If you build it, they will come. And they have, from down the street and from around the world. In mid-2022, the port of Saint John — Canada’s oldest incorporated city — transformed a vacant parking lot into a bustling waterfront container village, dubbed Area 506. Within months, it opened to much fanfare, just in time to welcome not only locals eager to enjoy the warm weather, but visitors on The Oasis of the Seas, the city’s largest visiting cruise ship. A resounding success from the get-go, Area 506 is already shaping up to be a humming humanity hub, unifying people worldwide for years to come.
What is Area 506?
Area 506 is a combination of eclectic vendor village, electric concert venue, and chill waterfront lounge, along with what is increasingly becoming a rejuvenated, vibrant waterfront. Visitors are encouraged to meander, and explore the myriad shipping containers that are home to everything from diverse boutiques and striking public art, to engaging pop-up activities and delicious food trucks. Grab a drink and enjoy an aerial view of the village from The Docks Container Lounge, and on days when cruise ships dock, join thousands of others in what promises to be an unforgettable Saint John experience.
Explore New Brunswick’s Artisan Gem
One peek inside the containers and you will be amazed at the creativity of the entrepreneurial shopkeepers, aka, “Village People”. Each has designed a space that maximizes the floor and wall area to showcase crafts, goods, and grub without feeling cramped or stuffy.
One such shop, Boatique, is owned and operated by a sister duo who are daughters of a traditional fisherman. They feature clothing and décor for those who appreciate life on the water. Meanwhile, The NB Box is the creation of Ingrid Munroe, who sources and curates gift boxes featuring locally produced products, including bags, jams, sauces, and art.
Grab an epic java from Epoch Chemistry Coffee House, and work up an appetite by exploring art at every turn. Artists have come together to complete stunning works, most notably along a 120-foot strip of containers that’s now known as graffiti alley. Satiate your hunger by popping into Gahan House Port City for oysters and handcrafted ales or El Patron Taco Truck for Mexican flavours prepared by Red Seal chef Jose Luis Adair.
Make room for dessert, and pack on a few more calories, starting at Terri Blanchard’s Candy World, a sweet-tooth’s siren song, home to current favourites and retro classics, including root-beer popsicles and salt-water taffy. Bella’s Traditional Ice Cream serves up scoops of small-batch goodness using dairy from Maritime farmers, while at The Donut Bar, fresh, hand-rolled donuts are only the beginning. Here, the donut boundaries shatter thanks to unique, ever-changing concoctions, including favourites such as The Cookie Monster, topped with mini chocolate chip cookies, the Wafflehouse, topped with a Belgian waffle and maple syrup.
Entertained On the Bay of Fundy
Although cruise-ship passengers occupy their time on board with all sorts of activities, disembarking is always an exciting moment. When Area 506 was being planned, the idea was to have ships dock directly outside the container village. That way, as they approached, visitors could catch a glimpse of, and be immediately intrigued by, Saint John’s tantalizing sights, sounds, and aromas. Once docked, everyone’s first impression of the city would be through the container village, giving visitors an instant bolt of New Brunswick-style hospitality with a captivating injection of delicious fare, uniquely local culture, complete with artisans and musicians setting the mood and atmosphere.
With a concert stage and beer garden, festive concerts take place throughout the summer. Past acts celebrating Atlantic Canadian talent have included Alan Doyle, Classified, and Matt Mays; The Trews, Arkells, and Sloan performed for the masses along the waterfront. To celebrate New Brunswick Day in early August, a weekend-long series of acts take the stage, making it an ideal environment to create summer nights’ memories with a few thousands of your new closest friends.
A True Humanity Hub
On paper, and in person, this collection of brightly designed storage containers simply occupies space along the Saint John waterfront. But beneath the surface, and in actuality, the tangible magic of this village is palpable, bringing people together, from all walks of life, elevating spirits and uniting them through food and music, with a splash of home-grown hospitality. Saint John is already a destination city, and thanks to the humanity hub that is Area 506, Canada’s oldest city might just be one of its coolest.
MORE ABOUT VISITING SAINT JOHN AND AREA 506
Besides 75 days of programming, including the uber-popular Waterfront Concert Series, other new and exciting events and activities are planned, including a Family Movie Series, and of course, the flagship Area 506 Festival. Best to check the website, Facebook, and Instagram pages for any and all information and updates about Area 506, including operating hours, tickets, vendor information, and concert listings.