Saint John is a city whose population is composed almost entirely of the descendants of Irish immigrants and British loyalists. Canada's oldest incorporated city, Saint John boasts a metro population of approximately 125,000 and routinely plays host to cruise ships and individual tourists from all over North America. (Note: Saint John is never spelled St. John - locals will be very quick to point this out).
Visitors from outside North America may be shocked to find many (apparently) homeless alcoholics loitering downtown, lending the city a somewhat "ghetto" feel - like Ottawa, but without the cachet of being the nation's capital.
Temperatures in Saint John vary by season. In the summertime temperatures are usually around 22 degrees celsius and in the wintertime they usually dip to around 3.9 degrees celsius. Rain is common in the spring and autumn, but it usually doesn't rain much in the summer. Fog is not uncommon during the summer months. There is the occasional heavy snowfall in the winter; however, snow is usually moderate.
Driving to Saint John is usually not a hassle, unlike many other cities. However, during recent years, traffic has been steadily increasing. And for travellers driving from Fredericton to Saint John on Highway 7, care is required because of the risk of moose collisions at certain times of year and certain times of the day.
Saint John is only 107 km (66 miles) from the Calais/St. Stephen border between Canada and the United States of America. Driving distances from major cities are 496 km (310 miles) from Portland, Maine, 940 km (588 miles) from Montreal, Québec and 424 km (265 miles) from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
For residents of western Nova Scotia planning to visit Saint John, your best bet is the ferry from Digby. There are three crossings daily from mid June to mid October, these take two and a half hours on average. During the rest of the year there is at least one crossing daily and they usually take two hour and forty-five minutes.
There are eleven car rental dealerships in the city including an Avis Rent A Car at the Saint John Airport.
Saint John Airport (IATA: YSJ) is served several times daily by flights from Montreal, Toronto, Fredericton, and Halifax. Bus service with Acadian Bus Lines deposits travellers at 199 Chesley Drive just a short walk uptown along the Harbour Passage paved walking trail. Train service is not available to Saint John directly, but is available to the nearby city of Moncton, where travellers can then make the two hour SMT bus ride into Saint John.
Saint John also boasts a booming cruise ship industry and has cruise ships enter the city's dock on a regular basis.
Saint John's Market Wharf also provides a convenient if unserviced space within the harbour for pleasure boaters, making it easy for power or sail vessels coming in from the Fundy to berth and enjoy the Uptown shopping or dining. Longer term moorage is not available in the harbour, although it is available several miles up the Saint John River. Unfortunately, there are no fuel or marine services at the wharf, and the wharf is used by local fishing boats as well as pleasure craft.
Buses are available from approximately 6AM to Midnight for public transport within the city. Schedules are available on the buses themselves and in information booths throughout the city. Fare is 2.50$ Cdn (as of November 2009) for adult passengers; discounts are available for children, seniors and students with proper identification.
Taxi service in Saint John is run on a zone to zone basis (no meters). There are several companies available in Saint John for this service.
Some Companies offer both debit and credit in their cabs, but you have to ask for this service as it is not available in all Cars. Aprox prices for taxi services in Saint John, based on one person in the taxi and no stops are as follows:
If you are staying outside of the city in Rothesay or the Surrounding area, expect to pay above 15.00. Cab rides to the Airport can run in the 20.00 range. For people who need to make a short stop to pick up cash or something quick, most drivers will charge you an extra buck. But make sure you ask, because they are supposed to charge you for another stop. Some will do this right off the bat if you don't ask. Also, most cab drivers are more than happy to have your repeat business, so if there is someone you like ask for their car number and next time you call you can ask for the same person.
Within the Uptown it is possible to travel on foot between the City Market, Brunswick Square Mall, Market Square, the Canada Games Aquatic Centre, Mercantile Centre and Harbour Station via underground and pedway connections without venturing outside. (The "Inside Connection".) This is very useful during the winter. During the rest of the year, Uptown Saint John also offers a very pleasant and fairly accessible walking experience, with clear, well-maintained sidewalks and crosswalks, and fairly straightforward navigation. (Unlike many older cities, Saint John's Uptown is laid out in a simple, grid design.)
The Uptown is home to hundreds of privately owned and operated shops that sell a wide variety of food and merchandise. A stroll down King Street will offer stores selling local arts and crafts, while across the street the Brunswick Square Mall offers more commercial stores for your shopping pleasure (clothes, shoes, cards, books, music, Laura Secord Chocolates, etc.) Try Germain and Canterbury Street (both off King Street) for used books, international cuisine and independent record stores.
The city is home to eight shopping centers. Brunswick Square and Market square which are both located in uptown offer modern class shopping and are connected by a pedway system which links much of uptown Saint John. Prince Edward Square (also in uptown) is nearby but really isn't worth visiting. There are limited shops inside. This mall is home to Giant Tiger, The YMCA and Wyndham Call Center. Near by is Mister Music (a music store/head Shoppe) and Mr.Nice Guy (Head Shoppe).
The North end of the city is home to one shopping center called Lansdowne Place, which is a small strip mall. This would be a good mall for picking up missed essentials in packing. It is home to a Shopper's Drug Mart, NB Liquor, The Dollar Store, Tahiti Tan, and Sobeys Grocery Store. There is also Lancaster Mall on the west side, which again, is suited to the same puropse as Lansdowne Place. Being home to The Superstore, Coles Bookstore, The Bulk Barn, The Dollar Store and A few fast food places.
The east side of the city is home to McAllister Place the City's largest shopping centre. Home to both Large Department Stores (Such as Sears, Zellers and Wal-Mart) and smaller stores (Such as Jewelry Stores, Major Clothing Brands, etc.) Also a great place to be if you are in need of finding a last minute hotel or even booking an emergency flight home.(Sears Travel)
East Point Shopping Centre the city's newest retail complex offers some shopping which can't be had at McAllister Place. This mall features stores such as Costco, Indigo Bookstores (with A starbucks), Urban Apparel, Le Chateau, Tip Top Tailors/Big N' Tall.
Parkway Mall isn't one of the more active malls in Saint John. There are a few Gems that you go there for such as, Value Village (Consignment Store), Cora's Breakfast & Lunch and NB Liquor.
Loch Lomond Mall probabally shoudn't be on your list of places to shop. It does still have some entertainment inside like Dooley's Lounge, Which is a great place to stop and play a couple rounds of pool. Other than that there is virutally nothing else inside except A few call centers (Sitel, Unilever and Irving) A Tim Hortons and A very lucky lotto booth. If you want to pick up a possible winning lotto ticket, stop in to the lotto booth here. I've never bought a ticket Lottery, scratch ticket or other wise that DIDN'T win.
Saint John's East side is also home to numerous box stores including Home Depot, Kent's Building Supplies, Canadian Tire, Old Navy, Pier 1 Imports, Winners, Michael's and Future Shop, just to name a few.
The City Market in the uptown is the oldest operating farmers market in Canada. It is home to fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh from the sea seafood, Java Moose (a Locally owned and Operated coffee place, with both excellent brewed coffee and even better take home coffee beans), and on Saturdays, various vendors with foods from around the world.
A variety of locations for dining in are available in Market Square. For the more thrifty traveller an eatery is located in Brunswick Square, or try the side aisles of the City Market for fresh salads, sandwiches, and other local fare.
Finding a place to stay in Saint John shouldn't be a hassle. For those of you who prefer a comfortable stay near everything you could possibly wish to see, try one of the hotels or B&Bs in the uptown. Hotels in Saint John cost on average $120 per night for a single. However, if you are traveling on a budget there are still some comfortable motels around the city.
If camping underneath the stars is more your style, Rockwood Park or the village of St. Martins make great choices. If you are looking more along the line of cottages or country inns, there are a few options in the city and many more in the suburbs and nearby country.
Internet access is available in several areas within the "Inside Connection", including a convenience store in Market Square and an Internet Cafe located en route between Market Square and Brunswick Square. In addition, many coffee places also offer free wi-fi. Any Java Moose or Starbucks locations will offer this. Also, on King Street in the uptown area, there is UZone which is an internet cafe. They also offer by the hour Video Gaming and LAN gaming.
Saint John is safe compared to most cities; however, it is a good idea to walk on well-lit busy streets after dark and not on darker side streets. Street crime is rare but not unheard of. You are relatively safe in the commercial/retail area of Uptown, where the hotels are located. The South End, an area just next to Downtown, can be dangerous.