Halifax just might be Canada’s coolest city. With a beautiful waterfront, an easy-to-navigate downtown, and rumored to have the most bars per capita of any city in Canada, it’s difficult to compete with Halifax. Halifax has a small-town vibe with all the amenities of a big city. If you need convincing to visit this waterfront city check out these top things to do in Halifax to get you started.
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Things to do in Halifax Nova Scotia
With summer just around the corner, windows opening up to let fresh air in, and vaccines finally in full swing, we may all be able to travel again. There’s no better place to travel than within our home and native land, so how about taking a road trip out to Halifax Nova Scotia, one of the most exciting destinations in Canada.
- Planning to see more in Nova Scotia, Canada? Read our Best Things to do in Nova Scotia – The Ultimate Travel Guide
1. Alexander Keith’s Brewery Tour
One of our favourite things to do in Halifax was to take the Alexander Keith’s Brewery tour. As Dave said during our tour, “Alexander Keith’s is a is a gathering of good people, great beer and great music.” Enjoy a beer as you learn about the man behind the beer, Alexander Keith, and see how it is made as your guide shares stories and lots of laughs. It is one of the oldest breweries in North America and it is not to be missed on your Halifax itinerary.
Nova Scotians know how to have a good time, and this tour offers a lot of tastings to keep you happy. The tour starts off right with a serving of beer and then they offer samples of red, pale, Edinburgh ale throughout. At the end of the tour everyone joins in a free Ceilidh.
2. Halifax Distilling Company
If beer isn’t your thing, well what’s wrong with you? But seriously, another great alcohol-themed attraction outside Alexander Keith’s Brewery is to enjoy some genuine Halifax rum. The Halifax Distilling Company takes you on a behind-the-scenes tour of this privately-owned distillery.
But that’s not all, once you have learned how the rum is distilled enjoy cocktails in the chic cocktail lounge. It is certainly one of the most fun things to do in Halifax.
3. Stroll Along the Halifax Waterfront
Sure, many cities have a waterfront, but Halifax Harbour is something special. A walk along the Halifax Harbour is one of our favourite things to do in Halifax to get acquainted with the city. Many of the top attractions in Halifax are located along this 4km (2.4 mile) boardwalk and when summer is in full swing it is packed with people checking out the views and enjoying the many eateries.
We stayed at the Hotel Halifax during one of our stays in Halifax making for the perfect walking tour of Halifax. Located downtown Halifax, it was walking distance to the waterfront making for a great base. So what can you see along the waterfront? Read on.
4. Take a Halifax Harbour Boat Tour
Travelers rate a boat tour as one of the best things to do in Halifax at sunset. Take a boat tour of the Halifax Harbour to take in the views of the beautiful waterfront. Many of the top things to do in Halifax are located within the harboour or waterfront, and you can get a waters edge view from the Harbour Boat Tour.
On this tour you’ll see George’s Island, a National Historic Site which was a strategic military point for defending Canada.
5. The Harbour Hopper Tour
The Harbour Hopper boat tour in Halifax offers a unique and engaging way to explore the city and its waterfront and is one of the most popular tours for families. One of the standout features of the Harbour Hopper is that it’s an amphibious vehicle. This means the tour starts on land, navigating through downtown Halifax, and then transitions into the water, offering a boat tour of the harbor. The transition from land to water itself is an exciting experience, especially for first-timers.
Why should you take this tour? The Harbour Hopper provides a comprehensive overview of Halifax’s key landmarks, both on land and from the water. It offers a condensed way to see many of Halifax’s main attractions in a single tour, providing both a land and sea perspective in. aunique and fun way.
6. Take the Ferry Across the Harbor
If a boat tour isn’t on your list, take the ferry across the harbor to Dartmouth Nova Scotia. The ferry is one of the best ways to travel between Halifax and Dartmouth. It provides fantastic views of both cities and the harbor. It’s also the oldest continuously operated saltwater ferry service in North America. It gives you the chance to see another city in Canada while getting a boat tour to boot.
The ferry takes only 10 – 12 minutes from downtown Halifax to Downtown Dartmouth. It’s a quick and affordable way to see views of Halifax. With 23 ponds, Dartmouth is known as The City of Lakes. Located on the eastern shore of Halifax Harbour, it is a part of the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and is directly across the harbour from Halifax.
Dating back to its founding by the British in 1750. Over the years, it played a significant role in the maritime and military history of the region.
7. Historic Properties
Historic Properties date back to the 1800s when Privateers ruled the seas and schooners stopped in at the port of Halifax. This collection of warehouses has been fully restored in 1963 and was declared an area of national historic importance in Canada.
Today the properties blend a mix of history with contemporary as the facades look and feel like life in the 1800s, but inside you’ll find boutique shops and popular restaurants. This is an excellent stop on any Halifax itinerary.
Be sure to try the lobster at Salty’s followed by a pint of beer at the Lower Deck. Checking out Historic properties is very best things to do in Halifax. You’ll be able to eat, drink, sightsee and relax. Seriously, one of the best things to do in Halifax, is to have a lobster on the waterfront. You feel like a tru maritimer.
8. Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is a great stop on your day tour of Halifax, Nova Scotia. We really enjoyed learning of the maritime history of Canada at this museum that showcases the marine heritage of Halifax, Nova Scotia. If you love maritime history, put this at the top of your things to do in the Halifax list.
It tells the history of life on the seas from the 1800s to today. There are several artifacts on display and there are sections dedicated to the Titanic victims where and the victims of the Halifax Explosion of 1917.
9. CSS Acadia
When looking for things to do in Halifax, there is no shortage of interesting museums and historic sites. The CSS Acadia is a part of the museum and visitors can step inside this floating museum. It is the only only surviving ship to have served the Royal Canadian Navy during both world wars.
10. Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
At the opposite end of Halifax Harbour from Historic Properties, you’ll find one of the best things to do in Halifax, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. This museum is not to be missed when visiting Atlantic Canada and is filled with interactive exhibits, and information about the immigrants who settled in Canada.
Between 1928 and 1971, Pier 21 was the first point of entry for many immigrants to Canada. It has now been turned into a museum. You can explore your own family history and hear first hand accounts from immigrants to Canada about their journeys.
The Canadian Museum of Immigration lets you immerse in what it was like crossing the Atlantic in tight quarters, where you can try on period garb or see how immigrants coming to Canada packed their entire lives into one small trunk.
There is an interesting Titanic display with artifacts from the ship. To see more about the Titanic disaster, you can visit the Fairview Lawn Cemetery. Halifax was the closest harbour when the Titanic sank and many of its remains were brought to Halifax. The Fairview Lawn Cemetery is the final resting place for 121 of the Titanic victims.
11. Halifax Seaport Farmers‘ Market
After you’ve finished up on the Halifax waterfront, pop into the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market to grab everything you need for a picnic. Even if you are not shopping, it is not to be missed. The Halifax Seaport Farmers Market is the one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in North America.
During that time it has changed locations regularly, and in 2021, the Halifax Farmers Market moved down the street to offer an outdoor shopping experience during the summer months with indoor vendors at Pavilion 22.
The market sells everything from local craft and jewelry to fresh fish and local produce. Wether you are shopping or simply browsing this is not to be missed.
12. Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Art lovers will enjoy the Art Gallery of Halifax, Nova Scotia the largest art museum on the East Coast of Canada. It features permanent collections of Nova Scotia artists most notably, the folk art collection of Maud Lewis House. Maud Lewis was a painter in Nova Scotia who spent 40 years painting her small home with colourful scenes of Nova Scotia. Several years after her death, the Art Gallery of Halifax moved her home to become a part of its permanent collection crearting an immersive experience. .
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS) is located in the heart of downtown Halifax and stands as the primary provincial art gallery for Nova Scotia. As the most prominent art museum in Atlantic Canada, it serves as a pivotal cultural institution in the region.
Situated on Hollis Street in Halifax, with an additional branch in Yarmouth, the gallery offers a vast collection. This collection emphasizes visual arts from Nova Scotia and the Atlantic region, spanning a wide array of mediums from paintings to sculptures, photographs, and drawings.
13. Halifax Public Gardens
If you have a picnic in hand, make your way to the Halifax Public Gardens. The Victorian Gardens date back to 1867, spanning 16 acres with flower beds, fountains and manicured gardens to enjoy.
The public gardens is a lovely place to find a quiet space as you stroll through its garden paths admiring its carpet beds of flowers and historic statues. There is also a bandstand, a Victorian era greenhouse.
There are events that happen within the public gardens, you can check out their website here. If you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle, a stroll through the Halifax Public Gardens is one of the best things to do in the city.
14. Point Pleasant Park
Another green space to visit in Halifax is Point Pleasant Park. It covers approximately 190 acres (75 hectares) at the southern tip of the Halifax peninsula and offers a mix of forested trails, historical sites, coastal ecosystems, and recreational facilities.
The park has several historic sites, particularly related to the defense of Halifax. The remains of several fortifications can be found within the park, most notably the Prince of Wales Tower, which is one of the oldest Martello towers in North America. Every summer, the park hosts “Shakespeare by the Sea,” a theater festival that presents classic plays in an outdoor setting.
15. Halifax Central Library
One of the coolest pieces of architecture in Halifax is the Halifax Central Library. It was created as a community gathering place and even visitors to the city will want to go inside. If you are into architectural design when traveling, you’ll love the library, it was awarded Governor General’s Medal for its outstanding new civic building design. Make sure to go up to the rooftop terrace, it is a great place to take in panoramic views of downtown Halifax and the harbour. If you are looking for things to do in Halifax that the locals love, this is it.
16. Hang out at Spring Garden Road
The Halifax Public Gardens and Halifax Central Library are both located in the Spring Garden Road area of Halifax. It is one of the trendiest areas in the city with bars, restaurants, and the main shopping hub. After you’ve done some shopping, head to one of the hip bars for a cocktail. This is a great way to experience the local vibe of halifax.
17. Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
One of the not-to-miss things to do in Halifax is to make your way up to the Halifax Citadel. The Halifax Citadel was a fortification that stood guard over the city. This national historic site is a star-shaped fort (Also known as Fort George) that will take you back in time from its origin in 1856 through World War II and today.
Watch the changing of the guard and see a reenactment of the 78th Highlanders march through the grounds. You can even be a soldier for a day and dress up in the Highlanders uniform complete with kilt! Don’t miss the Royal Artillery firing the noon gun, one of the oldest traditions in the world.
18. Citadel Hill
Going up Citadel Hill is a great place to catch the sunset over Halifax. The Old Town Clock is a classified federal Heritage building that stands proud over the city.
Looking down over the Historic Town Clock makes for a serene view of downtown Halifax and the harborfront. Or you can join a ghost tour from the Old Clock Tower. Its claim to fame is the oldest ghost tour in North America.
19. Ghosts of St. Paul’s Church
While strolling downtown Halifax, keep an eye out for the ghost of St. Paul’s Church. It is the oldest building in Halifax surviving the Halifax explosion that left the mark of a face in its glass. After the explosion a silhouette of a head was forever etched into its glass. Is it the ghost of a reverend, the pipe organist or a sailor who died in the blast. We’ll never know, but this head has fascinated visitors for more than a decade.
20. Go Skating at Halifax Emera Oval
Built for the 2011 Canada Games, the Emera Oval is a skating rink that is free during the winter and free rollerblade, bike, and scooter rentals in the summer. So strap on your ice skates in the winter and roller blades in the summer and get outside.
One of the unique features of the Emera Oval is its year-round accessibility. During winter months, it operates as a long-track speed skating rink, which is the largest artificial ice surface east of Quebec in Canada. In the warmer months, it transitions into a roller-skating and biking venue.
The Emera Oval is located on the Halifax North Common at the corner of North Park Street and Cogswell Street.
21. Nightlife on Argyle Street
If you are looking for a night out in Halifax, look no further than Argyle Street. It has three things that we love. Pubs, patios, and food. Located in the heart of downtown Halifax, Argyle Street is a lively place day or night lined with restaurants and live music venues. For things to do in Halifax at night, Argyle Street is the place to be.
We recommend dinner at the Five Fishermem Restaurant for authentic Nova Scotia Seafood. It’s been rated the #1 Restaurant in Halifax for best service, ambiance, value and food!
22. Halifax Donair
After a night of drinking and dancing, a late night Donair will help with the hangover. The Donair is the “unofficial” official food of Halifax. A meat-filled wrap of tomato and onions reminds you of a doner kebab or gyro, but it is neither. It is distinctly Nova Scotians. One of the best places to enjoy a donair is The King of Donair. Its the original where founder Peter Gamoulako wanted to introduce the gyro to Canadians putting his own twist on it.
23. Try Some Fish and Chips
Plenty of places in Halifax claim to have the best fish and chips in Canada and for good reason. Atlantic Canada. isall about the fishing culture and here you will enjoy fresh local haddock. Some of the best places for fish and chips in halifax include John’s Lunch which has been serving up fish and chips since 1969, The Five Fishermen for a more upscale dining experience, snf Fredie’s Fantastic Fish House ehivh id s no-frills spot that locals love. It’s known for its generous portions and crispy battered haddock.
When choosing a spot for fish and chips in Halifax, it largely depends on the atmosphere you’re looking for, whether it’s a casual takeaway, a sit-down restaurant, or a scenic spot on the waterfront. Remember that the freshest seafood is a hallmark of many Nova Scotian eateries, so you’re likely in for a treat wherever you decide to go.
Top things to do in Halifax with kids
Before we get into where to stay and day trips from Halifax, let’s look at some of the Halifax attractions dedicated to the whole family.
The Discovery Centre is a hands-on science center offers interactive exhibits, live science shows, and a featured exhibit gallery that changes regularly. Kids of all ages will be entertained while learning.
Hatfield Farm: A short drive from Halifax, this farm offers horseback riding, wagon rides, a petting zoo, and more, making it a perfect family outing.
Bayers Lake Mystery Walls: For families who enjoy a little outdoor exploration, these mysterious ruins offer a mini-adventure. The origin of these walls remains a mystery, sparking imagination and curiosity.
Shubenacadie Wildlife Park: Located in nearby Dartmouth, this wildlife park showcases mainly native animals and is a hit with kids. They can see animals like moose, bears, and deer in relatively natural habitats.
Visit the Beaches: Halifax and the surrounding areas are home to several beautiful beaches. Whether you’re looking for a place to swim, build sandcastles, or explore tidal pools, there’s a beach for you.
Take a Harbour Cruise: Several companies offer harbor cruises, some tailored for kids with themes like pirate adventures.
Where to Stay in Halifax
The Haliburton is a lovely boutique hotel close to downtown and the waterfront that travelers love.
Hotel Halifax was our favourite hotel in Halifax as it was close to the harbourfront and citadel and is walking distance to many top Halifax attractions. It has a pool, bar, restaurant and fitness centre.
Lord Nelson is a historic hotel in Halifax dating back to 1928. We didn’t mind staying here, but it’s a bit dated and the service wasn’t the best. But if you like those grand old hotels like the Chateau Frontenac or Chateau Laurier, this is for you.
Quick Day Trips from Halifax, Nova Scotia
If you are just visiting Nova Scotia for a short time, you may only have time for a few day trips from Halifax. We have an entire article about the best things to do in Nova Scotia, but here are a few easy day trips from Halifax, Canada.
Peggy’s Cove is a must visit when exploring Halifax. It is Nova Scotia’s most popular attraction and with good reason. Located just 30 minutes from downtown Halifax, its an easy day trip.
There are tour busses and tours that leave from Halifax to Peggy’s Cove, but we suggest renting a car for a day to really explore all the things to do in and around Peggy’s Cove. Leave before sunrise to be able to watch it from Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse. You’ll be free from crowds and it’s a beautiful view. Read all about our time at Peggy’s Cove here.
Bay of Fundy
Nova Scotia’s famous for being home to the world’s highest tides and no trip to Nova Scotia would be complete without visiting the Bay of Fundy. Luckily, Burntcoat Head Park is only an hour away from Halifax and is one of the provinces most popular attractions. It is here that you can walk on the ocean floor for three hours on either side of the tides that move 100 billion tons of water every six hours. That is more than every river in the world combined! Read more about the bay of Fundy here.
Lunenberg is a bit of a long drive from Halifax at 2 and a half hours, but if you have a short time in the province, it is not to be missed. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is Canada’s prettiest town with colourful buildings lining the waterfront. The historic Blue Nose tall ship makes its base in Lunenberg and you can visit the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. There are mircorbreweries, fine dining and plenty of shopping. If you have more than a day, make sure to visit Lunenberg. Read more: 20 Best Things to do in Lunenburg Nova Scotia – Top Activities
While you are making your way to Lunenberg, make sure to stop at Mahone Bay. Just a 10-minute drive from Lunenburg, Mahone Bay is a great stop on your Lunenburg Itinerary. Founded in 1745, Mahone Bay was named one of Canada’s best small towns. It’s famous for The Three Churches that line the waterfront and this scene is one of the most photographed places in Nova Scotia.
How to Get to Halifax
Halifax Stanfield International Airport (YHZ) is the major international airport serving Halifax and the surrounding Maritime provinces. It’s located in Enfield, about 35 km north of Halifax. The airport has several direct flights from major cities in Canada, the United States, and Europe, as well as seasonal flights from other destinations. Once you arrive, you can take a car rental, taxi, or shuttle to reach downtown Halifax.
VIA Rail Canada: The Ocean is VIA Rail’s passenger train service that runs between Montreal and Halifax. It’s a scenic route, operating three days a week, offering a unique view of the eastern seaboard landscapes, including the Matapedia Valley and the Baie des Chaleurs.
Canada: If you’re coming from central or western Canada, you’d follow the Trans-Canada Highway eastbound which will lead you through Quebec and New Brunswick and then into Nova Scotia.
From the US: If you’re driving from the northeastern United States, you’ll likely cross into Canada at the Calais, Maine / St. Stephen, New Brunswick border. From there, you’d follow the Trans-Canada Highway (NB Route 1 which becomes NS Route 104) east through New Brunswick and into Nova Scotia. This route will take you to Truro, where you’ll follow NS Route 102 directly to Halifax.
When planning your trip to Halifax, it’s essential to consider the season, as winter can sometimes present travel challenges, especially if you’re driving. Always check the schedules and availability ahead of time, especially given the potential changes in services or routes.
And these are our favourite things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There is so much more to see and do, and we can’t wait to get back to the Halifax to experience that east coast hospitality, beautiful scenery and gorgeous coast. Have you been to Halifax?
Our trips to Halifax were courtesy of Tourism Nova Scotia. Like everything here on ThePlanetD all opinions are our own. To check out more things to do in Halifax and Nova Scotia, visit their website.