Like a Local: Halifax

Halifax to the Max

Close the guidebooks and let a local lead the way.

By John and Sandra Nowlan

We’ve lived in Halifax for decades and love its seaside location, friendly residents, and lively street vibes. It’s the capital of the province and the East Coast base for the Royal Canadian Navy. Cruise ships dock near the outstanding Pier 21 Museum (Canada’s Ellis Island) with a waterfront boardwalk leading to the many downtown attractions. If you’re heading out to explore Halifax, here are our tips to best enjoying all that it has to offer.

Tourist Tips
The quintessential Halifax experience calls for a visit to Peggy’s Cove, a quaint fishing village with a picturesque lighthouse built on a rocky promontory facing the pounding Atlantic. It’s a great tour, but make sure you don’t miss the easy walk into downtown Halifax with its unique history and culture.

Off the Beaten Path
The harbor ferry to Dartmouth is part of the Halifax Public Transit (2.50 Canadian dollars for adults, CA$1.75 for seniors) and well worth the ride for the best views of Halifax alone. Started in 1836, it’s the oldest continuous saltwater ferry service in North America. It can be picked up along the boardwalk, a 10- to 15-minute walk from the cruise terminal.

If It’s Free, It’s For Me
The stunning Halifax Central Public Library has been acclaimed by CNN as “One of 10 eye-popping new buildings of 2014.” It’s on Spring Garden Road, an easy walk from the cruise terminal. Just up the street is the famed Halifax Public Gardens. Established in 1836, it’s an extraordinary example of a traditional Victorian garden with 16 acres of flowerbeds, a bandstand, fountains, statues, a small lake, ducks, and swans.

Eat Around the Town
Halifax is the original home of the Donair. It’s our version of the Döner kebab, made not with lamb but with spiced beef and served on pita bread with tomatoes, onions, and a special sweet sauce. The tasty product, now sold all over the city, began in the 1970s at King of Donairs on Quinpool Road. And of course, with lobster caught just off our coast, you simply must try a fresh lobster roll, available at many downtown restaurants including Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market by the port.

Whatever You Do, Don’t …
Most everyone in Halifax speaks English (often with “eh?” at the end of sentences), but don’t expect the city and the province to be an extension of the United States. Our colorful dollar bills (in $5 blue, $10 purple, $20 green, and $50 red) are not Monopoly money — so don’t make fun of it. Canadians tend to very proud…

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