Arts, Culture and History - Tourism Nanaimo

As the heart of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo is home to a diverse collection of creative artists, musicians, actors, writers, and artisans. With a history of collaboration, an ecology of acceptance, and a community of creativity, Nanaimo is a natural environment where culture thrives.

The Snuneymuxw First Nation settled in what would eventually become Nanaimo, and played a big role in the region becoming known as one of the biggest sources of coal on the west coast of North America. The Snuneymuxw people are working with the community to create a just foundation for future generations of First People, demonstrating their strength, perseverance, and endurance.

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"Nanaimo has a little bit of something for everybody, and I think it does that little bit of everything really well.It's a place where you can discover passions that you didn't even know you had."
Miranda Smith
"I look forward to meeting you on Saysutshun (Newcastle Island) and sharing the stories of my Snuneymuxw people. You will learn about the importance of a number of sacred places and will gain a deeper understanding of our people's way of life on the island."
David Bodaly
"The Cedar - Yellowpoint Area is an awesome rural community that is tucked in between the city, the ocean and the mountains. There are cool restaurants & pubs, tons of unique artists and farms offering a variety of neat experiences for locals and visitors."
Theo Fredrich
Nanaimo’s History
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Nanaimo’s History
As the province’s third-oldest city, we’ve been an active part in the development of British Columbia and Vancouver Island since we were incorporated in 1874. While coal was a huge component of our initial economy, we’ve become a diverse community offering goods and services enjoyed around the world every day.

Explore the streets and neighbourhoods of Nanaimo to see many of the buildings and parks that were erected in the early days of our development. Check out the On This Spot app (available for Android and iPhone) to compare pictures of yesteryear with what we’ve grown to today – it’s an interesting way to see how much we’ve developed over the years.

The Nanaimo Museum
Explore a coal miner’s cabin and see what life was like working in the coal mines of Nanaimo. Learn about the Hudson Bay Trading Company and why the Bastion is one of the region’s most recognized landmarks. Take an interactive journey to experience daily life in a traditional longhouse with the Snuneymuxw community, and then visit our Sports Hall of Fame to see our contribution to the world of sports. The Nanaimo Museum Is an engaging and informative experience in downtown Nanaimo.

Vancouver Island Military Museum
Celebrate our Canadian Military history at this comprehensive curated collection of Canadian wartime memorabilia. Learn about our military presence around the world and meet the volunteers who share their stories and personal wartime experiences on guided tours and interactive displays and exhibits.
Saysutshun
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Saysutshun
Saysutshun (Newcastle Island) is a place of natural beauty, history and Coast Salish culture. This tiny paradise, traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, is accessible from Maffeo Sutton Park by boat or ferry, and provides a gorgeous environment for campers, hikers, kayakers, birdwatchers, and anyone who enjoys the natural setting. Explore the island trails to discover panoramic views, sandstone quarries, and remnants of yesteryear's coal sites. Take a cultural walking tour with your Snuneymuxw First Nation guide and learn about the history and importance of this land. Stop by the Saysutshun Bistro and enjoy traditional Coast Salish food.
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Nanaimo Art Galleries
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Nanaimo Art Galleries
The Nanaimo Art Gallery is recognized locally, nationally, and internationally as a positive contributor to the global art community. Through collaborative efforts with museums across the country and around the world, they offer exhibits and displays that aren’t available anywhere else in the province.

Visit the Nanaimo Art Gallery to experience the masterful works of local artists, such as Marianne Nicolson’s Inquiry to Newcomers, installed at the rear of the Nanaimo Art Gallery, as well as visiting exhibits from other galleries. Or enjoy some hands-on time in the Art Labs for kids, teens, or adults – unleash your creative spirit and see what you’re capable of. Admission to the gallery is by donation, and they’re open six days per week in the spring and fall.
Shopping in Nanaimo
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Shopping in Nanaimo
Shopping in Nanaimo gives you the best of all worlds, from major big name retailers to funky one-of-a-kind shops and boutiques. Nanaimo boasts more than a dozen indoor and outdoor malls, including the largest shopping centre on Vancouver Island.

It’s for good reason that Nanaimo has been named the Island’s “shopping mecca.” Many of the major brand name retailers you know and love are located along the old Island Highway 19A in one of the city’s many fine quality shopping centres including: Port Place Shopping Centre, Country Club Centre, Nanaimo North Town Centre, and Woodgrove Centre, the largest shopping centre on Vancouver Island.

Downtown Nanaimo features three distinct shopping districts: The Arts District in the city core, the Old City Quarter up the hill, and the Waterfront District along the Harbourfront Walkway, each offering distinctive shops and services.
Performing Arts
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Performing Arts
Diversity is embraced and encouraged in the Harbour City, enabling high calibre creativity for all. Canadian music icons Diana Krall, David Gogo, and Allison Crowe were all born in Nanaimo, and have earned respect globally for their contributions to the world of bluegrass and jazz.

From indoor to outdoor venues, Nanaimo offers live music and theatre performances that helped it earn the title Cultural Capital of Canada.
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