What are the five best things to see and do in Halifax?

Trevor J. Adams

With a population of just under 400,000, Halifax is a compact city where it’s easy to scout out fun things to see and do. To get you started, our Forbes Travel Guide editors have compiled this list of the top five activities that visitors to Halifax shouldn’t miss.
 
1. Visit the Citadel. Your exploration of Halifax must start at the Citadel, the star-shaped fortress that’s the city’s geographic heart. Perched on a giant hill, overlooking the harbor and bisecting the downtown, the fortress was the reason the British originally settled Halifax. Today, the Halifax Citadel is Canada’s most popular National Historic Site. Costumed workers take visitors back in time, as bagpipes skirl. Each day, troops fire the historic cannon to mark noon, the boom echoing through downtown Halifax as it has for centuries. On a sunny day, Citadel Hill’s green slopes are the ideal place to picnic and watch the ships go by.
 
2. View paintings at The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Down the hill on Hollis Street, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia boasts one of the world’s best collections of folk art, including several pieces by acclaimed Nova Scotian painter Maud Lewis, alongside innovative contemporary pieces and visiting collections from around the world.
 
3. Walk the waterfront. Halifax being a seaside town, much of your adventure must center on the waterfront. Begin at the South End of the Harbourwalk at Marginal Road, where you’ll find Canada’s Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Known as “Canada’s Ellis Island,” this museum is on the site of an old immigration shed, where tens of thousands of immigrants first entered Canada.
 
4. Shop and eat on the Harbourwalk. You can easily spend a summer afternoon meandering along the Harbourwalk. As you proceed north, you’ll find trendy shopping at Bishop’s Landing, a surprising “urban beach” park (The Sands at Salter), Casino Nova Scotia and dozens of restaurants, pubs and patios. Often you’ll see historic sailing ships moored along the walk. For five days in July, sailing ships from around the world (including the American Coast Guard’s Eagle) visit for the Tall Ships Challenge.
 
5. Go on a whale-watching trip. Stop midway at Cable Wharf for what will certainly be the most memorable experience of your trip. From there, the tour company Murphy’s on the Water offers mind-blowing whale-watching tours. The two-story boat is enclosed and heated, comfortable for landlubbers. Beyond the mouth of the harbor, you’ll idle on the waves as majestic fin and minke whales broach just feet away, close enough for you to make eye contact and get some once-in-a-lifetime photos.

  • On August 16, 2012
    Trevor J. Adams answered the question: Trevor J. Adams

    What is the best day trip from Halifax?

    For the best day trip outside Halifax, Forbes Travel Guide’s editors suggest a trip to nearby Peggy’s Cove, one of the most photographed sites in Canada. With a population of just 46 permanent residents, this tiny fishing village has a history dating back two centuries. For generations, fishermen have sailed out into the North Atlantic from its safe harbor, making their living on the stormy seas. It’s just a 45-minute drive west of Halifax on Route 333 and for visitors, it offers a unique glimpse of a traditional way of life. Clamber around on the rocks (staying safely clear of the dangerous waves), get a shot of the iconic lighthouse, watch the fishing boats come and go, browse through creations from the local artisans and then cap your day with a warm piece of homemade gingerbread topped with whipped cream in the Sou’wester Restaurant. In any season, it’s an unforgettable day trip.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Trevor J. Adams answered the question: Trevor J. Adams

    What is the best thing to bring home from Halifax?

    If you’re looking for the best thing to bring home from Halifax, our Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest Nova Scotian Crystal. You could shop for the next year, and odds are good you won’t find anything else like it. In the 1970s, automation was taking over Ireland’s famous crystal-making industry. Rather than let their ancient skills die out, a group of Irish craftsmen came to Halifax, setting up shop on the waterfront, on the foot of George Street. Today, they’re North America’s only makers of fine, hand-cut, mouth-blown crystal. Visit the glassworks to watch them turn molten sand into intricate works of art, and then pop into the showroom to find the perfect piece to take home. From ornaments to the most amazing stemware you’ll ever own, you’ll find something truly unique. (And the friendly staff will carefully pack your piece and arrange shipping.)
  • On August 16, 2012
    Trevor J. Adams answered the question: Trevor J. Adams

    What are the five best Halifax food experiences?

    Whether you’re here for Halifax’s famous lobster and seafood chowder or its up-and-coming wines, you’re sure to have an unforgettable food experience. Forbes Travel Guide’s editors have sorted out which foods you shouldn’t miss sampling when you visit this Nova Scotia city.
     
    1. Seafood chowder. Creamy and rich, packed with hearty chunks of potato and tasty bites of fish, seafood chowder is the essential Atlantic Canadian comfort food and the ideal pick-me-up for a foggy Halifax day. On the Halifax waterfront, one of the best spots to find it is Salty’s on Lower Water Street. This seafood specialty spot offers a chowder jammed with local fish and shellfish, plus a unique lobster, corn and bacon chowder.
     
    2. French fries. Try them unadorned and hot from the fryer, or as they’re served in the French-influenced Canadian maritimes as a dish called poutine, or fries doused in gravy and sprinkled with curd cheese. In the summer, locals love to visit Spring Garden Road for an informal lunch of crisp french fries made from golden Prince Edward Island potatoes drowned in malt vinegar and salt. Find the food trucks in front of the library on Spring Garden Road (Bud the Spud is the granddaddy of them all), get a piece of golden fried fish with your chips, grab a seat on the wall and watch the world go by.
     
    3. Community lobster suppers. In villages all over the Maritimes, you’ll find small informal halls jammed with dozens of locals, feasting together on fresh boiled lobster, mussels, potato salad and all the fixings. The community lobster suppers are a cherished tradition. To experience one while in Halifax, take a 45-minute drive west to the Shore Club Lobster Supper in Hubbards. These events are wildly popular, so make a reservation.
     
    4. Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. Every Saturday, foodies swarm to the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market at the crack of dawn. Despite its spiffy new home — a state of the art, earth-friendly building on Marginal Road — this is the oldest farmers’ market in North America. You’ll find countless goodies to take away or sample while there: rich lamb sausages, tangy saltwater taffy, gooey cinnamon buns, homemade jams and jellies and so much more.
     
    5. Wineries of Annapolis Valley. Just an hour’s drive northwest of Halifax is the Annapolis Valley, one of Canada’s hottest wine regions, where a vibrant cluster of innovative wineries are producing award-winning vintages. Discover the region with the Between the Vines tour from Go North Tours. You’ll enjoy tastings at three wineries, have lunch at Restaurant Le Caveau (named one of the world’s top 20 winery restaurants), plus visit the Fox Hill Cheese House and Tangled Gardens, where they create unique jams and jellies. It’s an epicurean’s dream day.
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  • On August 16, 2012
    Trevor J. Adams answered the question: Trevor J. Adams

    Where is the best nightlife in Halifax?

    Forget about cosmos and fancy wine lists in Halifax — for the authentic Maritime nightlife experience, you need a frothy mug of ale. Nestled in the venerable stone walls of the Historic Properties on the Halifax waterfront, the Lower Deck has long benches and big tables, where strangers quickly become fast friends. This is the quintessential Maritime pub, easily evoking memories of jolly sailors and seasoned old salts. In the summer, its seaside patio is jammed every sunny day, as local bands play popular tunes, old drinking songs and seafaring ballads. Throughout the night, you’ll hear calls of “Sociable!” — that’s your cue to hoist a pint of India Pale Ale, clink glasses with your neighbor and have a swig.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Trevor J. Adams answered the question: Trevor J. Adams

    What is the best way to see Halifax in one day?

    To see Halifax in one day, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend beginning first thing in the morning with a visit to the Cable Wharf on the Lower Water Street. There, you can get tickets for the Harbour Hopper. The amphibious vehicle splashes in and out of Halifax harbor and wends its way through the downtown. Enjoy unique views of the skyline, harbor approaches and the steady traffic of naval and cargo ships, as lively guides share anecdotes, pointing out landmarks and historic sites. Lasting 55 minutes, the tour is the perfect way to quickly survey the compact downtown and pick out the must-see highlights for the rest of your day.
     
    Next, you hoof it. Return to the historic sites, funky shops and friendly pubs that caught your eye on the Harbour Hopper. Don’t let the steep hills daunt you — Halifax has a compact and walkable downtown. You’ll be glad you spent your time ambling rather than hunting for parking spaces and trying to navigate the downtown’s tricky maze of streets. On the waterfront, you’ll find Casino Nova Scotia, parks, restaurants, galleries, museums, shops and boutiques aplenty, from the venerable Historic Properties on the north end of the boardwalk to the modern lines of stylish Bishop’s Landing at the south end — more than enough to keep you busy for the rest of the day.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Trevor J. Adams answered the question: Trevor J. Adams

    Where is the best shopping in Halifax?

    The busiest pedestrian street east in eastern Canada, Spring Garden Road is the definitive answer to the question of the best shopping in Halifax. The east end of the street, between the Halifax Public Gardens and Barrington Street, is chockablock with unique shops and boutiques. Anchoring the street is the Mills department store. For decades, it’s been downtown Halifax’s number one shopping destination, offering classic and contemporary fashions for women (with names such as Michael Michael Kors in the mix).
     
    Looking for something special for the folks back home? Just across the road is Jennifer’s of Nova Scotia. The charming little shop is jammed with creations from 143 different Nova Scotian craftspeople — everything from pottery to sweaters to cookies. Delightful finds abound in this neighbourhood: three fine jewellery stores, Canada’s oldest children’s bookstore and even an old-fashioned candy shop (Sweet Jane’s, just around the corner on Doyle Street).
  • On August 16, 2012
    Trevor J. Adams answered the question: Trevor J. Adams

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Halifax?

    Kids will find many things to delight them in Halifax, from maritime adventures to interactive science exhibits to going on a ghost walk. Read on for Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ choices for the five best things to do with kids on a Halifax visit.
     
    1. Visit Theodore Too. Young minds will be blown when they stroll down Cable Wharf and see the giant smiling tugboat in the big red hat. Theodore Too is a loving life-sized re-creation of the eponymous Theodore Tugboat of PBS fame. Hop on board for a tour that lets your kids live the Big Harbor adventures they’ve seen so many times on television.
     
    2. Get schooled at the Maritime Museum. Continue your day’s salty theme with a visit to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on Lower Water Street. With lots of hands-on exhibits and a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere, it’s a great spot for kids to explore and learn about the Titanic, swashbuckling pirates and the World Wars. You can see shipbuilders at work and explore a retired hydrographic vessel moored dockside.
     
    3. Check out the Discovery Centre. Just up the hill on Barrington Street, the Discovery Centre is another great spot for learning disguised as fun. In the hands-on science centre, kids can explore trippy optical illusions, stand inside a giant bubble and even freeze a banana in liquid nitrogen.
     
    4. Explore Point Pleasant Park. On a sunny summer day, Point Pleasant Park is the ideal place for the kids to romp. Surrounded by ocean on the southern tip of the Halifax peninsula, the park boasts miles of woodland and seaside trails, with ancient fortifications to explore, lots of green spaces for picnicking, theatre alfresco with Shakespeare by the Sea (productions throughout the summer) and a supervised beach.
     
    5. Take the Halifax Ghost Walk. After dark, things take a spooky twist with the Halifax Ghost Walk. Meeting at 8:30 p.m. at the Old Town Clock on Citadel Hill (just take the steps up from Sackville Street), narrators lead you through historic Halifax’s nooks and crannies, sharing tales of pirates, ghosts and haunted houses on a unique tour that’s chilling fun for all ages.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Trevor J. Adams answered the question: Trevor J. Adams

    What are the five best things to see and do in Halifax?

    With a population of just under 400,000, Halifax is a compact city where it’s easy to scout out fun things to see and do. To get you started, our Forbes Travel Guide editors have compiled this list of the top five activities that visitors to Halifax shouldn’t miss.
     
    1. Visit the Citadel. Your exploration of Halifax must start at the Citadel, the star-shaped fortress that’s the city’s geographic heart. Perched on a giant hill, overlooking the harbor and bisecting the downtown, the fortress was the reason the British originally settled Halifax. Today, the Halifax Citadel is Canada’s most popular National Historic Site. Costumed workers take visitors back in time, as bagpipes skirl. Each day, troops fire the historic cannon to mark noon, the boom echoing through downtown Halifax as it has for centuries. On a sunny day, Citadel Hill’s green slopes are the ideal place to picnic and watch the ships go by.
     
    2. View paintings at The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Down the hill on Hollis Street, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia boasts one of the world’s best collections of folk art, including several pieces by acclaimed Nova Scotian painter Maud Lewis, alongside innovative contemporary pieces and visiting collections from around the world.
     
    3. Walk the waterfront. Halifax being a seaside town, much of your adventure must center on the waterfront. Begin at the South End of the Harbourwalk at Marginal Road, where you’ll find Canada’s Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Known as “Canada’s Ellis Island,” this museum is on the site of an old immigration shed, where tens of thousands of immigrants first entered Canada.
     
    4. Shop and eat on the Harbourwalk. You can easily spend a summer afternoon meandering along the Harbourwalk. As you proceed north, you’ll find trendy shopping at Bishop’s Landing, a surprising “urban beach” park (The Sands at Salter), Casino Nova Scotia and dozens of restaurants, pubs and patios. Often you’ll see historic sailing ships moored along the walk. For five days in July, sailing ships from around the world (including the American Coast Guard’s Eagle) visit for the Tall Ships Challenge.
     
    5. Go on a whale-watching trip. Stop midway at Cable Wharf for what will certainly be the most memorable experience of your trip. From there, the tour company Murphy’s on the Water offers mind-blowing whale-watching tours. The two-story boat is enclosed and heated, comfortable for landlubbers. Beyond the mouth of the harbor, you’ll idle on the waves as majestic fin and minke whales broach just feet away, close enough for you to make eye contact and get some once-in-a-lifetime photos.
  • On July 18, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Halifax?

    While you can’t visit Halifax without trying some of its famous seafood, the city also has plenty of innovative eateries to suit every palace. Don’t miss our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ suggestions for the five best places to eat when visiting this Canadian destination.
     
    1. Five Fishermen. For almost three decades, the Five Fishermen has been Halifax’s top seafood restaurant, showcasing the best local seafood in classic and innovative ways. Located in a historic building that was once a funeral home, the restaurant has a unique connection to the Titanic legend: Many passengers passed through its doors. Marking the Titanic centennial this year, Five Fishermen presents a unique prix fixe menu, featuring the same dishes that first-class passengers enjoyed on the ship.
     
    2. Cut Steakhouse & Urban Grill. Located near the waterfront on Salter Street, Cut Steakhouse & Urban Grill is Halifax’s top choice for carnivores. Fine cuts of beef are aged on site for 35 days, creating intense flavors. At $100, the miso- and sake-rubbed 10-ounce striploin from Oakleigh Ranch Wagyu in Australia is pure decadence Dropping in for a romantic dinner? Ask about the private two-person deck when you make your reservation.
     
    3. The Bicycle Thief. The Bicycle Thief, situated on the boardwalk at Bishop’s Landing, is the latest outlet from local restaurateur Maurizio Bertossi. Originally from Italy, the chef has brought a touch of European class to Halifax’s dining scene. The handmade ravioloni stuffed with fresh lobster, mascarpone, chives and a shelled lobster garnish is the kind of meal that sparks daydreams weeks later.
     
    4. Chives Canadian Bistro. In the last few years, Halifax’s refocused on seasonal, local flavors, and leading the charge is chef Craig Flinn at Chives Canadian Bistro on Barrington Street. Flinn’s menu changes constantly, showcasing his latest finds from the market and the farms of the lush Annapolis Valley (where he’s from and returns often to visit farms and personally select the best ingredients).
     
    5. Brooklyn Warehouse. It’s the traveler’s mantra: If you want a great meal, go where the locals go. In Halifax, that means going far from the jammed dining scene of the downtown to the North End. At the corner of Windsor and North streets, far from its peers, stands Brooklyn Warehouse. This funky little spot is so beloved by locals that some chipped in their own money to help fund its recent expansion. As befits a neighborhood spot, comfort food is the specialty. The Brooklyn Burger (grass-fed beef topped with back bacon and smoked artisanal cheddar, paired with duck-fat potato wedges) isn’t just the best hamburger in Halifax — it’s one of the best in Canada.
  • On July 18, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Halifax?

    From boutique hotels to historic hideaways and Victorian palaces, Halifax has plenty of places to stay (though full service uber-luxury hotels tend to be in short supply). Our Forbes Travel Guide editors have narrowed down the options to the five best places to spend Halifax nights in style.
     
    1. The Halliburton. Tucked away in a row of historic townhouses on Morris Street, The Halliburton is a truly distinctive boutique hotel. All 29 rooms are unique, each exquisite in its own way. Some have working fireplaces, others have private balconies overlooking the courtyard garden. In the heart of one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, The Halliburton is a short walk from shopping and dining. Stories restaurant offers fine dining onsite, while the locally favorite Hamachi House next door serves sushi.
     
    2. Lord Nelson. Uptown on Spring Garden Road, overlooking the Victorian splendor of the Public Gardens, the Lord Nelson is the grand old dame of Halifax hotels. The historic hotel dates back to 1928 and has recently undergone substantial renovations, marrying its timeless aeshtetic with updated amenities. Planning a longer visit? The Lord Nelson has several well-equipped suites, with special offers for extended-stay guests.
     
    3. Westin Nova Scotian. This Hollis Street hotel has long been a favorite for visitors to Halifax. Attached to the Via Rail station, it first earned its reputation in the golden age of rail, and remains a place where tradition rules. Case in point: Roy’s Lounge, just off the lobby, where local legend Roy Clorey (yes, it’s named for him) has tended bar since 1963. Drop by for a friendly chat, insider info galore and one heck of a fine martini.
     
    4. Halifax Marriott Harbourfront. Right next to Casino Nova Scotia on Upper Water Street you’ll find the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront. The recently updated rooms are spacious and deliver harbor views. Feeling road weary? Visit the hotel’s Interlude Spa for a rejuvenating body treatment.
     
    5. Inn on the Lake in Waverly. If you want to pair your Halifax experience with a taste of the country, stay just outside the city (and a 10-minute drive from Stanfield International Airport) at the Inn on the Lake in Waverly. The Halifax boutique hotel has one-, two- and three-bedroom suites that are equipped with Whirlpool tubs and private balconies, while onsite Oliver’s Gastropub boasts an ever-evolving menu of seasonal Nova Scotian cuisine.