Our neighbor to the northeast is a warm, welcoming haven, as cosmopolitan as it is quaintly historic, with year-round indoor and outdoor fun for all.
Halifax, Nova Scotia is the largest metropolis east of Quebec City and north of Boston, where life centers around the sea and the personality of the city is reflected in the inviting attitudes of the locals. The walkable city center is home to myriad cozy pubs, an ocean-side casino, seasonal festivals, sporting events and world-class theatre. Discover Halifax, the friendly, big-little city that welcomes diversity with open arms.
What to Do
If you’re at all interested in maritime history, or simply a fan of beautiful waterfronts, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic ($8.75 CAD, 1675 Lower Water St, maritime.museum.gov.ns.ca), should be right at the top of your “to do” list. It’s filled with exhibits from Cunard lines, the Halifax Explosion and the Titanic, and while you’re at it, you’ll want to take a gander at the CSS Arcadia docked in the port. If you happen to be visiting the Halifax waterfront on a Saturday morning, you’ll find yourself drawn to the local Farmers Market (1496 Lower Water St, halifaxfarmersmarket.com), where fresh regional food and wares from smiling vendors are magnets for visitors and locals alike.
The International Busker Festival is a late summer attraction held annually on the waterfront. (For those of you who don’t speak Olde English, a “busker” is a British term for street performer.) The free festival runs over six amazing stages, usually in August; this summer the festival hosted over 70 performers from nine different countries, including family-friendly performances during the day and amazing fire performances at night—a “must do” for all festival addicts.
History buffs will love the Citadel ($11.70 CAD, parkscanada.gc.ca) perched above the downtown on Citadel Hill—get there before noon for a real bang! (They shoot off a cannon every day except Christmas.) Pier 21 ($8.50 CAD, 1055 Marginal Rd, pier21.ca), Canada’s Immigration Museum, houses an unbelievable 3D experience following the route that the 1.5 million Canadian immigrants and military personnel took through this historic landmark. On the way back from the Citadel, you’ll get a gorgeous eyeful of the ornate wrought iron gates and 17 acres of natural beauty at the Halifax Public Gardens (Spring Garden and South Park St, halifaxpublicgardens.ca).
Sailors ahoy! The Tall Ships Challenge®Race Series will bring 30 vessels from six countries to the Halifax seaport next summer (July 16-20) during the Tall Ships Nova Scotia Festival 2009 (sailtraining.org). If you’re looking for a sailing adventure of your own, check out Canadian Sailing Expeditions (from $1,303 CAD, canadiansailingexpeditions.com), and if you’re lucky enough to catch the boat in port, you can take a tour prior to push off. The owners, Doug, Dale and Michelle, share a true passion for exploring, and their summer excursions are coastal cruising trips that immerse you in the local communities you’ll be sailing through. The on-board gourmet chefs peruse local farmers’ markets daily to buy what’s fresh; as you travel, amazing meals are prepared and paired with amazing Nova Scotia wines. Cruises can hold up to 50 travelers, who can choose to participate in the daily workings of the sail boat as much or as little as they like over the four, seven or ten-day coastal adventures.
Now, about the local vineyards—taste as much as you can, because we can’t get these wines in the States! Take the Valley Wine Tour ($115 CAD, valleywinetours.ca) and visit the Sainte Famille (RR#2 Falmouth; st-famille.com) and Gaspereau Vineyards (2239 White Rock Rd, Gaspereau, gaspereauwine.com), which includes a lovely lunch at the Domaine de Grand Pré (1161 Highway 1, Grand Pré, grandprewines.ns.ca) in a lovely garden that is often the backdrop for weddings, commitment ceremonies and celebrations of all sorts. The industry of winemaking is blooming in Nova Scotia, and the winemakers are always excited to tell you about it first hand.
An hour and a half drive from Halifax is the South Shore where you’ll find Peggy’s Cove (peggys-cove.com), a fishing community with a gorgeous lighthouse the locals love to brag about, where breathtaking views and historical landmarks abound. It’s the perfect place to rock-climb, hike or simply take a breather, soak in the sea air and meditate.
Where to Shop
Good news: There’s plenty of shopping in Halifax! If you’re really itching for a shopping extravaganza, start by getting your plastic out at the Piazza at Bishop’s Landing (1477 Lower Water St), an upscale shopping center with plenty of designer labels. The Hydrostone Market (5515-45 Young St, hydrostonemarket.ca) is housed in a historical building with individual shops laid out in a European, open-market style. At the West End Mall (6960 Mumford Rd) you’ll find a collection of all your old favorites, while Dresden Row Market (1535 Dresden Row; dresdenrowmarket.ca) is all about the specialty item—you’ll want to duck in to Pete’s Frootique (1515 Dresden Row, petesfrootique.com) for its local gourmet delicacies. Spring Garden Place (5640 Spring Garden Rd) has a diversity of places to eat, shop and hang—and before you head back to inspect the day’s bounty, you won’t want to miss Mills (5486 Spring Garden Rd, millsbrothers.com), a Halifax department store that’s been around since 1919.
Where to Eat
Foodies will adore Halifax, with as much emphasis on international fare—from Greek to Japanese, Turkish to Filipino—as there is on local cuisine, and most of restaurants have great local wine selections to pair with your meal. The Five Fishermen (1740 Argyle St, fivefishermen.com) is just as famous for their mussel bar (ask about their ghost stories) as Chives Canadian Bistro (1537 Barrington St, chives.ca) is for their buttermilk biscuits. Cheapside Café (1723 Hollis St, cheapside.ca) inside the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is anything but cheap on flavor, fare or atmosphere. Enjoy lunch, dinner or a cup of coffee in between at the Economy Shoe Shop Café and Bar (1663 Argyle St, economyshoeshop.ca). You’ll get a crazy lobster hat at the Waterfront Warehouse (1549 Lower Water St, rcr.ca) when you order from the live tank. Vegetarians will find delicious and satisfying meals at Satisfaction Feast (3559 Robie St, satisfaction-feast.com), as well as at the Heartwood Bakery and Café (6250 Quinpool Rd, heartwoodbakerycafe.ca).
Where to Party
If you’re looking for the lesbian neighborhood or bars—stop! There isn’t a one, though pretty much every place is LGBT-friendly. The few gay gathering spots welcome their sisters, and have a quiet, Midwestern feel. Reflections Cabaret (5184 Sackville St, reflectionscabaret.com) runs drag shows on the dance floor every Thursday and Sunday, but more women can be found at Menz Bar (2182 Gottingen St, seadogs.ca/menzbar). Fans of Trailer Park Boys will want to stop in at Bubbles (Mike Smith) Mansion (5287 Prince St, bubblesmansion.com). Further down Prince, get your Irish on at the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse (5136 Prince St, oldtriangle.com), where they play live Celtic music and have traditional, yummy pub food. Shoot pool at Gatsby’s Bar and Eatery (5675 Spring Garden Rd), and dance the night away with the rest of the Haligonians at the Dome (1726 Argyle St, thedome.ca). The 21st celebration of Halifax Pride (halifaxpride.ca) will be in late July 2009 at the historic Garrison Grounds, a natural outdoor amphitheater at the foot of the Halifax Citadel—don’t miss it!
Where to Stay
The Delta Barrington and Halifax (from $155 USD; 1875-1990 Barrington St; deltahotels.com) and the Marriott Halifax Harbourfront (from $196 USD; 1919 Upper Water St, marriott.com) offer gay-friendly accommodations. The Halifax and the Harbourfront are within strolling distance of the Casino (1983 Upper Water St, casinonovascotia.com), and have a passageway connecting to—you guessed it—more shopping!
Visit halifax.ca/visitors or rainbowhalifax.com for all the gay-friendly travel information you’ll need, and when in town, look for the Wayves paper for a listing of local happenings.