Saint John Things to Do

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Best Rated Things to Do in Saint John

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    An amazing CITY MARKET

    by 850prc Updated Dec 6, 2009

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    The Saint John City Market on Charlotte Street officially opened in 1876. This represented a consolidation of four separate markets, located throughout the city prior to those dates. From that point some 140 years ago, this market has been serving the citizens and visitors to Saint John with a wide variety of fresh local good and trade items. The City Market is one of the more prominent sections of Saint John to be spared destruction in the "Great Fire of 1877".

    Fast forward to "today" our our tip, we love city markets, especially good ones. We always find our way, for example, to Viktuelenmarkt when we're in Munich. This City Market in Saint John is one of the nicest and most useful we've ever visited. If I lived in Saint John proper, I'd be down here buying vegetables and fruit every other day.

    There are hundreds of merchants serving the City Market, selling everything from groceries and produce to specialty food products, meat, seafood, coffee, wine and even handicraft items. If you'd like to see an interactive map of all the City Market Merchants, check the "other" item down below - it's a link to the interactive map of the market.

    This is also an excellent place to eat lunch, or have a cup of morning coffee - both of which we did. :) PLEASE SEE MY SEPARATE CITY MARKET TRAVELOGUE FOR MORE PHOTOS OF THIS WONDERFULLY ENTERTAINING SAINT JOHN LOCALE.

    An overview of the City Market

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    The Old Burial Ground

    by 850prc Updated Dec 6, 2009

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    As you've perhaps read on my earlier entries, Saint John was essentially settled by loyalist fleeing the result of the American Revolution. So basically, the community sprang forth right after the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty, in 1783.

    As in any city where people come and live, they eventually pass on - and they established a town burial ground. This cemetary space was placed in land that now is in the middle of historic Saint John, just a bit northwest of King's Square. Go to the corner of King's and Sydney Streets.

    The Old Burial Grounds are filled with the remains of Saint John's first settlers, the loyalists who left America. There are many graves marking the final resting place for members of the militia and the King's armies as well.

    If you enjoy historic cemetaries - as do we - this is time well spent. Both historic and picturesque, you'll enjoy your visit. PLEASE SEE MY SEPARATE OLD BURIAL GROUNDS TRAVELOGUE FOR MORE PHOTOS OF THIS BEAUTIFUL, PEACEFUL PLACE.

    Flower-bedecked 18th century grave

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    The County Hall's Spiral Staircase

    by 850prc Updated Dec 6, 2009

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    We were told by one of the streetside tour guides (see my note about how helpful and proud Saint John residents were about showing visitors the special sites) about the County Hall's spiral staircase.

    While it's pretty amazing on its own, there's more (or actually less) than you'd imagine. Our resident tour guide tells us that when they were building the County Hall, they wanted to put in a staircase, and by a stroke of luck, an Italian architect/builder had just arrived in town. He got the job by having an impressive interview with the city fathers.

    When they came in to look things over several weeks later, they were horrified. Sure, the spiral stairs were glorious, but....there were no supporting columns. This huge staircase was completely unsupported. The city fathers were convinced it would all come tumbling down, but the architect assured them that he'd copies a building technique perfected in his native Florence, back in Italy.

    Although they still had their doubts, the money for the stairs had been spent and the city fathers had no choice but to go along with what he said. Some one hundred and ninty years later, it appears that the builder knew what he was talking about.

    Visiting the county hall and seeing this spectacular neoclassical staircase is FREE.

    Bonnie waving from the top. From the top looking downward Another shot of the staircase, sans Bonnie

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    Reversing Falls

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Jul 27, 2004

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    The 'Reversing Falls' is actually a rapids that is formed by the 450-mile long Saint John River meeting the world's highest tides in the Bay of Fundy. These tides cause the water level in the Bay to vary by more than 50-feet at its upper reaches, but only by about 29-feet at Saint John, closer to the mouth of the Bay.

    The Reversing Falls is the result of a rock formation narrowing the mouth of the Saint John River as it reaches the Bay, compounded by the fact that there is a rocky ledge 36 feet underwater. This compresses the full flow of this mighty river into a very narrow passage where it twice daily does battle with the ocean. This tremendous fight between the river and ocean has gouged out a pool that is almost 200 feet deep where the old steel bridge spans the falls. It also means that huge eddies and whirlpools are formed and the current is so fast that it is only safe to navigate by boat for two brief periods each day. Once when the rising tide equals the river level and again about 12 hours later when the falling tide drops to the river level. When in full opposition to each other, either the river or the Bay of Fundy is 14 feet higher than the other - causing the most spectacular rapids.

    Here, the Jet Boat excursion is easing up to the 'wall of water' in the River as it plunges over the underwater rocky ledge near low tide.

    Part of the Rapids at the 'Reversing Falls'
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    Take a Jet Boat Ride!

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Mar 18, 2007

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    If you want a thrilling but wet ride - take a 20 minute run of the Reversing Falls in one of these craft. Powered by twin turbo-charged diesels, these boats will take you on a fun-filled tour as the operator charges through the white water, does 360-degree spins or just sits there holding his own while you enjoy the rough water up-close! We tried this a few years ago and it was something that I remember with fondness to this day. On this particular day, I only took photos because the cruise ship passengers had things booked up! No, problem - I can get there any time.

    Even though you are provided a complete plastic wet water suit to slip into (see 2nd photo re a 2006 trip on the boat), you will still get wet as the waves crash over the boat in some of the manouevers - with water coming down through the neck and up through the sleeves (I know from personnal experience). They recommend that you have a spare set of clothes on-hand!

    There are restrictions related to height, pregnant women and children - so check out their details closely. The rides are also dependent on the times of High and Low tide. Prices are C$33 per adult (US$24) including taxes, children C$26 and Families C$106. It is recommended to call ahead for reservations (especially if cruise ships are docked!!).

    Cruising in the Reversing Falls Rapids Suited up with my daughter & her husband
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    • Sailing and Boating
    • Family Travel
    • Road Trip

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    Historic Trinity Church

    by 850prc Updated Dec 7, 2009

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    The present Trinity Church in Saint John was constructed in 1880, right after the "Great Fire of 1877". Inside over the west door, there's a coat of arms - a symbol of the monarchy - which was rescued from the council chamber in Boston by a British Colonel during the American Revolution. With Saint John being so historically loyalist, this revolutionary refugee was deemed a worthy addition to the Trinity Church.

    While the church has a long history, it is today an active Anglican church with a spirited congregation.

    As for the building itself, the style of architecture is Early English Gothic, and typifies the architecture introduced in New Brunswick by Bishop Medley. The church itself was designed by architect W.T. Thomas of Montreal. The walls are built of limestone of rough ashlar, laid in regular courses, with freestone trimmings on a heavy base of granite. The pillars in the nave are formed of one piece of polished grey granite, with carved capitals surmounted by freestone arches. The interior woodwork is of black ash with black walnut moldings.
    The church is 150 feet in length. The chancel is forty feet deep and thirty-three feet wide. The nave is 62 feet wide overall, and 110 feet long with an expansive height of 64 feet. The nave originally seated 800 people, but today accommodates about 650 people.

    The bell tower and steeple rise to the majestic height of 210 feet and is topped by a weathervane in the form of a six foot long wood gilt fish. The fish was the early symbol for Christianity, and is still used today. The tower contains a clock and a ring of nine bells, a gift installed in 1882 by the City of Saint John. The clock was constructed to chime the quarters and strike the hours on the bells. By means of a carillon, tunes were played on the hours of three, six, nine, and twelve. On the largest bell, which weighs 19 cwt., is cast the following inscription:

    "In Memoriam the
    Loyalists 1783: Faithful alike to God and
    the King"
    Originally the bells were rung by hand, but can now be played by music drum disks or a small keyboard.

    The Trinity Church pipe organ Magnificent stained glass windows The altar cross, dedicated to Archdeacon Brigstock Trinity Church's gothic spire

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    King's Square

    by 850prc Updated Dec 6, 2009

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    Right across the street from the City Market and between Charlotte and Sydney Streets, you'll find Saint John's historic King's Square. This square is aflame with gorgeous floral color, and lush green park grass. There are benches, sidewalks and all sorts of historic monuments. In keeping with both the name King's Square and with Saint John's long history of being a crown loyalist settlement, the square is laid out with the walkways forming a "Union Jack" pattern.

    There is a two-story bandstand located in the park, and I'd suspect that on afternoons or evenings that they have performers at work, it would be a lovely way to celebrate sunset.

    Another interesting site at the City Market can be found on its northeastern corner. There is a huge lump of melted metal. During Saint John's "Great Fire of 1877", many local buildings were destroyed. This lump of metal was formed when a hardware store at the edge of the square burned, melting nails and metal objects.

    Please see my separate "King's Square" travelogue for more photos of the square.

    Cross monument within King's Square

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    Interact With the Cruise Ship Passengers

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 8, 2006

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    When launched in 1999, Royal Caribbean cruise line's 'Voyager of the Seas' was the world's largest cruise ship.

    At 137,000 gross tons and 1020 feet (310 meters) in length, she can carry over 3800 passengers and has a crew of 1180. This is a vessel that revolutionized the cruise industry with its many on-board features and its spaciousness. However, it looks like the 'Queen Mary 2' is now Number One in size! Well, the 'Queen Mary 2' did not last long at #1, it has been superceded by 'Freedom of the Seas' as of early 2006 !

    On this particular cruise, the Voyager was on a 5-night trip departing New Jersey for Saint John and Halifax, with rooms priced between US$450-800. We had a good time chatting with some of the passengers as they strolled the waterfront in Saint John!

    'Voyager of the Seas'
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    Showtime for darn near a century

    by 850prc Updated Dec 6, 2009

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    Located over on the south side of King's Square, the Imperial Theater has meant showtime in Saint John for almost one hundred years. And, through the years, the Imperial Theater has undergone many changes. Opening back in September 1913, the Imperial hosted many musical and theatrical events. Stars of the day who visited Saint John and this theater include actress Ethel Barrymore, illusionist Harry Houdini, and the little tramp himself, Charlie Chaplin.

    In 1929, the Imperial was leased to Famous Players and was renamed to the Capital Theatre -becoming part of a chain of first class movie theatres.

    After thirty years of being a top-level movie house, the theatre closed and was purchased and donated to the Full Gospel Assembly Pentecostal Church, becoming a house of worship. However, it wasn't the end of the building's showtime contribution because in 1994 and 11 years after the theater's sale by the church group, and after years of reconstruction to its original 1913 grandeur, the Imperial Theatre was reopened and is now the busiest performing arts centre in Atlantic Canada.

    The Imperial Theatre features tours Monday through Saturday (July and August only) at a cost of $2 for adults and $1 for children 12 and under. OR, if you'd like to just look the place over on your own without being on a tour, admission is FREE.

    The Imperial Theater entrance The beautifully restored lobby The balcony within The lobby chandelier

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    The New Brunswick Museum

    by 850prc Updated Dec 7, 2009

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    The New Brunswick Museum is located in Market Square, at the foot of King Street. The Market Square shopping complex - with the museum located in the middle section - is just across from the City Market building. The museum houses history and natural science galleries, as well as decorative fine art displays. Also, you'll want to visit the family discovery gallery and television studion. Among the museum's prize relics are full-sized whale and mastedon skeletons. (They've named the whale skellie "Delilah")

    The museum occupies three stories within the massive Market Square shopping complex, and is clearly a point of pride with Saint John residents.

    The museum is open everyday and admission is C$6 for adults, C$4.75 for seniors, C$3.25 for children (ages 4-18) or a cool C$13 for a family.

    The exterior of the New Brunswick Museum

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    Shopping Galore in the historic district

    by 850prc Updated Dec 10, 2009

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    The Brunswick Square Shopping Center, located just to the west of the Saint John City Market, has it all. From the New Brunswick Museum to the City Library, to a plethora of upscale shopping venues, shoppers will definitely enjoy a visit to this huge and modern shopping mall. The shopping center square is defined by Prince William Street, Germain Street, King Street and Union Street.

    In addition to all the shopping, there is a top-level hotel on the premises, the Delta Brunswick

    Among the categories of stores and items for your shopping pleasure are:

    * Aesthetic Services
    * Banking
    * Books
    * Children Shops
    * Cosmetics and Drug
    * Electronics
    * Fashion
    * Food Court
    * General
    * Gifts
    * Hairstyling
    * Health and Wellness
    * Home Decor
    * Jewelry and Accessories
    * Restaurants
    * Shoes and Handbags

    The central escalator over at Brunswick Square The Public Library, also at Brunswick Square

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    A town full of friendly and willing hosts

    by 850prc Updated Dec 10, 2009

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    One thing that we noticed throughout our visit to Saint John was the pride with which locals view their city. All you have to do is to look slightly bewildered or lost, or perhaps just be looking at a city map and - voila! - a local "host/tourguide" will appear to help you out.

    There was one fellow who we ran into just at the edge of King's Square. He asked where we were from (for some reason, he didn't think we were locals ). He then proceeded to tell us all about the local FREE sites, within an easy walk. He talked with pride about the City Hall's spiral staircase, the past glories and beautiful restoration over at the Imperial Theater, and he also mentioned the local historic fire station museum - which unfortunately was not open on the day we were in Saint John.

    When we were in the City Market, Bonnie and Sara met an artisan/owner over at the Bay of Fundy Red Clay stand. He was making kilned ornaments and objects d'art from the unique red clay found around the edge of the local Fundy Bay. He immediately realized that they were visitors, and he gave Sara a tiny little clay lighthouse, it resembled the Peggy's Cove lighthouse over in Nova Scotia, at least a little. It was designed to be a Christmas tree ornament, and he said he wanted her to hang it on her tree and to remember the friendly folks and town in Saint John. NO sales pressure, not even a word about buying anything. TRULY, it was just a man being proud of his town and friendly to visitors from far away.

    If you do get a chance to visit the Bay of Fundy Red Clay stand at City Market, please do look for Daniel Roberts, the owner and artist. There is a photo of him down below. Tell him the folks from Florida said "hello and Merry Christmas". The kind gift he gave to our daughter is on our tree this year, and we'll think of him and Saint John every year from now on.

    Saint John is a terrific place. Interesting history, shops, culture.... all in all, a great destination. But, her greatest asset are her proud and helpful townsfolk. Thanks to all of you, we had a great time.

    Our friend Daniel Roberts,with Sara at City Market

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    Wander Around Downtown

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 6, 2006

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    Although Saint John is Canada's oldest incorporated city (1783), most of the older buildings in the downtown core date from the Victorian period, 100 years later. The City's web site best explains why: "The majority of historic buildings in the city's uptown area date after the Great Saint John Fire of June 20, 1877. The fire, which has been described as one of the most destructive urban fires in 19th century North America, destroyed over two thirds of the city (over 2000 buildings), and left many of the fine homes which had lined the main residential streets of Saint John in ashes. The owners of these homes, wealthy ship owners, commission agents and merchants were determined that their new homes would equal, if not surpass those they replaced. Architects were commissioned from Saint John, Boston, Halifax, New York, Toronto, and Montreal; they imported fine materials - mahogany from Honduras, marble from Italy; and they engaged noted Saint John builders and craftsmen.

    Reconstruction began immediately, and by June 1881 much of the fire-damaged area was rebuilt. Some building lots, though, remained vacant until the 1930's. Hundreds of architects, builders, masons, carpenters and laborers came from all over North America to help rebuild the city. Many of the men were of professional experience; some had genius, but nearly all, yielding to the spirit of rivalry and the desire to establish a reputation, put forth their best efforts to produce original or at least striking designs. The resulting homes were grand indeed. Today most of them remain standing much as they were when built - fine examples of period architecture, combined with outstanding workmanship."

    Take a stroll around if the weather is fine and take in the sights! Note the bilingual 'Stop/Arret' sign. NB is the only officially bilingual province in Canada. Quebec is officially French and the other 8 provinces are officially English.

    Victorian era stone and brick buildings Same corner building, looking up King Street
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    • Architecture
    • Hiking and Walking

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    The New Brunswick Museum

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Nov 28, 2006

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    For an entrance fee of C$6 (US$5.40), the New Brunswick Museum is a great way to pass some time if you are visiting Saint John. It has three floors featuring a number of exhibits such as: Floor 1 is New Brunswick inventions, shipbuilding and marine history, Floor 2 is marine mammals, geology and birds of NB while Floor 3 is Canadian and International art.

    This photo shows, at the left, a life-size model of Delilah, a 37 ton, 47 foot (14-m) Atlantic Right Whale. The Bay of Fundy, along which Saint John is located, is home to the majority of this rarest of the world's whales, and the carcass of this one was found washed up on the shores of Grand Manan Island in 1992 (I have a page on this island from a couple of trips). A post-mortem determined that she had likely been struck by a ship. It was decided that this rare creature should be put on display at the Museum, so she was first buried along one of the beaches to allow the flesh to rot off, then the bones were placed in a large net and left in the ocean for eight months until they had been picked clean. The final step was transporting the bones to the Museum where they were reassembled (just visible behind the model of a 'living' whale) to form the only Atlantic Right Whale skeletal display in Canada. At the right side is another interesting skeleton, this time of a 10-foot (3-m) high American Mastodon that died 70,000 years ago in a swamp near Hillsborough, NB.

    The second photo depicts some of the ship-building skills which made Saint John one of the world's major ports in the 1800s. The partial hull in the background illustrates some of the bends required in ships timbers, while the small plaque of a tree with two men standing beside it shows how the different natural 'bent' parts of a tree (where roots and branchs attach to the trunk) were used for these difficult bits of the ship's construction.

    A Right Whale & a Mastodon Shipbuilding Techniques
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    • Museum Visits
    • Road Trip

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    Saint John's (Stone) Church

    by 850prc Updated Dec 7, 2009

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    The Saint John's Stone Church is the first stone building constructed in Saint John. The original purpose of the church, beyond ecumenical tidings, was to serve the soldiers garrisoned at nearby Fort Howe. The stone itself was originally brought over from England, serving as ship's ballast.

    FWIW, the English were big on bringing church stones over from the mother country. I remember the Anglican cathedral in Hamilton, Bermuda as being the same situation - constructed from "imported" materials.

    This particular church very much resembles the Gothic style of churches built in England from the 12th century on. The spires contribute to Saint John's reputation and nickname as "The City of Spires".

    Gothic spires, Saint John Stone Church Another view of the Stone Church spires

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