Compared to most of Canada’s major cities, St. John’s, Nfld., is tiny. And yet when the Juno Awards comes to town on April 15 to 18, visitors will be taken by the outsized personality of the place – not to mention the spectacular views of the Atlantic. Metric, Michael Buble and tween hero Justin Bieber are set to perform at the event. But for pure entertainment, it’s hard to compete with listening to local Celtic music and drinking a pint of 1892 in one of the old-world pubs on trendy George Street.
Where to stay: If early — 20th century Victorian architecture gets you excited, then check out Ryan Mansion. Built in 1909 by James Ryan, once the province’s richest citizen, the massive home’s claim to fame is its large staircase, which was designed by the same team who installed the Grand Staircase on the Titanic. The cozy, old-world rooms are the ideal place to snooze after a long day of meetings at the St. John’s Convention Centre – an easy 15-minute walk away.
For a more modern experience, try the Hometel on Signal Hill, a national historic site. While travellers can choose between various room sizes, business people planning an extended stay may want to set up in one of the many “complete homes” – full-sized apartments with up to three bedrooms.
Where to dine: You can’t visit St. John’s – the heart of Canada’s fishing industry – without trying its famous fish and chips. The Celtic Hearth is the place togo for fried fare. Formerly a pharmacy and candy store, it features an inviting decor with red-brick walls, and houses a museum displaying old pill bottles and vintage toys and candy.
The Gypsy Tea Room is another go-to restaurant among locals. “They do fantastic things with seafood and steak,” says Erin Skinner, marketing co-ordinator for the local Juno hosting committee. The eatery is located in the Murray Premises – a warehouse that was built for cod fishers in 1846 – and has a large wine cellar and an assortment of fish caught by Newfoundlanders.
Where to unwind: Without a doubt, George Street is the place to relax after a busy day. The strip, which is a stone’s throw from St. John’s Harbour, has more than 20 bars and pubs crammed into three blocks. You can be sure many Canadian rockers will hit some of these watering holes during the Junos.
Don’t miss: When the warm weather allows, there’s nothing like seeing Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America. It is famous for its beautiful views of the Avalon Peninsula, but also for its lighthouses – one has been operating since 1836.
The mini-guide: What you really need to know about St. John’s
What to bring
A hand-knit fisherman sweater ($150-$190) from Nonia.com
How to say
How’s it going?: How’s she cuttin’?
It’s a beautiful day: The sun is splittin’ the rocks
Very cranky: Right crooked
A night in a Hometel house: $297
Tour of St. John’s and Cape Spear: $59
Blackened salmon fillet at the Gypsy Tea Room: $24
Junos on George Street viewing party: free