A misconception exists that Aboriginal travel experiences can only be enjoyed amid nature and rural settings with vast amounts of forest or ocean. The truth is Indigenous communities have been and continue to be vital contributors to the arts and culture scene in metropolitan areas across Canada.
In Vancouver and its nearby municipalities, visitors can enjoy an entire stay complete with Aboriginal activities, including fine dining, world-class art experiences, and luxury hotel stays.
Here’s your guide to spending 72 hours experiencing Aboriginal culture in and around Vancouver, an ideal itinerary for a vacation, or staycation, this fall.
Check in to Skwachays Lodge, the Aboriginal-themed hotel in Vancouver’s Gastown district. Skwachays features First Nations art and decor, an artists-in-residence program, and a gallery on its ground floor that spotlights Indigenous art from around the province. Far more than just a place to call home for a few days, Skwachays quickly immerses you into the culture and heritage of the region’s Aboriginal people.
After you’ve settled into your room, walk about one kilometre west to the Bill Reid Gallery for an exploration of Haida art. Widely collected around the world, Haida sculptures, jewelry, and paintings have become a hot item in the art world. Reid was a 20th-century master and one of the most important artists British Columbia has ever produced. The son of an American father and Haida mother, Reid became arguably the most famous Haida artist in the world during his lifetime. This gallery showcases his work as well as the Haida culture.
Wrap up your day by satiating your hunger at Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro, a fine-dining restaurant on Broadway that specializes in dishes featuring its namesake ingredients. Among the favourites are Bannock Tacos and the Salmon n’ Bannock Burger.
Take a road trip to the Fraser Valley, where shopping and dining finds await.
At Cheam Trading Post, you’ll be able to get your holiday shopping done early. This retail outlet features arts, crafts, and culinary delights from Aboriginal communities in the area. Owned and operated by members of the Stó:lō Nation, Cheam Trading Post has gifts for the art lover, foodie, history buff, and fashionista on your gift list. Cheam is located near Agassiz, about 115 kilometres east of downtown Vancouver.
Find more art in historic Fort Langley at Lelem’ Arts and Cultural Cafe. Designed to reflect tradition, Lelem’ is a celebration of Aboriginal creativity and cuisine. In Fort Langley, a Parks Canada National Historic Site, it gives entertainment and art a place to shine. Its cafe offers local cuisine with an Aboriginal accent that is sure to please.
Venture north to Squamish, where you’ll catch a ride on one of the top attractions in British Columbia. The Sea-to-Sky Gondola has earned international praise for the experiences it offers and new in 2017 is the Talking Trees Tours from Talaysay Tours. During this 90-minute hike in the forests at the Sea-to-Sky Summit, you’ll learn about the trees and history of the area from an Aboriginal perspective. It’s the rare tourism experience that’s both educational and emotionally moving.
Keep driving north for more culture in Whistler. The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is named after the two First Nations groups that have occupied the territory in and around Whistler for thousands of years. The facility guides visitors though the history of these people and spotlights their camaraderie, which has helped them both strive and survive. Of great interest will be the canoe displays, including some vessels that continue to be used today.
Looking to experience more of BC’s Aboriginal culture? Start here: