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Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

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 Did You Know … ?

  • In 1917, Halifax Harbor experienced the world’s largest manmade explosion (until atomic weapons).
  • One hundred fifty Titanic victims are buried in Halifax.
  • Each year Halifax sends a huge Christmas tree to Boston in gratitude for its relief efforts after the 1917 harbor explosion.
  • The Halifax Citadel was designed by Col. James Arnold, son of Benedict Arnold.
  • The Halifax Common is Canada’s oldest urban park (1763).

Haligonians and their port city

Halifax, capital of Nova Scotia, is a port city that has played its part well in the development of Canada. Its large deep natural harbor has been vital as a transport hub for goods and military personnel entering and leaving Canada and as an arrival point for immigrants.

For a time, Halifax was militarily significant, too, as manifested by the star-shaped citadel, which is perched on the city’s highest point, 250 feet above sea level. For the garrison, the positioning provided a good outlook over the harbor; for today’s visitor the view is just as fine, but with a more peaceful purpose. Now the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, it is the setting for reenactment activities and an army museum.

A number of attractions on Halifax’s long waterfront provide further insights into the soul of this port city. Exhibits at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic display Titanic artifacts, reflecting Halifax’s role in the recovery and burial of victims. Displays tell the story of a 1917 explosion in Halifax Harbor that destroyed part of the city and killed more than 2,000. The museum also documents the more than 4,000 known shipwrecks along Nova Scotia’s shores.

Pier 21, now a national landmark, uses interactive displays to tell the story of the immigrants, sailors and soldiers who have passed through Halifax’s port en route into or out of Canada.

Still more, the waterfront boardwalk is a tourist draw with its ships, shops, restaurants and pubs.

Additional attractions in town — cemeteries, churches and the like — recall the city’s earliest days, when it was the setting for several firsts in Canada, including its first city park, newspaper, post office and public school. The Province House was home to the country’s first legislature.

But it is a 21st century destination, too, noted for its several and lively festivals, including those celebrating the area’s foods and wine, nautical heritage and Scottish roots. Halifax also is considered the cultural center for Canada’s Atlantic provinces. Haligonians (meaning Halifax residents) offer theater, art galleries, music and other cultural experiences that may be high-brow or on the cutting edge.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Go surfing, or windsurfing if you prefer. Take windsurfing lessons if they are called for.
  • Try the cross-country ski trails in any of several of the city’s parks.
  • Join the Velo Halifax Bicycle Club, and cycle in Halifax or beyond, for a day or up to a week, with some of its members.
  • Plan for at least one late-night pub crawl. There are plenty of nightspots to choose from.
  • Compete in the Scotiabank Blue Nose Marathon in mid-May.
  • Test your luck at the Casino Nova Scotia. At the slot machines, see if you can win a motorcycle (seriously).

Things to do for Centrics

  • Go whale watching. The best times are mid-June to mid-September.
  • Try you luck at deep-sea fishing. Halifax waters are home to Boston bluefish, cod, haddock, mackerel and shark.
  • Enjoy Nova Scotian food (especially the seafood) and wine by timing a visit for February dates that let you attend both the Savour Food and Wine Festival and the Nova Scotia Icewine Festival.
  • See one of the outdoor performances of Shakespeare by the Sea. The events are offered each summer in Point Pleasant Park.
  • Do some of your sightseeing on the water; take a harbor cruise. Or hug the water: Rent a canoe or a kayak and paddle around in the harbor.
  • Take a tour, with costumed guide, through Alexander Keith’s Brewery, a facility which dates from the early 19th century. At the tour’s conclusion, savor a free sample of the product in a 19th century pub.

Things to do for Authentics

  •  Drop by at St. Matthew’s United Church to see if you can see the ghost that is said to live in one of its windowpanes. The glass has been replaced, but that makes no difference, witnesses say.
  • Spend time at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and learn about the sinking of the Titanic; the 1917 Halifax Harbor explosion, and the thousands of shipwrecks that have occurred along Nova Scotia’s shore.
  • Watch the 78th Highlanders drill at the Halifax Citadel. Time your visit to be there for the noon gun. Soldiers and civilians in period dress reenact citadel life of the 1860s. The ramparts provide good views of the city and its harbor.
  • Ask for a guided tour at the Province House, the classic 1819 structure that is the seat of Canada’s oldest legislature.
  • Attend a concert at St. George’s Round Church. The unique building was designed by Queen Victoria’s father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent.
  • This is Nova Scotia (New Scotland) and well supplied with golf courses. Take advantage of that for a game or two. Also, walk the city’s 2.5-mile waterfront boardwalk.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Destination Halifax at www.destinationhalifax.com