With its idyllic lakeside setting and 350-plus heritage buildings dating from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, NELSON is one of BC’s best towns, and one of the few interior settlements in which you could happily spend two or three days, longer if you use it as a base for touring the Kootenays by car. The elegant town is famed – and often slightly ridiculed – for having more than its fair share of hipsters and dreadlocked refugees from the mainstream, but they’ve certainly helped to nurture a young, friendly, civilized and close-knit community with a healthy cultural scene. The liberal liveliness manifests itself in wholefood cafés, hemp stores and secondhand shops. There’s also a high concentration of artists and craftspeople, and the town’s Chinese medicine school and its Kootenay School of the Arts attract students from all over North America. The town’s claim to cinematic fame is as the location of Roxanne, Steve Martin’s spoof of Cyrano de Bergerac.
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In July and August a dozen or so of Nelson’s shops, studios and galleries display the works of local artists to create a self-guided walking tour called Artwalk (the visitor centre has details). At other times Craft Connection, 441 Baker St, is a particularly good gallery to seek out.