Being a tourist can be a tough gig. Sure, you’re on vacation and should be free of stress, but you want to be able to get the most out of a vacation to ensure you get your monies worth. Visiting a town you are unfamiliar with can be challenging. Most tourists want to see the main attractions of any city, but there is a lot to be said for also seeing some of the lesser known attractions that speak to the history and culture of the town and region you’re visiting. Tourists traveling through British Columbia, Canada would be wise to pay a visit to the city of New Westminster. Never heard of it? New Westminster has played an important historic role as the former capital of the Colony of British Columbia. Today, New Westminster is a vital city in the municipality of the Greater Vancouver Regional District. So what are the best things to do when visiting New Westminster? In truth, there is no wrong answer, but there are certain destinations that no visitor should get. These activities provide insight into the history and culture of New Westminster and the greater British Columbia region.

Irving House

The Irving House is part of the greater New Westminster Museum and Archives. The house was built in 1865 by Captain William Irving and dates back to New Westminster’s time as the provincial capital. Inside the house you’ll find 14 fully furnished rooms with Victorian era décor. The costumed guides really make for a unique experience as they help bring you back in time as you view the original, ornate ceilings and marble fireplaces. The museum itself provides visitors with a look at New Westminster’s role in British Columbia’s history from its founding as the “Royal City” in 1859, as well as some of its enduring contributions like the May Day celebration. A fun fact, New Westminster’s May Day celebration is the oldest continuous celebration in the British Commonwealth.

Hyack Festival

Speaking of New Westminster’s May Day celebration, the Hyack Festival is not to be missed. The Hyack Festival, as it is commonly known in New Westminster, is held over Victoria Day weekend. While there are numerous activities that can be enjoyed by tourists, the Hyack Festival International Parade is the true highlight of the celebration. The international parade serves as the climax of the Hyack Festival and is almost like British Columbia’s version of Mardi Gras. Annually there are around 140 entrants from the province and the United States, featuring marching bands, creative and colourful floats, and clowns who interact mischievously with onlookers.

Paddlewheeler River Boat Tours

Now that you’ve enjoyed more upbeat and mentally engaging activities in New Westminster, it is time to soak in the natural beauty of the region in style on a river boat. The M.V. Paddlewheeler River Boat embarks from the docks of New Westminster Quay and provides guests with a great view of local wildlife and historical locales. Longer cruises take visitors to the Hudson Bay Company’s original trading post at Fort Langley. The boat will dock at Fort Langley and allow visitors to disembark to take in the historic surroundings, shops, museums, and antique shops. The paddlewheeler itself is designed after the original vessels that traveled British Columbia’s waterways over one hundred years ago. There is a wealth of activities awaiting tourists in New Westminster. Some of them are well-known and visited by thousands of tourists, while others are more common among residents of the city. Whatever your reason for visiting this corner of British Columbia, make sure you don’t skip out on these three activities when you visit the Royal City.