Our Culture

Cultured by Nature

The Nelson and Kootenay Lake culture is a culmination of our natural surroundings, arts, and heritage combined with the spice of the people who live here. Everywhere you go you will feel the vibe that we value and embrace: The Kootenay Vibe.  


With more heritage buildings per capita than anywhere in British Columbia, history defines the Nelson and Kootenay Lake region. From heritage sites like the SS Moyie in Kaslo to our Electric Tramway in Nelson, history here is alive, shared, and shaped by the people drawn to this region: we are Dreamers and Dissidents, as noted by local filmmaker Amy Bouhigan’s award-winning film that captures the spirit of our heritage. It’s all about the people, and the people are fascinating. To learn more about our people and our place, you can check out the Our Place video series on local dreamers, artists, and creators.

Indigenous Culture 

Our land is part of the traditional territories of the Sinixt, the Sylix, and the Ktunaxa peoples, and is home to many diverse Indigenous persons including the Metis. Our indigenous history is rich and can be read on our website, or experienced at the permanent gallery at The Nelson Museum, Archives & Gallery

Museums & Galleries 

To capture some of this heritage, our region invests in galleries and museums that stray far from staid: vibrant, creative and cutting- edge, our local museums live and breathe Nelson and Kootenay Lake culture. Places in Nelson such as The Nelson Museum, Oxygen Art Centre, Kootenay School of the Arts, and Kaslo's The Langham Cultural Centre, infuse our region with an authentic vibe, complementing our many art galleries capturing our culture perfectly. 

Shopping, Dining & Artisans 

From artisans whose studios populate the highway along Balfour, to vibrant downtown shopping districts in Nelson, Crawford Bay, and Kaslo, we’ve got a heady local economy which makes shopping fun. And when you get hungry, stop in for a bite at one of our many local cafes and restaurants. We’ve got more restaurants per capita than San Fransisco or New York - there’s plenty to choose from. 

Theatres & Films

We value our history, arts and culture, and places to experience them. When Nelson’s Civic Theatre threatened to close, volunteers rallied together and reopened it as a community-funded theatre. It is now thriving alongside the popular renovated Capitol Theatre and contemporary Oxygen Art Centre in Nelson. As well, the Langham Cultural Centre in Kaslo, renovated over the years, brings in astounding films and live theatre. Our cities also boast venues featuring live music, theatre and performances to rival much larger centres. 

Natural Surroundings 

All this, set in the magical surroundings of Kootenay Lake and the Selkirk and Purcell mountains. Many parks and recreational areas, and the notable First Nation owned Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort, all welcome you to explore our area. The natural wonders of this place have given rise to incredible communities of outdoor lovers of all kinds. Winter sports, mountain biking, hiking, and many other activities have strong followings with storied histories in the area.


The Region

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Read our visitors guide online or order a copy of the official visitor's guide and map for our region.