Even if rain, sleet or snow is blowing in off the harbour, St. John’s always heats up in the winter. Along Water and George streets in the heart of the city, light and music spill onto the sidewalk, and you’ll never have to walk more than a block to find steaming seafood or an upscale take on favourites such as fish and chips or Jiggs dinner. And wherever you go, you’ll find some of the warmest people in the world.
At Bannerman Park, a five-hectare urban oasis just uphill from the busy streets of the city’s downtown, you can skate The Loop, a serpentine route purpose-built for city skaters when the park was recently revitalized. Glide through the afternoon, or come at night, when vintage street lamps cast a cozy glow and keep things going till 10 p.m. If you’d rather stay planted on the ground, hit the 300-plus kilometres of the East Coast Trail. Linked together via 25 individual paths, the Trail traverses sheer cliffs, fjords and resettled communities, and visits lighthouses and fishing villages, as well as Signal Hill. It’s a perfect place for a winter hike or snowshoe. stjohns.ca; eastcoasttrail.com
Open through the winter, town and country come together every Saturday at the St. John’s Farmers’ Market. Come for lunch – you’ll find everything from traditional salt cod, to a steaming bowl of Vietnamese pho – browse handmade soap, pottery and knits, plus produce and other fresh food, and stay for the tunes. In true Newfoundland style, musicians play their favourites here for free. sjfm.ca
Eat and Drink
At Terre, recently added to a prestigious national list of best restaurants, you’ll find a menu inspired by the surrounding land and sea, prepared using traditional cooking methods. For something more casual, with the most bars per capita in Canada, you’ll have your choice of pubs. Grab a pint at local favourite Shamrock City, which promises live music every night of the week. Or descend the steps down to the Underbelly, which claims to be the city’s only speakeasy, and one of its oldest rooms, where they whip up a cocktail that matches your mood (or the weather). terrerestaurant.com; shamrockcity.ca; yellowbellybrewery.com/the-underbelly
Cool, without being too cool, JAG is a music-themed hotel where hallways and guest rooms are decorated with concert posters, and public spaces play a carefully curated soundtrack. Service is friendly, rooms are comfortable, many with cushy couches, and, best of all, you can park your car in their garage, out of the snow and walk everywhere downtown. steelehotels.com
An hour’s drive from the city presents plenty of picturesque views and multiple trails to ski or sled
Yes, there’s definitely a joke here. A historic village scattered along the shores of Trinity Bay about an hour west of St. John’s, Dildo had a moment in the spotlight a few years back on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show. (For his efforts, including building a Hollywood-style sign overlooking the town, Kimmel was made honorary mayor.) Anyone here will be happy to tell you that story as you walk along the waterfront, from the marina to the shops in town. Then, venture out to the winter wonderland in the surrounding hills.
Sled, ski or snowshoe on a local network of trails north of town. Or simply bring your own sled and glide to the bottom of the broad hill in front of the stately George House. From the top, you’ll have some of the best views in town – village, town and that famous sign up on the hill – followed by a long, leisurely slide to the bottom. newfoundlandandlabrador.com/top-destinations/dildo
Drive up the “cardiac coast,” through the picturesque seaside villages of Heart’s Delight, Heart’s Desire and Heart’s Content. Finish at Grates Cove, which feels a little like the end of the world, at the tip of a bald, treeless peninsula. Visit the studio there to dine on authentic Louisiana cuisine, take an art workshop, or take a frigid, al fresco seaweed bath, overlooking the sea ice out on the bay. gratescovestudios.ca
Eat and drink
Order a Blue Eyed Buoy or Ise Da Bye PA, two of the favourite craft beers at the Dildo Brewing Company, which you should pair with upscale pub grub. And while, officially, the museum downstairs is closed in winter, if you call ahead, someone may just open it up for you to take a trip back hundreds of years of local fishing history – including some speculation on the curious name of the town. dildobrewingco.com
Sprawling across 100 acres of oceanfront property just to the north in Green’s Harbour, The Doctor’s House is the perfect place to hole up for a wintry weekend. Sure, there’s a nearby network of trails, but you’re probably better off just enjoying a spa treatment before ordering room service and sinking deep in your suite’s deep-soaker tub. doctorshousenl.ca
The writer was a guest of Tourism Newfoundland and Labrador. It did not review or approve this article.
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