Halifax is a fantastic destination that encapsulates all the charm of the East Coast with the modern flair of city culture. There are several well-established and wonderful hotels and motels in and around the city, but VRBO and Airbnb offer citywide options for vacations. With all these options, it’s important to know what you might be getting out of different locations.
Halifax NeighbourhoodsSince the establishment of the Halifax Regional Municipality, Halifax itself has become a bit like the City of London; it’s a smaller part of a larger region (unfortunately there are no dragon statues to mark the borders). The Halifax Peninsula has four very diverse areas, one for each point of the compass, and each one has its own things on offer.
The busiest part of Halifax, you’ll find dozens of eateries, entertainment options, and places to see. This is where many of the traditional hotels are concentrated.
The Citadel is a huge part of Haligonian history, and while it’s no longer a military fort its historical significance remains. They provide re-enactments of how life was centuries past, even firing off the noon “cannon” every day (it’s just powder, no cannon balls are harmed). Whether you come for the history, come for the ghosts, or come for the fantastic view, you’re sure to have a great day at the Citadel.
Address: Citadel Hill
The Waterfront is worth a trip all on its own. It’s several city blocks long, and there are restaurants, a museum, a beer garden, a playset, a casino, three different places to get ice cream, and several different Harbour cruise options from a party boat to the Silva schooner. Enjoy a long day of taking in the Halifax Harbour’s best sights, walking among locals and tourists alike.
Spring Garden RoadSpring Garden Road is one of Halifax’s main shopping areas. It’s a relatively small street, but it has everything you could possibly want to buy, from books to musical instruments to sports gear to cheesecake. End your shopping day with supper at one of many restaurants that cover cuisines from burgers to sushi.
Argyle Street is a fascinating street where the focus is entertainment (as you will see in the video linked below). There are several bars and restaurants along this street, including a Five Guys linked to the new Halifax Convention Centre, which is also a great place to see. Most of the street is now pedestrian-only traffic, so you can wander safely between restaurants and bars and the Neptune Theatre, which I will talk about in just a moment.
Argyle Street: Halifax’s Entertainment District
Sports and Entertainment
Halifax has a vibrant sports and entertainment culture. You can visit the Scotiabank centre to see the Halifax hockey, basketball, and lacrosse teams play in season, with other sporting events being held periodically throughout the year. They’ll also host concerts and other entertainment events more infrequently, like comedy shows and Cirque de Soleil performances.
If you’re interested in downtown theatre, you have options! The Neptune Theatre on Argyle offers a tremendous selection of plays throughout the year. They have two stages, and often highlight local actors and playwrights. Your other option is the Grafton Street Dinner Theatre, which allows you to eat while you watch (and participate) in a different themed show each night.
Address: 1800 Argyle Street
Address: 1593 Argyle Street
Grafton St Dinner Theatre
Address: 1741 Grafton Street
The West End of Halifax is a quieter, more suburban part of the city. There are good public transit options to get downtown, but there’s also plenty of things to do in the West End itself.
Halifax Shopping Centre
The Halifax Shopping Centre is one of the premiere shopping malls in the Maritimes. It has a huge variety of stores, a beautiful and diverse food court, and a light and airy design. It also encapsulates the stores across the street, which include a Wal-Mart, a Winners, and a Sobeys. If you’re looking for anything from new boots to designer handbags to simple snacks for a car trip, you’ll find it here.
Address: 7001 Mumford Road
Halifax’s West End has some great parks, but I think Flinn Park has the most options for fun. There’s a baseball diamond, a huge green field, a playground, a small wooded area, and three hills that are perfect for rolling down or having a picnic on, up to you. There’s even a cliff that looked incredibly large when I was small but is in fact only about an 8-foot drop. It’s a great place to take kids to run off some steam in a safe place. And if you’re there in the summer, at the bottom of the big hill there are some berry patches, so you might be able to pick your own snack.
Address: 6990 Armview Avenue
The Armview is a family-run diner-style restaurant that is over 50 years old. As the name suggests, it has a great view of the Northwest Arm, which is an inlet of the Harbour where people boat and kayak. The diner has a great menu that combines classic diner comfort food, Greek food, and Maritime favourites. I highly suggest going there for sunset hours, and for the weekend brunch.
Address: 7156 Chebucto Road
Quinpool Road is a long street with many stores and restaurants. There’s a Superstore and a Shoppers, so that’s convenient if you’re staying at an Airbnb, but they also have plenty of special interest stores like the Clay Café, Nautilus Aquatics and Hobbies, and an acupuncture clinic. As for food, you’re spoiled for choice across diverse cultures and a wide price range.
Bus Stop Theatre Co-OpThis theatre is in its 17th year of operation, and it’s still going strong. Its major purpose is to be an “incubator space” for artists of all kinds, and it hosts dozens of different shows and workshops every year. You can find improv, burlesque, concerts, and plays of all kinds. Watch their website to find which shows catch your interest around your trip.
Address: 2203 Gottingen Street
The Hydrostone Market
The Hydrostone Market was established in 1918, and is a fascinating street in North End Halifax. There are several quaint little stores and eateries along the way, all with a strong local emphasis. You can also go to the spa and even plan your wedding. The surrounding streets continue the vibe, but it’s strongest in the traditional Market.
Address: 5531 Young St
Halifax Forum’s Farmers’ Market
The Halifax Forum hosts many events, but its true constant is this farmers’ market. Held every Saturday from 8-1, vendors bring in produce, meats, fish, baked goods, and so much more. There are also artisan vendors who sell jewelry, handmade crafts, mugs, and hand made knives. It’s an eclectic celebration of local farmers, and it’s well worth getting up early on a Saturday.
Address: 6205 Almon Street
Another great shopping destination in the North End, Agricola has several fascinating stores and restaurants. You can get new furniture, old furniture, new clothes, old records, and so much more. You can see the Oland Brewery, get your hair cut at three different places, and enjoy this quirky street rain or shine.
Point Pleasant ParkPoint Pleasant Park defines Halifax in so many ways. This park by the ocean, recovering beautifully from Hurricane Juan in 2003, is full of history, natural beauty, and modern pursuits of fun. You can walk the trails, hang out in the gazebo, look at the historical buildings and monuments, have a picnic, walk beside the water, and (if you’re here in the summer), you can check out Shakespeare by the Sea, a local non-profit theatre company that perform Shakespeare and other original shows in the park itself (or their theatre if it’s rainy).
Address: 5530 Point Pleasant Drive
Halifax’s status as a university and college city is well-established, with some of the oldest and finest institutions in all of Canada. Three of these institutions have their campuses in the South End: Dalhousie University, the University of King’s College, and St. Mary’s University. You can walk the campuses, check out the libraries and athletic facilities, and enjoy music and sports events throughout the year.
St. Mary’s University
University of King’s College
This market takes place in a huge building right on the Waterfront, and every inch of the space is used to bring a fantastic experience for shoppers. Each level has their own displays of produce vendors, artisans, food stands and occasionally music. It’s bustling and happy, with friendly vendors and enough space that you don’t feel crowded.
Address: 1209 Marginal Road
Phone: 902-492-4043 extension 301
If you go across one of the two bridges (or take the ferry), you’ll reach Dartmouth. Dartmouth has become a vibrant part of the HRM in the last couple of decades, and there are plenty of options for lodgings. Dartmouth as a city is hard to pin down, because every few blocks the aesthetic completely changes, but that’s what makes it so special. Whether you’re staying on that side of the water or you want to make a day trip, here are some parts you won’t want to miss.
Dartmouth CrossingDartmouth Crossing is my favourite place to shop in the HRM, especially if I have a few destinations. Most of the big box stores are here, with Ikea up on a hill looking down on everything else. It’s like a little shopping village, complete with pretty decorations and plenty of restaurants. The only kind of store that isn’t there is a bookstore, but you can find that at the next destination.
Address: 34 Logiealmond Close
Mic Mac Mall
The Mic Mac Mall is a mall that has pretty much every store you can think of that isn’t at Dartmouth Crossing, and a few of the same. The mall’s layout is pleasant, and everything smells like Cinnabon because they have one; the only one in the HRM, in fact. You can find everything you want here, and they have a bookstore, so it’s a very proper mall.
Address: 21 Mic Mac Boulevard
World Peace Pavilion
The idea for this pavilion came from the Metro Youth for Global Unity in Dartmouth. They wrote letters all over the world for rocks and bricks from the “world we share”, and they got over 100 from seventy different countries. It’s a beautiful pavilion in Ferry Terminal Park, and you can look at all the submitted artifacts and meditate on the possibilities of world peace.
Address: Ferry Terminal Park, Alderney Drive, Dartmouth
Dartmouth has lots of parks, but if you’re looking for a huge park, you head to Shubie. You can hike, bike, kayak, fish, and even camp in the park. There are beautiful trees, a wide variety of wildlife, and enjoy a spot of wilderness close to civilization.
Address: 54 Locks Road, Dartmouth
Bayer’s Lake Business Park
Bayer’s Lake Business Park is situated close to Clayton Park, and not too far from Halifax itself. It was once a hugely wooded area, but now it holds a tremendous amount of shops, services, and hotels. If you’re interested in a dedicated shopping trip, or you want to stay outside of the city, Bayer’s Lake is a good option for you.
Bayer’s Lake Shopping
There are literally dozens of stores in Bayer’s Lake, including Costco, Kent, Home Hardware, Best Buy, and a huge Chapters (I’m a bit of a bookworm, so this one is important to me). You can drive through the parking lots on either side of Chain Lake Drive or go down Lacewood Drive and see more stores, a couple of hotels, and the Keshen Goodman library. If you’re hungry, there’s lots of convenient food options.
Canada Games Centre
This was built for the Canada Games in 2011, and has remained a beloved recreation centre. They have a great pool with slides, a big fieldhouse, and a place to play pickleball, which I feel like you should try to find out what this fascinating name entails. If you have little ones that need to blow off some steam, or you want to work out while you’re in Bayer’s Lake, this is a good place to go.
Address: 26 Thomas Raddall Drive
Cineplex Scotiabank Theatre
This is the biggest movie theatre in the HRM (Dartmouth Crossing is a close second), and it has a variety of screen types to prove it. You can see movies in 3D, IMAX, 3D IMAX, and D-Box. They have a huge selection for concessions, an arcade, and they have child-friendly and sensory friendly options, making it an inclusive experience. If you like movies, this is a great theatre to try.
Address: 190 Chain Lake Drive
It’s a karting track and a laser tag arena, and it’s wicked! They have a huge and interesting track where each session is ten minutes, and laser tag is team based in a 3000+ square foot arena. It’s a great way to spend time as a family or with friends, blowing off energy and engaging in friendly competition.
Address: 66 Otter Lake Court