BC Mountain Towns: 48 Hours in Nelson

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A snow-covered downton street in British Columbia.

Downtown Nelson is a flurry of activity. Photo: Destination BC/Kari Medig

Its mountain-backed, lakeshore setting and Victorian architecture may exude a quiet charm, but Nelson is anything but subdued. Locals in this Kootenay Rockies city are entrepreneurial in spirit, passionate about the arts, and amped about outdoor play. They take their coffee seriously, too. Here’s our guide to 48 hours in Nelson.

See: Nelson is home to more than 350 Victoria heritage buildings, best viewed on foot. Grab a map at the Visitor Centre, and set off on a self-guided Heritage Walking Tour of the city’s commercial and residential wonders.

One such building? Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History, a stone Chateauesque-Richardsonian Romanesque (that’s a real thing) edifice on Vernon Street. Touchstones Nelson has had many lives; once a post office, and Nelson’s city hall, the museum now offers a glimpse into the city’s rich mining history.

When the sun sets, evening entertainment at Capitol Theatre offers its own drama, with live theatre, classical ballet, contemporary music, comedy performances, and more.

A cafe is nestled at the base of a snow-covered ski mountain.

The Fresh Tracks Cafe fuels skiers and snowboarders at Whitewater Ski Resort. Photo: Destination BC/Kari Medig

Do: Die-hard skiers and snowboarders revel in deep powder at nearby Whitewater Ski Resort. Set along BC’s Powder Highway, 25 minutes south of Nelson, Whitewater’s uncrowded slopes and excellent tree-skiing, steeps, and backcountry draw the faithful. Homemade burgers and wild game bratwurst at the Fresh Tracks Café Express, an on-mountain food truck parked all winter at the base of the Glory Chair, provide tempting fuel.

Post-ski adventure is equally alluring at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort, 45 minutes northeast of Nelson. First discovered by the Ktunaxa First Nations, Ainsworth’s healing, mineral-rich water—both in the pool and in the resort’s unique cave—is ideal for working out the kinks.

Eat: Getting a caffeine jolt from from Oso Negro is a Nelson ritual. The convivial Ward Street cafe offers more than 20 fair-trade blends, roasted on site; ask a local which brew is best.

An ice cold pint in a glass with the letter NBC on the side.

A pour from Nelson Brewing Company. Photo: BC Ale Trail

Organic Nelson Brewing Company ales are on tap at Mike’s Place Pub, an English-style tavern in the Hume Hotel & Spa. Order a pint and challenge a local to a game of pool. Post-game, take a stroll to Thor’s Pizzeria, a local haunt that serves up Hawaiian Poseidon’s Treat and hot and meaty Hades Inferno pies, among others.

The interior of busy dining room.

The convivial atmosphere at Cantina del Centro. Photo: Destination BC/Steve Ogle

Other options? Cantina del Centro promises Latin American flavours and a social atmosphere, while the All Seasons Cafe blends local staples and sensibilities. To end the day, check out The Falls Music Lounge in the Savoy Hotel, and sample a glass from one of the newest craft breweries to hit the Kootenay Rockies scene.

Sleep: Enjoy sweet slumber in a studio, two-, or three-bedroom suite, complete with kitchen, at Mistiso’s Place Vacation Rentals. Or opt for the Hume Hotel & Spa, an 1898 landmark that recently renovated its cosy spaces, but maintained its historic appeal.

For more information, or to find out what other adventures await in Nelson, visit nelsonkootenaylake.com.