9 Things to do in Halifax
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Halifax is the capitol of Nova Scotia and is considered the capitol of the entire Canadian maritimes. It has been on our family travel list for more than a decade, so this year we took a few more days off and combined it with our Prince Edward Island trip. It was such a fabulous place, we now are planning a Nova Scotia road trip and we want to stay in Cape Breton for a week as well!
If you have 2 or 3 days to spend in Halifax you are in for a treat. Read on to find out the very best things to do when you visit Halifax.
If you have 4 or 5 days to spend in Nova Scotia you can take in the Bay of Fundy as well.
Halifax Attractions or things to do in Halifax
Halifax Farmers’ Market
The Halifax Farmers’ Market is on the wharf and right next door to Pier 21. This dedicated space has food vendors, vegetable sellers, handicrafts and more. My kids enjoyed eating wild blueberries by the handful, and I enjoyed eating the province food called the Donair kebab (basically just a Donner kebab).
There is plenty of seating on the 2nd level and beautiful views of the water.
Plan on 1 hour.
Pier 21 Immigration Museum
Pier 21 is to Canada what Ellis Island is to the United States. Over 1.5 million people immigrated through Halifax between 1928 and 1971. It was the busiest immigration center in Canada.
Today, Pier 21 is a museum dedicated to the immigrants that came to Canada and the experience they met on arrival. The exhibits focus on the role of family in immigration and the immigration process itself.
I recommend taking the free guided tour instead of looking at the museum on your own. The tour takes you through the museum as if you were an immigrant coming to Pier 21. You can pretend you are on a boat coming from Europe. You then experience what it would be like to have medical checks or be detained for illness, what food was allowed in and what was confiscated, and finally you get on a train to go to your final destination in Canada.
There are lots of things that kids will find interesting on the tour, and they will enjoy talking to each other on “the boat” through pipes and pretending to ride the train.
Plan on 1 hour.
If you have family that emigrated to Canada, there are historians on site to help you learn more about their experience at Pier 21.
Walk the Waterfront
The Halifax boardwalk is 4 kilometers long and offers lots of fun attractions and eateries. There’s plenty of space to run around, areas to explore, and do some fun shopping.
We enjoyed all the seating options along various sections of the boardwalk. We watched sailboats and cruises ships making their way along the water.
Make sure to stop at Cows Ice Cream and get a scoop of Gooey Mooey Ice Cream. You can find it by following your nose to the delicious aroma of almond-flavored waffle cones and have some of the best ice cream ever. You can thank me later!
This may have been the highlight of Halifax for my boys. My oldest has always been super interested in military campaigns and military history. Over the years we have taken him to Gettysburg, Fort Ticonderoga, Saratoga Battlefield, Yorktown and many more. We found the Citadel in Halifax to be as interesting as any of them.
The interesting thing about Citadel Hill is that it served so well as a defensive fort it never saw actual battle! Unlike Fort Ticonderoga (we found them to have a lot of similarities), which changed hands through multiple battles, the Citadel stayed firmly in British and Canadian hands throughout its use.
We enjoyed visiting the barracks and seeing how the soldiers kept their kits. We learned that the soldiers were not allowed to have civilian clothes, so if they tried to desert they would do it in a bright red uniform or totally naked. Both would create a scene, and the soldier would be quickly returned.[easy-image-collage id=26225]
The boys enjoyed dressing up like soldiers and learning about how the uniforms were made and kept in good condition.
We also enjoyed walking around the battlements and seeing a gorgeous view of Halifax.
Plan on 2-3 hours.
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
If you have read any of our previous articles then you know that my kids can be very content in an art museum for about 30 minutes! The good news is you can see a lot of this small museum in 30 minutes.
The most popular exhibit is the Maud Lewis folk art exhibit. She was a native Nova Scotian who painted pieces that are full of feeling and joy. She had terrible arthritis and yet continued to make art throughout her life. They are especially relatable for kids who may not like or understand other art. I thoroughly recommend it.
There are also exhibits on First Nation’s art and Black Canadian art. There are a few early Picassos and a lot of other interesting pieces.
Plan on 1-2 hours. Or 30 minutes if you have kids like mine!
Halifax Public Gardens
The public garden in Halifax is an oasis in the middle of the city. This garden is very Victorian in layout and includes a large gazebo. There are paths to wander to see and smell different flowers and a duck pond that your younger kids will love. If you like to know what plant varieties you are seeing, look for small metal and wooden tags to tell you the Latin name of the plant.
The garden in the summer is especially beautiful, plus there are Saturday concerts in the garden and Friday night movie sing alongs. For more information check out their official site.
Plan on 1 hour.
The Halifax Public Garden is very near the Citadel. If you park at the Citadel it is an easy walk down to the gardens and to restaurants.
How Long to Stay in Halifax
At the minimum you want to stay in Halifax for at least 2 days. I found that we still had things we wanted to do after 2 days. You will be able to see the majority of things on this list in 2 days with only a little bit of picking and choosing. If you are interested in visiting attractions just beyond Halifax you might want to squeeze in a another day of vacation.
Best time to visit Halifax
Halifax is beautiful almost any time of year, but if you want nice weather go between May and September. The summer temperatures hover around the mid 70’s Fahrenheit, although they can rise higher.
Things to do Near Halifax
If you haven’t heard of Peggy’s Cove you have probably seen a picture like this one before.
Peggy’s Cove is one of the most picturesque fishing villages on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. Tourists flock to the most photographed lighthouse in all of Canada, built on a large granite rock.
My kids loved to climb over all of the rocks and find creative ways to scurry down crevices. They would have stayed for hours if we hadn’t had more to see.
The entire town is picturesque and sleepy. Fishing has been the the main economy of Pegg’s Cove for centuries, but tourism is fast overtaking it. So hurry and visit this quaint little town while people are still fishing. You will be completely charmed.[easy-image-collage id=26227]
Getting to Peggy’s Cove from Halifax
The easiest way to get to Peggy’s Cove from Halifax is to drive. The most direct route takes about 45 minutes and has some very picturesque areas. The roads were well marked and we parked for free at the visitor’s center.
If you are visiting Halifax without a car there are a number of bus tours that will take you to Peggy’s Cove. The best rated one that runs the most frequently is the Grey Line Peggy’s Cove Tour.
It departs every day at 1 pm and is a 3 1/2 hour round trip tour. Prices start at $40 USD. To book click below.
Luneneburg is a Unesco World Heritage Site that is a mere 60 miles from Halifax. It got UNESCO recognition for being the oldest British Colonial town in North America. It is a beautiful town. Built on a hill and looking down to the water, this seafaring city has oodles of charm and quite a bit to do.
While you are there go on a walking tour, get out on the water on a coastline cruise, or visit the Fisheries Museum and learn about early life in Lueneburg and how fishing is still a major part of the economy.
Plan on 2-3 hours.
Where to Stay in Halifax
This hotel offers a sumptuous stay with views overlooking downtown and the public gardens. It feels very luxurious without the price tag you would find in other large cities. It is a fantastic stay at a middle-of-the-road price. Beautiful fitness rooms and super comfy beds make the Lord Nelson a super choice.
For booking information click here.
For the budget-minded traveler who still wants a great hotel in a great location. The Hotel Halifax has spectacular views of the harbor and is centrally located to all the attractions of Halifax. Nice but simple bedrooms, highly rated beds, and a large TV in each bedroom. Your kids will enjoy the large indoor pool as well.
For booking information click here.
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