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The Essential 9 Things to Do in Moncton – And the Traditional Acadian Food You Must Try

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3 weeks ago

So you’ve already made the (right) choice to visit Moncton, the French-English bilingual capital of New Brunswick (unofficially of course – Fredericton is the capital!). You’ve no doubt seen this stunningly picturesque maritime province on the east coast of Canada in travel magazines – and now all you need to know is the best things to do in Moncton.

I spent nearly a decade in Moncton while studying at the Université de Moncton so you’re in a safe pair of hands. Canadians are known for being nice (too nice, even), but Moncton locals take it to another level: Canadians know New Brunswickers as welcoming and lovely people who will gladly help you in whichever language you choose to speak.

Keep an ear out for the local slang language called “Chiac” which is a the local mix of French and English that you won’t hear elsewhere. And if you’re looking to practice speaking French, Moncton is the perfect place to do it.

1. Explore Downtown Moncton

Moncton is a surprisingly aesthetically pleasing industrial city that expanded very quickly; but, despite this rapid expansion, the downtown area of Moncton has retained its charm and eclectic nature.

Take the time to walk on Moncton’s Main St where you can find the fully restored vaudeville Capitol Theatre, a beautiful art deco theatre, and the new Avenir Center where the local hockey team plays as well as the venue for the new Cirque du Soleil (did you know Cirque du Soleil was born in French Canada?). If you’re lucky, you might even see local artists painting new murals or encounter a musician busking on the street.

Downtown Moncton is where locals and tourist gather, especially throughout the summer. Local artisans and shops line the streets of this beautiful area. From coffee shops (our favorite is La Factrie) to artisanal beer joints (visit Happy Brewery or Tide and Boar), there’s plenty to keep you entertained.

Downtown Moncton is not limited to the Main Street, so make sure you also go down Church Street, walk along St George Street which used to be known for notorious activities back in the days. It has since been cleaned up and is home to many delicious restaurants and hot spots like Halo Donuts and Lost & Found Ice Cream).

2. Eat traditional Acadian fare

This one is a bit tricky, but is absolutely something you must do if you are visiting the East Coast of Canada – and especially Moncton. While Moncton has excellent restaurants, I suggest you try authentic, traditional Acadian food. It might not look the best, but you simply must go to Chez Mémére Poutines & Râpées for local traditional food.

The Acadian population in Moncton is arguably one of the largest in the province (simply because the majority of the population lives in the city), so you can rest assured that you’ll be eating authentic food. While you’re traveling through New Brunswick, make sure to keep an eye out for these traditional Acadian foods.

Poutine rapées

Firstly, no, this is not fries with gravy and cheese on top. Poutine rapées is a potato dumpling that is made of shredded raw potatoes and mashed cooked potatoes wrapped around a salty meatball that is typically made with pork. This is usually eaten with ketchup, brown sugar or molasses. It’s not for the faint of heart.

In the interests of full disclosure, a lot of people are put off by this dish when it is presented to them. It looks like a chewy dumpling, but it is a must try. It has converted many nonbelievers into being fans of Acadian poutine – I promise.

Where to try it

If you want to try the best poutine rapée in Moncton (or near Moncton, in this case) you must go to Saint-Antoine and visit Le P’tit coin Acadien.

Fricot

This is your basic chicken stew, Acadian style, that is anything but basic. Every Acadian family has their on variation of this hearty soup. It comes in handy during the long, cold and dark winter days which Canada is (unfortunately) known for. It is quite literally comfort in a bowl.

My family uses a secret blend of savory spices and salty herbs. A key element of Acadian cooking is knowing that everything is measured with the heart and not with a spoon!

Where to try it

If you find yourself in Kouchibougouac National Park, go to Lafiouk restaurant for the best, most authentic fricot!

Râpure

In English, this dish is called rappie pie. And yes, it involves more potatoes. Think back to the 1700s when Acadians first landed in New Brunswick. They were eating what they were growing. And this dish is the perfect representation of that. Râpure is made with potatoes, pork, lard and onions. It’s a casserole-like dish that is cooked to a perfect crisp.

Cipate

For New Brunswickers, cipate is a Christmas staple. I have many memories of a huge cipate dish in my grandmother’s kitchen on Christmas Eve. This dish can cause controversy even within the Acadian communities because there are so many variations. Acadian families are very territorial over their family recipes.

Pets de Soeurs

This dessert might be my absolute favorite dessert ever. My grandmother made this growing up and it is the guiltiest of pleasures, and it really is the full sensory experience. First and foremost, the name, “pet de soeur” quite literally stands for “nuns farts“.

Imagine cinnamon rolls, but made with brown sugar and soaked in a buttery caramel sauce. Be careful searching for this online, because Quebec has their own version of this dish that is not Acadian.

Where to try it

Le P’tit coin Acadien makes very tasty pets de soeurs. Grab a few! You can also guarantee that Chez Mémére Poutines & Râpées will have pets de soeurs.

3. Experience the Tidal Bore and walk along the Chocolate River

The Chocolate River, or Petitcodiac River, flows through Downtown Moncton. Its name comes from the elevated levels of sediments that are found causing the river to appear like a flowing chocolate river (straight out of Willy Wonka). While it looks delicious, we do not recommend trying to drink the water (for obvious reasons). 

The Tidal Bore is a phenomenon that happens when the tide rises in the Bay of Fundy, which flows into the Petitcodiac river. This rapid influx of water in the river creates a massive wave (that some brave souls try to surf during spring) which can go up to 30 inches.

Local tip: You should go to the Bore Park viewing point (located at 10 Bendview court) to catch this phenomenon – it’s a perspective you will always remember.

Make sure to check out the tides table before you make your way there. Keep in mind that tide tables are an estimation, so show up a bit early to make sure you do not miss it!

4. Eat local at the Saturday Farmer’s Market

No trip to Moncton would be complete without a visit to the Farmer’s Market. Moncton has a fantastic farmers’ market, open every Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm, year-round. Local artisans and food vendors come here to share their products.

If you are visiting during the summer days, you will probably hear bands playing on the stage beside the Farmers’ Market, so stop by and enjoy the local artists.

You can find everything from the best local honey to hot sauces and one of the best German delis in town called Degenhardt’s Sausage & Deli. The Farmer’s Market is the best way to spend a Saturday morning in Moncton, especially after a busy Friday night at the Happy Brewery.

5. Sample local wine at Magnetic Hill Winery

Wine lovers, this is your call! Magnetic Hill Winery is situated in a picturesque valley, overlooking rolling hills and vineyards. New Brunswick isn’t known internationally for it’s wine, but should you find yourself here, you should definitely add this winery on your list.

Travel tip: The tasting room is open all year round, but we suggest visiting in late summer and early fall.

If you want to truly experience the deliciousness that is Magnetic Hill Winery, we highly suggest ordering the tasting flight and pairing it with the charcuterie board, sourced with local cheeses, meats and, as they put it, mouth-watering crackers.

6. Take a few hours to relax at Usva spa

Usva is a thermal spa which is new to the city of Moncton. I personally love thermal spas and was so fortunate to be able to visit this one late last fall. They have a variety of treatments available (massages, facials and infrared treatments), plus they offer an incredible thermal experience (think cycling between a hot pool and a cold plunge followed by relaxation and repeat).

If you were to choose only one activity to do at the spa, I would highly recommend the thermal experience. The cycle leaves you feeling absolutely amazing. You can repeat it as often as you choose, but don’t forget to properly disconnect and relax between cycles. The spa has a great indoor and outdoor relaxing area for you to use and enjoy.

7. Drive to “Ile aux Puces” at the “Pays de la Sagouine”

Drive yourself to flea island. Yes, you read correctly: flea island. Technically this is not in Moncton, but if you’re interested in history and the Acadian culture, this is a place worth visiting. Pays de la Sagouine is located in Bouctouche which is a roughly 30-minute drive northbound.

The Pays de la Sagouine (which translates to the Sagouine’s country) is a theatrical island that explains some of the plights of Acadians through characters straight out of the Acadian author Antonine Maillet’s books. For context, ”la Sagouine” is an old lady who tells the stories of the characters created by Antonine Maillet.

I’ve come here more often than I can count, and this place is truly just magical. It is completely immersive and just such a fun place to be. You will leave with your head spinning and your heart full.

Pays de la Sagouine also puts on an immersive enchanted light walk from May to October called Akadi Lumina. Inspired by the Acadian culture, the night light walk takes you through a narrative experience supported by special effects, projections, sounds and, of course, original Acadian music. It’s an incredible experience for the whole family.

8. Experience the natural optical illusion at Magnetic Hill Park

The Magnetic Hill Park is a weird natural phenomenon. It is an optical illusion which you can experience at the Magnetic Hill Park.

To partake in this activity, you’ll need to first drive yourself to the Magnetic Hill Park (about 15 minutes from downtown Moncton on the #2 Highway) and take exit 452 towards Magnetic Hill Park. Once you get to the park, follow the signage and it will lead you to a very unsuspecting hill.

There will be quite a few signs to guide you to the right spot. Once you’re there, drive down the hill as you normally would. When you reach the bottom of the hill, pull into the left lane, put your car into neutral and let the hill “pull” you back to the top.

While it is a trick of the mind, it is genuinely really cool to experience (it doesn’t get old and I must have done it at least 20 times by now). It is the quintessential road trip stop.

We suggest going here after you stop at the Magnetic Hill Winery since they are within a mile from each other!

9. Take a day trip to Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park

While Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park is technically not in Moncton, it’s just a short 30-minute drive from the city. You can easily reach the Park on the NB114 headed south.

The park is very important to most, if not, all, New Brunswickers, if for no other reason than it is the site of the photo on the New Brunswick Medicare card. New Brunswickers collectively mourned when one of the rock formations (also known as the flower pots) toppled over.

At Hopewell Rocks, you will experience some of the highest and fastest rising tides in the world (think 40+ feet of elevation at the rate of 4 to 6 feet per hour). At low tide, you will have a few hours to walk along the ocean floor and walk among towering rock formations (also known as the flower pots).

I highly recommend doing a kayak tour at the rocks, but these need to be booked long in advance as they sell out quite quickly. And make sure to buy your tickets to Hopewell Rocks in advance as well! This kayak tour takes you around all the stacks while the tide is rising.

It is truly something you cannot experience anywhere else in the world. Make sure to find a good tour if you want to get the most out of it.

Check the times for the tide before you plan your visit. These change daily and can affect your planning. 

Local tip: Pack a picnic to enjoy while you wait for the tide to rise.

There is a restaurant on site, but the way New Brunswickers like to spend their afternoon is to picnic. we And make sure to bring a refillable water bottle as well.  

When the tide starts rising, an alarm will sound and you will be able to stand atop the cliffs and watch the tide come in. Within a few hours, where you were standing will be completely covered in deep water!


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