Fredericton is the capital city of New Brunswick – Canada’s 8th largest province by population. New Brunswick is a Maritime province on the east coast of Canada, bordering Quebec on its western side and Maine, USA on the southwest.
Fredericton is a college and government town.
It’s also where I grew up.
When I lived there, I have to admit it was kinda boring. I went to school. I went home. When I wanted to do something exciting, I went elsewhere. But that’s all changed in the 20 years since I left. There are so many things to do in Fredericton now that I actually enjoy going back.
When most people think of a trip to Canada, they think of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Those are the three big cities in Canada, and it’s hard to blame people for wanting to visit them.
But Canada’s east coast has so much to offer and you should consider visiting if you plan to go to Canada.
When I lived in Fredericton, there was only one microbrewery. There were few trails to explore. The arts scene was mediocre. Nightlife consisted of just a few bars serving crappy mass-produced draft beer.
I felt there was nothing for me there and I was bored.
I think, finally, the governments of both Fredericton and New Brunswick have realized that if they don’t change, young people are going to continue to move away as I did.
Yes, some things are the same in Fredericton. But they are the good things that always existed. Now though, you’ll find so much more to compliment what was already good.
Fredericton is a great place to visit
Here are some things to do in Fredericton during your visit.
Need a hotel in Fredericton?
1. Fredericton City Hall
Fredericton City Hall was constructed between 1875 and 1876 in the Second Empire style. The Government of Canada declared it a National Historic Site in 1984, as it is the oldest Municipal hall in Atlantic Canada that is still used for administration.
It has a grand presence in the downtown area and sits on a public square known as Phoenix Square. The rear of the city hall backs onto the bank of the Saint John River.
Prior to 1851, the basement was used as a market, which was rare at the time. Tours of the building are available.
They’ve even painted Pride crosswalks at the intersection. It was not too long ago that the former mayor wouldn’t even sign a gay pride proclamation!
2. Fredericton Lighthouse
The lighthouse along the Saint John River was built in 1989 for a boat tour business. The City took it over in 2002, but it is currently operated by the Crowne Plaza Lord Beaverbrook Hotel.
You can stop by for a local craft beer, barbecue, and ice cream.
If you want to go upstairs, you’ll have to pay a little bit. But you’ll get a great view of the river and that money you paid will be donated to the Fredericton Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Since I love animals, I heartily approve!
3. Saint John River
When I arrived in Fredericton in 1986, the Saint John River was just a river. You’d see the occasional boat out there, but not much else. The most exciting thing ever to happen was the annual Saint John River flooding.
The Saint John River Valley has always been beautiful and scenic, but the City of Fredericton never really took advantage of it as a recreational magnet.
Now, even when it’s cold, you’ll see people out there on paddleboards and jet skis.
Skulling is also popular on the Saint John River.
When I noticed the changes in the riverfront for the first time a couple of years ago, I was pleasantly surprised at the changes that took place since I left.
Places like Second Nature Outdoors rent watercraft so visitors and locals can have a blast on the river now.
I even see water skiers out there along with dinner cruises.
It really is different these days – all for the better. I’m happy Fredericton is taking advantage of something that I always thought was such an obvious tourist draw.
4. Fredericton Railway Bridge
This is my favorite addition to Fredericton since I left. And it’s personal to me because I have a history with this bridge. My dad worked for the railway for his entire working life, and I’d often find myself out helping him fix a wire on a track, changing batteries for the signal lights, or painting a signal box.
I even spent an hour or two on this particular bridge on occasion.
The trains no longer run on this bridge, but people do. In the summer, you’ll see hundreds of people walking here.
The Fredericton Walking Bridge has made it much easier for pedestrians to cross from North to South Fredericton and vice versa.
I love it so much because my parents live right at the north end of the bridge. It’s easily one of my favorite things to do in Fredericton and I use it at least a couple of times a day when I am there.
Spectacular views of the city!
5. Craft Breweries & Bars
When I first moved to Fredericton in 1986, there was no beer scene at all. Nothing. Labatt, Molson, and a few Canadian beers that were the Canadian equivalent of Budweiser or Miller were all you could hope for.
Those days are long past.
It all changed in 1995 when Picaroons Traditional Ales opened its doors in the city. A few years later, the craft brewing industry here took off. And tasting all this wonderful beer is one of the best things to do in Fredericton.
Here are some great bars to check out during your visit!
- Picaroons Brewtique
- Picaroons Roundhouse (pictured above)
- Red Rover
- James Joyce Pub
- The Lunar Rogue (see below)
- The Snooty Fox
- Mama’s Pub
- Graystone Brewing
- Dolan’s Pub
- BOOM! Nightclub (LGBT and friends)
- The Ciderhouse
- Corked Wine Bar
- Grimross Brewing
Please see my follow-up post: Where to Find the Best Craft Beer in Fredericton
6. O’Dell Park
O’Dell Park is sort of like Central Park in New York City – except on a much smaller scale and far less crowded. As their Web site notes though, it’s larger than Sherwood Forest!
O’Dell Park offers visitors barbecue pits, picnic tables, a children’s playground, and a lodge.
If you like ducks, a lot of them hang out around the pond there. If you love to hike, you’ll find 10 miles of walking trails through a forest with trees, some of which are over 400 years old.
In Winter, strap on a pair of skates and use the outdoor rink. Sledding and cross-country skiing are also popular here.
Visit the O’Dell arboretum and the New Brunswick species collection. The nearly 2-mile arboretum trail showcases 41 sites marked by plaques.
I’d suggest at least a half-day to explore the park, but you can spend longer here if you just want to relax for the day and see everything.
O’Dell Park is also a perfect spot for a morning run.
7. Boyce Farmer’s Market
OK, so a farmer’s market is probably not the biggest draw for tourists. When you visit the Boyce Farmer’s Market, you’ll usually just see locals. But it should be on your list of things to do in Fredericton because of just that.
The Boyce Farmer’s Market, you’ll not only see the regular things you see at farmer’s markets, but you’ll also get to experience what is essentially a local gathering where everyone knows everyone else.
From the Mennonites selling vegetables outside to the people inside making great breakfasts and coffee, it’s an experience like no other in Fredericton.
I’m not a farmer’s market person (except when I am traveling in a foreign country and I’m making my own food), but I love the atmosphere here.
Especially in the summer, but even in the dead of winter.
From the people selling their wares to the occasional performers and local politicians who show up to meet with constituents, it’s a really cool place to visit when you’re in Fredericton.
Stop by on a Saturday morning and you’ll see what I mean.
8. Music at the Lunar Rogue
The Lunar Rogue was the go-to spot in Fredericton for me and my friends when I lived there. It was, and continues to be, a place to go in Fredericton if you really want to absorb the Fredericton music scene.
The food here is quite good, and I recommend it. And it’s right smack in the middle of downtown, so it’s a great place to end your night. If you want to start with a night of excellent craft beer, you should visit one of the places up above.
But end your night here if they have a local band playing. They’re usually pretty great, and they almost always play stuff you can sing along to.
I miss this place sometimes. Perhaps for the memories of the times I spent here with friends who no longer live in Fredericton.
Perhaps just because of what it is – a great place to socialize, no matter who’s there.
9. Garrison District / Officer’s Square
The Garrison District is the home of Officer’s Square. Right on the riverfront on the Southside of the bridge, the district is also a public park where they host summer outdoor concerts, movie nights, croquet matches, and guided history tours.
It’s also where the Calithumpians – a Fredericton performing arts troupe – offer free summer outdoor theater.
The Canadian Army was born in Fredericton in 1883. One of the most popular things to see in Fredericton is the Changing of the Guard that happens in Officers Square twice daily in the summer at 11 am and 4 pm.
Watch soldiers dressed in period costumes re-enact the changing of the guard to the beat of drums and a piper.
10. Legislative Assembly
The Legislative Assembly building has been the seat of New Brunswick’s provincial government since 1882. Visitors can take a free guided tour during the summer from late June through late-August.
Tours happen from 9 am-5 pm, with the last tour at 4:30 pm. From September until June, tours are available weekdays by appointment from 9 am-4 pm.
The building’s impressive Victorian style makes it a great place to take pictures.
You can book a tour at their site.
11. King’s Landing Historical Settlement
King’s Landing began back in the 1940s when the Province of New Brunswick decided that a dam was necessary to produce more electrical power for the province.
As a result of this decision, there would be serious flooding of the head pond which would destroy many historical homes and other buildings.
King’s Landing was developed in the 60s to preserve these homes.
[Sorry if you got here expecting something Game of Thrones-related! – New Brunswick had King’s Landing first!]
Buildings were selected for removal and were either transported by road or floated across the Saint John River. Some were even brought across the river in the winter when the ice was strong enough to hold the weight.
My personal experience with King’s Landing is that it is an excellent way to experience what life was like for the original inhabitants.
From the Print Shop, where the employees teach you all about the printing press in a very entertaining way, to “locals” simply walking around the settlement and going about their daily lives.
It really is a fantastic experience.
One thing that takes some getting used to is that the actors who work here are completely in character. The print shop is a working shop, for example.
The gentlemen who run it will talk to you as though you are a customer of theirs. A lady or gentleman at a home will treat you as though you are a neighbor who stopped in for tea or bread.
It’s a completely immersive experience that I am positive is the reason King’s Landing is one of New Brunswick’s top tourist destinations.
King’s Landing is about 30 minutes west of Fredericton and is 100% worth the trip!
12. Woolastook Park
Woolastook Park is a great recreational area for the entire family outside of Fredericton. It’s a short 25-minute drive outside the city and you’ll find dozens of Fredericton families there every weekend from late Spring through early Fall.
Some of the things available at Woolastook:
- Lodge rental
Woolastook is also home to Quilli’s Family Fun Waterpark.
13. Mactaquac Provincial Park
Mactaquac Provincial Park is a 1,300-acre park just outside the city. Here, you can camp at one of their 300 sites, enjoy a round or two of golf at Mactaquac Golf Course, and plenty of things to keep the kids occupied as well.
There are tons of walking trails here, including one that is wheelchair accessible.
Zip-lining is also something you can do here, with TreeGO Mactaquac Aerial Adventure. They have courses for both adults and children.
And while you’re there, take a dam tour!
14. The Playhouse
The Playhouse is special to me for a couple of reasons.
First, I love the theater. When I lived in Fredericton from 1986 to 1998, I attended several performances here. It was my first real introduction to the diversity in theater.
Before I moved to Fredericton, I lived in a small town in Newfoundland that had about 2,500 people, so there was little opportunity to discover anything like this when I was a child.
For me, moving to Fredericton was an introduction to things people in “big cities” do!
Second, I have performed in this venue dozens of times, both as a member of a group called Characters Incorporated and as a singer with the New Brunswick Country Music Showcase.
Yes, it’s something not a lot of people really know about me, but I was a performer in a former life.
The Playhouse is a great venue with a dedicated professional staff. If you get a chance to see a play here, do it! Here’s the schedule.
15. UNB / STU
Fredericton is home to two liberal arts universities – the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University. Both are on the same campus on College Hill.
Founded in 1785, The University of New Brunswick is Canada’s oldest university. It also happens to be where I did my undergraduate degree. Many people come to UNB for Law, Business, and Engineering degrees.
St. Thomas University is especially well-known for its Faculty of Education.
Both campuses are great spots to take photos, as you can look out from them for great views of the Saint John River.
16. The Beaverbrook Art Gallery
There was a time when I didn’t like art. At all. I’d get bored walking through an art museum and would look at my watch to see how long I’d been there and how much time I’d need to stay before I left and did something more exciting.
That all changed for me the first time I visited the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Named for Lord Beaverbrook (Max Aitken), the Beaverbrook Art Gallery opened in 1959 with funding for the original collection coming from Lord Beaverbrook.
The building was recently renovated with a large expansion and houses a painting that changed my perspective on art.
That painting was a work by Salvador Dali called Santiago El Grande – a 13 x 10-foot painting of magnificent detail – representing Spain’s patron saint, James the Great, on a white horse.
It was the first time I ever got so up close and personal with a painting. The few times I saw it in Fredericton, I just sat in awe of it.
From that time on, I always get as close to a painting as I can to look at the detail. Santiago El Grande taught me to appreciate the work that goes into great art.
I now live in Atlanta. A few years ago, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta hosted a Dali exhibit. As I meandered through the exhibit, I was shocked when I rounded a corner and saw Santiago El Grande looming over me.
17. Old Government House
In Fredericton, Old Government House is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor and home to the Queen, if and when she visits the city. The home was built in 1828.
When the maintenance costs became unmanageable, the Lieutenant Governor decided to move out and over the years, the building served many roles. It was once the New Brunswick’s Institute for the Deaf and Dumb (sorry, but that’s what it was called at the time) and later became the headquarters of the RCMP in Fredericton.
In 1999, after an expensive renovation, the mansion once again became the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor.
This national historic site is open to visitors as a condition of the money being made available for renovations.
More things to do in Fredericton?
I’ve hit upon the major ones for me. Although this post could go on all day and just scratches the surface, I’m sure there are many more to write about.
How about for you? Do you live in Fredericton? Have you ever been there and experienced something you believe belongs in this post?
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.
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