Things to do in and around Halifax this weekend
July 11, 2012 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Going to be in Halifax this weekend, starting late tonight! Looking for recommendations, especially regarding scallops, whale watching, and the level of terror the Cabot Trail might invoke.

Looking for good casual places to eat the best scallops. Casual meaning casual dress. Money no object (for one meal, anyway!)

Also interested in anything else in particular we should do that's special this weekend.

This is our first visit, we are planning for Peggy's Cove, Lunenburg, some random drives, Dartmouth, and the major tourist sites in Halifax proper. We have all the guidebooks so we don't need to be told about major sites like the Maritime Museum (unless you have some cool inside knowledge!).

We will do the Bay of Fundy on a future trip.

* Is the Cabot Trail drive intimidating for people who have a problem with cliffs? We want to avoid switchback-type driving, or any road where there is a point where you are driving towards a cliff/ocean, regardless of how safe the guard-rails are.

* Curious as to whether whale watching is worth it there, as all the guidebooks say it's better almost everywhere else in the Maritimes. Does that mean odds are low of a sighting off Halifax?

We also hope to see some good local bands.
posted by lockedroomguy to Travel & Transportation around Halifax, NS (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Five Fishermen famous for seafood. Salty's. Chives. The Press Gang.

Lunenberg is great, Chester, Mahone Bay, that whole circuit is really nice. Cabot trail good, I'm a nervous driver too, so can't really comment as I was reading a book in the back when I went around there!

There are bands in the basement of the Seahorse and there is the usual beer pounding and singing of "Barrett's Privateers" at the Lower Deck.

I should know more but haven't lived there in awhile. It's fun, you will love it.
posted by bquarters at 8:08 AM on July 11, 2012

Is the Cabot Trail drive intimidating for people who have a problem with cliffs?

Not really. This is about as extreme as it gets. Another view. Are you ever driving towards the ocean? Yeah. But it's not like you're perched on the edge of a cliff about to fly out into space. There aren't any real cliffs as far as I recall. It's more like driving along the side of a hill, albeit a steep one. And the speed limits are pretty slow, so you won't be holding up traffic or anything if you take your time.

But you do know that the Cabot Trail isn't exactly a day trip from Halifax, yes? It'll take you a solid four hours just to get to the Trail from Halifax. The trail itself is 185 miles, and you won't be driving fast, even if you wanted to, so call that another three to four hours, minimum. Five to six if you get out and see anything. And you can't really just do part of it. It's either the whole way around or turning around and driving back. The interior of Cape Breton is still pretty deserted, and though there are some roads, you'll make awful time. I highly recommend that you either put off the Trail until next time when you can spend a few days just in Cape Breton. If you've got your heart set on it, consider spending the night in Sydney. Otherwise you're looking at a solid 12-15 hours in the car. You can technically do that in a day, but I can't vouch for how much fun it'd be.

Also, you'd really want to do whalewatching out of Sydney or thereabouts. Up in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Halifax is a bit too far south for the best, most regular sightings.

About Lunenburg. At any other time, I'd recommend that you take a cruise on the Bluenose II. Unfortunately, it's being renovated at the moment. Fortunately, I think you can visit anyway. Info here.
posted by valkyryn at 8:14 AM on July 11, 2012

Yeah, I was wondering about the above. Definitely it will take you about 5 hours to get up to Cape Breton, not exactly a jaunt on a weekend when you have many other things planned. Lunenberg etc is about an hour away..those places are doable for sure. Halifax downtown waterfront is very nice. But valkyryn is right, the distances are pretty serious driving if you really only just have the weekend. Just enjoy Halifax and the surrounding south shore areas. And if you do it right, you will probably be too hungover on Sunday to get very far!:)
posted by bquarters at 8:28 AM on July 11, 2012

Compared to some crazy roads I have driven on in the rockies, the Cabot Trail isn't nearly as scary. But valkyryn is right, you should plan to stay overnight somewhere if you want to make it worth your while.
posted by photoexplorer at 8:33 AM on July 11, 2012

If you're only there for the weekend, you'll have to cut out the Cabot Trail. One day in and around Halifax and one day on the South Shore and you're good. I'd recommend taking the scenic drive to Lunenburg. Head to Chester and then stick to the #3 highway instead of the 103. This way you'll drive pretty much right along the water the entire way to Mahone Bay rather than the dreary 103.
posted by fso at 8:36 AM on July 11, 2012

Response by poster: We probably won't do the Cabot trail this trip--I just slid it in as an extra question so I'd know for next time! Thanks for the answers so far!
posted by lockedroomguy at 8:36 AM on July 11, 2012

If you go clockwise around the Cabot trail, it's not as bad, as you're always on the inside. I am petrified of heights and didn't find it to be too terrible during most of the drive.
posted by urbanlenny at 8:56 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

* Curious as to whether whale watching is worth it there, as all the guidebooks say it's better almost everywhere else in the Maritimes. Does that mean odds are low of a sighting off Halifax?

There are only a few small whale watching tours in Halifax, which, in a city whose biggest industry is tourism, is telling. There may be whales out there, but it's definitely not a big thing. The waters off the South Shore of Nova Scotia are basically just open ocean, so whatever pods of whales there may be probably don't congregate in any specific place. Bay of Fundy, you will definitely see whales; maybe save it for that trip. Halifax has a lot of disgusting brown jellyfish, though!

And, yeah, what fso said. For Peggy's Cove/Lunenburg (which is one trip, btw), take the Lighthouse Route (highway 3), and you'll see all the little fishing villages along the way. Taking the 103 -- which is a great highway, very safe, much faster, might be worth driving back on -- you will see trees and trees and trees.

If you're flying into Halifax, and there's daylight, take this route from the airport. It's a lot more interesting than the 102.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:01 AM on July 11, 2012

How long are you going to be there?

The one thing I recommend to anyone who will be there on a Sunday night is to go to the Lower Deck pub in the Historic Properties by the waterfront. There's a cover band called Signal Hill that plays there every week. They are FANTASTIC and the place is jumping when they play. I know the Historic Properties are mostly a tourist trap, but Signal Hill is so much fun.
posted by dry white toast at 9:12 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about Carly Rae Jepsen? Cheap Trick? Yes, you have landed in Canada's answer to Branson, Missouri. Here are some entertainment related links if you are interested…the Halifax Jazz Festival is in full swing (with Deltron 3030 on Thursday, Charles Bradley on Friday for hiphop/r&b fans). Also, 'Out Of This World - Extraordinary Costumes From Film & TV' at the Museum of Natural History. A comedy showcase featuring Picnicface's Mark Little and Cheryl Hann. Something about Zombies and Herbaliser. For more event listings: The Coast also publishes a reader survey for The Best of Food in Halifax. I would say the following are all top notch choices: Chives Canadian Bistro, Fid Resto, Brooklyn Warehouse, The Bicycle Thief, Bistro Le Coq, The Wooden Monkey

And for a coffee/pastry break, check out Two If By Sea Cafe (recently won a $100,000 BDC Grand Prize for Innovation to expand into roasting coffee)

Also, since it is Halifax, don't forget about donairs and beer.
posted by boost ventilator at 9:19 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

2 years ago TODAY, my husband and I left on a 3 week road trip that included 4 nights in the Halifax area, and 2 in Cape Breton to do the Cabot Trail. I asked for suggestions as well; you may find that thread useful.

We discovered Two If By Sea independently while looking for a breakfast place in Dartmouth. They now have a Halifax location as well. I second the recommendation of them STRONGLY - they had the best chocolate croissant I've ever had, and a beautiful and tasty latte. I dream about going back to Halifax just to visit them. Halifax was fun to walk around and explore, just make sure to have your walking shoes on - it's a little hilly.

Leave a fair amount of time to do Peggy's Cove/Lunenburg/Mahone Bay/Chester, especially if you take the scenic route. It looks like the only cruise ships in Halifax this week are tomorrow, so I'd pick a different day to do that side trip. We enjoyed Magnolia Grill in Lunenburg for dinner.

In Halifax proper, we ate dinner at Five Fisherman and found it okay, but pricey. The Economy Shoe Shop was a tasty and quirky break from the heat of the day for lunch.

I remember a few slightly scary bits on the Cabot Trail, but the views are so gorgeous, it makes up for it. We stayed in Nyanza, just outside of Baddeck. Get breakfast (and a lunch to pack) from the Herring Choker Deli in Nyanza; they were very tasty. If you have to eat in Baddeck, the seafood place was better than the Italian place, but neither was spectacular. They're across from each other, and it's a small town. Cheticamp is an interesting stop as well. Go in and admire the needlepoint work of the local ladies. We spent one night going to a ceilidh in Baddeck, and the other doing a boat cruise; both were fun.

I'm jealous, have a fantastic time!
posted by booksherpa at 12:04 PM on July 11, 2012

I was going to suggest Fleur De Sel in Lunenburg for the scallops but they don't appear to be on their menu. But as you're wandering around, check if their updated menus has it. It's kind of expensive for NS but sososo good.

I will second Economy Shoe Shop (for the patio and people watching especially), Lower Deck (Is it touristy? Yes. Will you end up singing along with strangers swaying your beer in unison? Yes.), and donairs (Halifax has a distinct style - remember to hold it away from the body). And a couple other things - French fries from the chip wagons, fried pepperoni as an appetizer (just try it), the Old Triangle after the Maritime Museum (often have live music), taking the ferry over to Dartmouth and stopping at Celtic Corner (also often have live music), the Farmers' Market (which I think recently moved from the brewery but is still around there somewhere).

And a local place in Dartmouth if you want fish and chips - Johnny's on Pleasant Street right by the old Nova Scotia hospital. Best kind. Get the sort made of 'tips'. And the fried clams. Pleasant Street itself will lead you up to some very pretty shore so get the fish and chips to go.
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:30 PM on July 11, 2012

If you go to Two If By Sea, make sure you get there early. The Pain au Chocolat is wonderful ... but a nightmare for people on a diet. Five fisherman (already mentioned) is good, but definitely pricey.
posted by aroberge at 3:27 PM on July 11, 2012

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