Halifax, NS

Happy in HALIFAX: That’s an order

Halifax has long known how to have a good time. In 1606, explorer Samuel de Champlain kicked off centuries of Nova Scotia merrymaking when he established L’Ordre de Bon Temps, the Order of the Good Time, to raise the spirits of his men wintering 200 km north of Halifax. The Order is still in existence today, celebrating food, drink and entertainment—all of which Halifax offers in abundance.

Halifax waterfront and boardwalk. Photo courtesy of Destination Halifax.

Focus your quest for good cheer in the compact downtown. On the waterfront, a series of wooden boardwalks and piers wind along Halifax harbour, the second largest natural harbour in the world. Buskers provide toe-tapping, hand-clapping entertainment while food kiosks dish out local fare: fresh-caught fish and chips, Black Bear ice cream and oh-so-Canadian poutine and Beavertails.

Enjoy tales of Halifax’s rich marine heritage at the dockside Maritime Museum of the Atlantic  (maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca). View artifacts both small (a pair of children’s shoes from the Titanic) and large (the steamship CSS Acadia, moored at the museum wharf) as well as an exceptional small craft gallery. If you’re inspired to get out on the water, choose from a variety of harbour cruises including the child-magnet Theodore Tugboat tour (ambassatours.com).

Seaport Farmers' Market (Photo courtesy of Destination Halifax); Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (Photo courtesy of Canadian Museum of Immigration).

Back on land, stroll south to the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market (halifaxfarmersmarket.com) with its mix of fresh produce, food outlets and local crafts. Just beyond is the highly recommended Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (pier21.ca) where engaging displays and first-person accounts tell the story of Pier 21, the entry point for one in five immigrants to Canada between 1928 and 1971, as well as the broader immigrant experience. The museum’s research centre is a gold mine for visitors interested in finding records of relatives who stepped off the ships and in to their new lives in Canada via Pier 21.

Raise a glass to those ancestors at Alexander Keith’s Nova Scotia Brewery (alexanderkeithsbrewery.com/tour) where beer has been flowing for almost 200 years. The brewery’s popular tours offer some light history and brewing lore, followed by live music and glasses of beer served in the brewery’s former aging cavern, now the Stag’s Head pub.

Live music at the Seahorse Tavern. Photo courtesy of Scottophoto/Scott Blackburn.

If beer is the social lubricant for Maritime cheer, live music is the soundtrack. Check out who’s playing at the always entertaining (if somewhat claustrophobic) Lower Deck  (lowerdeck.ca) as well as at Split Crow Pub (splitcrow.com), a divey spot that claims to be Nova Scotia’s original tavern. Find the Celtic heart of Halifax at The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse (oldtriangle.com) that features live music seven nights a week and traditional Irish dancing on Sunday afternoons.

Oysters at Gahan House Harbourfront (Photo courtesy of Destination Halifax); Lobster roll at The Bicycle Thief (Photo courtesy of The Bicycle Thief).

When it’s time to eat, go beyond pub grub and opt for more creative fare at Edna (ednarestaurant.com), known for its daily oyster and seafood-forward dining specials as well as a killer weekend brunch, and Chives Canadian Bistro (chives.ca), where the chef’s obsession with regionally sourced Nova Scotia ingredients is celebrated by Haligonians. Sample more local oysters (try Merigomish and Malagash) at Gahan House (halifax.gahan.ca). For Italian cuisine prepared with modern twists, dine at the hip, old-Euro-bistro-feeling La Frasca Cibi & Vini (lafrasca.ca) or The Bicycle Thief (bicyclethief.ca), a busy, boisterous restaurant that captures the energy of this good-times town. — Ann Britton Campbell

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