Nelson B.C. has earned a reputation as a cultural centre. The downtown area is packed with good restaurants, cafes, and coffee houses, local shops, small art galleries, and impromptu theatre venues. The primary industry is tourism.
Nelson is also a well-known alternative lifestyles hotspot. Nelson is about forty-five minutes away from the site of the annual Shambhala Music Festival, an internationally known, massive five-day outdoor rave.
The city is growing economically. Nelson is proud of its unique, small town feel, and has remained relatively devoid of the ubiquitous chain stores, franchises and strip development that proliferate in other towns of similar size. Despite this, there are several US mega-retailers operating in Nelson, including Wal-Mart and the region's only Starbucks.
Historic Baker Street in the fall
In the early 1980's, Nelson suffered a devastating economic downturn when the local Kootenay Forest Products sawmill was closed. At the time, Victoria and Vancouver were experimenting with historical restorations of their oldest areas, with great success. To save downtown and Baker Street from blight, Nelson quickly followed suit, stripping aluminum facades and restoring the buildings to their original brilliance. Local architect Bob Inwood, one of Nelson's many draft-dodgers, played a major role as a consultant. By 1985, Baker Street was completely transformed. Affirmation of the street's success came when Steve Martin chose to produce his feature film Roxanne almost exclusively in Nelson, using the local firehall as a primary set and many historic locations for others. More broadly, the transformation marked the beginning of Nelson's ongoing transition from a resource-based town to an arts and tourism town.
Nelson Train Depot
Gold and silver were found in the area in 1867. Following the discovery of silver at nearby Toad Mountain in 1886, the town boomed quickly, leading to incorporation in 1897. Two railways were built to pass through Nelson. Due to its location near transportation corridors, Nelson grew to supply the local mining activity and soon became a transportation and distribution centre for the region.
Nelson's Court House
The town soon matured from a false-fronted boomtown to a sophisticated city. Francis Rattenbury, a noted architect, designed chateau-style civic buildings made of granite, which stand today. By the 1900's, Nelson boasted several fine hotels, a Hudson's Bay Company store and an electric streetcar system. The local forestry and mining industries were well established.
View of Nelson from Giveout Point
Nelson's mountainous geography kept growth stunted into the narrow valley bottom, except for certain hillside structures such as the local High School and the former NDU campus. Throughout the 60's and 70's when more prosperous cities were tearing down and rebuilding their downtowns to the design of the time, Nelson merchants 'modernized' their buildings with covers of aluminum siding.
Beach time @ Lakeside Park
Annual Car Show
Awesome vistas and leisure activities !
Things to see and do in Nelson
Cultural activities abound in Nelson. Set in the natural beauty of the Selkirks, many artists and writers make Nelson their home. Artwalk features local talent. July, August and September mark three months of exhibitions throughout the downtown core. Each month has a separate grand opening, usually the first Friday evening of the month, which includes refreshments, musicians and artwork for locals and visitors to enjoy as they stroll through downtown Nelson.
Two popular hiking trails are the Santa Fe Railway Trail, a very gently sloped rail trail which runs across Nelson and allows biking; and the Pulpit Rock Trail, which offers a short, but somewhat challenging hike that ends in a beautiful view of the city. After Pulpit Rock the trail continues up the spine of Elephant Mountain (as the locals call it) to more postcard views, and eventually to the radio towers visible from everywhere in the city. Hikers venturing beyond Pulpit Rock should have basic wilderness gear and exercise common sense.
In the winter, skiing is Nelson's primary outdoor activity. 30 minutes east of town is the Whitewater Ski Resort, which provides access, via two double chairlifts and a handle tow, to 396 vertical metres of beginner to advanced terrain. The resort also provides access to hundredes of kilometres of off-piste skiing and backcountry touring. The Nelson area is home to over 20 cat-skiing, heli-skiing and ski-touring operators and hundreds of kilometres of cross-country trails are available for the nordic skiier.
Mountain biking is part of the local culture, and Nelson offers a wide variety of MTB-oriented trails for all levels of experience. Excellent trail maps are available at local bike shops.
Rock climbing is also a popular summer activity. Kootenay Crag, Hall Siding, Grohman Narrows and CIC Bluffs are popular city crags. Slocan Bluffs and Kinnaird are in nearby Slocan City and Castlegar. 2003 saw bouldering take off in Nelson with extensive new development of boudering areas in Grohman Narrows and nearby Robson. Mountaineers and alpine rock climbers head to the Valhalla Provincial Park in the Selkirk Mountains for long alpine routes on unique textured granite. The Mulvey Basin, Cougar Creek and Nemo Creek areas have routes ranging in grade from 5.4 to 5.12.
A walk down Historic Baker Street is a must for visitors. Maps for downtown and residential walking tours are available at the local Chamber of Commerce.
Nelson is also located close to Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.