Top Ten Things I Love About Saint John, New Brunswick…

I moved to Saint John in October of 1997, after living in several other cities and towns in the eastern part of North America…this is my favourite place!  Here are the top ten things I love about Saint John, in no particular order:

1. The people.  They are the friendliest and most generous folks anywhere.  A tourist just has to pull out a map on the street, and five people will appear out of nowhere asking if he is lost.  If one of them has a car, he’ll probably offer the person a drive to their destination!  Despite its high poverty rate (about 20% of Saint Johners live below the poverty line), if somebody needs something, folks will pull together to make sure they get it!

Any minute now, the people in the background will set down their beer and run over to help...

2. The weather.  This is the most temperate place I’ve ever lived: we don’t get stinking hot or freezing cold weather very often.  Our fog gives us natural air-conditioning in the summer, and makes us appreciate the sun more when we can actually see it!  Occasionally, we get the tail-end of a hurricane, but tornadoes are extremely rare here (which is fine with me!).

Waterfront in Saint John...

3. The history.  Saint John is the oldest incorporated city in North America, and is celebrating its 225th Anniversary this year.  The uptown is filled with beautiful old architecture, most of it dating to 1878, the year after “The Great Saint John Fire” devastated much of the city.

This building on Sydney Street shows some typical South End architecture...

4. The neighbourhoods.  Saint John has distinct neighbourhoods based on geographic location: the Uptown, the South End, the North End, Millidgeville, the West Side, and the East Side.  Each has its own unique characteristics and personality.  Neighbourhood pride is still alive and well in Saint John – many families have lived in the same part of town for generations!

A West Side convenience store...

5. The diversity.  There has been a recent influx of Asian immigration to Saint John…on the whole, these new folks have been welcomed with open arms.  Saint Johners realize that we need these people to replace our citizens who are leaving town to find work elsewhere.

Front window of one of the new businesses...

6. The arts community.  I have noticed a positive change since arriving here thirteen years ago…I find that the arts are very accessible in Saint John, even to “ordinary” people like me.  I am particularly enthused about the continued development of the Saint John Arts Centre, which has come about largely due to the efforts of its tireless volunteers.  The Saint John Theatre Company, and the Saint John Shakespeare Festival put on wonderful shows every year.

The Saint John Arts Centre...

7. The cost of living.  This is the least-expensive city I’ve ever lived in (have lived in Ottawa, ON, St. John’s, NF, and Moncton, NB, as an adult).  You can still get a decent house in the Saint John area for under $200,000. 

They're asking $179,900 for this 4-bedroom in one of the most desirable areas of Saint John...

8. The transit system.  Saint John Transit does an excellent job of providing good, punctual service at convenient times for most.  With the recent expansion to the suburbs with the Comex service, it’s even better.  Most of the drivers are friendly and helpful.

Bus at King Square...

9. The Uptown.  King Street is the steepest main street in any city in North America…our “Uptown” really is “up-town.”  There is a diverse mix of shops/restaurants/galleries, along with the City Market, New Brunswick Museum, Saint John Free Public Library, Canada Games Aquatic Centre, and Harbour Station.  Our “Inside Connection” makes it easy to get around in any weather.

Kids race go-karts down the King Street hill...

10. The Imperial Theatre.  This magnificent building is a must-see for any visitor!  It has seen hundreds of amazing performances by musicians and theatrical groups…all say it’s one of the most beautiful venues in Canada.

Our gorgeous Imperial Theatre...

I hope that anyone who hasn’t visited Saint John will make plans to do so…I guarantee you’ll have a wonderful time!

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59 Comments

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59 responses to “Top Ten Things I Love About Saint John, New Brunswick…

  1. We’ve often thought of hopping the ferry at Digby and coming across to St. John but it hasn’t happened yet. There never seems to be enough time.

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos.

  2. I have traveled across Canada and the US to some of the biggest and smallest cities and always I want to come home to Saint John. Yes, this is home and I see the changes taking place step by step. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. So for those of you who have left home is waiting for you and those of you who haven’t been here the entire city says Welcome. So much more to Saint John than can be written here, you have to experience it to know it.

  3. helene

    My family is thinking of making the big move from bc to st john and this reassure me that we are indeed making the right decision as we want a better quality of life. This seemed to be the ideal place for us and I am excited to come for a visit next summer to have a better feel of the place. If you have any infos as to where are the most desirable area to live in also need to be close to all mamenities please let me know:)

    • Hi Helene: I’m sure your family will love our city…more specific information can be found at the Saint John website: http://www.saintjohn.ca/en/home/default.aspx If you have elementary age children, I would recommend living either on the West Side, Grand Bay, or in the Kennebecasis Valley area (Quispamsis/Rothesay). If your children are high school age or older, the Uptown area is also fine. Once you get here, feel free to ask questions…Saint Johners are the friendliest people around! If they can help you, they will! Wendy

      • Leanne

        Just curious as to the specific areas mentioned for elementary age kids. My husband and I are considering a big move to NB. Why THESE areas? Thanks in advance for taking the time :)

      • Thank you for your question, Leanne…have sent you a private e-mail in answer to your question… Wendy

  4. Lelorrain Maud

    Good morning “writerwoman61″. I am a French 20 year-old girl and I will study four months at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John ( September-December 2012) for a semester exchange. I would like to live in a host family in Saint John in order to improve my English and to know the local culture. Do you know if it’s possible to find this ?
    (I love this article : I can’t wait to discover Saint John ! )

    • Thanks for stopping by, Lelorrain Maud! I know you will enjoy Saint John. I’m sure that if you contact the University, there is someone who would be willing to host you. Wendy

  5. Amogh

    Hi writerwoman61,
    I am planning to move to Saint John to work as I have been offered a job. I am an Indian but have lived in the United Kingdom ( namely England and Scotland) for over 6 years and also worked for 8 months in the Canmore/Banff area. I just wanted to know how the city is and where should a single guy live. I will be working close to Market square and have no intention of driving :-) …. something in the walking or cycling range…. any advice and suggestions are hugely appreciated…… cheers

  6. How about a low level of immigrants which makes it safe, friendly and very canadian and everyone speaks english.

    • Dear Jane: I find your comment offensive: the only people in Canada who are not immigrants or descended from immigrants are the aboriginal people. My own family immigrated to Canada from the US in 1969. It sounds as if you are implying that people who are not born in Canada are dangerous…that is a racist opinion, and in my experience, extremely inaccurate. Saint John has people from many cultures, including a large Asian population (mostly Chinese, Korean, and East Indian). Many of these folks own businesses here…they work very hard and are valuable to our community and our economy in Saint John. Saint John is indeed “safe, friendly, and very Canadian”, but it’s because everyone works together to make it that way, no matter where they came from! Wendy

    • Jane

      I am leaving ottawa because of ethnic gangs and I cant go out at night now. I wont have that problem in NB.

    • Linda D

      ignorant comment

    • wow YOU LADY are painfully ignorant!

  7. Lisa

    Hi Writerwoman61

    I noticed above that you mentioned that Kennebecasis Valley area (Quispamsis/Rothesay) is a good place to move to. Which high school and middle school would you recommend going to? (I have kids currently in Grades 6 and 8). Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Lisa: One of my kids went to Quispamsis Middle School…it was okay (she has a learning disability, and the resource teacher was great, but her other teachers didn’t seem very helpful). My stepkids went to Harry Miller Middle School in Rothesay. It was fine too (wonderful cheerleading program there!). Then, my stepkids went on to Kennebeccassis Valley High School, and had good experiences there (my husband and his siblings all went there too). My daughters chose to go to high school in Saint John (Harbour View High). Having grown up on the West Side…they wanted to go where their friends went. Hope this helps! Wendy

  8. Bernadine

    Hi Lisa,
    Thank you for being straight forward…I am also considering moving to St. John’s in a few months, from Ontario. I am from the Caribbean, and always wanted to get back to the ‘water’! I considered Nova Scotia , but New Brunswick also seems to have a lot to offer ( for what I am looking for).

    Thank you for the much appreciated info.

    • You’re welcome, Bernadine…we’re happy you’d like to move to Saint John (“St. John’s” is in Newfoundland – Johnners get angry if you confuse the two!). Best of luck to you! Wendy

  9. Deane

    Hello, Wendy,
    I would love to visit and perhaps stay in Saint John. I live in California; I am an American citizen; my daughter is Canadian (and USA); and I am retired. Could you please recommend a good starting point to learning the process for a retired American to live in Saint John? Thank you very much! Deane

  10. Donna Logan

    Good Morning from the west. Would you know of any non smoking apartments allowing a small dog. I will be moving back to Saint John next year after living out west for 30 years. Thanks you for the info you have provided to others as well as the pictures.

    • Hi Donna: I would suggest checking out the Saint John KIjiji site for apartments. Also, if you subscribe to our local newspaper, the Telegraph-Journal, you will be able to see the classifieds there. Glad you’re moving back…Saint John has changed for the better, I think! Wendy

  11. shirley in Canada

    Hi Wendly! Love your blog! My husband and I have no children but we do have two small dogs that are our life! (literally / LOL)
    Our question is what area would you suggest that is for two people looking for a reasonable price house w/ yard for our dogs, safe and nice neighbourhood and with lots of amenities close by? If you could name a few that you think might fit the bill … that would be great!! Also, how do you think healthcare is in St John (enough doctors etc…)? Have a great day!

    • Thank you, Shirley! Most of the real estate in Saint John is very reasonably-priced…any of the neighbourhoods I mentioned in my response to Helene above would probably be good for you too.

      There are currently not enough family doctors to serve the people here…there is a long waiting list. Many doctors have retired, and there aren’t enough new ones to take their places! The wait for specialist appointments/surgery is sometimes months (or years) long. The vets for your fur babies are very good, though!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Wendy

  12. Rosie

    My old grandparents house haha!
    Nice list of things in SJ :)

  13. D

    The transit system is horrible! Have you actually tried to use it day to day for your daily commute to work? They do not follow the schedule, and it’s luck of the draw if the bus will actually show up. As someone who tried to live car-less in SJ, it was very difficult. Not only is the system unreliable, there is a stigma toward people who take the bus; they are often looked down upon. For a city with such a high poverty rate, there is a lot of negativity towards people who try to live within their means. The public transit system is one of the worst aspects of SJ.

    • Thank you for your input, D. This post was written 3 1/2 years ago, and things have changed since then.

      For the record, I rode the bus daily (sometimes four times a day) with my children from 1997 to 2008 (lived Lower West, and worked in town). Cutbacks to the transit system in recent years have made it less convenient than it used to be ( I agree that Sunday service sucks!).. However, I stand by my opinion that most drivers are friendly and helpful, and try to get us where we need to go, safely and in one piece! Usually, if a bus is late, there are extenuating circumstances such as construction, an accident, or hazardous weather conditions.

      I never felt any “stigma” when I took the bus…I made a lot of new friends on the old “Harbour Bridge” route. We were all just folks who were doing what they had to do! Anyone who looks down upon someone because they can’t afford a car is not the kind of person I would want to hang out with!

      Wendy

      • I only noticed your reply to D, moments after I replied to D, so I apologise if my comment to her looks incredibly out of place. lol
        I think the routes we’re taking might be the difference in opinion concerning bus service. I used to take the bus frequently, just a couple years ago… the Forest Glen bus was always several minutes ahead of, or behind schedule, as was the Portland Place, but the rest of the routes I took were fine. But yes, there has been a definite decline, since all of the cuts… I don’t even bother taking the bus, now.

    • You are absolutely correct!
      I loved this article and I love this city, but that part really stood out to me, too. The schedule is poorly adhered and, unless you live on the main East or West UNB/mall route, you’re pretty much out of luck during evenings and on Sundays.
      Also, as a someone who grew up in the north end, and still lives there (by choice), I’m a little offended by the recommended places to live with children (mentioned in the comments, not the article). They’re the highest class places, socioeconomically, but they’re certainly not the best. Our entire city has strengths and weaknesses, in all areas. I would feel comfortable raising a child in end of town. :-)

  14. Amanda

    For anyone moving to Saint John. East Saint John has some wonderful elementary schools as well. My child goes to Loch Lomond elementary and I find the teachers are wonderful, helpful and caring.

  15. mary

    i am from saint john originally, but am living in calgary now for about 7 years. i so wish we could move back but there is no work for my husband there. i sure do miss home as it is a wonderful place to live…..

    • I’m so sorry, Mary…I dream of the day when Saint Johnners who have moved out west can all return home to a booming town! I hope you’re able to visit your family frequently, at least…

      Wendy

  16. Sara

    Loved the article! I absolutely love Saint John. Though I currently live here with my young kids, my husband works out west because this unfortunately is a struggling province when it comes to job opportunities. We have great opportunities for growth coming our way but people keep fighting and protesting it. For people considering moving here, my advice, don’t. Unless you already have a job lined up. That said due to the poverty and people on welfare for various reasons (not a jab at anyone on welfare, I realize some people need assistance) the cost of living here will continue to rise, making it impossible for a young working family of Saint John, like my own family, to get ahead in life. It looks like we will be yet another Saint John family heading west for a better life. :(

  17. Greg Hiltz

    I love that Saint John is also a very Motorcycle-Friendly city, with various riding clubs regularly plan and host cruises, toy runs, poker runs, and other fundraisers for charities, plus vaiouus rallies and conventions throughout the year.
    Our great residents will often line the streets to watch and encourage our parades and ride-by cruises, accepting the noise as part of the fun.

  18. I grew up in Saint John and always loved the city, but it wasn’t until I biked across the country that I realized just how great a city it actually is! It’s truly awesome that we have both river and ocean beaches to visit during the summer, and so many of them that none are overcrowded at any time. An adventurous person can kayak, swim, rock climb, hike, go spelunking (caving), and then end the day watching the sunset over the ocean at low tide!
    I think that’s why it’s the oldest incorporated city in North America. The early settlers here could have picked any place to build their city, so they obviously chose the most beautiful spot they could find!
    So if you love the outdoors, get out and see what YOU can discover in Saint John!

  19. Wanda

    I was born and raised in SJ and lived in BC from 2005 to 2011. It took living away from home to make me really appreciate everything about SJ. We moved back in 2012 and somedays I wonder why we ever came back with the current work situation; I have not been able to find full-time secure employent in almost 2 yrs now :( Sadly there have been too many companies closing with significant jobs losses such as Shipyard, Sugar Refinery, Red Rose Tea just to name a few. And nothing to replace them forcing many to move west :( To anyone considering moving here please ensure you have a job lined up as it would not be a wise decision as there is little to no work here. If you do have work etc lined up SJ is the friendliest and greatest little city in the east. We welcome you!

  20. Nicole

    I am from Western Canada and I have been planning a move to Saint John this spring, but I am nervous about the crime levels there, particularly the break & enters. I am a woman in my late 30s and would be living on my own (and I don’t drive). Would you mind sharing your opinion of the safety of living in Saint John for someone like me? Thanks!

  21. Hi Nicole:

    I lived on the West Side without a vehicle for the first 11 years I lived here…I worked 4 to midnight for some of that time, and would walk the block from the bus stop home alone at night with very little trepidation. This article from CBC contains some current statistics: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/saint-john-safer-crime-stats-suggest-1.1145561

    I would encourage you to come anyway…there is crime everywhere!

    Wendy

  22. Praful Gupta

    Hi writerwomen61,
    Beautiful article.!!
    I am enthralled by listening so much about this place.
    I will be living in the MUN premises for 12 weeks as a part of a research internship program.
    I wanted to know the basic food expenses that one has to deal with on a weekly basis.
    Keen to explore St. Johns in the coming months.
    Hopefully, it will be a visit that I’ll cherish throughout my life.

  23. Kabir

    Hi Wendy,

    My deepest thanks for you for your time and energy to reply all questions and that means you are a nice helpful person. I appreciate it. I live in calgary for 7 years and I am thinking to move to Saint John NB as it has a lot to offer mainly because it is close to the sea which I really love. I was born in Casablanca by the atlantic ocean, so the smell of it makes feel great. A look shows that Saint John has a lot to offer. As for employment which sounds the most sensitive part of the adventure, I can ajust to as little as the city can offer. I work hard and I am not picky. My questions for you are :

    Does SJ port offer some jobs for simple starting level like ware house, cleaning ?
    What about cruise work I mean stewarding (DISHWASHING AND CLEANING)?
    Can the city market offer some survival jobs ?

  24. Kabir

    Hi Wendy,

    Thank you for you reply,

    Well I think employment agencies may help in this case. I think they have some jobs, so applying from there on, then one can stick to a job when possible. Summer coming with many tourists too, I think that will help as well. So, I will give a try, who knows ???

    Cheers

  25. My husband and I are considering Saint John (among other NB and NS locations) for a final move. We want a VIctorian-style home; don’t like modern homes. What area of the city should we look in? Thanks!

    • Hi Charleydog3:

      There are several nice Victorians in the South End and Uptown (Germain Street is beautiful), and a few in the North End and the West Side. Most are very affordable when compared to prices in other cities across Canada. Good luck with your move!

      Wendy

      • Thanks for the information. I have contacted a realtor in Saint John. Sorry to say but we are very fussy about houses. Basement must not be a dungeon; no oil heating; steel roof; etc. Coming from eastern Ontario where the cost of electricity is increasing by 45% over the next three years; presently have natural gas heating. Need to be in a town/city with public transportation so I can ditch my old car. Need only one car per household – here in horse country two cars are vital if one member of the family doesn’t want to remain housebound. Looking forward to visiting Saint John in late May.
        Patricia

      • Hi Patricia:
        I’m sure your realtor can help you find some places! May is my favourite month…should be warming up a bit by then!

        Wendy

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