If you’ve only got one day in Halifax, you need to make the most of it. Of course, making the most of it is different for everyone. That’s why I’m covering the perfect day for different people. These days include highlights all within driving distance (choose your own order!), and finishes with a meal in an appropriate setting.
For the Nature Lover
Point Pleasant Park
This is one of Halifax’s most iconic parks, rising up from the beaches in hills full of trees and beautiful old buildings left over from many centuries ago. You’ll find great walking and running trails (some of which are off-leash, so you can bring your dog friends). There’s also picnic tables, a gazebo, and even a beach to walk along (and maybe see some porpoises!)
Address: 5718 Point Pleasant Drive
You’ll need to take a water taxi to get to this island, but if you drew a straight line it’s nearly right across from Point Pleasant. This huge wild island has trails all over so you can see every inch. It’s got dozens of plant species, native mammals and reptiles, and there have been 206 bird species recorded there. It’s quiet and beautiful, gives you a great view of the Harbour, and if you’re interested you could always come back after dinner to camp out.
Long Lake Provincial Park
Address: At the intersection of Cowie Hill Road and Dunbrack Street
Salt Marsh Trail
If you like birds at all, this is the place to go. This trail is nationally ranked for bird species’ diversity and sightings. No matter what time of year it is, you’ll hear birdsong and see feathered friends flitting between the trees. It’s also just a nice trail through the salt marsh, and even if you take the shorter trail, you can see breathtaking views of the ocean.
Stubborn Goat Beer Garden
Now Point Pleasant Park is a great place to have a picnic supper, and if that’s what you want to do I highly recommend it. But if after a day in the outdoors you want to sit down in comfy chairs, then head to the Stubborn Goat Beer Garden on the Waterfront. Like its parent restaurant, they serve excellent local food and drinks, perfect for a boardwalk supper. They’ll also have live music every now and then, and if there’s a festival going on at the Waterfront you’ll have great seats. Enjoy dinner by the sea and talk about your favourite parts of Halifax’s natural beauty.
Address: 1599 Lower Water Street, Summit Plaza
For the Romantic
The Public Gardens is romantic for lots of reasons. For one, it’s a beautiful garden with lovely flowers and trees, plus a lake that’s full of quacking ducks. For another, they do have an ice cream store, so you can get a cone and have an excuse to sit together on a bench in the shade. It’s also got live entertainment out of the gazebo every so often, so you can enjoy a concert together. Finally, when the weather is nice you’re likely to see at least one wedding party taking pictures, which lends its own kind of romance as you daydream about your possibilities.
Address: Corner of South Park Street and Spring Garden Road
This is a great place to go if you’re a newer couple, or maybe when you’re so comfortable with each other that you want new experiences. The Waterfront has so much to see and do that it could take hours to see everything, and you’ll have lots to talk about. You can settle down for food at one of the many food stands and restaurants, enjoy local buskers, and find pretty things to give each other in the stores. Souvenirs are so important for special days, aren’t they?
I always thought this place sounded foreboding, but it’s actually a gorgeous park full of birds and pretty paths and water. In fact, one of the lakes here is actually shaped like a heart! I’m not going to tell you where it is, because finding it will be half the fun. If you like nature dates together, whether it’s walking, running, or hiking, this is a great place close to downtown to go. There’s certainly privacy there…
Crystal Crescent Beach
If you want to watch the sunset in Nova Scotia, the best place to go is a beach. And if you’re around Halifax, I think the best place is Crystal Crescent Beach. It’s really a set of three linked beaches, so you’ve got your pick, or you could continue along the trail to the higher point. Whatever season your visit is, you’ll find beauty in the sunset at Crystal Crescent.
Address: 223 Sambro Creek Road
Ristorante A Mano’s
Ristorante A Mano’s is on the Waterfront with a gorgeous view of the night time water. This is an Italian restaurant that delivers fantastic food and service at affordable prices, and it’s a festive, happy atmosphere. If you’re finishing your day at the Waterfront here, you can look over your findings and talk about which pictures are your favourite. Try some of their gelato for dessert, it tastes divine.
Address: 1477 Lower Water Street
For the Family
The Museum of Natural History
This is a popular destination for families both local and visiting. It has fantastic exhibits about all aspects of Nova Scotian natural history, from sea to land to air. They also have exhibits about Mi’kmaq history, which is an essential part of Nova Scotian history that’s finally being properly celebrated; this museum’s led the charge in a lot of ways. Their exhibits are designed for all ages, they have visiting exhibits every once in a while, and you can always visit Gus the tortoise!
Address: 1747 Summer Street
The Discovery Centre is an essential part of many Haligonians’ childhood, and its new location promises that this will remain true for generations. The Discovery Centre is all about teaching science in fun ways that kids of all ages can access. They also have visiting exhibts; right now it’s all about Rubik’s Cubes and it’s fascinating (plus, the 8 and 6 year old boys I took there thought it was super fun too).
Address: 1215 Lower Water Street
If it’s not precipitating too heavily, you need to check out the Commons. It’s two huge green spaces separated by a small road, and they have everything you could want. Ball diamonds, a playground, a skate park, the Oval (where depending on the season there’ll be ice or concrete which you can get a variety of footwear or machines to enjoy), and lots of space to just run around. It’s a great place for picnics, outings, or just to walk through and enjoy the green space (or white, if it’s winter).
Address: 5816 Cogswell Street
The Bluenose II
There are lots of great places in Halifax to have family dinners, but the Bluenose II holds a special place. One of the older downtown restaurants, they have Canadian-Greek cuisine, all at great prices and the kid’s menu is also good (which is harder for places to do, it seems). They’ve got nice big booths, great service, and desserts that are absolutely delicious. It’s also pretty close to the major downtown hotels, so you can get the kids straight into pajamas in bed right from supper.
Address: 1824 Hollis Street
For the History Lover
This is an obvious and excellent first stop for history buffs. Once a navy military base, the Citadel maintains its grandeur through re-enactments and tours that take you back centuries. You can explore the base on your own as well, and you’ll find fascinating buildings and displays, and if you’re there around noon you’ll get to see them fire the noon cannon. And if you’re feeling brave, come back after dark and take the ghost tour!
Address: Citadel Hill
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
If you’re interested in Maritime maritime history, this is the place for you. This museum covers every aspect of Atlantic Canadian encounters with the sea, including the sinking of the Titanic and the Halifax Explosion. In addition to all the exhibits, they’re also a research museum, with huge archives open to the public. If you’re going to be here for a few days and you’ve always wanted to do more research into, you can ask for a special appointment and get some research help into the mysterious fathoms below.
Address: 1675 Lower Water Street
Fort Needham Memorial Park
History can be found in so many places, and this is a place you can enjoy with people of all ages. This park grew out of a solemn purpose; this area was destroyed by the Halifax Explosion, and it took until the 50s to fully rebuild it. This park was created in memory of the people that were hurt or killed in the Explosion, and they have a Memorial Bell Tower that strikes on the hour. It’s also a beautiful park with a playground and a wooded area, so you can enjoy and reflect at once in this very modern and powerful understanding of a memorial’s value.
Address: 3340 Union Street
Africville is a disgrace in Halifax’s history that has been turned into something much more powerful. The surviving members of the community of African Nova Scotians have turned the land into a memorial, building a replica of Africville’s church. You can learn about the vibrant life in the community, the racist practices that led to it being demolished, and the history of its residents taking back their own story long before any official apology was issued.
Address: 5795 Africville Road
The Split Crow
If you want to do history right, you need to eat historically too. And since the Split Crow is the oldest pub in Halifax (and one of the oldest in Canada), it’s your best bet. The Split Crow has certainly updated its menu since the 1700s, but they’re still committed to great food and drink in a fun atmosphere. They’ve got a local focus in their food, their drinks, and the music they have several nights a week, so come and soak up Halifax’s oldest and finest.
Address: 1855 Granville Street
By: Adrienne Colborne