When out of towners come to Halifax, we always give them a warm welcome, and we’re never short on ideas of where to go, even in the winter. Although Nova Scotia is full of beautiful beaches, lakes and trails, many of the top tourist attractions are right downtown- totally accessible by public transport, and totally affordable. Our family loves having visitors because it gives us a chance to revisit these places with fresh eyes, and a deep sense of Maritime pride.
Halifax Harbour is one of largest and deepest natural harbours in the world, ranked alongside Sydney, Australia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Falmouth, UK. As a Halagonian who has been lucky enough to visit Sydney, Rio and yes, even Falmouth (!) I can say without reservation that Halifax wins, hands-down, in terms of the best and most relaxed tourist experience, shared by thousands of visitors from all over the world. Exploring this 4 km stretch of Halifax is a great way to spend the afternoon, even on a winter day.
Beginning at Pier 21, you can visit the Immigration Museum, and next, the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market. Make sure you go hungry to the market: there’s plenty of local fare, including delicious fresh lobster from the Goldwater Lobster Shack. (The six month winter lobster season begins the end of November, pushing prices down to a level that makes our out-of-towners drool with lobster-envy!)
Further along, past the elegant shops and restaurants at Bishop’s Landing, there’s plenty of action for kids at The Submarine Playground. This playground has a unique construction history. Pictures from the construction by master boat-buildders, Term Boatworks. are here.
Placed right next to the playground is a well-equipped Nova Scotia Tourist Office, and the popular Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which at Christmastime, features a miniature display of Halifax, built from LEGO, as well as the ever-popular permanent Titanic exhibition.
Why not make yourself famous at the Halifax Harbour Webcam at the Cable Wharf? Directions: Stand at the bow of the Tall Ship Silva. Look toward Murphy’s Restaurant. Phone your friends with the webcam link (above). Wave!
Docked at the Cable Wharf Ferry Terminal is our old friend, Theodore Tugboat. He doesn’t do tours in the winter, but boy, does he love it when kids come to say ‘Hello’. (Please take care along the slippery docks!).
One must-do for visitors is to take a Ferry Ride to Dartmouth. In fact, I would say this is the number one thing we always do with our out-of-towners. The Halifax Ferry is part of our transit system, so a ticket is only $2.50 and the ride takes 12 minutes.
Local tip: you can ask for a transfer and come back on the returning ferry, or stop for a while at Dartmouth’s Alderney Landing.
One of Halifax’s most notable Landmarks is the Halifax Citadel: a magnificent star-shaped fortress built into an enormous hill (a drumlin actually!) right in the middle of the city. During the winter the visitor experiences are limited (i.e. no gift shop or guided tours), but the museum and the grounds are well worth a visit, and the hill itself is a super place to burn off energy by walking, rolling down -or if there’s snow, tobogganing!.
Trivia: what do Hong Kong and Halifax have in common? Answer: A noon-time cannon! If you hear a boom downtown at lunchtime, that’s our gun, fired daily from the Citadel.
35 minutes from downtown Halifax is a definite must-see: the most iconic lighthouse in Nova Scotia, Peggy’s Cove. We always take our out-of-towners to Peggy’s Cove to clamber over the huge granite boulders and marvel at the crashing surf. The light is always beautiful for photographs.
Local tip: For a treat, buy some warm gingerbread and soft serve ice cream from the Sou’ Wester restaurant. Their recipe is like nothing you’ve ever had before. Gorgeous! Imagine the taste of soft-sticky warm cake mingled with the fresh sea air. mmmmmm.
The Halifax Central Library
We don’t let our out of towners leave without a visit to Halifax’s newest icon, The Halifax Central Library! This commanding, ultra-modern glass structure on Spring Garden Road has already caused a buzz in the architecture world and on CNN, with two coffee bars, a panoramic viewing deck, a rooftop garden- oh, and some books too! For a sneak preview, read our review here.
If you are thinking of visiting Nova Scotia, please check the Family Fun Halifax website for up-to-date local event listings. Welcome, and enjoy!
All photos by Helen Earley, unless otherwise captioned.