Tell me what it is like to live in Charlottetown?
December 1, 2010 8:20 PM   Subscribe

What is Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island really like?

I've been assigned a paper that is about the urban planning culture of a non-American city compared to that of an analogous American city. For my non-American city I was assigned Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. No, this is not homeworkfilter. I've researched the planning culture and I have an outline and ideas and I can write this paper with what I have now. However, it feels really silly to write a paper about a place that not only have I never visited, but that nobody I know has ever visited.

I know nothing about this city except for what I've read. I would just like to know what it's really like to live there, from someone who has lived there. Inside information. Anything. Anecdotes. Stories. What are the people like? What do they do and where do they go? What other cities does it remind you of, American or no? I'm not looking for more books to read or facts to cite so much as I am looking to understand the general feel of the place, which is hard to get from official texts and documents. Pictures and text can only reveal so much.
posted by millipede to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm American, but I visited Charlottetown this past summer. It reminds me somewhat of Burlington, VT. Similar populations; quaint, walkable downtown with big box stores not far out of town; on the water; one of the best known/bigger cities in the state/province but still pretty small. A small detail that struck me is that for me, locally, all the roadside stands have signs advertising tomatoes and corn. The equivalent in PEI is potatoes. Also, if you're not in super touristy or commerce-focused areas, every place is scenic. Driving around the west side of PEI was like one big post card, with the occasional windfarm tower rising up.
posted by booksherpa at 8:59 PM on December 1, 2010

Small. Sleepy. Pretty. That's what I remember from visiting there years ago. Thinking, wow, this place survives on tourism, and falls asleep when the sun goes down. But Cows Ice Cream sure is great.
posted by Dasein at 9:30 PM on December 1, 2010

There is no place in the world I love more than Maritime Canada, but I'm far from an expert. All of PEI is extraordinarily beautiful, and it's also quiet and insular. Since the island itself is so small, it sort of gives one the impression that it's one big town, with the individual cities functioning as distinct neighborhoods. Charlottetown reminds me a bit of Duluth, Minnesota.

The Confederation Bridge/Pont de la Confédération is not far from Charlottetown and had a significant impact on the economy and ecology of the area when it was completed in 1997. The ensuing closure of the ferry terminal was especially devastating on the New Brunswick side, but as far as I know, it was handled better in PEI.

The economy of the island is pretty agricultural, and there are lots of small-scale farms. Potatoes. Anne of Green Gables. Fishing.

The University of Prince Edward Island is in Charlottetown, and it attracts students from various neighboring provinces.

A personal anecdote: I visited PEI while staying in New Brunswick. When I arrived back at my host's house and raved about how much I'd liked it there, he told me that the general consensus about PEI natives among residents of the nearby provinces is that they're hesitant about letting strangers into the fold.

The cities on PEI also have crazy-looking traffic lights.

The Maritimes have my heart.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 11:28 PM on December 1, 2010

It has a really neat District Energy Heating system.
posted by scruss at 5:03 AM on December 2, 2010

It's so weird to see this question! I'm from PEI, and here are some impressions I have of Charlottetown and PEI in general, though it's hard for me to be objective.

The people are very nice. It is an 'everyone knows everyone' kind of place. “Where are you from/Who's your father/mother/Which school did you go to?” are very common questions when meeting someone, so you can immediately place them. Veteran's Affairs is located there which provides a lot of 'good' jobs. UPEI is also an important part of employment, as well as the provincial government.

The city itself is small. There is a downtown that includes the waterfront up to Province House and a little beyond. This is my favourite part of Charlottetown because it's where things happen. It's where the good restaurants are, bars, festivals, etc. and it's walkable.There is a small but thriving music scene there. It's quieter in the winter – in the summer we've got a lot of cruise ships and tourists.

Going uptown, you head toward UPEI. University Avenue is the 'main strip', going from Province House up past the university and to the big box stores. This is the not so nice part, aside from the university itself. For such a small place, the city is not particularly pedestrian-friendly. City planning in general is not well done, in my uneducated opinion. Business people have a lot of sway with the powers that be, and the higher ups basically do what they want. In the past few years there's been a lot of suburban development in Cornwall and Stratford, two towns just outside the city.

To give you an idea of the culture - the provincial government just lifted the Sunday shopping ban (I believe we're the last place in Canada), which I personally am disappointed about. Sundays were quiet but nice, and it was one of the unique things about the Island. A number of intersections were replaced with roundabouts recently, which was quite the story for awhile, but people have adjusted to them. Up until a few years ago, we could only get pop (soda) in glass bottles, but that ban was lifted too (I was also against this) and now we have plastic bottles and cans like everyone else :( All of these issues are hotly debated by people, along with local politics. Also, every once in awhile a rumour goes around that we are getting a Gap, but it has yet to come true.

I have heard that is it much harder for people 'from away' to integrate into the community, but I don't know how true that is. As a born Islander, I went from kindergarten to university with the same people, and have a lot of relatives here, so someone without those connections would obviously have a different experience. I love it, but I really can't compare it to any city. Did I mention it's small?
posted by ghost dance beat at 8:28 AM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm from Charlottetown. My info is a little out of date as I've moved away, but ....

It's a fabulous place to grow up. The entire island, and Charlottetown in particular, really benefits from being a province. Even though there is such a small population, the government has provided a lot of infrastructure and services, simply because PEI is its own province. Growing up, there were opportunites in sports, performing arts, advanced programs for students, etc, that were relatively easy to access because they had to exist in every province, but there are only 130,000 people to take advantage of them.

Charlottetown also had a lot fewer problems than all of the other cities I've lived in. There is/was virtually no serious crime. My parent still don't lock the house ever, even when they're out. The car keys are always left in the car (hidden), and the car is left unlocked. I can't think of anywhere else where you could do that.

As ghost dance beat mentions, Charlettetown isn't really pedestrian friendly. You basically need a car to get anywhere. On the other hand, everywhere is really close by.
posted by V'Ger at 9:05 AM on December 2, 2010

Response by poster: These are exactly the types of answers I was looking for. Thank you so much! It's so helpful to have a perspective from people who actually lived there.
posted by millipede at 1:17 PM on December 2, 2010

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