30+ Best Things to Do in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax, Nova Scotia is a special place to visit. Whether you’re into history, boats, music, or getting outdoors, there’s always something for you to do in in this Canadian Maritime city of 400,000. It’s come a long way from its time as a hub on the Atlantic trading route and is now a must-visit stop on any good Eastern Canadian trip.
These days visitors come for the seafood, the music, and the Scottish Celtic vibe you can’t get anywhere else. Whether you want to try a donair, discover lacrosse, or sing along to Barrett’s Privateers, Halifax has you covered.
What are the best things to do in Halifax?
Stroll the Waterfront
The harbour and the ocean are the heart and soul of Halifax so it makes sense to start your visit here. Stroll along the 4km Harbourwalk that will take you past Historic Properties – 3 blocks of fully restored 18th century buildings – museums, and public art like the Wave and the drunken light posts. Do yourself a favour and stop at Rum Runners and pick up a chocolate rum cake during your stroll. Thank me later.
Shop at the Farmer’s Market
One of my favourite things to do in any city is visit their farmer’s market and Halifax is no exception. The Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market is the oldest, continuously operating farmers’ market in North America, operating since 1750. In 2022 they made a short move down the road and now have a permanent home at Pavilion 23 on the waterfront. The market has over 100 vendors so you’ll be sure to find fresh produce, tasty baked goods, artisan gifts, buskers, and much more. It’s open Saturdays from 8am-2pm and Sundays 10am-2pm so it’s the perfect way to spend a weekend morning.
Another great thing to do in any new city? Climb to the top of something tall and get a bird’s eye view. In Halifax, that means Citadel Hill. Built back in 1749 to protect the city, the star-shaped Citadel overlooks the harbour which means great views. Guided tours are offered which demonstrate about fort life back in the day. You can even join a Signature Experience and become part of the 78th Highlanders for the day. Be sure to snap a pic of the iconic Clock Tower while you’re there.
Go for a Walk in a Park or Garden
Whether it’s spring, summer, or fall, a walk in the park should be on your Halifax to do list. You can choose between the large, forested, Point Pleasant Park on the southern tip of the Halifax peninsula or the Victorian era manicured grounds of the Halifax Public Gardens. To fully experience the gardens you can download several audio guides or you can take part in a free guided tour.
Pub Night at The Lower Deck
No visit to Halifax would be complete without a night at the Lower Deck drinking bottles of Keith’s listening to a band play tunes like Farewell to Nova Scotia and Barrett’s Privateers. The Lower Deck is a low-ceilinged, small pub that gets pretty packed on weekends but it’s legendary among Halifax pubs.
Go on a Brewery Crawl
Halifax has an embarrassment of riches in it’s beer brewing scene. Start off with a tour of the Alexander Keith’s Brewery. While it’s mass-produced now, it was the first beer to really be associated with Halifax. Afterwards, get crafty with stops at Good Robot Brewing Company, 2 Crows Brewing Co., Propeller Brewing Co., Garrison Brewing, and Gahan House for starters. If you want to sample multiple in one place, pop over to Stillwell.
What’re you doing this Saturday night in Halifax? Not sure? Well, put on a little white and neon and head to the Halifax Forum for Cosmic Bingo. Dab your way to a jackpot under black lights with the latest tunes pumping in the background. Bonus: the beer is cheap. Doors open at 10pm, games start at 10:30pm and go until midnight. Prizes start at $75 and include a progressive jackpot that caps off at $1000. Not a bad haul for dabbing a few numbers.
Glow in the Dark Mini Golf
Not into bingo? How about a little glow in the dark mini golf? A perfect indoor activity on a rainy day, a round of mini golf at Putting Edge is 45 minutes of out of this world fun. Just run a lint roller over your black clothing before going in. To get the heart pumping before or after your round of mini-putt check out the neon dream of an arcade, featuring classically awesome games to innovative, new contraptions. The perfect spot for a fun date night.
Visit the Coolest Library Around
More than just a home for books, the Halifax Central Library is a geometric, glass-walled, community hub. It houses a music studio, two coffee shops, and a 300 seat auditorium. It’s also pretty Instagrammable if that’s your jam. They also have two kiosks in the Halifax airport, which I think is pretty genius.
See Halifax by Land and Sea
Can’t decide between a bus tour or a harbour tour in Halifax? Do both on the Harbour Hopper. This amphibious vehicle will give you a fully narrated, guided tour of Halifax sights on land before slipping into the water to take you for a spin around the harbour. It’s a bit of a Halifax institution in the summer.
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
Get to know Canada’s roots at the Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Much like Ellis Island in New York, Pier 21 was the first stop for nearly one million people hoping to make Canada their new home between 1928 and 1971. Hear first hand accounts of immigrants who made their way here on ships and learn how immigration has shaped Canada into the country it is today.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
While you’re down on the waterfront, stop into the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and immerse yourself in Nova Scotia’s rich maritime heritage. Visit Canada’s largest and oldest maritime museum and discover the stories, people and events that have shaped this province and its relationship with the sea. From small craft boat building to World War Convoys, the Days of Sail to the Age of Steam, the Titanic to the Halifax Explosion, you’ll get it all here.
Eat a Donair
If Halifax had an official food, it’d be the donair. A combination of spiced meat cooked on a spit, lettuce, onion, tomato, and a special sweet sauce all wrapped up in pita has become a legend. Don’t mistake this for a doner kebab. A Halifax donair is in a category of its own. Whether it’s from King of Donair or Tony’s, it’s a timeless Halifax treat, especially after a night out on the town.
Rent an Ebike
If exploring Halifax on foot is daunting, consider renting an ebike from I <3 Bikes and eat those hills for breakfast. They have several different routes planned out on their website that will give you a self-guided tour of the Halifax peninsula. When you’re done cycling Point Pleasant Park you can bring your bike back and pick up a slushie from their waterfront container location.
Climb Some Trees
Climbing wall, 600 foot Zip lines, 60+ Zip lines, Tarzan ropes, spider webs, 50-foot base jump… keep that adrenaline pumping at Ontree Park’s high ropes course. Choose from 18 different courses that will test your physical limits. Whether you’re a pro or have never attempted a ropes course before, if you’re up for a fun challenge, you’ll love it here. They opened a wheelchair accessible course in the summer or 2021 so it really is for everyone. See how many courses you can get through in your 3 hour timeslot!
Canada’s National Summer Sport
Experience the fast-paced, hard-hitting game of indoor lacrosse. Take in a professional NLL game as the Halifax Thunderbirds thrill hometown crowds with this fun, family-friendly, rock ‘n roll sport. If you like hockey, you’ll love lacrosse. The lights are low. The music is loud. And the crowd is electric.
Throw Some Axes
Axe throwing is a sport (game? hobby? pastime?) that many people are surprised to find is not only real, but available outside of hipster enclaves like Austin, Portland, or Brooklyn. Halifax has a local axe throwing joint, Timber Lounge, and they also serve some great local beer. Drop in and unleash your inner lumberjack. Plaid shirt not required.
The Board Room Game Cafe
Another great rainy day activity is The Board Room Game Cafe. They have a huge selection of board and card games to go with your coffee and cookie or pint and sandwich. Want to try a new game but the thought of stumbling your way through new rules is daunting? They have game teachers on hand to talk you through it. For just $6 you can play as many games as you like.
Take a Food Tour
One of the best ways to get to know a new place is through their food. And one of the best ways to get to know the food is on a food tour. Choose from one of Curated Food Tours’ five walking options that will take you to some of Halifax’s best restaurants or hop in a van with Taste Halifax and explore the culinary delights around the city and beyond.
Roll Around the City
You might think you look silly riding a Segway and…well…you kind of do, but they’re one of the most fun ways to get around so it’s totally worth it. Why walk around Halifax with a guide when you can roll on a Segway? Segway Nova Scotia has five different tours ranging from 45 minutes to 3 hours so there’s sure to be something to suit your taste.
Shakespeare by the Sea
Get your Bard on each summer in Point Pleasant Park. Enjoy Shakespeare’s work performed in a magnificent expanse of nature trails, ruins of colonial forts, and other historic sites with Shakespeare by the Sea. There’s no theatre experience quite like it.
The HMCS Sackville is a Flower-class corvette that once served in the Royal Canadian Navy and the last of its kind. It’s now a seasonal museum ship that’s been restored to its 1944 state. You can tour the ship, Canada’s oldest warship, and learn about the harsh conditions of life at sea during the pivotal Battle of the Atlantic.
Float Your Stress Away
I’ve written before about floating and I’m a big believer in it’s restorative, energizing effects. If you’re visiting from far away, give it a try to beat the jet lag blues or sooth post-airplane pains at The Floatation Centre in Halifax’s North End. 75 minutes in their float tank will put a spring in your step and have you feeling uber relaxed.
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
If food is the best way to get to know a new place, then surely the next best way is through their art. Stop in to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia on your visit to Halifax and learn more about visual artists with strong ties to Nova Scotia, such as Maud Lewis. In fact, her little painted house is now on permanent display in the art gallery along with a large collection of her paintings.
Test Your Luck at Casino Nova Scotia
Feeling lucky? Whether your game is poker, blackjack, or slots you can test your luck at Casino Nova Scotia on the waterfront. Gambling not your thing? The casino also regularly hosts shows by top-notch talent like Steve Earle and Jann Arden.
Skate on the Oval
The Halifax Oval, originally known as the Canada Games Oval, is a permanent skating rink/speed skating rink installed on the Halifax Commons. It’s also the largest outdoor artificially refrigerated ice surface in Atlantic Canada. If you’re visiting in summer, just swap out those ice skates for in-line skates or grab a bike or scooter and you’re good to go. The best part? You can borrow any gear you need right there at the Oval so you don’t have to figure out how to pack your skates.
Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo
Nope, we’re not talking ink here. The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo is a summertime show inspired by military tattoos given by military bands and display teams. This one is unique in that it also includes civilian performers and has a theatrical flair. The Tattoo blends military pomp with entertainment spectacles to create a truly unique show that has delighted audiences for over 40 years.
Go on a Ghost Walk
Looking for a spooky good time in Halifax? Join the oldest ghost walk in North America on a 2 hour hair raising stroll through the streets of old Halifax. For the past 30+ years The Halifax Ghost Walk has been thrilling locals and visitors alike with tales of pirates, ghosts, buried treasure, and other mysteries from the city’s past.
Party on a Tall Ship
Whether you’re into cocktails, wines, or craft beer there’s a tour on the tall ship Silva made for you. Or maybe you want to turn it up a notch on the 130’ schooner and hit the dance floor. Yes, the dance floor. Well, there’s an open deck DJ party every Friday night that you don’t want to miss.
See a Show by Neptune Theatre
Neptune Theatre is the largest professional theatre company in Atlantic Canada that perform a mix of modern and classical theatre ranging from local and Canadian-made plays to stories known the world over. If they have a show on while you’re in town, it’s a must-see.
Visit the Queen’s Marque stairs
The new Queen’s Marque district is full of some of the most modern architecture, high end boutiques, and innovative dining. There is also no shortage of art – there’s a wide range of sculptural, photographic, and mixed-media tributes to the region. Just be careful on the stairs or you’ll end up in the harbour.
Visit Titanic Graves
Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax is best known as the final resting place for over 100 victims of the sinking of the Titanic. To this day you’ll find flowers left at the grave marker for a J. Dawson, even though director James Cameron insists Leonardo DiCaprio’s character’s name was not inspired by this real life Titanic passenger.
Learn about Halifax’s black history
For over a hundred years, the African Nova Scotian community resided in Africville. Located on the northern shore of Halifax Harbour, the community was destroyed in the 1960s to make way for industrial development. Forcibly relocated, the former residents of Africville and their descendants were scattered. This museum tells the story of a community that met the indignities of racism with grace and faith.
Find Halifax’s Speakeasy
This not-so-secret speakeasy might not be hidden away behind a false storefront or a fake bookshelf but you’re still going to need to know the password to experience the cocktail culture of Noble. Sign up for their mailing list (or just ask Reddit) to get the key. Hint: if the green cactus in the window of The Middle Spoon is lit, Noble is open.
Looking for a great indoor activity for your group? Head to Barrington Street and get voluntarily locked into a puzzle room. You’ll have 60 minutes to solve the clues and make your escape. Captured is the largest escape room location in the city and has a number of rooms with a local Halifax flair.
Relax at an urban Nordic spa
The first urban Nordic spa can be found right on the Dartmouth waterfront. Nature Folk is a modern bathhouse, sauna and body work facility. The perfect way to relax after a long-haul flight or a full day of exploring. You can enjoy traditional saunas, warm and cold plunge pools and indoor relaxation areas while an outdoor space is part of their future plans.
Get interactive with science
Looking for something fun to do with kids in Halifax? Look no further than the Discovery Centre, which is 40,000 square feet of interactive science exhibits sure to engage the whole family. Learn how to take care of the best you, take off with the four forces of flight, explore a world of energy, dive deep in the ocean, and ignite your imagination.
Learn how to surf
Surfing may not be the first thing that pops to your mind when you think of Nova Scotia, but it’s absolutely a possibility! Experienced instructors can get you on your feet and riding the waves while a wetsuit will keep you warm in the North Atlantic waters. All of that just outside the city.
Play games at a secret arcade
I love a good hidden gem and the arcade in the basement of Propeller Brewing Co. fits that to a tee. Say hello to a rotating cast of pinball and arcade machines, an indoor beer garden with 12 taps of Propeller craft beer and a second room with ticket games. Time your visit right and you can even drop in for one of their movie screenings.
Where to Stay in Halifax
The Lord Nelson Hotel is an elegant and historic hotel that’s close to the action. As a bonus, it’s also pet-friendly. Their in-house gym, pub, and airport shuttle make them an excellent choice for a Halifax getaway.
Muir (which is Scottish Gaelic for “sea”), is the newest kid on the block when it comes to luxury Halifax hotels. It opened in December 2021 and its contemporary nautical theme showcases Nova Scotia hospitality to a tee.
The Sutton Place Hotel is a little piece of Europe in Halifax. With its Italian marble walls and refined decor, its second to none. You’re going to love their outdoor patio oasis with a hot tub and fire-pits with soft, inviting seating. Definitely a top-shelf spot to take in the panoramic views of Halifax.
Best time to visit Halifax
While Halifax is a great destination year round, the best time to visit Halifax is in the summer and early fall, between June and September. The weather is warmer and drier and there are a ton of festivals and special events happening. If you’re a shoulder season traveller like me, and want to avoid some of the peak tourist crowds, May and October can also be quite spectacular in Halifax.
How many days should you spend in Halifax?
I would recommend spending at least three days in Halifax on your visit. There is just so much to see and do in the waterfront city that any less and you’ll feel rushed trying to get it all in. You could easily spend a week exploring all of its parks and streets, sampling the best restaurants, and raising a pint in all of Halifax’s famous pubs.
Do you need a car in Halifax?
If you’re content to spend your time in the city proper you can get around Halifax by either walking, taxis, or buses. The downtown core of Halifax is very walkable, despite its hills. But having a car when you visit Halifax will make it possible to visit nearby attractions like Peggy’s Cove or Mahone Bay. While in the city Metro Transit can be an easy way to get outside downtown to places like the Halifax Shopping Centre or to downtown Dartmouth. They operate buses throughout the city and ferries to nearby Dartmouth. Uber is now also operating in Halifax as an alternative to taxis.
Is Halifax worth visiting?
Halifax is absolutely worth visiting. It’s the largest and one of the most vibrant cities in Atlantic Canada with some of the friendliest people. Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or if you have a whole week to explore you’ll find something interesting to keep you engaged.