Founded in 1749 as a British naval and military base, Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital, comprises of the old and new – the enduring and the mutable. An old fort casts its shadow over the modern high rises. The entertainment is an innovative as it is cosmopolitan and diverse. And there’s an endless ability to entertain, surprise and reward – as my husband Terry and I discovered.
1 – Climb to Citadel
After settling into our clean and pet friendly hotel, the Best Western Chocolate Lake, which overlooks an artificial body of water, Terry and I pull on our walking boots and step back in time.
It’s a steep climb before we reach the gates of a 19th century British fort perched on the top of Citadel Hill. But the moment we enter through the gates it feels like we’re stepping into the pages of history.
A guide dressed in period costume talks us through the role of the star-shaped fort – one of the four principle naval stations of the British Empire, with a defensive role during the Great Wars.
After the tour, we wonder around the stone walls and admire a 360 degree panorama of the city. A gun is fired at one o’clock, and this happens midday throughout the summer – dating back since 1856.
Below the fort sits the Old Town Clock. The clock was commissioned by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, in 1800 – before he returned to England – to resolve the time keeping of the local garrison.
Time is marching on, however, so Terry and I finish the tour and head back to our hotel. We walk our two dogs around Chocolate Lake, and take advantage of the hotel pool and gym.
2 – Exploring Halifax City
Terry and I spend our second day exploring downtown Halifax, which is constantly reinventing itself because of the growing numbers of students and immigration.
There are six universities and more than 30,000 students, so it’s not surprising that this city has a vibrant nightlife, restaurants, and coffee shops that all reflect a diverse and colourful population.
On the one hand, you have the quirky boutiques, taverns that date back to 1700, old burial grounds, and Victorian gardens that showcase the important role the 1912 Titanic played in Nova Scotia.
On the other, there’s the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge, the modern power centers, and the endless themed restaurants and cocktail bars.
In fact, there are more pubs in Halifax than any other city in Canada. And a visit to Halifax is not complete without a pint (or two) of Alexander Keith’s.
Although Alexander Keith served three terms as mayor of Halifax, his political achievements are overshadowed by being the first certified brew master in Nova Scotia.
3 – Parks and Recreation
Our last day is a serene stroll (much needed after the night before) through Point Pleasant Park with our dogs.
The Park, at first glance, is just like any other – home to dense wooded areas, picnic spots, velvet-green open spaces and scenic views of a beach. But Halifax rents the site from the British government for 1 shilling a year and has a 999 year lease!
The Park is also an historic site, with several sculptures and monuments placed on winding paths that pay homage to the colourful past.
Halifax is a maze: You can’t hurry your way through the capital of Nova Scotia. Around nearly every bend in the road you’ll find stately homes with manicured gardens, historic pubs, themed restaurants and beautiful churches – Terry and I only skimmed the surface.
What we did find though is a city many faceted, with appeal for every taste and level of intellect. Traditions are strong and alive here. And just when you think you’ve seen it all… Halifax has a surprise or two for you!
∗ I got my P.R!