Being the capital of Nova Scotia, Halifax is where modern city life and traditional maritime charm meet. There is so much history here, and the city is quite proud of it. There are so many things to do in Halifax, and since it sits right on the ocean, you’ll find waterfront shores and activities you can’t really find anywhere else. Not to mention, the seafood is to die for.
Halifax has become a hub for culture and the arts. There are many trendy cafes and restaurants to visit, as well as a constant rotation of festivals and cultural events. In fact, TripAdvisors 2018 Traveller’s Choice Awards listed Halifax as one of the top 10 Global Destinations on the rise. Halifax’s little secret is coming out, so it’s time to pay a visit!
Halifax is the perfect mix of natural, small town vibes and urban amenities. We’ve made a helpful guide of the best things to do on your next trip.
What To Do in Halifax
There are a few good times of the year to visit Halifax, but the peak season is when visitors enjoy the city the most. This runs from May through October. Nova Scotia has short summers and Halifax is no exception.
May marks the beginning of warmer weather in Halifax. It’s a good time to travel there if you want to catch the best part of spring and the start of summer. The deep summer months of July and August are even warmer, but not too hot. The summer temperature in Halifax is slightly cooler than other Canadian cities, making it a pleasant place to enjoy T-Shirt weather without overheating. There are so many things to do in Halifax when the weather is warm, and there’s no better time than summer to enjoy the waterfronts and festivals all over town.
At the end of August, fall begins to come in and by mid September it’s in full swing. The weather cools down but the activities don’t! Heading to Halifax during September and October means changing leaves, farmers markets and fall festivals. There’s some spooky fun for the whole family, too.
Winter means fewer things to do in Halifax for visitors. Most businesses and activities close during this season, but it can be a good spot for winter sports. If you’re looking for winter date ideas in Halifax, skate at the Emera oval. Just outside of Halifax, you’ll find the MacDonald Sports Park or the Shubie Park. Both of these parks are just 20 minutes outside of Halifax and offer quiet cross country ski trails. Some more outdoor fun near Halifax is at the Martock Ski Hill. Martock is the largest ski hill in the area and is actually on our list of top ski locations. If you’re looking for something more extreme, head to the beach for some winter surfing. It’s definitely one of the most unique things to do in Halifax.
Once the snow melts, Halifax is cold and rainy in April and March. Most businesses and activities close down for the wet season and open back up in May. Early spring is a time you’ll probably want to avoid.
When to Visit Halifax
During the summer, Halifax is alive with blooming flowers and patio set ups. If you want to see a modern maritime city at it’s best, summer is when you’ll want to go.
Take a day trip to Peggy’s Cove. The main attraction here is the iconic Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, which was built in 1915 and still operates. It’s a Halifax must-see and you’ll probably recognize it from famous Canadiana art and photos.
There are many things to do in Peggy’s Cove. Go hiking on the glacial trails, visit the museum and catch the Peggy’s Cove Area Festival of the Arts in July. Visit the Peggy’s Cove fishing village and see how it has maintained a rustic charm. While fishing is no longer the town’s main livelihood, you can enjoy the fresh lobster the locals catch and sell. Don’t leave without trying a cup of the famous chowder at the Sou’wester Restaurant.
Local Tip: Love the taste of Nova Scotia lobster and want to have it like the locals? You can grab some and bring them back to prepare if you’re staying in a vacation rental with a kitchen. If you still can’t get enough, you can bring live lobster on your plane ride home as long as you’re flying within Canada.
Back in the city, head to Argyle Street in the heart of downtown Halifax for a walking tour in the sunshine. This 4 block street is a hub for music, nightlife, and theatre. Halifax is famous for sidewalk cafes and you can see where they originated here.
Along this street you can also find St Paul’s Church, the oldest building in all of Halifax, and the Neptune Theatre which houses the largest professional theatre company in the Atlantic.
Nature lovers and history buffs should be sure to visit the Halifax Public Gardens. This 16 acre Victorian style garden, established in 1867, is filled with flower beds, fountains, ponds and bridges. It’s also home to many important historical memorials and commemorations placed in the park over the years. A visit here is one of the many great free things to do in Halifax. If you’re there for Canada Day, there’s a big celebration near the bandstand.
No summer trip to Halifax is complete without visiting the Waterfront. There are usually buskers and entertainers, and if you visit in late July you’ll be able to catch the Busker Festival on the waterfront. There’s a bus tour called the Harbour Hopper, which will take you by land and sea on a sightseeing tour of Halifax.
Another cool stop is the Port of Halifax. This is a fully operational fort and it’s a great stop for those curious about industry and maritime transport. Also along the water is Pier 21 and the Canadian Museum of Immigration, which is on the site of the last surviving seaport immigration facility in Canada.
If you’re looking for a ritzy night out in Halifax after your day of seaside exploration, dinner and drinks at the Casino Nova Scotia is a great way to end the day. You can also check out the Stillwell Beergarden on sunny evenings to try Nova Scotian craft beer on tap.
Local Tip: The Halifax Jazz Fest happens in the first part of July. There are free concerts and activities throughout downtown Halifax. Some concerts require tickets, but you can get a Fusion pass which allows you guaranteed access to all the shows.
In the fall, the weather in Halifax begins to cool down again. If you’re a nature buff, this is the ideal time to see the fall leaves changing and snack on treats from the Autumn harvest.
A good place to do this is in Cape Breton Island, which you can take a road trip to get to. The drive there is 4 hours, but you could easily make it longer if you want to make stops to take in the views. It’s one of our favourite long weekend trips.
All along the way you’ll see scenic stretches of land and you can embark on a car tour of the Cabot Trail. This famous roadway passes through many interesting pit stops, fishing villages and mountain hiking trails. If you’re up for hiking, go to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The Skyline Trail is considered one of the best Canadian hikes. The trail is famous for its scenic views with a good portion covered by a boardwalk to protect the fragile plants that grow around it. If you’re lucky, you might even spot whales out in the ocean.
When you get back to the city, visit the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. Formally called Fort George, this structure is at the heart of Halifax history. Walk up Citadel Hill and take a tour of the 1856 fort, where you can see historical reenactments and the sentry change on the hour. There’s also the Soldier for a Day program, which is one of the best kids activities in Halifax. If you’re in Halifax in October, the ghost tour they offer is a lot of fun for families as well.
Local Tip: If you believe in local legends, or at least want to hear some ghost stories in time for Halloween, make a stop at the Five Fishermen restaurant. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Halifax and was once a morgue. Many say it’s haunted, and numerous paranormal sightings are said to have happened there!
There are a few festivals that happen in Halifax during the fall. The Halifax Oyster Festival is a lively experience with music, shucking competitions, libations and a giant oyster bar. Fans of all things geeky should check out Hal-con, the Atlantic’s biggest sci-fi, fantasy and comics festival. The annual Diwali Festival of Lights celebrates Indian culture, food, fashion and music. Stick around till the end for a fireworks show.
Fall is also a great time of year to explore the famous places to eat in Halifax. It gets a little chillier at night than in the summer, so now would be your chance to explore some indoor dining.
A great place to eat, and a local favourite, is Bicycle Thief. This Italian soul food restaurant is energetic, bustling, and serves up some of the best rated dining in the city. Their homemade ravioli is a crowd pleaser.
You may have heard of Alexander Keith for his famous beer, but did you know he was the mayor of the city? Stop at the Alexander Keith’s Brewery store for an off-beat and entertaining historical tour. This stop is one of the most popular things to do in Halifax. After your tour, enjoy a meal and some exclusive brews only available at this 1820 institution.
The craft beer scene is big in Halifax. Craft beers and microbreweries are on almost every corner, with over 25 unique breweries operating. You can embark on a walking tour or get a ticket for a pre-planned one like The Beer Bus. Many places, like the Propeller Brewery Company or the Garrison Brewery company, offer in-house tours and tastings as well.
Local Tip: You can enjoy an outdoor movie with drinks at The Good Robot Brewery. They offer weekly movie nights year round, and during the summer the screenings are outside. Catch classic films for free until September.
How to Get to Halifax
If you’re looking to get there directly, you can easily fly right in to Halifax. This would be your best option if you’re coming from anywhere west of Ontario. You’ll land at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. This major airport connects with the rest of Canada. It is a 2.5 hour flight from Toronto, and 6.5 hours from Vancouver.
Driving to Halifax offers you the chance to see the sights of Atlantic Canada along the way. The Trans Canadian Highway will take you all the way to the island and in to Halifax.
The trip from Toronto is about 17 hours, so if you do decide to drive this would be an opportunity for a road trip with stops along the way. You could take the Canadian route and stop in Ontario and Quebec before hitting the maritimes, or you could pass through the U.S and see Vermont and Maine. From there, you’ll be passing through New Brunswick and in to Nova Scotia.
You can get to Halifax by the VIA Rail network of trains from pretty much any major city in Canada. The trip can be long depending on where you’re coming from, with Vancouver clocking in at a 5 day train ride. Some people enjoy the train because it offers a sightseeing tour of Canada’s pristine landscape. If this is your route of choice, VIA Rail has stops in Halifax 3 times a week.
Where to Stay in Halifax
Whatever you decide to do during your trip to Halifax, you’ll want to be able to end your day in comfort. A condo or apartment in the heart of the city makes a great option if you want to be close to all the exciting things to do in Halifax. If you’re planning on taking advantage of the great outdoors, you could book a cottage just outside the city.
Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun or play in the snow, CanadaStays has rentals for any kind of trip. With properties all over Halifax, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.