/ On The Road
On The Road — By Andy Hayes on August 24, 2010 at 11:55 pm
Filed under: Attractions, Canada, city guide, museum, restaurant, top-feature

Halifax Highlights

Halifax is Nova Scotia’s capital city, a drop of cosmopolitan in a sea of fishing villages and rural communities.  As one of Canada’s most popular maritime provinces for tourists to visit, I was really looking forward to finding out how different Nova Scotia was to its other provincial neighbors, but more importantly how it contrasted with its namesake, Scotland.  The answers are surprising.

Downtown Nightlife

I was kind of shocked – Halifax is, without question, a party town.  That is, they like to have a good time. It seems everyone who is anyone hangs out downtown, including film stars and actors who seemed to stroll by without a car.  I can see why – every restaurant we went to had great food and a very, very long drink list.  It’s easy to get used to.

  • Pizza Corner (map):  You laugh, but this place is hopping from afternoon until the wee hours of the morning.  It is, as the name implies, a street corner where you’ll find three pizza shops.  Poutine, donair, and other good but not good for you treats can be found.  If you’re going to eat poorly, either do it on the waterfront or do it here.
  • Economy Shoe Shop (map): The name is strange, and the layout even stranger – this venue is several bars and restaurants joined together, complete with a terrace that wouldn’t look out of place in Nice and chandeliers. Known for their nachos but there are plenty of other healthier treats on the menu.
  • Salty’s (map): One of the best places to go in Halifax for seafood.  But they have harbor views, and Cow’s – some of the best ice cream in Halifax – is around the corner.

Once you’ve had your fill of food and drink, a popular thing to do at night is to go on a ghost walk. I’m afraid I can’t provide a recommendation here – we took the “original” Halifax ghost walk (more info), which wasn’t bad, but disappointing in that many of the stories weren’t about Halifax.  A majority of the city’s residents were either killed or severely injured during the “Halifax explosion” in 1917, so a lot of restless souls are known to wander the city.

Chilling on The Waterfront

Halifax has one of the longest urban boardwalks in the world, and it connects various piers and shopping centers together, making for one fantastic walk on a sunny day.  Just a few of the spots you’ll find along the way:

  • Pier 21 (map): Pier 21 is Canada’s Ellis Island (but without the statue of liberty).  Over a million immigrants settled through these doors.  There’s a museum here now, but more noticeably this is now Halifax’s cruise ship port.
  • Bishop’s Landing (map): An area along the waterfront with shops, a wine tasting room, and a cafe.  Sometimes there is live music too.
  • Maritime Museum (map):  For boat lovers, this museum is a must-stop.  The two-floor building features an excellent Titanic exhibit, some beautiful little boats-in-a-bottle, and information about some of the province’s lighthouses.  Don’t forget, your ticket gives you access to the HMCS Sackville, which is in impeccable shape and parked just outside.
  • Theodore Tugboat (map):  A must for the children, and I admit, I kind of wanted to go myself!  Theodore is based off a popular cartoon program, and this might be the most fun of a ride any child can have.
  • Dartmouth Ferry (map):  If you’re on a slim budget, the Halifax-Darmouth Ferry is the cheapest harbor cruise you can get – and you get many of the same views.  Departures are regular and as frequent as every 30 minutes during rush hour.

There’s also an endless stream of snacks and food, including a brewery, burgers, pizza, ice cream, as well as a Canadian classic, Beavertails.  If you’re tired of the boardwalk, I do suggest a visit to the Art Gallery (map) just a block away; it is worth the stop alone to see the Maud Lewis house.  She was a famous Nova Scotian painter, and her actual home was transplanted into a gallery exhibition.  Incredible.

City Parks

I have to point out Point Pleasant Park (map), for a couple of reasons.  One, because it is enormous – it is a forest that rises up around the edge of the harbor.  There is a shoreline trail that is fairly flat, but otherwise these are pretty steep hikes, which would explain why they are so popular with dog walkers.  The other reason is to note the irony – Halifax faces east, not quite but almost Canada’s eastermost cities.  On the west coast, Vancouver also has a very similar park in the middle of the city.  You can’t say that the Canadians don’t know how to do a city park properly.

Essential Info

Getting There

An enjoyable option is to take the overnight train on VIA Rail from Montreal.  You depart Quebec in the early afternoon, and after being well-fed on great food and beautiful scenery, you’ll arrive in downtown Halifax the following evening.  Car drivers will have to head to New Brunswick first – and then either drive overland or catch the ferry in Digby.  Otherwise, the small yet modern Halifax airport is your best bet.

Where to Stay

Marriott Residence Inn Halifax Downtown
1599 Grafton St., Halifax
Last Minute Weekend rates
from $139 for a 2 night stay

Downtown is the best choice, because there is plenty of choice, you’ll have access to the waterfront and nightlife without worrying about getting a ride home.

I’d highly recommend the Residence Inn, a Marriott property that I stayed at while in town.  Just a few blocks uphill from the harbour, and what’s nice is that you get a lot for your money – free breakfast, free Wifi, a small but well equipped fitness room.  Rooms are like mini-apartments, so there’s a ton of room too, and a small kitchen, which is nice.

More Information

For more information about the city, I suggest you visit either Destination Halifax or the Halifax page on Novascotia.com

Photo Credit: Lisabirtch

Disclosure:  Portions of this trip were sponsored by Nova Scotia Tourism, but the opinions are solely of the author.

Related places:
  1. A
    European Food Shop
    5246 Blowers St, Halifax, NS, Canada, B3J 1J7
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    Economy Shoe Shop Cafe & Bar
    1663 Argyle St., Halifax, NS, Canada, B3J 2B5
    View Details and Book
  3. C
  4. D
    Pier 21 Operations
    View Details and Book
  5. E
    Bishop's Cellar
    1477 Lower Water St, Halifax, NS
    View Details and Book
  6. F
    Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
    Canada
    View Details and Book
  7. G
    Theodore Too
    View Details and Book
  8. H
    Ferry Stop - Halifax
    View Details and Book
  9. I
    Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
    Canada
    View Details and Book
  10. J
    point Pleasant Park 1st Canteen, Halifax, NS B3H
    View Details and Book
Tags: Attractions, Canada, city guide, museum, restaurant, top-feature


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