The free Fredericton Visitor Guide, available at the information centers and many hotels around town, includes a well-written and informative walking tour of the downtown area. It's worth tracking down before exploring the city.
City Hall, at 397 Queen St., is an elaborate Victorian building with a prominent brick tower and a 2.5m (8-ft.) clock dial. The second-floor City Council Chamber occupies what used to be Fredericton's opera house until the 1940s. Small, folksy tapestries adorn the visitor's gallery and tell the town's history. Learn about these tapestries -- and the rest of the building -- during free tours, offered twice daily from mid-May through mid-October (both in English and French). Contact the tourism office (tel. 506/460-2129) to arrange a tour.
Officers' Square, on Queen Street between Carleton and Regent streets, is a handsome city park now, but in 1785 it was the center of the city's military activity; it was chiefly used for drills, first as part of the British garrison and then, until 1914, by the Canadian Army. Today, the only soldiers are local actors who put on a little show for the tourists. Concerts and dramatic events are also staged on the square during summer. That handsome colonnaded stone building facing the parade grounds is the former officers' quarters, now the York-Sunbury Museum.
In the center of the square, there's a prominent statue of a robed Lord Beaverbrook. It's a name you hear a lot in Fredericton -- a street, a museum, and a hotel also bear his name -- though it wasn't actually his name; he was born Max Aitken in Newcastle, New Brunswick. Aitken amassed a fortune, primarily in publishing, during his life and was made a lord in Britain in 1917, using the name of a stream near Newcastle where he had fished as a boy. Aitken later donated an art collection and a modern building to house it in (the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, natch), along with a modern playhouse, now home to the Theatre New Brunswick, built the same year Beaverbrook died (1964).
Two blocks upriver from Officers' Square are the Soldiers' Barracks, housed in a similarly grand stone building. Check your watch against a sundial high on the end of the barracks, a replica of the original timepiece. A small exhibit explains the life of enlisted men during the 18th century.
Fredericton is well noted for its distinctive architecture, especially its neighborhoods of fine Victorian and Queen Anne residences. Particularly attractive is Waterloo Row, a group of privately owned historic homes -- some grand, some less so -- just south of the downtown area. Follow the river bank south (near the University of New Brunswick) to find these houses.
One entertaining and enlightening way to learn about the city's history is to sign up for a walking tour with the Calithumpians Theatre Company. Costumed guides offer free tours in July and August, pointing out highlights with anecdotes and dramatic tales. Recommended is the nighttime "Haunted Hike" tour, done by lantern light, which runs 6 nights each week (no Sunday tours). The tour takes about 2 hours and costs C$134 for adults, C$9 for children; meet at The Coach House at the corner of Church and Queen streets (behind Gallery 78). Call the theater company at tel. 506/457-1975 for more information.
If you're in town on a Saturday, do not miss the Boyce Farmers' Market (tel. 506/451-1815) at 665 George St. (corner of Regent St.) -- it's adjacent to Science East. This award-winning market, which runs from about 6am until about 1pm, has existed here in one form or another since the late 18th century (although the current building was constructed in the 1950s, and later expanded). Something approaching 200 vendors -- butchers, bakers, even some candlestick makers -- still hawk everything from fresh produce to crafts, croissants, and artisanal smoked meats, just as they always have done. Harrowsmith magazine once selected this market as one of the top farmer's markets in Canada. It's well worth an hour of your Saturday morning.
Also don't miss any event hosted by the local artists' coop Gallery Connexion (tel. 506/454-1433; www.galleryconnexion.ca). at 732 Charlotte St. The contemporary art collective presents talks, video artworks, exhibitions, musical performances, and other events. Check the website.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.