The oldest English-settled city in North America, St. John's is the largest city and capital in Newfoundland and Labrador, and it still retains the old-world flavour of its colonial days. Founded in 1583, the city was named for John the Baptist by an early explorer, John Cabot, who claimed the settlement for England. Over the centuries, St. John's has thrived as a commercial fishing center and economic hub for the provinces. Today, the city's blend of stately historical building, park spaces and cultural attractions makes St. John's a top travel destination.
When looking for things to do in St. John's, first ascend to Signal Hill. Not only will the vantage point provide an excellent view over the city and the Atlantic Ocean, but it is also the location of Cabot Tower, built in 1897 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's landing. One of St. John's top attractions, the Signal Hill Tattoo re-creates a 19th-century military tradition of firing cannons, mortars and musket fire while a fife and drum band play in the background.
After seeing a stirring re-enactment of history, take a quick jaunt north to Quidi Vidi, a quaint and tiny fishing village known locally as "the Guy." Nestled into a rocky perch near Signal Hill, the village exudes quiet charm, but also contains a lively microbrewery, Quidi Vidi Brewing, for hoisting a pint with the locals.
From there, head to the east end of the city to Pippy Park, one of Canada's largest urban green spaces. Boasting two golf courses, a campground and several walking trails, the park is also home to the Fluvarium, an environmental education centre where visitors can watch trout and salmon through large viewing windows. Another favourite sight is Bowring Park, located directly south of Pippy Park, in the West End section of the city. One of the most scenic stretches in St. Johns, the park features a duck pond and a playful statue of Peter Pan.
Head back to downtown for waterfront views and, especially, to peruse The Narrows, a rocky passage at the north end of the harbor that resembles a small lake. After all the ambling through natural landscapes, make time for some urban delights, like shopping along Duckworth Street downtown. The stretch offers galleries that showcase local artists and intriguing little bookstores where bibliophiles can get lost for hours.
For a burst of nightlife, visiting downtown's George Street is one of the top things to do in St. John's. The short street is home to numerous bars and pubs, and is home to the George Street Festival in mid-summer, a raucous celebration concluding with the Royal St. John's Regatta boating race.
With its ocean views, expansive public parks and zesty nightlife scene, St. John's is a welcome mix of urban fun and bucolic views. Whether watching trout dart through a stream at the Fluvarium or making a toast at one of the many George Street watering holes, travellers will be drawn to St. John's attractions.