What to do in and around Halifax, NS next month?
May 9, 2019 12:09 PM   Subscribe

I am flying into Halifax next month on Saturday, June 15th at 2pm. I am returning home on Sunday, June 23rd at 6pm. I am busy with work events from 12pm on Tuesday, 18th to 5pm on Friday, 21st. That means I have a lot of time free for fun activities! Can you help me build my trip itinerary?

I am flying into Halifax next month on Saturday, June 15th at 2pm. I am returning home on Sunday, June 23rd at 6pm. I am busy with work events from 12pm on Tuesday, 18th to 5pm on Friday, 21st. That means I have a lot of time free for fun activities! Can you help me build my trip itinerary?

Details that may be helpful:
- I am a late 20s American woman who will be traveling alone.
- I am willing to rent a car and drive by myself and/or take public transportation to different areas outside of Halifax.
- I currently have accommodations arranged in Halifax for the duration of the trip, but am willing to alter my schedule and book accommodations outside of Halifax for part of the trip if it makes sense.
- I love a wide range of activities--spending time outside hiking/biking/etc, viewing cool natural or historic landmarks, wandering in museums, people watching, trying new foods, etc. I am generally easily pleased.
- I love the water and would love to spend time in, on, or around the Halifax Habour! I am also PADI certified, although it's been quite a while since I went diving.
- If you give any recommendations, especially outdoor recommendations, I would prefer them to be beginner/solo traveler friendly! Also, the more explicit your recommendations the better.
- Budget friendly is always appreciated, but I am willing to spend if it's worth it!
posted by lucy.jakobs to Travel & Transportation around Nova Scotia (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is quick and vague since I need to work; there's plenty of interesting stuff in Halifax proper, but here's some out-of-town suggestions:

The obvious day trip is to Peggy's Cove (follow the warning signs about the rocks and waves). Lunenburg, a charming historic fishing town, is a little further; it would be a long day trip or could be a nice overnight. (Stop in Mahone Bay along the way). The other day trip or overnight I'd think about is to the Grand Pre area, which is a lovely pastoral landscape. We did a wine tour here with a company called Grape Escapes that was pleasant (and meant we didn't have to worry about driving).

Thinking outside the box, you can do rafting on the tidal bore; many years ago I did a trip out of Shubenacadie. That would also be a day trip.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:33 PM on May 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I haven't lived in Halifax since 2004, but my parents are still there so I go 2-3 times/year. Some stuff I like, hopefully helpful to you:

* Current favorite eatery: The Bicycle Thief (on the waterfront, has a patio, has an amazing menu, not cheap but not pricey once you factor in the exchange rate). I'm also very partial to Cora's, which is a chain restaurant but has a lot of fruit on their menu, and to the Armview on Chebucto Rd for breakfast/brunch.

* Walk through the Public Gardens in the downtown. It's very pretty, and shady.

* If you like libraries, the new (ish) downtown library (main branch) is a really neat building with a lot going on, and you can watch machines sort books which I think is pretty cool (ymmv).

* Would not recommend scuba diving in Halifax Harbour. It's kind of disgusting (but very pretty). As far as I know, they no longer dump raw sewage into it, but they used to, like two decades ago, and you can still smell it occasionally. There's lots of places outside Halifax that would be great to go scuba-diving, I've heard, but I have no experience with this.

* Coolest thing I've done water-wise, probably, was whale watching. You can do it out of Hfx Hbr but I've never heard particularly good reviews of that, as I hear you often just don't see much. Best bet is to drive to Yarmouth and go with one of the outfits that sails out to the Continental Shelf. Plan for this to take a full day, with an early morning, and take gravol/dramamine even if you don't normally get sea-sickness.

* Any beach will be nice (but generally pretty gravelly) - my personal favourite is Conrad's Beach which is a bit less busy than places like Lawrencetown.

* Peggy's Cove is gorgeous and has really good lobster. Mind the warnings about going on the black rocks; somebody dies every year from ignoring those.

* Freak Lunchbox on Barrington Street has crazy candies and is a fun place to stop if you visit the parade ground in front of City Hall.

* Museums: can recommend the Maritime Museum, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS), the immigration museum at Pier 21 (which is also a good place to eat), and the Quaker House in Dartmouth (small and won't take long but charming).

* If you like plays, Shakespeare by the Sea is generally pretty competent.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:56 PM on May 9, 2019 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The central library is really great.

Halifax has stellar middle-eastern food. While the Halifax Donair is a regional specialty, it's perhaps an acquired taste (gyros doused in condensed milk, vinegar and garlic powder: better than you're likely imagining) and might not be best included.

Seconding the whale watching: check if it's the right season. We went out and saw squat (though we did see a huge sunfish, which the boat owner said he saw less often than whales) 'cos we were too late.

I was about to recommend a coffee place in Halifax - Smiling Goat - but I think it's closed. A shame, as it was the only non-Starbucks joint I knew of that had a Clover.
posted by scruss at 1:07 PM on May 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My favourite thing to do in Halifax is take the Halifax Transit ferry to Woodside and get the clams and haddock tips at John's Lunch just uphill from the terminal. You can either take the ferry back on the same transfer, or walk about 45 minutes along the Trans-Canada Trail up to Dartmouth and catch the ferry from Alderney Landing.

The Halifax Art Gallery is free on Thursdays from 5-9 PM and is worth going to if only to see Maud Lewis' cabin.
posted by Gortuk at 1:08 PM on May 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Halifax is a great town with a lot of cool stuff. There are a number of breweries if you like that. The Maritime Museum, as mentioned above, is really good. You can learn about the Halifax Explosion and see a number of markers throughout the city where shrapnel landed. Halifax was also the main port of rescue for victims of the Titanic, and there is a large plot in Fairview Cemetery containing graves of those who perished on the ship.

One thing I really loved about Halifax was the history. When my husband and I travel we love to do ghost tours — not because we believe in ghosts, but because they are a good way to learn about local history and folklore. We've done literally dozens all over the world and the one we did in Halifax is the best tour we've ever taken. Our guide's name was Dusty. He is a 5th generation Haligonian, a local musician, and an excellent storyteller. He peppered the tour with stories from his own family history too. It was SO good.
posted by Brittanie at 1:10 PM on May 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding "Freak Lunchbox" for wonderful and amazingly weird candy and other goodies.

It's worth considering the famous "Murphy's On The Water" for a fish & chips lunch. I know them mainly from their other location up in Truro; but I never go "back home" without sampling their wares (possibly more than once). Generous portions and very yummy!

Peggy's Cove and Mahone Bay are also worth a day trip, in my opinion (and yes, the warnings about the dangerous black rocks are serious).
posted by Jade Dragon at 1:17 PM on May 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A ~2.5 hour drive will get you to Kejimkujic National Park & Historic Site (the only one that is both!) which has lots of great hikes, historic walks, and is also a dark sky preserve with guided night sky tours. Tons of things to do there. The petroglyph tour is particularly interesting.
posted by Poldo at 1:43 PM on May 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We were in Halifax last year. My favorite activity in the area was a visit to Kejimkujic as pointed to by Poldo. Go if you can!
posted by anadem at 4:52 PM on May 9, 2019

Best answer: It has been many years now since I lived in Halifax, but when I did, John W. Doull’s bookstore was a much-loved spot for my group of friends, full of great finds.
posted by sueinnyc at 4:53 PM on May 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Cape Blomidon is also a pretty good day trip.

This came along long after my NSCAD days, but maybe check if there are any events at Art Bar + Projects that interest you?

Eat a butter tart for me.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:03 AM on May 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Aside: Freak Lunchbox has some crappy employment practices. I wouldn't patronize them. There are other candy store options in town.

Smiling Goat, likewise, is no longer around because the owner didn't pay employees and suppliers, bounced cheques, etc. On a happier note, the Spring Garden Rd. location is now Glitter Bean Cafe, a queer-friendly co-op run by former Smiling Goat Employees. There are many, many good coffee shops around Halifax, however, if that's your thing.

Read The Coast for food recommendations and event listings, in general. I'm not a fish and chips person, myself, but other folks tell me that the best fish and chips to be had in the area are found at varying little hole-in-the-wall places. The "best of" section on The Coast's website will steer you in the right direction. Mid-June is also getting into festival season, and The Coast event listings will fill you in on whatever is going on during your visit.

Halifax's weekend farmer's market is pretty great - both the new one on the waterfront, and I hear the old one in the Alexander Keith's Building is still interesting. There are several smaller, subsidiary farmer's markets around the area, too: at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth, at The Forum in the North End, and various surrounding communities.

For nearby light hiking, the rail lines up and down the coast have been turned into walking trails (Trans-Canada Trail and subsidiary Rail Trails). There's a nice boardwalk trail from Cole Harbour to Lawrencetown, or you can rent a bike and go south along the coast all the way to (maybe past? I'm not sure how far it goes yet) Lunenburg. A couple local groups maintain web sites with info about hiking trails around the province, too, such as Hike Nova Scotia. More-or-less in-town parks with trails include Point Pleasant, Hemlock Ravine, The Dingle (just across the Northwest Arm), and Shubenacadie (in Dartmouth).

You can take tall ship tours out of the Halifax waterfront. The cheap version is taking the ferry across to Dartmouth and back. Downtown Dartmouth is also cute.

I'm not well-versed in diving options, but most of the board shops seem to be centered around Lawrencetown, and could probably give you more info? Halifax Harbour itself... well, they claim that it's more-or-less clean now. Most days. I think most folks would recommend that you either head down the coast a short bit (several beach along the St. Margaret's Bay area) or up to Cole Harbour/Lawrencetown. There is a strong local surfing community, and I expect diving options as well.

With a car, there are lots of day or overnight excursions that you can make, too. Realistically, you only have three and a half days for sightseeing, though, broken up into two days at the beginning and one-and-a-half days at the end of your trip. So choosing a focus would probably be helpful. The Annapolis Valley is nice: Acadian history in Grand Pre, wine tour (see also the Magic Winery Bus), hiking at Blomidon Provincial Park or Cape Split, lobster in Hall's Harbour, or art and more history at the far end of the Valley in Annapolis Royal and Bear River. June probably won't be the best whale watching, so it's perhaps not worth your time this trip heading to Yarmouth or Digby for that. Peggy's Cove, Chester, Mahone Bay, and Lunenburg are all along the South Shore, and any pair would make a good day trip from Halifax, or stay overnight in Lunenburg or Mahone Bay and take your time with the trip. The coast is quite scenic, and there are several smaller provincial parks to stop at, as well as longer hike options from the web site I linked above or along the rail trail. The other direction along the coast from Halifax is the Eastern Shore, which is less built-up and touristy but every bit as scenic. Taylor Head Provincial Park is nice; and I haven't been, but there's a historic village at Sherbrooke, if that's your thing? Back inland, tidal bore rafting can be found in the Maitland/Truro area, and either the Noel Shore (past Maitland) or Economy/Five Islands areas each make a nice drive (but you wouldn't really have time to do both). If you're super into fossils and geology, you could do an overnight trip to Joggins, eg. staying in Truro or Amherst or somewhere along the Economy/Five Islands stretch - could be combined with a stop at the Miner's Museum in Parrsboro or with tidal bore rafting. But if you're looking to stay within approximately a one-hour direct drive from Halifax, then the stretch to Lunenburg, the upper Annapolis Valley areas (Grand Pre and wineries), or a basic tidal bore rafting experience are your excursion options. My impression is that a lot of the smaller local tours or guides would be pretty welcoming and fun for a solo traveller.
posted by eviemath at 6:20 AM on May 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer:
Halifax has stellar middle-eastern food. While the Halifax Donair is a regional specialty, it's perhaps an acquired taste (gyros doused in condensed milk, vinegar and garlic powder: better than you're likely imagining) and might not be best included.
More context: There are no specific events I can see worth recommending on the calendar but there are lots of evergreen attractions…you land during a cider festival, if that is your thing. The airport isn't really close to anything and there happens to be a lot of construction on the go, especially on the waterfront but there is a seabridge connecting the boardwalks that connect the farmer's market and the casino (ugh).

There are a bunch of neighbourhoods, but if you are downtown you will hear about Spring Garden road, the south end (mostly residential with univeristies), the north end (residential but changing), Quinpool road (commercial and currently cut-off near Armdale for rail bridge repair), the Hydrostone (shops with residenial), the west end and across the harbour is downtown Dartmouth (lots of upcoming shops and eateries). The major parks and green spaces are: Grand Parade (downtown), Citadel Hill (hard to miss), Public Gardens (Spring Garden), Point Pleasant Park (south end), Needham, and the Common (central) which has an oval. Expanding from there, we also have Fairview (residential), Clayton Park (inspiring 'burbs), Bayers Lake (shopping/box stores), and near Dartmouth is the Dartmouth Crossing (more box stores/shopping) and Burnside Industrial Park (mostly offices). The malls are the Mic Mac Mall, Halifax Shopping Centre (only Apple Store), Park Lane, Spring Garden Place, and Scotia Square (mostly offices and a food court).

Here is The Coast's Best of Halifax 2018 Readers' Choice Awards winners and I just noticed a local tasting tour group recently made a couple interesting posts on Instagram:
posted by boost ventilator at 9:24 AM on May 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: These responses have been SO helpful--they made me less overwhelmed and more excited than ever for my trip! I'll update after my trip with my final itinerary.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 9:50 PM on June 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi friends! Thanks for the update. For those of you who are interested:

After I flew into Halifax, I rented a car and drove to Lunenburg. I got there mid afternoon--after checking into my accommodations I grabbed dinner, walked around the touristy area, then went walking on a nearby trail for the rest of the afternoon. I also enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the dock! The next day I drove to Keijumik National Park and spend the afternoon hiking. I stayed in Caledonia that night, then drove to Peggy's Cove the next morning before dropping my car off around dinner time. As you might expect, the conference kept me busy, but I enjoyed lots of tasty food and drinks! I also toured the Citadel, walked around Point Pleasant Park, enjoyed the Public Gardens, and spent quite a lot time walking up and down the boardwalk area by the waterfront.

Many thanks for the suggestions--it was a great trip and I would have been too overwhelmed to plan anything without your help!
posted by lucy.jakobs at 5:51 PM on June 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

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