Introducing another new column – The Grad Life! where we let you in on all the secrets and snarls of being a student in UNB’s English program. This week, PhD candidate and city expert Rob Ross gives you all the deetz on where to live and what to see in Freddy.
The Low-Down on F-Town: A Neighbourhood Guide for Soon-to-be Students
So, you’ve been accepted to UNB for grad school, and suddenly you have to move your entire life to a city you’ve never been, or, for that matter, never even thought about before. Fear not. Here is a brief description of what awaits you in the shiny and all-too soon future, aside from what can be gleaned from Wikipedia.
First, I should say that I like Fredericton, or Freddie Beach as it is lovingly (but sometimes maliciously) called (and no, there is no beach). This means that the following description of “the noble daughter of the forest”1 will reek of unbridled optimism and whimsy. Beware. Second, I’ve lived in Fredericton for four years. so I’ve come to know a thing or two about this town. I promise. If you’re expecting rugged lobster fishermen drinking rum over barrels and kilted pipers on rocky crags, you’ll be disappointed.
Although quite small, Fredericton holds a number of distinct neighbourhoods. However, because you are a poor student (or will soon be), there are only four that will have any relevance for you: Downtown, the student ghetto, Forest Hill, Uptown, and the North Side. Yes, I know this isn’t really four, but it’ll make sense when you get here. I swear. I’ll try to be brief and focus on places to live and proximity to important places, like where to get food. You may want to pull up Google Maps for this next part.
1. North Side (walking distance to UNB English department: 30+ minutes).
On the other side of the river from downtown and UNB, behold the North Side, a whole host of neighbourhoods you’ll likely never see. Apartments are cheaper here in general and can be very comfortable. There are many good restaurants, etc. (candle stick bowling aficionados, look no further than the Bowl-A-Drome on Main), but unless you have a car, it may not be worth it in terms of isolation. Living close to either the Westmorland or railway bridge would be an exception, but even then, winter winds over the river can be ruthless. The North Side is also known as the blue-collar, rougher part of town, though the row of mansions on Union Street might suggest otherwise.
2. Downtown (walking distance: 10-20 minutes)
Home to eccentric stores and storeowners, downtown Fredericton is two streets (King and Queen) that run parallel to each other for a few blocks. This is where most of the good cafés and bars are in town, as well as most of the bad ones too. If you’re going out somewhere, chances are you’re going here. There are a number of decent one-room and bachelor apartments above the shops in this neighbourhood, some of which are actually affordable. Other advantages include easy access to the city bus (free for grad students!), and relative walking proximity for anywhere else in the city, like the Victory Meat Market, where reasonably-priced deli & produce abound, or the library. The downside to downtown is late night noise — rowdy frat boys and girls leaving dance clubs to get pizza slices, who then yell at exhausted cab drivers for rides at three in the morning.
2a. The Rest of Downtown
Basically, Fredericton is built on a hill, so if you’re at the bottom, you’re downtown, and if you’re at the top, you’re uptown, which means that downtown is actually more than King and Queen street. The other parts of downtown are mostly residential though — old nineteenth-century houses converted into apartments and expanded through logicdefying additions that boggle the mind. These places can be run-down or newly renovated and vary in price and quality accordingly. In my opinion, this is the prime space to live in Fredericton. Here, one is conveniently located between all the downtown amenities, the grocery stores, and the universities, as well as the park.
I’ll divide this part of town into three separate places that correspond to the major streets that run north-south: market side (between Regent and the river), close to Sobey’s (between Regent and York), and Rabbit Town/Superstore (between York and Smythe):
2aa: Market side means you live close to the Farmers’ Market (open Saturdays) and live directly between the universities and downtown. Old Victorian mansions proliferate here, meaning this part of town can be pricey. Arguably it is the quietest part of downtown too. Live here, if you can. Have no intention of buying furniture or staying much in town? Look no further than the Rosary Hill Hostel.
2ab: The part between Regent and York is not as nice but the quality of apartments is similar, meaning they differ quite drastically.
2ac: Rabbit Town and Smythe Street are similar to the area around York, only Smythe Street, when closer to downtown, is considered by some people as sketchy. For those of you from some of Canada’s rougher towns and cities, what passes for sketchy in Fredericton can appear ridiculous.
For all you vegans, organic food enthusiasts, and 100 mile dieters, the area south of Rabbit Town is the place to be. Aura food store on the corner of Westmorland and George offers the best in low-gluten and gluten-free foods, six days a week; the Organic Co-Op on the corner of Charlotte and Northumberland is all about kale too.
If you’re outdoorsy, places off Wilmot Park are worth looking at for apartments, as well as the newer apartment blocks closer to midtown and Odell Park. Living close to the Superstore on the corner of Smythe and Dundonald can be quite advantageous too: UNB is only about 10-15 minutes away when walking.
West of the parks is a part of town dominated by suburban housing — places you will never go. However, along the river on Woodstock Road are some important restaurants you should know about: The Sunshine Eatery (a diner with a unique serve-yourself coffee policy), The Diplomat (Fredericton’s lone 24hr restaurant specializing in Chinese food, but with breakfast, burgers and sandwiches too), and The Cabin (another diner, the most affordable, with wonderful 50s juke boxes at each table, spinning 45s from Elvis to Boney M).
3. The Student “Ghetto”/Midtown (walking distance: 2-5 minutes)
Dundonald/Beaverbrook Street is where the hill starts, the slope of which is called Midtown by some. It is quite steep and walking up and down it will introduce you to muscles in your legs you never knew existed. The area closer to UNB is called the student ghetto. It’s a lot of postwar housing and a few apartment blocks occupied by students (aka: no drive-bys and needle parks). As a result, this part of town can be pretty hectic throughout the year (burning couches in the street, etc.). However, if you can get a room in a house shared with other students, you can live pretty cheap here. The Sobey’s on Regent Street is really close, as well as The Goody Shop Bakery on Albert Street, which is worth frequenting.
The rest of midtown is far quieter, tidier, and harder to find places to live.
4. Forest Hill (walking distance to UNB: 5-20 minutes)
Forest Hill and Forest Hill Road are on the other side of the University and are home to several decent apartment complexes of the newer variety, as well as many converted houses. For some mysterious reason, students from Alberta tend live around here (though not by any means exclusively). It is far quieter on this side of UNB than in the ghetto or downtown. But what you get in peace and affordability you lose in convenience: the closest grocery store is far. You may find yourself walking for over an
hour on dark lonely nights in freezing rain too often. Unless you have a car. If you don’t, living close to the Mandarin Restaurant might make it all worth while.
5. Uptown (walking distance to UNB: 5-25 minutes)
Uptown starts around Montgomery Street and ends at the Fredericton Shopping Mall (there is only one). The many apartments up here have the advantage of being newer and in better condition than Downtown. You tend to get more for what you pay for up here. You are also closer to nicer and newer grocery stores of the big box variety, as well as places like Pizza Hut, and Scoop and Save, not to mention any other store you would expect (Future Shop, Swiss Chalet, etc.). Also, if you’re into movies, the only movie theatre is up here, in the mall. The downside of uptown is having to walk an hour up
the hill after all the events going on Downtown and at the University, which may prove a deterrent to going out at all.
Well, that’s it. Hopefully you have a better idea of what to expect at the Beach, and where you might like to live when you get here. I hope you enjoy your stay. The Grad life is a unique experience and should be relished as much as possible; after all, when else will you have the chance to schmooze with introverted bookworms from across Canada?
1 Frederictonʼs motto.