Halifax, Nova Scotia is such a beautiful city! Even though we loved exploring the Bay of Fundy and the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Route, our time enjoying Halifax was wonderful. There are so many things to do in Halifax, particularly if you love history. A great city to explore on foot, this is our guide to visiting Halifax with kids.
Give the podcast a listen and follow along with our article below. You’ll find that many of the best things to do in Halifax are very close by, and if the weather is nice you won’t even need a car. Once you start exploring beyond downtown, you will need your own vehicle, especially for going out to the picturesque eastern shore of Halifax Harbour.
Don’t forget to check out the Best Things To Do in Nova Scotia!!
Where to stay in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Being a historic city with a solid urban core, there are lost of hotels directly in Downtown Halifax. You’ll be able to find most of your mainstream travel brands as well as some boutique options. We stayed in the area of Dartmouth for our time in Halifax. Dartmouth is just across Halifax Harbour, accessible by the ferry or bridge. Dartmouth is quiet and beautiful, and very near the airport and routes out of Halifax, so it’s an easy home base.
Where we Stay in Halifax: Best Western Plus Dartmouth
We enjoyed staying in Dartmouth versus downtown Halifax because our complete Nova Scotia itinerary took us beyond Halifax itself. Darthmouth is only 15 minutes from downtown and about 20 minutes from the airport.
The Best Western Plus Dartmouth is very new and nicely maintained. We had a very large room with two queen beds and a living space, which was great for visiting Halifax with kids. The quiet location away from downtown made it easy to unwind at the end of the day as nobody was over-stimulated.
The real highlight of staying at the BW Plus Dartmouth was the indoor pool area. With a huge indoor waterslide, an indoor splash pad and a swimming pool we took full advantage of our down time between activities to let the kids get out their energy.
They also do a full breakfast at the BW Plus Dartmouth and have a wine bar at the hotel. Breakfast is included, but other meals are on your own. Overall, the BW Plus Dartmouth was perfect for our family to visit Halifax and we can strongly recommend it, for its location and amenities, without question.
More Options for Where to Stay in Halifax
If you’re looking for interesting short term or vacation rentals, there are actually quite a few around Halifax. As you get further away from the city, they are fewer and fewer, but still some great options for a quiet getaway.
For a nice stay downtown Halifax or on the waterfront, which are walking distance to each other, we’d recommend the following:
- Westin Nova Scotian, directly next to the Seaport Farmers Market and cruise terminal
- Halifax Marriott Harbourfront, by the foot ferry and museums
- Halifax Residence Inn OR Prince George Hotel, both are right between the Citadel and Downtown
- Lord Nelson Hotel & Suites, across the street from the Halifax Public Gardens
Best Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Being from the West Coast of the USA, Nova Scotia isn’t a normal destination we would consider, but holy moly is it awesome! This is the first of our three-part podcast series about visiting Nova Scotia. We’ll start with the city of Halifax and all the best things to do (and eat) there.
Give a listen and take note of the Halifax sites and moments you need to be a part of. You’ll find that Halifax is a very historic city, both when it comes to Canadian and nautical history. Even if you’re not into learning about the past and prefer a bustling urban city, Halifax is very enjoyable. And there is a lot of really good food to eat…
Want to do a tour including many of the best things to do in Halifax? Book one here!
Visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
One of the best things to do in Halifax is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. It’s not just a bunch of boats, but is an extremely interactive ship and nautical history museum. Located on the waterfront with historic docks adjascent to it, the Maritime Museum if centrally located to many of the attractions and activities in Halifax.
A highlight of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is the awesome Titanic exhibit. Between the artifacts from the Titanic, the historic ship interiors and model ships, it’s a great place to visit, especially with kids. A bonus to make things more fun is the scavenger hunt which ensures that you visit nearly every exhibit.
Even if you’re not big into museums, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is one of the best we’ve visited and needs to be on your list of things to do in Halifax.
Learn About Nova Scotia at the Halifax Discovery Centre
More of a science center than a children’s museum, the Halifax Discovery Centre is focused on learning about Nova Scotia life and energy. Its location off the coast of Canada makes Nova Scotia a very different sort of place. At the Halifax Discovery Centre, they’ve built really cool exhibits teaching all about wind energy, tidal power, and so much more of what makes Nova Scotia run.
Located directly next to the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market, a visit to the Halifax Discovery center is one of the most easy things to do if you’re staying on the waterfront. A perfect way to add it to your Halifax itinerary is to plan a visit to the Discovery Centre and then head next door to the Seaport Farmers Market for lunch.
Explore the Halifax Seaport and Waterfront
If you’re looking for a fun place to explore and don’t mind it being a little bit touristy, the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market is a great lunch spot and place full of local artisans. Opened in June of 1750, it’s the oldest continually operating farmers market in North America. Older than Pike Place Market in Seattle, the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market brings the best of Nova Scotia all to one place.
Even if you’re visiting Halifax in the winter, the Seaport Farmers Market is open. Being nearly all indoors, they are able to operate continually, making it one of the best things to do and best shopping experiences in Halifax.
Halifax Citadel: a National Park in the City
We love visiting historic sites and National Parks. Right downtown in Halifax there is actually one of the coolest historic sites we’ve been to in Canada. The Halifax Citadel National Historic Park is really cool for living history and great views of the city.
Located on the western edge of downtown Halifax, the Citadel is perfect for walking, learning, or playing photographer. One of the most interesting things to do in Halifax, the changing of the guard happens each hour ON THE HOUR. If you can plan your itinerary to ensure you’re at the Halifax Citadel at the right time, you’ll enjoy the ceremony.
Relax at the Halifax Public Gardens
Not a fancy botanical garden like you might expect or an epic, sprawling English garden like the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia, the Halifax Public Gardens are beautiful and centrally located in downtown. First opened in 1867 the park is split into a variety of garden types, all located around Griffin’s Pond.
The Halifax Public Gardens are known for their wrought iron gates, iconic footbridges and statues. Plan to visit mid-day, as the Public Gardens start to close and lock up an hour before sunset. During normal operating circumstances, there are even garden tours available which end plenty of time before the gates are locked.
For a cool community event at the Halifax Public Gardens, check out Nocturn Festival if you’re visiting in October. An arts festival and continual music events, it’s a great slice of Canadian arts culture.
Things to do Around Halifax
Whether you’re staying for a day or three days in Halifax, there is a lot more to the metropolitan area than just downtown. Exploring beyond Halifax you’ll find larger parks, great walking trails and even nature preserves that will wow you with their color. Just a half hour outside of downtown you’ll feel a world away visiting the east shore of Halifax Harbour, or an hour to the start of the Lighthouse Route and it’s the Nova Scotia sights you’ve seen in magazines and coffee table books.
Most Beautiful Park in Halifax: Shubie Park
Add the Shubie Park Canals (built 1826) to your list of things to do when you visit Halifax. Located northeast of downtown and Dartmouth, endless walking trails through the forest and along the old canals make for a great afternoon adventure.
We love visiting Nova Scotia in autumn and Shubie Park undoubtedly is the best fall colors spot in Halifax! It’s a must-visit any time of year.
Visit Colorful Fisherman’s Cove
Places like Fisherman’s Cove are what give Canada’s Maritime Provinces their iconic notability. If you’re into doing the Instagram thing, this is one of the most Instagramable places in Halifax. Visit Fisherman’s Cove just east of downtown Halifax, south of Dartmouth, for colorful fishing cottages and boats, as well as vintage candy.
Plan to rent kayaks nearby or maybe go fishing with a guide, or just go hang out with a picnic. Fisherman’s Cove is beautiful and one of the best things to do just beyond downtown Halifax.
Nova Scotia Nature at Duncan’s or Peggy’s Cove
Without doing the full Lighthouse Route along Nova Scotia’s south shore, you can still get a taste of the wild beauty and maritime sights. Head to the southwest out of Halifax to visit Duncan’s Cove Preservation Area or Peggy’s Cove. The coast here is rugged and unique; it’s like Yosemite’s rocks meet the Atlantic Ocean. Gorgeous.
Peggy’s Cove is an EXTREMELY popular weekend destination and you’ll find tour buses arrive early, so start your day with the sunrise to visit Peggy’s Cove and the preservation areas.
Need to Know Before Visiting Halifax, NS
For being so close to the USA as the crow flies, getting to Halifax is a little more complicated than just crossing a border. Also, being surrounded by water, there are all kinds of weather systems at play, making Halifax a mixed bag of sunshine and rain. Halifax is loaded with fun, unique things to do, but you need to do a little planning before you make the trip.
Getting to Halifax, Nova Scotia
Driving to Halifax from the USA, you’ll cross into New Brunswick first before making it over to Nova Scotia. Once in Nova Scotia, the drive to Halifax is about two hours from the provincial border. From Portland, Maine (the nearest large city in the USA), the drive is nine hours.
Another option is to do the ferry to Yarmouth (southwest of Halifax) from Bar Harbor, Maine, very near Acadia National Park. This is a 3.5 hour boat trip, ideal for reading a good book or whale watching if the weather is nice. Once in Yarmouth, the drive to Halifax is also about 3.5 hours.
I feel like flying to Halifax is the best option unless you’re looking for a length (but fun) road trip adventure. The airport for Halifax is YHZ and is located about a half hour from downtown. Although there are some, trying to get direct flights from the USA can be tricky. Very few American airports fly to YHZ, so you’ll most likely have a stopover in Toronto or Montreal.
Layout of Halifax
Visiting Halifax as a port of call on a cruise is a common way to see the city. The best things to do in Halifax are accessible from the waterfront, or by booking a tour to explore the city and beyond. Attractions along Halifax Harbour include many of the popular museums and galleries, as well as fun harbourside dining. As you make your way west through downtown, you’ll climb the hills toward the Citadel and the historic neighbourhoods.
The city of Halifax isn’t huge, so as you continue to drive you’ll soon be on the outskirts and either heading down to the Lighthouse Route or northward to the Bay of Fundy and the Annapolis Valley. If you leave Halifax and head east, you’ll drive through Dartmouth and on towards Cape Breton. The farther east you go, to more remote and wild. And beautiful. There are many things to do in Halifax, but be sure to plan time to explore beyond the city.
What to Expect for Weather in Halifax
Be prepared for crazy weather in Halifax. While summer and fall are gorgeous, you can expect rain or windy weather to roll in off the Atlantic Ocean. If your Halifax itinerary includes a lot of time outside or walking around, bring rain gear (umbrellas, good water-resistant shoes).
The most beautiful time to visit Halifax and beyond is early October. Being further north and jutting into the ocean a bit, the autumn colors begin earlier than much of the eastern seaboard. In addition to the colors starting, the tourist businesses start to close in early October. By October 10th or so many popular sites, including Blomidon Provincial Park, Port Royal NHS and Ovens Nature Park (all great day trips from Halifax) have closed for the year.
Mid May is when you’ll see tourist businesses start to open back up. The snows melt in March and April, but it’s still not peak tourist time until summer has arrived.
Easy Tips for Getting Around Halifax
With so many things to do in and around Halifax, it’s nice to have a car to get to them all, but you can walk to many of the most popular spots downtown, or take the bus. The public transportation system around Halifax is actually fairly easy to use and goes nearly everywhere you may want to go. Halifax Transit includes both buses and the ferries. Transit information is available via Google Maps and Transit: Bus & Subway Times apps.
For paying for parking all around Halifax download the app here, The app is called HotSpot but is not an ISP, it’s for parking only. It’s a very easy to use system and you can input a USA based credit card to use it and pay for parking nearly everywhere.
Podcast about Halifax: topic script
In this episode…
- 1:00 – where is Nova Scotia?
- 2:30 – layout of the city – attractions along Halifax Harbour
- 3:45 – being prepared for crazy weather – bring rain gear!
- 4:45 – tips for parking all around Halifax – download the app here! – app is called HotSpot but is not an ISP, it’s for parking only
- 6:00 – Maritime Museum of the Atlantic – awesome Titanic exhibits and model ships
- 9:15 – Halifax Discovery Centre – Children’s museum focused on learning about Nova Scotia life and energy
- 11:30 – Halifax Seaport Farmers Market – lunch spot and local artisans
- 12:15 – Halifax Citadel National Historic Park, really cool for living history and great views of the city – changing of the guard ON THE HOUR
- 14:45 – Halifax Public Gardens – check out Nocturn Festival if you’re visiting in October
- 16:00 – dining tips around downtown Halifax
- 17:00 – exploring beyond Halifax – Shubie Park Canals (built 1826) – best fall colors spot in Halifax!
- 20:00 – Fisherman’s Cove for colorful fishing cottages and boats, as well as vintage candy – eat at Coastal Cookhouse
- 22:45 – visiting Duncan’s Cove Preservation Area, it’s like Yosemite’s rocks meet the Atlantic Ocean. Gorgeous.
- 25:00 – flying to Halifax – what to expect trying to get direct flights from the USA
Wow! Halifax, Nova Scotia is an awesome city and with so much history and nature just beyond downtown, it’s a must see destination. Add it to your Canadian bucket list!
What do you want to hear about from us on our podcast? Please leave us a comment below or send us a note with your questions and what you’d like to hear. We are excited to share!
Tuesday 16th of March 2021
Love this podcast! Thank you so much for posting. I miss my home province (now landlocked) and so nice to hear other people's experience of Nova Scotia. Just to update you: the 'Maritimes' consist of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island collectively. The 'Atlantic Provinces' consist of the Maritimes as well as NewfoundLand and Labrador :-) Hope you go back again as there is just so much to see, especially visiting Cape Breton! Thanks again - and hope you have many more travels to Canada :-)
Thursday 18th of March 2021
Thank you for listening! I've updated it to say Atlantic Provinces within the article itself. Have a great day!