The past few months were jam-packed with my Portuguese family visit. Some of them have been here a handful of times and have hiked in Gros Morne, discovered the hidden art studios of Fogo Island, enjoyed the Trinity pageant, and ate in Port Rexton. Others were here for the first time.
The challenge this year was having the family enjoying their stay while not leaving our St. John’s home, something I was finding daunting with a toddler and a baby in tow. Also, with our 2-year old with us most of the times, I needed some child friendly activities. This is certainly not the “ultimate” St. John’s travel guide but if you are visiting the capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador with young children there are helpful tips below.
During a beautiful summer day we went to the Quidi Vidi Village. Only a few minutes from downtown this historic fishing village is worth visiting for the beautiful scenery and also for the Plantation Craft Studios. Here we can always find unique gifts made right there by local artisans. We enjoyed a tasty brunch at the Mallard Cottage next door and I would also recommend a tour of the Quidi Vidi Brewery (they have beer made with iceberg water!).
Downtown strolls were a regular activity, with stops in coffee shops (Fixed, Hava Java, Rocket), parks (Bannerman and Bowring with its water pad) and The Rooms. My dad in particularly loved the architecture of The Rooms, calling it the best building interior he has ever seen. He has travel extensively and is an artist himself so it is not easy to get him amazed.
Books by local writers were also bought at Broken Books, an independent bookstore where you can also get a great cup of coffee.
We hiked up Signal Hill with the baby on a carrier – not as intimidating as I first anticipated – and drove to Cape Spear. Cape Spear is the Easternmost Point in Canada and was first named by the Portuguese. Curiously the landscape is very similar to the westernmost point of Continental Europe, which is located in Portugal (Cabo da Roca).
Our toddler also enjoys going to the Botanical Garden to check the rhododendrons and feed the ducks. July was so unusually hot here that we also squeezed several trips to some of the rocky beaches of the area and North Atlantic swims were braved for the first time by yours truly.
One thing that my kid loves is visiting Lester’s Farm. Samuel loves to play with Lester’s toy tractors, run around in the large fields, and eat ice cream. This year we also took him to their strawberry u-pick and he helped his avó pick plants and herbs for our yard.
On Saturdays the whole family goes to the St. John’s Farmers’ Market to get produce, eggs, and eat delicious food (they even have homemade ice cream now!). The playground behind the market’s building makes it a great spot to bring your children. The photo is my mom sporting their new jute bags full of delicious fresh veggies!
Another thing that St. John’s is famous for is its summer festivals. My family got a glimpse of the Wreckhouse Blues and Jazz Festival, Sound Symposium, Folk Festival, and Buskers Festival. One of the highlights was the outdoor performance Boreal Breaths and Steps, part of the Sound Symposium. A bus drove us to Portugal Cove and we walked in the boreal forest with site-specific poetry (by Marlene Creates and Don McKay) and dance (with Nicola Hawkins and Louise Moyes).
These next ones are not exactly walking distance, but if you have access to a car they are very much worth it. Petty Harbour is a beautiful fishing town just outside of St. John’s. The recently opened Petty Harbour Mini-Aquarium is very successful with kids, and within 5 min walk, you can have one of the best fish & chips feeds around at Chafe’s Landing.
Each time my family visits in the summer we go to Ferryland and indulge on their lighthouse picnics. Many times we had our picnic while whales played in the background. We also tried to get a closer look of such whales on a boat tour a few weeks later but had no such luck… lots of puffins though.
And among all the fun there was all the help around the house that my lovely family provided. The backyard was beautified, the deck painted, art was finally put on the wall, and they were lot of extra hands to help with the children.
Summer was great and I miss them all deeply already.