“Nooo, don’t take Ghostly Gus to look for your missing daughter. We love Ghostly Gus,” my nine-year-old daughter laughs as we watch a brief kerfuffle between a haunted hike ‘participant’ and our leader on the pretty riverside walking trails that lace downtown Fredericton.
Bemused, we watch the two race off into the distance, and a new character, riverboat captain Molly Kool, emerge from the shadows on this warm evening in this university-and-government town.
As red skies rise over the Saint John River, 30-some of us stand by lantern light on the Calithumpians Haunted Hike, wondering what will happen next on this after-dark romp through Fredericton’s ghostly past.
My teen and two tweens are clearly hooked, racing to keep up near the front of the pack as costumed Calthumpians (a local theatre group) lead us around New Brunswick’s leafy capital with tales of ghostly lore, a few jokes, and even some song.
As we head down city streets, into alleys, and across the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge, the city makes a gorgeous stage. We’re in town only 24 hours, but we’re surely smitten.
The Haunted Hike is a highlight of our short time in Fredericton. Here’s what else we’re crushing on:
Pulling into town just before noon, our very first stop is to sample sweet macarons at Chess Piece Patisserie & Café, a popular Parisienne pastry and coffee shop at 361 Queen Street. It’s bustling on this Saturday afternoon as we line up to order half a dozen macarons (brownie fudge, pink lemonade, salted caramel and birthday cake flavour, please) and some very good lasagna soup that the kids raved about.
Home Base fit for a Crowne
Fueled up, next stop is dropping our bags at the Crowne Plaza. Located downtown on Queen Street, the hotel makes an ideal base. It’s just blocks from the Historic Garrison District, a National Historic Site, and within a stone’s throw of major attractions. Exit the front door and you’re looking at the Fredericton Convention Centre, Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton Playhouse and the New Brunswick Legislature Building. Take the back entrance and you’re ready for a riverfront trail amble-the city is blessed with 88 kilometres of walking trails, including one right behind the hotel.
The Crowne Plaza operates the adjacent Lighthouse on the Green, where we order scoops of ice cream inside the white and red light tower and take the treat out to enjoy on the lighthouse’s riverfront patio, with its open air BBQ and craft beer garden. Afterwards we climb the steps of the lighthouse for dreamy views of Fredericton.
Perhaps, though, what I like best about the Crowne is its Terrace Dining Room, which surprised me with its eat-local focus, excellent children’s menu and al fresco dining on a terrace overlooking the Saint John River. Tip: Order the shepherd’s pie or the Big MacLeod Burger. Both are outstanding.
Festivals & Fun!
We were in town during the New Brunswick Highland Games, held on the stately grounds of Government House. Bagpipes, kilts and heavy events made for a fun afternoon. But don’t worry if your visit doesn’t time with the Highland dancers and strong men in kilts. Fredericton is a festival city and there’s always something going on from winter’s FROSTival to country music jams each summer. And if history’s your jam, do visit Government House. My husband especially liked this national historic site on 11 acres on the banks of the Saint John River. It’s one of Canada’s most visited government houses, and tours can be arranged.
Yes, I said FREE!
Traveling with a family gets expensive. In Fredericton, you can keep some of your hard-earned cash in your pocketbook. Yes, I’m talking free activities. Loads of them. The city offers free guided heritage walking tours where costumed guides entertain with history and folklore, free Calithumpians afternoon theatre, a free Changing of the Guard ceremony with scarlet-clad 19th century guards in the Historic Garrison District, and free movies under the stars on Saturday and Sunday nights in Barracks Square.
Wetlands and Wildlife
Don’t leave town without taking a self-guided or free, interpretive guided walk of the Mactaquac Provincial Park Beaver Ponds, located 25 minutes outside the city. The tours, available by appointment, explore a chain of beaver ponds, where kids get hands-on learning about wildlife and wetlands, looking at beaver-cut trees, beaver trails, and forest life in a peaceful natural environment. A dip-netting exploration at tour’s end will see your kids spotting minnows, catfish and big bullfrogs in a fun and educational experience.