Car Free Journey

Car Free Journey: Halifax, Nova Scotia

Aerial view of harbour and city. Halifax . Nova Scotia. Canada
Steve Atlas
Written by Steve Atlas

In this month’s column, we’ll travel to the Canadian maritime province of Nova Scotia, and its capital city: Halifax. Halifax prides itself on its walkability. Since so many of us enjoy walking, and summer is the best season to visit eastern Canada, our July 2015 Car Free Journey column spotlights Halifax.

What’s Special about Halifax?

Destination Halifax. Halifax’s marketing organization and meeting and convention bureau extends a special welcome to visitors who don’t want to drive. Here are some of Halifax’s special benefits for visitors who want a car free vacation:

  • Halifax has a compact downtown core with many major attractions within walking distance of one another. The wooden boardwalk, in downtown Halifax, runs for over 3 km. (To convert miles to kilometers, or vice-versa, go to www.metric-conversions.org/length/kilometers-to-miles.htm. )It passes three major museums, the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, restaurants and shops, community spaces, public art installations, and includes panoramic harbor views.
  • Halifax has a walk score of 70 and is classified as “very walkable” according to Walkscore.com.
  • Getting across the harbor to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, means taking a ride on the longest-running saltwater ferry service in North America and enjoying unobstructed views of the Halifax waterfront. There are two ferries at the Halifax ferry terminal. Take the Alderney Ferry to downtown Dartmouth. (The Woodside Ferry goes to a location outside of downtown Dartmouth.)
Before You Come

Morgan MacDonald, a Halifax resident who describes herself as a “proud walker,” offers these suggestions for any of you who are considering visiting Halifax:

Careful planning is very important in Halifax. Our downtown is very walkable (as is our entire city, to be honest) but many of our best restaurants and shops in the downtown core hold pretty specific hours.

You would be wise to prepare yourself for our abundance of hills (comfortable shoes), and fairly unpredictable weather. Umbrellas don’t work here as well as a good rain jacket, especially on and around the waterfront, where many of the main streets can become wind tunnels when the rest of the city is only mildly breezy.

If you plan to use transit, Morgan suggests downloading Transit360 to your iPhone, adding that Transit 360 is the most accurate metro prediction app that she has found.

Getting Here in Style: A Cruise on a Ferry

If you have the time and money, visitors from the U.S. can enjoy a ride on the Nova Star, a ferry from Portland, Maine to Yarmouth (an 11 hour trip) and take the Cloud Nine Shuttle from Yarmouth to Halifax. The trip from Yarmouth to Halifax takes about four hours and costs $75 per person each way. In 2015, the ferry operates from June 1 to October 13. From Portland, the ferry leaves at 8 p.m. Eastern Time (an hour earlier than Atlantic Time—the time zone for Nova Scotia) and arrives in Yarmouth at 8 a.m. Atlantic Time.  For information about fares and schedules, go to http://novastarcruises.com/, or call (800) 864-6296 (toll-free) or from Nova Scotia (902) 800-3566.

When calling to make your reservation, please have the following information handy:

  • Passport (or other acceptable identification)
  • Date of birth for everyone in your party
  • Credit card
  • License plate number if you’re bringing a vehicle

The only way for visitors without cars to get from Yarmouth to Halifax is by using the Cloud Nine Shuttle. You must call in advance to make reservations from the Yarmouth Ferry or when planning your return trip from Halifax. For more information: call toll-free (877) 201-6809 (toll-free) or (902) 742-3992, or visit: http://thecloudnineshuttle.com/. The return trip leaves Halifax during the day and requires an overnight stay in Yarmouth. The Tri-Star Charters shuttle costs $8.50 to go to the Yarmouth Ferry from one of the following Yarmouth hotels: Rodd Grand (902) 742-2446, Best Western (902) 742-7821, or the Comfort Inn (902) 742-1119. For more information about Tri-Star Charters, call (902) 742-3802, or visit http://yarmouthtours.wix.com/tri-starcharters#!tour-prices/cwlo, or http://novastarcruises.com/travel-resources/parking-shuttle-services.  (Groups of five or more people can contact Tri-Star about group rates from Yarmouth to Halifax.)

For the Rest of Us: Getting Here by Plane, Rail, and Bus

You can access Halifax by air via Halifax Stanford International Airport located in Enfield, Nova Scotia. Regularly scheduled airlines serving the airport include: Air Canada, Air Saint Pierre, Delta, US Air, United, WestJet, and Porter. Seasonal airlines (check for schedules) include: Air Transat, Airpost, Condor, Icelandair, and Sunwing.

Halifax Transit has a MetroX bus which travels to and from the International Airport to Dartmouth and Halifax. Visit the following link for a schedule http://www.halifax.ca/transit/Schedules/index.php.  The one way fare is $3.50 ($2.75 for seniors age 65 and older). Purchase tickets at the Ground Transportation Booth.

Because construction is going on, the Macdonald Bridge is closed from Sunday-Thursday evenings. Call (902) 490-4000, and press Option 5 to find  the best way to get from the Airport to Scotia Square in downtown Halifax when the Macdonald Bridge is closed. (When I called, the transit representative told me to take the #320 to the Dartmouth Bridge Terminal and transfer (free) to the MacKay Bridge Shuttle that operates every 10 minutes to Scotia Square.)

Seasonal shuttle bus service (between May 1 and October 31 only) is available to the downtown Halifax area via Airport Express (http://maritimebus.com/halifax-airport-shuttle/). The one way fare is $22, the round trip fare is $40. Buy tickets at the Ground Transportation Booth.

Via Rail provides passenger train service Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday each week to and from Montreal. The trip takes approximately 22 hours each way. For more details about fares and schedules, visit www.viarail.ca, or call toll-free (888) VIA RAIL

Maritime Bus (http://maritimebus.com/ or call (902) 429-2029) provides service between Halifax and communities in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and a few destinations in Quebec.

Via Rail and Maritime Bus share a terminal at 1161 Hollis St Halifax, NS, B3H 2P6, Canada.  From there, it is a two-minute walk to the end of Barrington Street where you can catch Halifax Transit’s route #09 to downtown Halifax.

If you are arriving by Via Rail or Maritime Bus, the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel is next door to the terminal.

For more information about staying there, visit http://www.thewestinnovascotian.com/ or call (902) 421-1000, or for reservations call toll free (888) 627-8553.

Park and Ride Lots for Visitors Who Need to Drive Here 

For park and ride locations, visit: https://www.halifax.ca/transit/park_ride.php 

Welcome to Halifax

The Town of Halifax was named after the British Earl of Halifax in 1749 and proclaimed the colonial capital. The town and its fortifications played an important role in the establishment of British rule in Nova Scotia. In 2012 Halifax was ranked by MoneySense magazine as the fourth best place to live in Canada. It was also ranked first on a list of “large cities by quality of life” and ranked second in a list of “large cities of the future” in the Americas, compiled by fDi Magazine.

Halifax is known for containing several vibrant neighborhoods, including:

  • Spring Garden Road near downtown Halifax is a lively mixed-use neighborhood with a variety of shopping and entertainment options as well as the new Halifax Central Library. Development is increasing in the area over the past few years, with new housing replacing surface parking lots.
  • The North End is a multicultural neighborhood home to many artists. Its long history revolves around several communities including the venerable Gottingen Street and Hydrostone commercial areas.
  • The Quinpool District defines the community of the West End.
  • Downtown Dartmouth offers dining and shopping and has also been subject to revitalization with the redevelopment of the Dartmouth Marine Slips as the King’s Wharf housing area.

According to Wikipedia, “Halifax is also known for its high walkability, particularly on the Halifax Peninsula, where 25-50% of residents regularly walk to work. Unlike numerous other North American cities, expressways were never built in the urban core (with the exception of the truncated Harbour Drive), resulting in high pedestrian connectivity. Peninsular Halifax is also mixed-use, contributing to an elevated quality of urban convenience and vibrancy as compared to suburban districts with highly segregated land use and car-oriented transportation networks. In recent years, the city has also begun to place increased emphasis on developing bicycling infrastructure.”

Halifax is host to a plethora of diverse festivals during the year, including: Atlantic Film Festival, Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, Halifax Busker Festival, Greekfest, Atlantic Jazz Festival, Multicultural Festival, the largest Canada Day celebration east of Ottawa, Natal Day, Halifax Pop Explosion, periodic Tall Ship events, and Shakespeare by the Sea.

The Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, the Neptune Theatre, and The Music Room provide cultura and entertainment year-round. Neptune Theatre, Halifax’s largest theatre, presents professionally produced plays. The Shakespeare by the Sea theatre company performs at nearby Point Pleasant Park. Eastern Front Theatre performs at Alderney Landing in nearby downtown Dartmouth, and is easy to reach via Halifax Transit’s Ferry Service.

Halifax is also home to the Scotiabank Centre, Atlantic Canada’s largest arena. The arena hosts most of the major sporting events and concerts that pass through Halifax, as well as the yearly Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. Several semi-professional sport franchises also call Scotiabank Centre home, including the Halifax Rainmen of the National Basketball League Canada and the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

 Where are the Best Areas to Stay?

Downtown Halifax is the best location for visitors who want to walk and rely on public transit. Halifax Transit also suggests staying near the Bridge Terminal on the Dartmouth side of the Angus Macdonald Bridge, since many Halifax Transit routes go there. The Holiday Inn Harbourview (www.hiharbourview.ca) is within walking distance of the Bridge Terminal.

Morgan Macdonald has lived downtown on a busy corner of Barrington Street for three years and loves it. She appreciates the easy access to the waterfront. Restaurants and bars in all price ranges are nearby. Since the transit system starts there, buses are more likely to be on time than in outlying areas.

Macdonald also recommends the Hydrostone neighborhood, one of Halifax’s oldest neighborhoods. She describes it as “extremely charming, and boasts a lovely ‘miniature downtown’ of its own (Brunch at Epicurious Morsels and pizza from Mother’s or Salvatore’s will not disappoint). It is walking distance to the downtown core (perhaps 5 kilometers) and also quite close to the up-and-coming Agricola Street area, which boasts many other interesting restaurants (enVie, Lion & Bright, Agricola Street Brasserie) and shops (Obsolete Records, Make New).”

Destination Halifax suggests visiting some of the following websites for hotels in downtown Halifax:

http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/cambridge-suites-hotel/http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/delta-barrington-hotel/,         http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/four-points-sheraton-halifax/, http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/lord-nelson-hotel-suites/ http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/homewood-suites-hilton-halifax-downtown/, http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/prince-george-hotel/ http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/halliburton/,  http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/westin-nova-scotian-hotel/

Halifax Street

An historic street in Halifax. Photo by Wally Hayes.

Getting Around

Halifax Transit (http://www.halifax.ca/transit/Schedules/ or call (902) 490-0000, and press 5 for a live representative) provides local bus and ferry service. The Dartmouth Ferry is highly recommended as a fun outing (take the Alderney Ferry from the Halifax terminal). Bus route #1, Halifax’s most popular bus route, travels through interesting neighborhoods that visitors enjoy.

Single fares are $2.50 ($1.75 for seniors age 65 and older). For more details about fares, visit http://halifax.ca/transit/fares.php. A book of 10 tickets is available for $20 ($14.50 for seniors). For a list of outlets where you can purchase ticket books, visit http://halifax.ca/transit/retail_outlets.php. Here is a list of locations courtesy of Destination Halifax in downtown Halifax where you can purchase ticket books:

Lawtons Drugs locations

5991 Spring Garden Rd, 5201 Duke Street Halifax (inside Scotia Square), 1515 South Park St, Halifax (inside the Lord Nelson Arcade)

Shoppers Drug Mart locations:

5524 Spring Garden, 5595 Fenwick St, 1573 Barrington St (inside Sievers Tobacco), 2651 Windsor St (inside Sobeys), 141 Young Street (inside Young Street Atlantic Superstore), and                            1669 Barrington St (inside United Book Store)

Since the 10 ticket books are the only discount available to visitors (unless you purchase a monthly pass which is impractical for most visitors), and buses require exact change, I suggest bringing lots of $1 bills and quarters. (Be sure to exchange U.S. funds into Canadian currency or coins before coming here.)

Yellow Cab (902) 420-0000, allows advance books, airport service and wheelchair service. Taxis operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What to Do   

Downtown Halifax is home to many attractions, most of which are probably within walking distance of your hotel. Destination Halifax recommends a stroll along the scenic Halifax waterfront.

Begin your walk with a visit to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21: 1055 Marginal Road, www.pier.ca or call (902) 425-7770. The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, Canada’s newest National Museum, features two new exhibitions dedicated to telling stories of Canadian immigration, from past to present day. Now open, Rudolph P. Bratty Hall shares Pier 21’s rich history as an immigration facility from 1928 to 1971—the family history of more than one in five Canadians today. The reimagined space gives a glimpse of what it was like to immigrate through Pier 21 and lets visitors experience the moving journey that many families took to start a new life in Canada. Opening on June 25, Canadian Immigration Hall explores the broader story of immigration Canada through the themes of journey, arrival, belonging and impact and showcases the vast contributions of immigrants to Canada’s culture, economy and way of life.

As you stroll along the waterfront, enjoy the panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and a small island (George’s Island) with a historic lighthouse. There are public art displays all year. During summer, many musicians and other performers present programs along the waterfront.

Our waterfront stroll ends at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic: 1675 Lower Water Street,  http://maritimemuseum.ca, or call (902) 424-7480. This Museum celebrates Nova Scotia’s rich maritime heritage. From small craft boatbuilding to World War convoys, relive the Days of Sail to the Age of Steam, and revisit history from the Titanic to the Halifax Explosion, Here, you can discover the stories, events and people that have come to define Nova Scotia and its relationship with the sea.

From the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, it’s just a short walk to the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site: 5425 Sackville Street, For more information, call (902) 426-5080, or visit http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/halifax-citadel-national-historic-site

The Halifax Citadel National Historic Site (Halifax Citadel) is located in Halifax, Nova Scotia and is part of the Halifax Defence Complex.  When you enter the Halifax Citadel you are transported back to the height of the Victorian era in 1869 when this important British naval base was guarded by the 78th Highlander regiment. Both the young and young at heart will love being a “Soldier for a Day.” The iconic firing of the noon gun is always a highlight. For those who dare, you can even go on a ghost tour! The Halifax Citadel is open year-round; however, guided tours and other special services for visitors are only available between May and October.

Tips from the Locals    

Krista Jordan is the Lead Visitor Staff (head of visitor services) at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Frequently, visitors ask her to recommend places to eat, other attractions near the museum, and where to shop. If you want to explore downtown Halifax on foot, Krista suggests walking up to the top of the Citadel Hill. However, since some of the hills in downtown Halifax are steep (although not as steep as San Francisco), she recommends a more circuitous route, combining short climbs with walks along level streets. Here are her suggestions:

“Start by walking over to George Street. Turning left at the light. It gives you the best view of the Citadel Hill as you approach from the harbour. Here, there is a wonderful lookout over the downtown with a great view of the sea. Continue up George Street until Barrington St.. If you need a break stop off for a sugar boost at Freak Lunch Box: a fabulous candy and extra store. Cross over into the Grande Parade and see if you want to walk into the oldest church of Halifax, St. Paul’s. Otherwise, take a minute to look across and see City Hall of Halifax. The Clock face, on Duke Street, is still frozen at 9:05 since the day of the Halifax Explosion.

“The last walk up to the hill is on Carmicael Street., cross Gottingen Sreet. to the stairs at the bottom of the Town Clock, which has been in your line of sight since the beginning of your walk: 20 minutes from when you started, not counting stopping for candy. By now, you should have reached the Citadel lookout. By walking around the outside of the fort you can easily walk down the grassy side towards the gated Public Gardens at the corner of South Park St and Sackville St. On a sunny day, a stroll through the Halifax Public Gardens is a must. Come out by the Spring Garden main gates and enjoy shopping and food options.

“Another good walk from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic would be to head over to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia on Hollis Street, one block up and to the right. Cross Hollis from the art gallery to the back door of the Provincial Legislator building. If the Government is in session it’s a little taste of Canadian politics, if not there are guides that lead you through the building and tell you about Joseph Howe: a local newspaper writer who talked 4 days straight about the freedom of the Press, when he was on trial for slander after exposing city corruption in 1835.

“After that visit, stop at St. Paul’s Church on the Grande Parade. Walk along Argyle Street to whet your appetite.. Make your way over to Spring Garden Road. Reach the Public Gardens and enjoy a snack in the historic coffee shop building. Walk over to the Summer Street exit and decide to continue into the historical cemetery, where the popular brew master and past city mayor Alexander Keith is buried. Or turn right and end your walking tour at the Museum of Natural History: home to 90 year old Gopher Tortoise Gus.”

Morgan MacDonald (who describes herself as a “proud walker”) recommends a visit to Point Pleasant Park. This park, just a 20-minute walk from downtown, includes a walking/cycling/running and dog-walking trail, located right on the water. While here, take time to explore the waterfront boardwalk and the Public Gardens. If you are a runner who is here on a Wednesday, join the North End Runners Group: an open running group that meets at 6pm on Wednesdays at the North Bridge Brewery on Agricola Street and welcomes drop-ins.

A Spring day at the Halifax Public Gardens in downtown Halifax. Photo by Wally Hayes.

A Spring day at the Halifax Public Gardens in downtown Halifax. Photo by Wally Hayes.

What’s Your Pleasure? Tips for Visitors with Special Interests

Destination Halifax offers these suggestions for visitors with special interests (click on the links for more details about individual attractions):

Families (within the downtown core):

Sports lovers and water enthusiasts (within the downtown core):

Arts and culture (within the downtown core):

Science, nature and animals (within the downtown core):

Morgan MacDonald adds these suggestions for those of you with special interests:

  • Museums, and other cultural attractions The Nova Scotia Art Gallery is near the water, as is Citadel Hill (home of the strategic battle fortification, Fort George), and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (which features a large section on the Titanic). The Halifax Central Library, located on Spring Garden Road is stunning and has an amazing café.
  • Families Visit the Discovery Center, Museum Of Natural History, many of the playgrounds around the city (especially the one on the waterfront by The Wave sculpture), and the Halifax Central Library
  • Science related: The Discovery Center and the Museum Of Natural History  

Take a Ride on the Ferry

Enjoy a change of pace by taking a ride on the Ferry from Halifax to Dartmouth. Here are a few suggestions from Halifax Transit for a short outing on one or more of the Ferry Routes: “There are three ferry terminal buildings: Halifax, Dartmouth (Alderney) and Woodside. If visiting Halifax via the ferry, travelers could walk or bike the Halifax harbourfront to the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market and enjoy local cuisine, produce and entertainment. If visiting the Alderney Ferry Terminal, travelers can visit the Alderney Landing Farmers’ Market and also enjoy lunch at Evan’s Seafood, then take a walk along the Dartmouth waterfront and visit the Peace Pavilion. If travelling to Woodside, visitors can walk off the ferry and visit John’s Lunch, a small diner which has some of the best seafood (fish & chips, clams, scallops) in the city.”

Halifax Transit’s Recommended Two-Day Itinerary

Halifax Transit staff members recommend the following two-day itinerary for visitors without cars:          

                   Day 1

  • Take the Halifax Harbour Ferry and walk down to the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market.
  • Then take a short walk/bike ride to Halifax’s Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
  • Walk or bike around the downtown and enjoy some of Halifax’s fine dining and night life at Casino Nova Scotia, the Lower Deck, the Carleton or various other downtown locations                 

                  Day 2   

  • Take Halifax Transit Route 1 Spring Garden to Spring Garden Road and take in the beauty of Halifax’s Public Gardens.
  • Shop at boutiques and stores along Halifax’s Spring Garden Road.
  • Walk or bike down to Barrington Street and experience some scientific fun at Halifax’s Discovery Centre.
  • Walk down towards the harbour and visit the Alexander Keith’s Nova Scotia Brewery for a brewery tour.

Let’s Take a Walk or Ride a Bike

Sometimes, all you want to do is take an enjoyable walk along a trail. Other times, a ride along a scenic bike trail may be the answer.

Jonathan Lampier, an avid walker who lives in Halifax, recommends a walk on The Dartmouth Harbourwalk Trail. Visit http://my-waterfront.ca/cms/wp-content/themes/WDCL/images/visitor-maps/dartmouth-map.pdf for a map of the trail. To reach the Dartmouth Harbourwalk Trail, take the Alderney Ferry from the Halifax Ferry Terminal on the Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk. The ferry will take you across the Halifax Harbour to Dartmouth. The ride is about seven minutes long. From there, walk the Dartmouth Harbourwalk Trail, which traces 3.8 km of waterfront, art and green space. Some things you’ll see on the walk will include:

Gillian Wesley writes the Local Traveler Blog, spotlighting Halifax. She says that there are many places ou can get to on foot, by bike, or on the bus. Here is a link to 10 Day Trips You Can Get To by Bus:    http://halifaxbloggers.ca/thelocaltraveler/2014/06/10-awesome-halifax-daytrips-you-can-bus-to

Here are two of Gillian’s favorite blog posts about walks you can access on Halifax Transit buses: http://halifaxbloggers.ca/thelocaltraveler/2012/05/bus-route-15-purcells-cove/  and http://halifaxbloggers.ca/thelocaltraveler/2012/05/bus-route-60-eastern-passage/

Gillian told me, “I am not an advanced cyclist, so I love that we have the “rails to trails” route – old rail cuts turned into multi use trails. You can actually get from Halifax most of the way up the south shore by bike, though there are a few rough patches. Drew, my husband, cycled eight hours from Lunenburg to Halifax: http://halifaxbloggers.ca/thelocaltraveler/2012/08/active-transit-greenways-lunenburg-halifax/

“There are some cool things along those old rail cuts, too, because our old train stations have been turned into a number of new businesses like the Bike and Bean: http://halifaxbloggers.ca/thelocaltraveler/2015/05/hubbards-market-and-other-weekend-adventures/

“You can also cycle in the downtown core, though it can be quite hilly. Here is a tour of historic sites in downtown Halifax accessible by bike: http://halifaxbloggers.ca/thelocaltraveler/2014/06/halifax-heritage-cycling-tour-w-i-heart-bikes/ ”

Halifax Transit staff adds: “The trails department in Halifax has information on many of the trails in and around Halifax that can be viewed at http://halifax.ca/rec/TrailsHrm.php .  This site has links to trails throughout the area and information on specific bus routes that link up with the trails.  Picking just a couple of trails is not easy, but, the waterfront trails of Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford all have spectacular views and all have their own unique view of the Halifax Harbour.”

For Visiting Bicyclists:

Here are some resources for those of you who enjoy renting bicycles and riding along bike trails:

 Enjoy a Guided Tour In Halifax:

Here are a few links to guided tours (click on the links for more details):

Bicycling: http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/i-heart-bikes-halifax-bike-rentals-and-tours/

Gastronomy: http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/local-tasting-tours/

Boat charter: http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/murphys-cable-wharf-charter-boats/

Segway: http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/segway-nova-scotia/

Halifax Ghost Tours: http://www.tattletours.ca/ghostwalk.html

Enjoy a Guided Tour to Scenic Splendors Outside of Halifax

Nova Scotia has many scenic attractions, such as Peggy’s Cove and Fisherman’s Cove, that you can’t reach on public transportation. Fortunately, several local tour operators offer day trips to many of these attractions:

The following tour operator (the only one I could reach by phone) will pick you up at your hotel, and take you in an open-top Jeep to Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg and Fisherman’s Cove.  All tours can be customized to meet your specific needs:  Open Top Tours 218 Five Island Road Hubley, Nova Scotia Pickup from Halifax & area Phone: (902) 499-6674                                                   info@opentoptours.ca/ http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/open-top-tours/

Two other local tour operators offer similar services:

       Blue Diamond Tours: 207 – 4 Caxton Close, Halifax   Phone: 902 444 6883, Toll Free: 1 866 414 6883 bobbluediamond@aol.com/ http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/blue-diamond-toursThe owner, Bob, knows Halifax very well! Get a personalized and customized tour to various locations around the province of Nova Scotia.                                                           

       Bluenose Sidecar Tours: 41 Fox Hollow Drive,     Upper Tantallon    Phone: 902-579-SIDE(7433)     info@bluenosesidecartours.com/                               http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/bluenose-sidecar-tours/.  Ride in a motorcycle sidecar to locations including Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg! You can also customize your tour to meet your needs and interests.

When You Get Restless: Go Shopping

Halifax Transit services several shopping centers and areas with shopping amenities as well as areas for sporting events and concerts. These include: the Halifax Shopping Centre, West End Mall, Mic Mac Mall, Penhorn Mall, Bayers Road area and Dartmouth Crossing known for many retail stores and dining establishments. Halifax Transit buses also serve The Exhibition Park, The Halifax Forum and the Scotia Bank Centre which are great venues for sporting events and concerts.

Krista Jordan likes to combine a walk with shopping. She  likes to start at the corner of Spring Garden Road and South Park Street, walk down toward Barrington Street, turn right and then left onto Bishop Street. After stopping at all the boutiques along and off of Spring Garden Road she ends at Bishop’s landing at the bottom of Bishop Street, by the harborfront.  A turn to the right on the boardwalk ends at the Seaport Farmers’ Market. The best time to experience the Farmers’ Market is on Saturday before 4pm. She advises visitors to “end with a lunch, but carry enough money to buy from the variety of local artisans that have set up shop next to the fresh food; also great for impromptu picnics.”

Morgan MacDonald says, “Other than the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, the downtown core has many local favorites: Inkwell (for local art and handmade goods), Bishops Cellar (for a great selection of wine), Biscuit General Store (clothing), Sweet Pea Boutique (women’s clothing), Jennifer’s of Nova Scotia (handmade and local goods), Make New (curated vintage clothing), NovaScotian Crystal (beautiful crystal and glass that is blown on site), Le French Fix (great coffee, great French styled sweets), Two If By Sea Halifax location (amazing coffee, amazing giant croissants), Argyle Fine Art (pricier but a lovely place to tour), and Pete’s Frootique (a great grocery store that boasts a lovely little to-go section for a quick and healthy bite).”

Halifax Seaport Farmer's Market. Photo by Destination Halifax.

Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market. Photo by Destination Halifax.

When You Get Hungry: Where to Eat in Downtown Halifax

Here is a link to restaurants in downtown Halifax: http://www.destinationhalifax.com/members/member-directory?field_categories_value[0]=Restaurants&combine=&items_per_page=12

Restaurant Suggestions from Local Residents

Tips from Krista Jordan

Krista Jordan tells us about some of her favorite restaurants:

My top three fish restaurants can lead you in different directions. If you want a dinner with a view enjoy Salty’s. If it is raining, or you like the atmosphere sitting in a converted fire house with beautiful windows enjoy McKelvies. However if you really want history, a wonderful oyster bar and a connection to the Titanic, eat at the Five Fishermen. The Five Fisherman was once the home to the funeral home that serviced the victims of the Titanic. I have had specialized visitors who jumped at the chance to bump into a ghost from the Titanic. I have only enjoyed the delicious menu myself.”

“If you want Irish pubs you can go for a nice walk down Barrington Street and find the Henry House: a beautiful grey stone building with a wonderful selection of beers. Durty Nelly’s is a quick walk up Sackville Street to the corner of Argyle. This restaurant has an interesting blend of different styles of Irish pubs and good food. The Old Triangle has good music and is also close to the Museum if visitors don’t want to walk too much more.  If someone doesn’t know what they want to eat I say, walk up to Argyle Street and anyone can find something to enjoy. It is a three city blocks of great restaurants that cover a variety of different type food. For a quick lunch between Monday and Saturday the food court in Scotia Square Mall on Duke Street is a great “can’t go wrong” place.

“If you want a walking tour of the key restaurants, not including the board walk, I suggest starting from Duke Street from Upper Water Street Walk along Argyle Street until Blower Street. Turn right, head up the hill and walk over to Spring Garden Road.  By the time you reach the Lord Nelson Hotel you have worked up an appetite and probably found at least one place to stop and eat.

Tips from Morgan Macdonald

For Morgan, the best brunch is at Bistro Le Coq on Argyle Street even though they don’t open until 11:30 a.m. A more expensive, but beloved, alternative is EDNA (on Gottengen Street. EDNA’s doesn’t take reservations and there is often a slight wait due to its popularity. The Coastal Café is similar in the popularity and general expectation of a wait, but it is also amazing because of its very interesting food that changes seasonally. The Halifax Seaport Farmers Market that happens every weekend is a great place to go for breakfast or just to take in the sights and sounds. There are innumerable permanent and weekly vendors set up. Saturday is the best day to go, as some vendors don’t set up on Sunday.

For lunch or dinner, Morgan recommends walking down to the waterfront’s Historic Properties to enjoy the great food and beer served at the Gahan House. This restaurant/microbrewery had its start in nearby Prince Edward Island. They recently opened up their second location in Halifax. They have a great patio and everything tastes amazing. She also likes the Armview for a subtle peek back in time – the diner is styled pretty well exactly the same way it was in the 50s. She says that the food is great and it is a family friendly environment. For a higher scale dining experience, The Bicycle Thief or Amano are on the waterfront and are very popular.

For those who are vegetarian/vegan/gluten free, Halifax has two full service restaurants (among many cafes) that cater to different diets: enVie is purely vegan and still manages to impress many non-vegans. The Wooden Monkey is also very flexible.

Do you want a drink? Morgan recommends Stillwell for the craft beer lover – they change their taps out regularly, specializing in local and unique beers. They also have great food. Obladee will appeal to wine lovers in a similar way. They specialize in wine; have an extremely knowledgeable (yet very kind and approachable) staff that can help guide even the most inexperienced wine drinker, and also can build charcuterie platters around your wine selection to elevate the experience. Other than those two bars, The Carleton often has great live music regularly, Field Guide or EDNA are the best places to try a high-end, hand crafted, well thought out cocktail. Morgan adds, “Please note that Stillwell has expanded and opened a beer garden in June 2015. It is in its trial year for permanent placement along Halifax’s historic waterfront and is a must-see for visitors this summer. They are stocked with 10 taps of local beer, wine, iced coffee, and lemonade.”

What to Do At Night: Entertainment and Performing Arts

Morgan Macdonald advises visitors, “The Neptune Theatre or the Feast Dinner Theatre offer great theatrical experiences and are very accessible through public transit. Symphony Nova Scotia (at the Rebecca Cohn) offers weekly shows and a regular schedule. As far as interesting movie theatres go, you can’t do any better than the Oxford Theatre on the corner of Oxford and Quinpool, which usually shows independent and more eccentric film festival movies.”

For More Information

For information about visiting Halifax, attractions, where to stay, and what to do, visit: http://www.destinationhalifax.com/  or call (902) 422-9334.

For information about public transportation routes and schedules, visit http://www.halifax.ca/transit/Schedules/index.php or call (902) 490-4000. After being transferred to 311 (the local number for Halifax government services), press 5 to talk to a live transit customer service representative. Live transit representatives are available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Atlantic Time—one hour later than Eastern time).

Do you have a favorite vacation spot that can be enjoyed without a car? E-mail your ideas to steveatlas45@yahoo.com. Please include your contact information so Steve can get back to you with any questions.

About the author

Steve Atlas

Steve Atlas

Steve Atlas, author of two published books about parenting, has written newspaper columns and magazine articles about travel, career change, home-based business, parenting, and sales skills. Steve's column, “Single Parent Hotline,” was a weekly feature of Gannett News Service for several years. He has also been a contributing editor to Selling Power magazine. Currently Steve’s primary interest is reducing dependency on private automobiles. In addition to being a public transit advocate and author (since 2008) of Car Free Journey, Steve’s e-book: "Car Free at the Beach", and several reports he has written about Car Free Living can be viewed at www.pubtrantravel.com.

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