New Westminster is located on the Burrard Peninsula, on the north bank of the Fraser River. It is 19 kilometres (12 mi) southeast of the City of Vancouver proper, adjacent to Burnaby and Coquitlam and across the Fraser River from Surrey. A portion of New Westminster called Queensborough is located on the eastern tip of Lulu Island, adjacent to Richmond. The total land area is 15.3 square kilometres (5.9 sq mi).
Notable New Westminster natives include singer/actor Alexz Johnson, musician/producer Devin Townsend, actor Raymond Burr, actor Aaron Douglas, race car driver Greg Moore, astronaut Robert Thirsk, magician "Mandrake the Magician" Leon Mandrake, actress Crystal Dahl, professional baseball player Justin Morneau, the MacArthur award winning poet Daryl Hine, actor Nicholas Lea and retired professional hockey player Bill Ranford.
With the completion of the transcontinental railway in 1886, trade began to shift to nearby Vancouver. Nonetheless, New Westminster weathered the loss, and remained an important industry and transportation centre. The local economy has always had a mix of industrial sectors, but it has evolved over the years, moving from a reliance on the primary resources of lumber and fishing in the 19th century, to heavy industry and manufacturing in the first half of the 20th century,[who?] to retail from the mid-1950s to the 1970s, to professional and business services in the 1990s, and finally to high-tech and fibre-optic industry in the early 21st century.
The city has several live performance venues, ranging from the Massey Theatre adjacent to New Westminster High School, to the Burr Theatre, a converted cinema on Columbia Street, and two theatrical venues in Queens Park (One being the Bernie Legge Theatre, home of the Vagabond Players, which were formed in 1937.) The Royal City Musical Theatre, a long-established New Westminster tradition, uses the Massey, while comedy and mystery theatricals use the stages in Queens Park. Also in Queens Park is the Queens Park Arena, longtime home to the legendary New Westminster Salmonbellies professional lacrosse team, as well as an open-air stadium used for baseball and field sports. The Burr Theatre (originally the Columbia Theatre), named for New Westminster native Raymond Burr, was operated by the Raymond Burr Performing Arts Society who produced professional -quality mysteries and comedies between October 2000 and January 2005. February 2005 saw the theatre reopen as a vaudeville theatre with three major productions by The Heartaches Razz Band and in February 2006 collaboration with The Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society produced the first Annual Vancouver International Burlesque Festival. The theatre was sold by the City of New Westminster through a public request for proposal process to the owner of Lafflines Comedy Club. After extensive renovations to convert it into a cabaret style theatre, it is now called The Columbia, home of Lafflines Comedy Club. Douglas College also offers post-secondary training in theatre, stagecraft and music, as well as non-credit courses in music for all ages and ability levels, through the Douglas College Community Music School. Theatre productions and music concerts at Douglas College take place in the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre and the smaller, more intimate Studio Theatre from September to April.