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Where to Find the Best Arts and Culture Highlights in Nanaimo

Arts and Culture Highlights in Nanaimo

When you don’t feel like kayaking hiking, swimming or biking, you can always check out Nanaimo’s thriving arts and culture scene.

Since we moved here, Nanaimo has really come into its own, attracting more and more big city events like live theatre and concerts. Artists and music venues thrive in downtown Nanaimo where the studios live side-by-side with businesses and restaurants.

Click here for a complete calendar of events

Nanaimo Arts Centre

At the heart of the performing arts in Nanaimo is the Nanaimo Arts Centre. Located on Commercial Street, the Arts Centre is home to:

  • Nanaimo Centre Stage--multipurpose community theatre and performing arts venue
  • Nanaimo Art Gallery-- public art gallery
  • TheatreOne--Nanaimo’s professional theatre company
  • Vancouver Island Symphony--the Island’s symphony orchestra, based in Nanaimo
  • Crimson Coast Dance Society-- contemporary dance company

Nanaimos' Port TheatrePort Theatre

The Port Theatre is a beautiful 800-seat landmark theatre set on the stunning Nanaimo’s waterfront. It’s the city’s premiere performance venue.

Gabriola Island

Potters, painters, sculptors and writers love nearby Gabriola Island and I do too! It's only a 20-minute ferry ride from downtown. This little gem of an island is a quiet retreat, surrounded by sparkling ocean, dappled coastal forest, and driftwood strewn beaches. Check out the Gabriola Island Arts Council for more about what’s happening there.


By now if you’re thinking we’re too serious here in Nanaimo, think again. We LOVE to have fun, and sometimes, the sillier the better.

Nanaimo’s list of festivals is long and getting longer! Most famous, of course, is the Nanaimo bathtub race, held every year in late July. Brave mariners float their tub and race from Nanaimo’s harbour to Entrance Island, the Winchelsea Islands, and finish at Departure Bay.

Here’s a quick list of highlights:

  • Maple Sugar Festival—late February
  • Vancouver Island International Children’s Festival—early May
  • Empire Days—mid May
  • Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival—early July
  • International Bathtub Race—late July
  • Vancouver Island Exhibition—mid August
  • Summertime Blues—mid August
  • Nanaimo Pumpkin Festival—October
  • Festival of Trees—November
  • Kick off to Christmas—December



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