Nelson's main attractions are, in order, the city itself and what's just beyond. As an introduction to the town's wonderful Victorian architecture, stop by the visitor center for brochures on the driving and walking tours of Nelson's significant heritage buildings.
Not to be missed are the château-style City Hall (now Touchstones Nelson museum), 502 Vernon St., and Nelson Court House, designed by F. M. Rattenbury, famed for his designs for the B.C. Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel, both of which continue to dominate Victoria. Note the three-story, turreted storefront at the corner of Baker and Ward streets, and the Mara-Barnard building, 421-431 Baker St., once the Royal Bank of Canada building, with elaborate brickwork and bay windows.
The story of Nelson's human history is told at the Touchstones Nelson -- Museum of Art and History, 502 Vernon St. (tel. 250/352-9813), which has a number of exhibits on the Native Ktunaxa and from the silver-mining days when Nelson was one of the richest towns in Canada. Two galleries are devoted to changing art exhibits. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm (Thurs till 8pm), and Sunday noon to 4pm. Admission is C$10 for adults, C$6 for seniors and students, C$4 children 7 to 18, and C$25 families.
Nelson has a number of beautiful parks. Gyro Park, at Vernon and Park streets, features formal gardens, an outdoor pool, and panoramic views of Kootenay Lake and the Selkirk Mountains. Lakeside Park, which flanks Kootenay Lake near the base of the Nelson Bridge, offers swimming beaches, tennis courts, and a playground.
You can explore Nelson's lakefront on foot on the Waterfront Pathway, which winds along the shore from near the Prestige Resort to Lakeside Park. Or, in summer, hop on the restored streetcar no. 23, which runs from Lakeside Park to Hall Street, along the waterfront. At the turn of the 20th century, Nelson had a streetcar system and was the smallest city in Canada to boast such public transport. The system fell out of use in the 1940s, but a stretch of the track remains intact. The streetcar runs on weekends only from Easter weekend to mid-June. It operates daily from mid-June to Labour Day, after which it resumes weekend-only operations until Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Tickets are C$3 for adults and C$2 for seniors and students.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.