I’ve been in Halifax for a solid three weeks now, and while it’s not my favourite city in the world (or even in Canada—but can you really beat Vancouver?) it certainly has its charms. I’ve been a little limited due to my tight (read: barely existent) budget, but I’ve still found some amazing spots to enjoy.
Here are the best things to do in Nova Scotia’s capital if you’re strapped for cash:
- Halifax Public Gardens
Dating back to 1867—yes, Canada’s birthday—this gorgeous green space near downtown is my favourite place to stroll, sit and read a book, or stop and smell the flowers (/run screaming from hordes of wasps).
The 16-arce park boasts perfectly pruned beds of colourful blooming flowers, a striking gazebo, a large pond that’s home to several ducks and geese, and a scattering of fountains and sculptures. Plus, entrance is completely free!
- The Citadel
2017 is probably the best year to visit Nova Scotia because all of the National Historic Sites are free, including the fortress perched on Halifax’s most dominant hill.
Stepping into the Citadel, you’re transported back to the mid-1800s. Highland guards, school teachers, bagpipers and soldiers dressed in period costumes demonstrate marching and band drills and fire the cannon at noon every day. If you’re feeling a little out of place in your modern attire, you can even try on a costume yourself.
- Read on the Waterfront
Bright orange hammocks strung between pillars on the boardwalk make a picturesque bed beneath the clear blue sky. Stylish yachts and sailboats drift past in the Halifax harbor.
There are only a few hammocks up for grabs, so you may have to wait your turn. Once you snag a spot, snap open a book or simply close your eyes and relax.
- Stroll Spring Garden
Despite its lackluster amount of panhandlers, chain stores—Lululemon, Le Chateau, Starbucks, etc—and cigarette-riddled streets, there’s something about Spring Garden Road I absolutely adore. Whether it’s the hidden gems of Stillwater Beer Garden and Cabin Coffee (where I happen to be writing this article), or the commanding beauty of Saint Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, I could never bore of traversing this area of town. (It’s also right along my route to downtown, so I don’t really have a choice.)
- Check out the Art Gallery
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia offers free entrance Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Explore the Maud Lewis gallery, see her fabulously painted house, and learn about her life in two separate exhibits. Other collections feature Nunatsiavut art, Folk/Funk clay creations, Maritime/Atlantic artists, and classical historical pieces, including paperwork from the 1200s.
- Chill in the Public Library
Four gorgeously air-conditioned floors and a rooftop patio offer a modern escape along Spring Garden Road. The library features comfortable reading areas, an entire children’s floor, free events and free library cards. Go on, read something!
- Drink on the Patio
Speaking of patios, Niche Lounge has arguably the best patio in the city coupled with the best drink prices. Drink $3.50 highballs, draft beer, shots and half-price select appies from 4 p.m. to close every dang day!
- Find the Free Festivals
From the Halifax International Busker Festival to Holiday Craft Fairs in December, there’s almost always something going on along the waterfront. Despite my gut feeling that the city more-so-less shuts down in the winter, the multitude of Universities suggests that the bars are busy year-round.
Haligonians are notoriously friendly—along my walk here, a guy stopped to ask me where I was from and to wish me a warm “Welcome to Halifax!”—so don’t be shy to ask the locals what events are going on, or to simply make friends with them and tag along on their adventures (tonight I’m going surfing, last night I indulged in Cow’s Creamery ice cream!).
There you have it—my top secrets to enjoying an almost-free, budget-friendly visit to Halifax.
Have you been to Nova Scotia? What’s your opinion of Halifax? I’d love to hear what you think, so comment below 🙂