British Columbia

Tourist in Your Town: 4 highlights of New Westminster

New West resident Neal Michael takes On the Coast's Lisa Christiansen on a tour of some favourite spots in his home community.

New Media Gallery, Pier Park, cafe and brewery among attractions of the 'Royal City'

Neal Michael says the personal tours by staff at the popular New Media Gallery make difficult-to-understand works 'completely comprehensible'. (Lisa Christiansen/CBC)

Tourist in Your Town is On The Coast's summer series. Producer Lisa Christiansen visits communities in the Lower Mainland to explore hidden gems you'll want to check out for a summer visit.

Neal Michael moved to the Royal City in 2007 and he is struck by the changes even in one short decade.

New attractions contrast with historic landmarks such as Columbia Street, which used to be called The Golden Mile. It dates back to the brief time in the 1850s when New West was the first capital of British Columbia. 

"It was the big hub of ostensibly the Lower Mainland,"  Michael said. "That's when New West was really burgeoning."

Michael  took CBC on a tour of some of the Royal City's attractions, starting with the New Media Gallery.

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New Media Gallery

There are no paintings, drawings or other traditional forms of art at the New Media Gallery.

Gordon Duggan, one of the director/curators of the gallery, says the international art exhibitions include: "Video art, sound art, light art, robotic art, interactive art, bio art, genetic art, net art. Anything with more science or technology."

For Michael, a highlight of the gallery, which opened nearly three years ago, is the personal tour provided by one of the curators to every single visitor.  

"That's really one of the things that drew myself in as well as all our friends that come out," Michael said.

"They make what could be really difficult or challenging-to-understand art completely comprehensible," he said.

"You leave not feeling like, 'Oh man, I don't know what happened in there.'"

New Westminster resident Neal Michael says Pier Park reflects efforts to reconnect the city with its historic waterfront. (Lisa Christiansen/CBC)

Westminster Pier Park

Across the train tracks that separate the city from its waterfront is what Michael calls "one of the real gems of the city," Westminster Pier Park.

"It used to be an old brownfield site that they redeveloped into this gorgeous park," he said. "The River Market  combined with the park was a real big win."

The park's design echoes the natural and industrial features of the waterfront. 

"If this park was in any other bigger city people would just be flocking here in droves," Michael said.

Old Crow Coffee

Old Crow Coffee occupies a historic space with a cavelike feeling on New West's Front Street.

Stephanie Vu, one of the partners in the business, says local lore is that the building was formerly a rugby club, and long ago, a crematory.

The owners offered extra space in the building as a venue for workshops, meetings and music events and it has become a community hub. 

Old Crow Coffee features a gathering space for workshops, concerts and other community events. (Lisa Christiansen/CBC)

Michael's final tour stop is the Steel & Oak Brewing Co. at the far end of the boardwalk under the Third Avenue Overpass. 

In amongst the auto body shops, it fills the air with the sweet smell of hops and barley.

With files from CBC's On The Coast and Lisa Christiansen.