Like prime real estate, going to Wellington for a sporting or cultural experience is all about location, location, location if you want to get the most out of the "the coolest little capital".

For me, that came at Rydges Wellington, the city's largest hotel, courtesy of Positively Wellington Tourism wanting more bang for Fifa's Under-20 World Cup dollar in New Zealand.

Many amenities, including the Cake Tin, are a stone's throw from the hotel. Between interviewing the Panama and Ghana football teams, staying at the 12-minute walking-distance Amora Hotel, I found the Wellington waterfront beckoning, but my lunch engagement on day one was already set in my two-day itinerary.

With valet parking sorted, I savoured a taste of Europe at Leuven Belgian Beer Cafe a couple of blocks away from Rydges.


Lunch was a pot of steamed mussels in garlic, washed down with a dark, full-bodied ale from a list of many beers at the 1907 character building.

Other cultured drinking holes offer craft beer. Tuatara Brewery's The Third Eye, in Arthur St, is a tasting room, brewery, cellar door and restaurant all in one.

The Garage Project, in Aro St, experiments with ingredients such as chilli and mango, golden syrup and kumara. Head brewer Pete Gillespie learned his craft in Australia and Britain. The Cellar Door's Aro Valley site offersthe flagon feel in establishing itself as "your local neighbourhood brewery".

The interview with the Panama footballer was moved before the 3pm training session at David Farrington Park in Miramar. Mercifully, the American college-educated midfielder's command of the English language was beyond expectation.

The dinner suggestions include Charley Noble (Huddart Parker building), WBC (Victoria St) and Monsoon Poon (Blair St) if the Rydges' Portlander grill-house concept of superb meat cuts don't tantalise the tastebuds.

WBC specialises in seafood in a changing menu that combines small plates, bruschetta and a la carte courses.

Charley Noble is a haven for lovers of seafood and meat. It claims to have the first-of-its-kind Zesti wood-fired chargrill and rotisserie in New Zealand to serve organic cuts of aged, pasture and grain-fed beef.

Monsoon Poon, its talented chefs in full view of customers, offers choices from a smorgasbord of exotic flavours from a range of Asian countries.

Having a waterfront hub is pivotal but a sense of impeccable timing is crucial when leaving and entering Rydges.

I had two tickets waiting at Circa Theatre. I parked at the corner of Taranaki and Cable St.
The problem was I had arrived a few minutes late to A Servant of Two Masters, Carlo Goldoni's comic classic in the new Lee Hall adaptation.

I have reviewed a few plays as a journalist in Dunedin but nothing of substance.

When it comes to theatre I'm a philistine so it was great to watch professionals on stage without any air of pretentiousness.

High school students were among the audience, as part of their assessment. The cheesy one-liners were not lost on them.

Truffaldino (Simon Leary), a scheming and perpetually hungry servant, shows he is the protagonist becauseof his stage-savvy attitude and athleticism.

The next morning I catch paid-for taxi to the Weta Cave, in Miramar, after a refreshing Bircher's muesli at the hotel.

The behind-the-scenes trade secrets remain, touching is limited and cameras aren't allowed, but you do become wiser at the movie mini-museum.

This was the perfect entree to the Gallipoli - The Scale Of Our War exhibition at Te Papa that afternoon. Punctuality at Weta workshop is vital and if you're late you'll miss the journey.

Weta Cave retail manager Karoliina Varcoe says 100,000 visitors a year go through the 8-year-old workshop/museum since tours started three years ago.

Overseas travellers tend to go more than Kiwis.

"The peak season is definitely summer but international groups come through in the quieter winter months," says Varcoe.

Weta tourism assistant Melissa Shaw says since its inception in 2007 there's always been room to grow.

"When that happens, or what happens - a massive question mark there," Shaw says of the New Zealand-owned business.

Sir Peter Jackson was one of its creators. "It's an incredible company, very humbling. We have Sir Richard Taylor working through the workshop all the time so you can meet and interact with some of these people if you're lucky enough."

The other co-founders are Tania Rodger, Taylor's wife, and Jamie Selkirk.Movie prop technicians bob and weave behind museum windows "so it's not something you'll find anywhere else in the world".

Armour from the Lord of the Rings, District 9 and King Kong films grace the walls.
My lunch, Panama's Sancocho, a hearty soup/stew with a bread roll, was served at Civic Square to mark the football nation's day in the city's Fever Pitch celebrations.

Energetic footballers played on the Astroturf pitch but I interviewed Chelsea youth star Yaw Yeboah, thanks to Ghana's team liaison officer Bruce Macdonald.

The best cultural experience came last - the Weta-crafted Gallipoli war exhibition at Te Papa.

The virtual Air New Zealand personalised inflight entertainment greeted me but I cut a track straight to the museum and didn't regret it, considering time was becoming my enemy.