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