libations are more your speed, step into Q Bar for the Season of Joy Drinks, the Empress mixologists are pouring warm and cold modern interpretations of classic festive cocktails throughout the Holidays.

On New Year’s Eve, Q at the Empress and the Crystal Ballroom have a celebration fit for a Queen. In Q, find a five-course set menu, followed by a grand dessert buffet in Lobby Lounge. In the iconic Crystal Ballroom, a modern, Chef-attended festive buffet with live music and cash bar starts the celebrations. After dinner, ring in the New Year with live music at the most elegant New Year’s Eve party in Canada’s most romantic city with a live performance by local jazz and pop singer, Amanda Woods.

 In the morning, start the New Year off right, at Fairmont Empress Resolution Brunch on January 1, 2018 from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm in the Lower Lobby. The best brunch in town, filled with everything sweet and savoury to kick off the New Year and wrap up Christmas at the Empress for another season.

 For complete list of Christmas at the Empress and New Year’s Eve events, visit the Fairmont Empress holiday brochure online.

14th Annual Santa Claus Parade is coming to town

With a wink of an eye and a twist of his head…the jolly ol’ elf is coming!

It’s time for the man in the big red suit to come riding into town as the 14 annual Vancouver Santa Claus Parade presented by Telus fills downtown Vancouver with festive fun on Sunday December 3rd, 2018.

Starting at Noon, the parade route begins at West Georgia at Broughton Street, runs east on West Georgia to Howe Street then comes to an end at Howe at Davie Street.  Global BC news anchor Chris Gailus leads the parade as this year’s Grand Marshall, along with colleagues from the city’s other media outlets and the CKNW Orphans Fund, one of the parades charity partners.  Another beneficiary is the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society, volunteers will be on hand throughout the day, to collect cash or non-perishable food donations for the food bank.

Hundreds of thousands are expected to line the streets and participate in the parade in bands, choirs, floats and community organizations.  Before the parade, feed your troupe with Breakfast with Santa at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver from 9:30am – 10:30am then get in the holiday spirit at the Christmas Square, in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery.  From 10am until Noon, the Square features fun for kids, young and old face painting, gingerbread man and christmas ornament decorating, ‘letters to Santa’ writing stations and entertainment on the Main Stage. After the parade, head to Telus Garden at Seymour and West Georgia St, to get a picture with Santa.

With the big crowds it is best to plan ahead, take transit and arrive early. If you can’t make it to downtown Vancouver to watch the parade in person, tune into Global BC and BC1 to watch the Vancouver Santa Claus Parade telecast starting December 17th, 2018.

What’s old is new at Fairmont Empress Hotel

Empress_2013-05-06 21.02.18The iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel is a staple of any visit to Victoria, BC, whether it’s taking a photo in front of the famed facade, having afternoon tea, visiting the spa or staying overnight in the century old grande dame.
The stately property recently changed ownership and the new owners have set about to renew and restore the property.  Some of the plans have been controversial, and generated major media coverage but it only shows the place that the Fairmont Empress holds in the hearts of Victorians.

Last winter, half of the rooms of the hotel were closed, and work was carried out to renovate and update the oldest portion of the National Historic Site. Through years of renovations, the 1908 wing of the hotel had become a hodge-podge of room shapes and styles over the years, the renovation stripped the property back to the bones.  Replacement of plumbing, electrical as well as cosmetic upgrades were undertaken and the results opened to the public in late spring.  While The Empress always maintained its grandeur and a sense of class, the new look wing brings those qualities into the 21st century.

I recently stayed in one of the updated rooms and was thrilled to see some of the changes. It’s surprising what a difference a change of colour palate can do to modernize the property.  The elegant new grey tones carry from the  common areas to the new rooms as well. The comfortable new furnishings and accessories felt modern but classic. The expected Fairmont amenities were still present, like coffee pod maker, fridge, flatscreen tvs, and Le Labo toiletries. Thought was obviously put into the design to make the rooms useful for the business traveller and today’s connected travellers.  The desks have been upgraded to include convenient power outlets and USB jacks.  An added bonus is found in the build in outlets beside the headboard, meaning one no longer has to shift the bedside table to get access to an outlet.

The biggest change in the rooms came to the bathrooms, in this wing, the bathrooms were often oddly shaped, after-throughts.  The new bathrooms is a luxurious, spa-like oasis, brightly lit with glossy subway tiles and marble with glass shower surround.  No longer an add-on, they bathroom is a memorable centrepiece of the room.

The renovated rooms make your stay at The Fairmont Empress feel even more like a home away from home. Hopefully you’ll get to see for yourself on your next visit.
I look forward to seeing more of the renovations throughout the property. Half of the rooms have been completed, the other half will be renovated over the Winter of 2016-17.

The Fairmont Empress Hotel is located at 721 Government Street, on Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour.


Friday Farewell – Bengal Lounge at Fairmont Empress

Bengal_2016-04-22, 12 46 40Not a usual Friday Find, because the Bengal Lounge at the Fairmont Empress Hotel has been around since the 60’s but rather a farewell since it will be closing its doors tomorrow, April 30th.

The iconic space began as a reading and writing room before becoming the Coronet Lounge, Victoria’s first cocktail bar in the 1950s.  It’s been serving cocktails over half a century, becoming the Bengal Lounge in the late 60s.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel is named for Queen Victoria’s rumoured favourite title, Empress of India, and the Bengal Lounge is decorated in a Victorian-era colonial Indian style to echo this title. Dark wood fixtures and fitting, tiger-skin hanging over the fireplace, punkah ceiling fans, sipping on a 1908 martini  and the famed Curry Buffet are all part of the colonial style charm that makes a visit to the Bengal Lounge a visit back in time.Bengal_2016-04-22, 12 43 29

While the Bengal Lounge will be closing as a restaurant / lounge it has been announced that the 3000 square foot space will be retained as a banquet rental space.  A perfect setting for a meeting, event or even wedding. Watch for the newly renovated restaurant and lounge, replacing the Empress Room, to open in the Fairmont Empress later in May.


Wake Up With Fairmont

IMG_9268I’m a big fan of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, and here in the Pacific Northwest we’re blessed to have an abundance of properties to choose from; in Vancouver we have The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, The Fairmont Waterfront, Fairmont Pacific Rim, The Fairmont Vancouver Airport, in Victoria there’s The Fairmont Empress and in Seattle, The Fairmont Olympic.

Right now, these iconic properties are starting your day with a hearty breakfast and at the same help hungry children start their day the same way.  Until December 30, 2015 Fairmont Pacific Northwest Hotels Bed and Breakfast packages are on offer for the same price as their best available room rate.  For each package stay booked, Fairmont will donate $5 to Breakfast Clubs of Canada, supporting breakfast programs in BC Schools (or equivalent programs for the Fairmont Olympic).

Since it only takes $1/day to feed a hungry child, you’ll be feeding a child breakfast for a week, just for the simple act of making a room reservation.

If that’s not enough incentive, Fairmont Presidents Club members can also receive a complimentary room upgrade for free.

Visit the Fairmont Pacific Northwest Hotels’ to book your Bed and Breakfast free upgrade today and get ready to experience the world class Fairmont service.


On Ice at The Fairmont Empress

On Ice at Fairmont EmpressVictoria is known for its Christmas celebrations, the whole of downtown lights up for the season and The Fairmont Empress is always the heart of the festivities. This year, the iconic hotel is adding a new festive feature with the addition of a skating rink on the hotel’s front lawn overlooking Victoria Harbour.

From November 20, 2014 until mid-January 2015, the approximately 60’ x 90’ covered rink will offer public skating 5pm to 9pm on weekdays and 12pm to 9pm on weekends.

The new hotel owners, Nat and Flora Bosa, are presenting the rink as an early Christmas gift to the residents and visitors to Victoria as part of the hotel renovation plan that is being developed.  “The holidays are always a special time for our team at The Fairmont Empress and our new skating rink will add to the magic,” explains Don Fennerty, general manager of the hotel.  “We hope that everyone will make it part of their tradition and drop by for a skate.”

The Fairmont Empress encourages Skate ‘n Date nights and Family Skate afternoon as some of the ways to enjoy the tradition of winter skating. The hotel also plans special seasonal festivities include Sunday Skates with Santa, and Christmas Eve Skating with the Elves, hot cocoa and cider. For groups there are Office Skates, Holiday Parties on Ice, and Break + Skate meeting options.

The cost to skate is $10 per person, $5 for children aged 10 and under, and skate rentals are available at $5 per pair. For more information on special group prices and private parties, call The Fairmont Empress at +1.250.995.3668 or visit The Fairmont Empress online .