In British Columbia, Canada, the first Monday of August is a provincial holiday called BC Day. It’s always a great chance for BC residents to get to enjoy outdoor activities in the nice weather. As the province on the western coast of Canada, British Columbia boasts Pacific Ocean views, numerous local mountains for outdoor sports and leisure activities, and Vancouver Island getaways.
History of BC
British Columbia was home to a variety of indigenous First Nations groups prior to any European contact. The First Nations tribes spoke over 30 languages and existed in communities along the coast. Juan José Pérez Hernández is the first explorer to have documented arrival in BC in 1774. Four years later, James Cook also reached BC, via Nootka Sound, and began trading with the locals. The BC natives proved to be valuable to the global fur trade. The sea otter fur pelts from BC drew fur traders to the Canadian coast in increasing number. James Douglas established Victoria, which became the province’s capital city, when he came to build a new center for the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The Gold Rush brought another wave of expansion to the province in the 1860s. Small areas became cities, and roads and railways were built to make BC more accessible. Development and influx of inhabitants continued, with the 1950s to 60s being another high point of exponential growth. The finished Trans Canada Highway linked BC to the rest of Canada, and bridges and the BC Ferries connected local residents and businesses.
BC’s history as a gathering place for people from all over the world is reflected in its diversity that remains a characteristic of the province today.
Lower Mainland Culture
While most people around the world are familiar with Vancouver, which hosted both Expo ’86 and the Winter 2010 Olympics, it may not be common knowledge that the city of Vancouver is surrounded by cities and suburbs that make up what locals call the Greater Vancouver Lower Mainland Area (or for easier speech, Lower Mainland).
Half of BC’s population lives in the Vancouver area, and the city reflects the mix of cultures and people that is true to BC. Vancouver is home to First Nations peoples and generations of Chinese, Punjabi, Italian, Japanese, German and European groups. This rich variety of cultures is seen in the Lower Mainland’s food scene. Vancouver is known to its locals and visitors for its quality and range of cuisine styles, from sushi, dim-sum, South Asian, Greek, Malaysian, Middle Eastern, West Coast seafood to fine dining, food trucks and specialty ice cream shops.
The different neighborhoods and events in the Lower Mainland are consistent with the diversity of its locals. Chinatown and Steveston are steeped in the longstanding history of Chinese and Japanese locals as part of Vancouver’s genes. Richmond is the top city in Canada for visible minorities with its predominant Asian residents.
The downtown area is an example of some of things central to Vancouver’s culture: The Vancouver Art Gallery is one of a number of art galleries in town. Vancouver Film School, animation studios and broadcasting headquarters show the importance of art and media to the business culture. Artisans are blending creativity with business, as evidenced by local craftsmen, designers, breweries, boutiques and concept stores.
Vancouver is also known in the film industry as Hollywood North. The film industry in Vancouver makes both the city and the surrounding areas an affordable place for American film and TV projects. Once Upon a Time, Fringe, and the X-Men, Twilight and Mission Impossible franchises all shot on location in the Vancouver area, to name a few.
The sports stadiums in town represent the athletic culture of the city. The Vancouver Canucks, BC Lions, Vancouver Whitecaps, and many other sports teams add to the energy of the Lower Mainland. However, the active culture of Vancouver is not contained to the professional sports teams. Individuals and families alike find themselves with many options for year-round athletics.
The natural landscape of the Vancouver area makes it a given that outdoors activity is a huge part of local culture. Classic activities include biking around Stanley Park’s seawall, beach volleyball, hiking the Grouse Grind, snowboarding and skiing in Whistler, and walking across the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
Cultural events that Vancouverites take part in are numerous. Outdoor concerts, cultural festivals like Powell St. Festival and Caribbean Days Festival, the Pride Parade, and Vancouver International Film Festival are just a few of the events that are attended.
The stark difference between the affluent West Vancouver and Downtown Eastside neighborhoods make it undeniable that there are honest issues for the city, province and nation to continue to work on: homelessness, poverty, mental health, education, drugs, and responsibility.
Notable Figures from BC: David Suzuki, Douglas Coupland, Steve Nash, Michael Bublé, Michael J. Fox, Ryan Reynolds, Jim Pattison, and Coco Rocha.
Getaways and Activities Outside Lower Mainland
Even though a significant portion of BC residents live in the Lower Mainland, there is much more to British Columbia:
An important part of the province, and happens to be the largest Pacific island eastward of New Zealand. It is home to the capital city of Victoria, Nanaimo, Qualicum Beach, and beach resorts like Tofino and Ucleulet. Vancouver Island is the mildest place in Canada, as it falls in a rainforest biome. Its lush landscape makes the island a beautiful and peaceful retreat from the busyness of Lower Mainland on the other side of the water. People can visit Vancouver Island to fish, hike, surf, whale watch, and explore.
A short drive away from the Lower Mainland, and is a great source of leisure, recreational and athletic fun for visitors of any age. Zip-lining, hiking, bungee jumping, skiing, and snowboarding are a few options.
Nearest major American city south of BC. When Vancouverites want to enjoy the food, culture and activities of a different city, Seattle is only a few hours’ drive away. NFL and MLB games make for great reasons for a long weekend getaway.
The Okanagan Valley
Lies west of the Lower Mainland, and is a popular area to visit. Wineries and orchards are draws in the summer, and Big White ski resort is a winter hotspot. Kelowna, Osoyoos and Penticton are all popular Okanagan spots to visit.
All of these are some of the aspects that make up the province known as Beautiful British Columbia.
It is a province well worth celebrating, and hopefully all our readers living outside of BC will enjoy a good meal or time out in nature as well.