I’ve always considered visiting our neighbors to the North as an opportunity to visit Europe without leaving the continent or worrying about communication issues. Living on the west coast, venturing to the province which comprises the Pacific Northwest along with Oregon and Washington seems very appealing and reasonable. I am referring to the westernmost province of Canada, British Columbia! British Columbia, one of Canada’s 10 provinces boasts a wonderfully diverse population. Over forty major Aboriginal groups reside in the region and the large Asian communities have made Chinese and Punjabi the most spoken languages next to English. Here you will also find significant German, Italian, Japanese and Russian communities all contributing to a culmination of distinct architecture, language and cuisine.
British Columbia’s capital is the city of Victoria, the 15th largest metropolitan region in Canada. It is also one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest. The city has managed to preserve a large number of its historic buildings, in particular its two most famous landmarks, the British Columbia Parliament Building and the Empress Hotel which opened in 1908. The city’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America after San Francisco’s. Steve Nash, who received the NBA’s Most Valuable Player designation twice grew up in Victoria.
Known as the “City of Gardens”, Victoria is an attractive city and a well-liked tourist destination. Over 3.5 million visitors come to Victoria each year and contribute more than a billion dollars to the local economy. An additional 500,000 visitors arrive at Victoria via cruise ship. The city is a favorite port of call on the Pacific Northwest and Alaska cruise itineraries. Boaters flock to the city for its beautiful and rugged shorelines and beaches.
The Butchart Gardens located in Brentwood Bay near Victoria were begun in 1904 as an effort to restore a worked-out quarry site. The Japanese Garden was designed by Isaburo Kishida of Yokohama who had initially traveled from Japan to build a tea garden for Esquimalt Gorge Park in 1907. Designated a National Historic Site of Canada, the gardens host over a million visitors each year.
Nestled between the Coast Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, is B.C.’s largest city, Vancouver. For more than a decade, business magazine assessments have ranked Vancouver as one of the most livable cities worldwide where tourism is its second largest industry. Perhaps best known for its scenic beauty, Vancouver is one of those rare places where you could theoretically ski in the mountains, windsurf in the ocean, and play a round of golf all in the same day. The city is also the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada, where 52% of its residents do not speak English as their first language.
Established in 1867, the original settlement known Gastown, was based around the Hastings Mill sawmill and a nearby tavern. When the transcontinental railway was extended to the city in 1887, the city became a vital link in a trade route between the Orient, Eastern Canada, and London.
Today, the city is one of the largest film production centers in North America, earning it the of Hollywood North.
Finally, the province of British Columbia is also a nature lover’s paradise with 141 ecological reserves, 35 provincial marine parks, 4 national parks and 3 national park reserves. As a matter of fact, 12% or 44,000 sq. miles of British Columbia is currently considered protected territory.
Yoho National Park, located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains along the western slope of the Continental Divide covers 507 square miles and it is the smallest of the four contiguous national parks. Yoho, together with Jasper, Kootenay and Banff National Parks, along with three British Columbia provincial parks—Hamber Provincial Park, Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, and Mount Robson Provincial Park—form the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.
Photo Credits: Mika Panzaroni