Nestled up against the Selkirk Mountains is the charming town of Nelson, British Columbia, also known as the Heritage Capital, and once called the Queen of the Kootenays.
Tree-lined streets throughout the town create a wonderful backdrop for the 350 tenderly restored heritage buildings honoring the pioneers who built this beautiful little community.
Bring your walking shoes because this is the place for walking and taking the time to appreciate the old Victorian buildings, art galleries, busy coffee shops and outdoor cafes. Its entirely possible to see performing artists and artisans and street musicians during your travels.
Strolling along the streets of this vibrant community places visitors in the middle of a diverse population mixed with old established families and a blend of people who gravitated here for a simpler lifestyle and the well supported arts community.
Rest your feet and climb aboard Streetcar No. 23, part of the Nelson Street Railway that operated from 1925 to 1949, as it meanders along the shore of Kootenay Lake and beautiful Lakeside Park. Don’t bring your dog, please, there’s a bylaw against having dogs in the downtown area, but they’re welcome everywhere else.
Every Saturday the West Kootenay EcoSociety invites everyone to the Cottonwood Farmers Market while Wednesday is the day to attend the Nelson Downtown Local Market.
Shopping for fresh vegetables and local crafts is interesting and it’s difficult to ignore the beautiful fresh produce you’ll want to take back to your RV. Shopping in the downtown core is a delightful experience even for those who aren’t avid shoppers.
If two young men hadn’t stumbled upon a copper-silver deposit in 1886, Nelson would probably have never been established. Around 400 tents were set up during the next winter by the hundreds of miners who rushed here in search of their fortunes.
There were numerous arguments and serious discussions about the name of the town which originally was called Salisbury and then Stanley. They needed to register a formal name for the Post Office but the name Stanley was already being used elsewhere in the province so they chose Nelson after the Lieutenant Governor Hugh Nelson.
Although mining was what brought the original settlers to the area, the economy became dependent on the forest industry and is still very important today. Eleven years after that first discovery of silver the town was incorporated with over 3,000 residents, many beautiful homes, hotels, churches, a court house and jail, a school and BC’s very first hydro electric generating plant. Nelson was here to stay.
Nelson’s Memorial Park Cemetery
Located at the top of Falls Street the cemetery is the resting place to approximately 11,500 earlier residents who contributed to the development of the city. Enjoy a self guided tour along the beautiful tree-lined walkways while reading the epitaphs of some of the famous occupants.
Nelson City Campground
Although not large, the city campground is within walking distance of the downtown core, the lake and is the perfect base to explore this delightful and interesting town. Open from May 1 to Sept. 30 there are seven full-service sites; 20 sites with electricity; and four sites for RV units up to 40 feet.
Camping fees are reasonable and 100 percent of the funds goes to the Nelson and District Youth Center.
Originally opened in 1927, this beautifully restored theater is home to many regional and local theater groups. Performances by musicians, students and artists take place year-round and are open to the traveling public.
Before arriving in town, visit their website to learn about the upcoming shows and purchase tickets online to avoid disappointment.
Things to do around Nelson
Although this is a year-round destination for thousands of people the summer months are perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities. Bring your bikes or rent one from one of the local bike shops because the trails for mountain biking are extensive.
The town itself can be quite hilly in some sections providing a bit of a challenge but the area around Lakeside Park is pleasant for riding.
Kootenay Lake activities
This is the perfect area for water sports including boating, fishing, swimming and paddling with rentals available for visitors who don’t have their own equipment. Lakeside Park and nearby Kokanee Creek Provincial Park are both popular destinations.
The closest golf course to town is the Granite Pointe Golf Club with beautiful views of the Kokanee Glacier, Kootenay Lake and, of course, Nelson itself. For a bit of variety there’s another three courses within a short 30-minute drive and one across a short ferry ride at Balfour with even more beautiful views.
The Kootenay area is known for their hot springs and Ainsworth Hot Springs is only a 45-minute drive from Nelson with a very unique horseshoe-shaped cave and three pools. After a day biking, hiking or golfing the mineral water will relax your body and ease any sore muscles you may have.
If anyone is looking for a bit of excitement during their visit to Nelson, there’s always the Kokanee Mountain Zipline to thrill you and take your breath away as you soar through the trees on six individual ziplines. Even those who hesitate to join in will have a smile on their face at the end of the ride, it’s that awesome.
Kokanee Glacier Park has some of the best hiking trails for every level including a short hike along a boardwalk that even families can enjoy. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy as you relax along the lake shore at Gibson Lake.
Kokanee Creek Provincial Park has a beautiful beach, 160 campsites and a playground area for the children. There is so much to see and do here it can be a destination by itself. Of course since the lake is right there all kinds of water sports are extremely popular but take the time to enjoy the hiking trails, wildlife viewing platforms, and attend the interpretive programs.
End the day sitting around the campfire with your friends talking about the wonderful day you have just had. Make a reservation though because this park is very popular with both tourists and locals.
Although the population of Nelson is just more than 10,000 residents, the atmosphere here is electric, colorful and vibrant. Whether your interests are inclined towards arts and culture, outdoor recreation, relaxation, historic sites, fine dining, or the theater there is something here for everyone. Make Nelson, British Columbia, the Queen of the Kootenays, your next destination.
Nelson’s Heritage Buildings — http://kootenay-lake.ca/lakeside/Nelson/heritage/
Nelson City Campground — http://www.nelson.ca/EN/main/residents/community-facilities/city-campground.html
Ainsworth Hot Springs — http://www.hotnaturally.com/our-water/
Kokanee Mountain Zipline — http://www.zipkokanee.com