When I told friends that my husband and I were headed to Nova Scotia, Canada, I got a lot of oohs and ahhs, but few of my friends had ever been there.
I'm hoping to change that!
Nova Scotia is a dreamy destination, as well as accessible and affordable – especially in the summer when everything is green and the cool sea breezes blow in from the Atlantic.
Whether you're traveling with kids or without, there are a lot of fun things to do in Halifax. We spent the last two nights of our trip near the Halifax waterfront and wished we had more time to explore this vibrant and sophisticated city.
Cruising to Halifax? This is a port where there are lots of fun things to do within walking distance of the cruise ship. Research your options along the waterfront before you book an official excursion. You can save a lot by planning your own excursion. Read my 15 Secrets for Perfect Shore Excursions HERE.
Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
The Citadel is an 19th century fort perched on a hill above Halifax Harbour, within walking distance of the waterfront. The Citadel is a must for history lovers. Not only do you get the history of the fort, but other historical events too. When we were there, we enjoyed an exhibit about the trenches of World War I. We walked through a replica of the trenches and were able to read the personal stories of Canadian war heroes.
There are several programs for children that looked fun, and a number of hands-on experiences, exhibits and tours for all ages. They still shoot the cannon every day at noon, and I enjoyed watching that ceremony.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
This waterfront museum was a slow starter for me, but by the time I found the Titanic exhibits on the second floor, I was hooked. Halifax was the nearest port able to send help to the Titanic wreckage. Local ships recovered as many bodies as they could from the icy waters, and those that were unidentified or unclaimed were buried in Halifax cemeteries. It was fascinating to read the stories and see the artifacts from this and other shipwrecks in the region.
Another part of Halifax history that caught our attention was the Halifax Explosion. In 1917, two ships collided in Halifax Harbour. One of them was full of explosives which killed 2,000 people, injured 9,000 more and flattened a section of the city.
If you or your kids love boats and ships, it hardly needs saying that the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is your kind of place. In addition to the indoor exhibits, your ticket includes all-day access to the CSS Acadia and Theodore Tugboat anchored outside.
The best way to get to know Halifax is to explore its bustling waterfront and adjacent downtown on foot. We spent several hours enjoying the shops, restaurants and cool sea breezes. For kids, look for playgrounds, toy shops, and souvenir shops. Check out Freak Lunchbox, which is a bright and colorful candy store, or Cows Creamery, a popular ice cream parlor.
You can easily book a variety of boat tours on the Halifax waterfront, including the Harbour Hopper, Tall Ship Silva, BlueNose II, Theodore Tugboat, kayak tours and more.
Halifax Public Gardens
The Halifax Public Gardens are among the best Victorian Gardens in North America and they are a National Historic Site. They are also a reasonable walk from the waterfront and a short walk from the Citadel. Alas, the Halifax Public Gardens have no playgrounds for kids, but there is plenty of space for a picnic or explore. The Public Gardens host free concerts and other events throughout the summer.
Halifax Common is located just a block or so from the Halifax Public Gardens, on the other side of the Citadel. Here you'll find a playground, swimming pool, skate park and sports fields. At Emera Oval, you can roller skate in the summer and ice skate in the winter for FREE! Rentals and helmets are free too!
Hands-on science museums are usually a slam dunk for my kids, and I think they would love the Discovery Centre on the waterfront. Permanent exhibits include Build Your Own Coaster, The Bubble Centre and a LEGO building room, among others.
Point Pleasant Park
Need a nature fix? Point Pleasant is a large park filled with hiking trails, picnic spots, beaches and fortress ruins. It is also the home of Shakespeare by the Sea in the summer. Point Pleasant Park is a short drive or taxi ride from downtown Halifax.
Try local foods
My husband LOVES lobster and he got his fill in Nova Scotia. There are lots of fresh lobster rolls and lobster dinners to be found throughout the summer. You can even get a McLobster sandwich at some McDonald's locations! He tried it, and it isn't bad.
Poutine is a uniquely Canadian dish that we have tried before and were excited to find in Halifax. It's french fries covered in brown gravy and cheese curds. It's just as sinful and savory as it sounds.
We had never heard of Donair before we arrived in Nova Scotia. It was created in Halifax. It's basically a beef gyro with sweet garlic sauce. I still prefer a gyro, but donair is definitely worth a try! The two I tried were both too large to finish, so consider sharing – especially with a hearty side of poutine.
On our last two trips to Canada, I enjoyed just browsing the aisles of local supermarkets and finding fun products that we don't have in the U.S., like ketchup flavored potato chips and Aero chocolate bars.
Halifax has 23(!) beaches with lifeguards and most are open for swimming. Find a complete list of Halifax beaches, pools and splash pads HERE. Get a Top 10 beach list with descriptions from Destination Halifax HERE.
How else can we help?
Want to save money on your Halifax vacation? Learn more about our travel deals email club HERE.
Need a place to stay? We chose the Hampton Inn Halifax Downtown. It's new and comfortable, and a short walk from most of the activities on this list. Check rates and read reviews at Booking.com or TripAdvisor.com.
Don't forget to pack a jacket and comfortable walking shoes! Summer temperatures can be cool in Halifax. Find the best deals on outdoor clothes and shoes at Sierra Trading Post, The Walking Company or Amazon.com.
Love cruises? Halifax is an oft-visited port on New England/Canada cruise itineraries in the summer and fall. I can just imagine how spectacular the fall foliage would be in Nova Scotia.
Check cruise dates and rates at GetAwayToday.com. Call 877-510-2929 to talk to an agent. Get $25 onboard credit when you tell them Tips for Family Trips referred you!