When I was younger, my friends used to call Saint John “The John,” which is a highly misleading name for such a flourishing and beautiful city! As a Saint John native, I had a wonderful childhood there – and I appreciate it even more when I visit the city as an adult. From Halifax (my newfound home), I can make it to Saint John in 3.5 hours – although I’m told it takes four hours if you drive the speed limit. Totally weekend-able either way! In fact, our family is going there this weekend and I can’t wait.
Family Activities in Saint John
Irving Nature Park
Located on the West Side of the city, the Irving Nature park is a beautiful spot year-round. It has trails of varying length so you can hike it with kids of all ages. The Bay of Fundy views are pretty great if you catch a nice day (forewarning: the West Side can get foggy)!
I have many childhood memories of Rockwood Park. From swimming and hiking in the summer to skating and cross-country skiing in the winter, I’ve done it all. There’s a petting zoo, a playground, and even a small restaurant there. Last Christmas, my parents arranged a sleigh ride for the family. It was freeeeeeeezing but we still had fun!
Exploring Uptown Saint John
I love spending time in uptown Saint John. As one of the oldest cities in North America, the buildings are beautiful! Make sure you find some of the cool murals throughout the city. While you’re at it, stop in to Rogue Coffee. I’m not a coffee drinker but everyone raves about it!
On Germain Street, you’ll find a few of my family’s favourite spots: Trinity Church, which is a beautiful building, Trinity Galleries – a great art gallery, and Backstreet Records for the music lovers. That’s my mom in front of the church – she was their Parish Nurse for a number of years!
Shopping is not my activity of choice when I’m visiting Saint John, but I will often pop in to Lordon for the latest in women’s fashion, or to Paddington Station to get a cute outfit or toy for the kids. Oh, and of course we like to visit the candy store (Freak Lunch Box) on King Street.
A visit to Saint John would not be complete without visiting King Square (at the top of King Street), and if you have kids, you might want to hit up the Saint John Public Library in Market Square. We like to stop there so the kids can play (and – let’s face it – use the washroom). Don’t forget to check out what’s playing at the beautiful Imperial Theatre!
That said, my favourite thing to do in Saint John is to visit the Markets. First is the Saint John City Market, which is a sight to behold, and also one of my favourite spots to grab something to eat.
Second is the Queen Square Farmers’ Market, which is an outdoor market -rain or shine – and it’s well worth the visit! There are so many great food vendors, artisans, musicians, and farmers, of course. We always eat like kings when we are there, and we always run in to people we know. It’s got a real community vibe! I also love that they place blankets out for people to use. The market is open Sundays 9am-2pm from Mother’s Day to Thanksgiving weekend.
Where to Eat In Saint John
Here are my restaurant recommendations, in alphabetical order:
East Coast Bistro – Fine dining, French cuisine. A favourite date spot among my family and friends. No kids’ menu, but they are happy to make a child-friendly meal upon request. Open for lunch and dinner.
Italian By Night – High end Italian restaurant. I’m a sucker for oven-fired pizza. Dinner only.
Marci’s Salads – please note: due to travel restrictions, I haven’t been able to eat here yet but I have heard great things from my fellow Saint Johners so I think it’s worth a mention.
Saint John Ale House – Pub atmosphere with local, seasonal eats. Kids’ menu has great value. This is the perfect patio spot in the summer! Lunch and dinner spot.
Slocum & Ferris – located in the Saint John City Market, the owners are friendly and kind. I especially love their breakfast, but if you go at lunch, you will surely see my dad eating there!
Thandi – Asian Fusian. I really like Indian food so that’s why this is on my list, but they have plenty of other options. Kids’ menu available. Open for lunch and dinner.
Urban Deli – casual atmosphere with soups, sandwiches, burgers and salads. Cool casual spot for lunch.
Vegolution – Vegetarian Restaurant. I’m not vegetarian and I find the food delicious! The restaurant is small and they don’t take reservations, which is challenging with kids because there is often a wait. No kids’ menu but they do have one “Kids plate” available. Works for me! Open for lunch and dinner.
Alright, I fully admit I’m biased here. I grew up in Rothesay so of course I find it charming – but it’s picture-perfect! The Renforth Wharf is a great spot for swimming in the summer or skating in the winter. It also has some spectacular sunsets!
Saint John has so much to offer that it was hard to choose my favourite spots. Although I no longer call it home, I spend many weekends, and some full weeks in Saint John every year and I never run out of things to do. Saint John is a gem of a city that more Maritimers should put on their bucket list!