History, Culture, and Attractions

From music to art,
Rupertites share their culture, making it a rich place to visit.

often called the “City of Rainbows,” prince rupert is a diverse place with rich local culture and a long history.

Wander our museums, galleries, historic buildings, and cultural places to discover a deep-rooted culture of diverse expression and artistic inspiration, built upon thousands of years of local history. 

the canneries of the north coast 

The North Pacific Cannery National Historic Site is a must-see. Just past the nearby village of Port Edward, about 30 km from Prince Rupert, the Cannery is a collection of wooden, tin-roofed buildings spread along a tidal river bank and connected by a series of boardwalks. Mullioned windows set high under the eaves stream a soft, filtered light on a scene of canning machinery, draped fishing nets, and artifacts depict working life on the coast. It’s a rustic and evocative place to spend a few hours wandering and getting some great photos. Built in 1889, the Cannery occupied a strategic spot in the Skeena River estuary, sheltered from the open ocean but with easy access to rich fishing grounds in Dixon Entrance and Hecate Strait. Until a road was built in the 1940s, its multicultural workforce of Japanese, Chinese, First Nations, and Europeans lived on-site in cottages and bunkhouses.

Just a little further down the road is the Cassiar Cannery, another holdover from history now converted into a guesthouse and visitor attraction.

Join a guide for a tour, or explore on your own through the interconnected buildings, boardwalks, and trails. Both canneries have converted their facilities into unique and migcal experiences, with the NPC mess hall converted into a great little seasonal café that serves fresh, historically-inspired lunches and a gift shop full of funky souvenirs and handmade wares from local artisans.

museums, art galleries, and local theatre

The Museum of Northern BC’s coastal longhouse style is a perfect fit for housing displays that represent thousands of years of local First Nations’ history. With enormous bark-stripped cedar posts and beams, high ceilings, and skylights, the building’s structure is almost as impressive as the collection inside. Exhibits that document the rich coastal First Nations culture, as well as the period of European contact, the presence of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1800s (and the resulting impact on coastal life, trade, and art), and the pioneer history of Prince Rupert. There’s evena small but exquisite collection that explores the mystical shamanic tradition in First Nations culture. In the Monumental Gallery, you have a chance to see how First Nations art is far from being simply history: pieces hundreds of years old are right beside ones recently created. Throw in the large sections of totem pole on display and huge floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on to the harbour, and you’ve got a great spot to sit and stare out at the scenery, while experiencing Rupert’s long history.

If contemporary art is your thing, the museum is also home to the Ruth Harvey Art Gallery, a space for rotating exhibitions by artists from around the region.To take a bit of art home with you, check out the gift shop, which has an excellent selection of coastal-influenced souvenirs, books, and other treasures. If that’s not enough, Rupert is full of small artist-owned galleries and larger cooperatives such as the Ice House Gallery in Cow Bay. Many local shops, cafes, restaurants, and hotels feature works of art on their walls or their tables that are available for purchase or at the very least, open admiration. Speaking of which, don’t forget to take in the murals all over town. They’re a point of pride for locals and it’s well-worth wandering around to see what you can find.

With an ear to the ground and a little planning, you’ll find that Rupert plays host to an array of artistic experiences that rival anything you’ll find in a larger community. On any particular weekend, especially in spring and fall, you’ll see posters around town advertising live local music. Tickets are typically under $20. Theatre is also alive and well in the city; small-town thespians pull big laughs during the summer stage festival and throughout the year there are dinner theatre events and other smaller productions.

Once or twice a month, you can catch shows featuring world-class dance troupes, international recording artists, or children’s entertainers at the local 700-seat performing arts centre or the smaller, more intimate playhouse. Often, local artists get the chance to open for these more established performers, which means you can support local talent while checking out a bigger show.

diversity & local culture

More than fifty percent of Prince Rupert’s population is made up of the several local First Nations, each of which has organizations that promote traditional artistry. Seeing dozens of men, women and children, cloaked in handmade button blankets and fantastical carved masks dancing and singing in full-throated unison, is a spine-tingling, unforgettable experience—if you get the chance, take it. Rupert also has a number of other cultural associations—Celtic, Portuguese, Filipino, and more. Each coordinates its own events periodically, dazzling the community with traditional dress, music, and dance. Look for posters or ask around; for the price of a ticket you often get dinner included—usually food associated with whichever culture is hosting. Most of these events are fundraisers too, with silent auctions on the side: you never know, you may just go home with that blender or hand-knitted touque you’ve always wanted.

And for photographers – Prince Rupert offers plenty of opportunities to capture inspiring imagery. Both the natural surroundings and the quirky buildings and businesses provide ample inspiration. Don’t miss the chance to snap a shot of the many murals, an interesting community project that saw artist Jeff King partner with local businesses and community groups to paint the towns otherwise plain backdrops with colourful scenes inspired by the coastal setting. Everyone has their favourite whether it is the swooping eagle adorning the side of one of the hotels, or the comical crabs in front of the seafood shop, they each tell an interesting story and add a funky dynamic to the town’s landscape.

A historic trade gateway

Prince Rupert’s deep harbour was touted from the early 1900s as a possible site for a world-class port. The city’s official founder, Charles Melville Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, was a tireless booster for the area’s potential. Although Prince Rupert only had a few thousand residents when it was incorporated in 1910, it seemed to be well on its way to becoming a place of note and substance.

Today, from any vantage point overlooking the water, one of Prince Rupert’s main economic drivers is immediately apparent in the numerous freighters from around the world anchored in the harbour. One of the main reasons that our community has developed over the past century is its location on such a safe, deep, ice-free anchorage, its location three days closer to Asian ports giving the Port of Prince Rupert a strategic advantage over other North American ports. Over the past decade, international shippers have taken note and Prince Rupert’s port business has grown exponentially. The Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) has spent the last decade encouraging the development of a multi-crane container port, as well as accommodating export facilities for grain, coal, and wood pellets. Prince Rupert is also a summer cruise ship destination.

find out more about the unique culture & heritage of Prince Rupert.