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Halifax is the capital city of Nova Scotia, a Canadian province that borders the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of Canada. Halifax’s harbor has long impacted the city dynamics and much of its waterfront architecture reflects the 18th and 19th century styles. The modern skyscrapers make for a picturesque skyline when you pull into port on your Canada and New England cruise.
Cruises to Halifax, Nova Scotia provide travelers with a chance to see the city’s historic sites and learn more about its culture. Travelers who have a Halifax cruise port of call can spend the day exploring the city’s many museums and learning about its rich history. It’s also fun to spend time walking around the waterfront and busy downtown area to take in the sights and sounds that include ship traffic, open-air cafes, tree-lined streets, statues and memorials, and even a waterfront casino.
High atop a hill overlooking Halifax is the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, a magnificent fort built by the British that interestingly never saw battle. It stands today as a stellar example of a 19th century British military fort and is open to the public to walk around and see what it was like to be stationed here for soldiers and their families.
This is a great attraction for families since kids will love visiting the Citadel Adventures exhibit, which is an interactive part of the site that lets kids bang on drums, practice marching, and pretend to spy on enemies while learning more about the history of the fort.
While touring the site, you’ll get to enjoy incredible views of the surrounding land, which extend from Halifax and the harbor to Dartmouth and the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge. Halifax Citadel National Historic Site is also home to the Old Town Clock with its four clock faces, which is Halifax’s defining landmark.
If you time your visit to the Citadel so you can be there at noon, you can see the firing of the Noon Day Gun and its accompanying ceremony.
In present day, Pier 21 serves as a historic site and museum, but during the years of 1928 to 1971, it served as an immigration shed that over one million immigrants came through to gain entry to Canada. You can learn about this time and the immigrants who left their homes to move to Canada in Pier 21’s interpretive center. Adults will enjoy reading the exhibits and learning about the immigration journey and the assimilation of new immigrants to Canada, while kids will find the hands-on activities exciting. Children can dress in period clothes, sit in the cabin of a ship replica and imagine what it was like to come over as an immigrant in the mid-1900s, and also sit in a railcar that was similar to ones that carried immigrants farther west after they arrived in Halifax.
Peggy's Cove is a little fishing village on a small bay along the rugged Atlantic coast. It is located less than 30 miles south of Halifax, making it a great way to spend a day in port for those who prefer to escape big cities. Peggy’s Cove is especially known for its colorful, quaint houses and picture-perfect lighthouse.
The downtown waterfront area of Halifax is made for walking thanks to a boardwalk that runs along most of it. You can watch the myriad of water vessels come and go from the harbor and also spend time by the Historic Properties area of Halifax harbor, which has 19th century stone warehouses and wharf buildings that now provide a great place to shop and relax as they house art galleries and studios, restaurants and bars, and a small shopping mall.
The Halifax Public Gardens have been open to the public since 1867 and anyone who enjoys gardening or simply pretty views will find it enthralling to visit the 17-acre park. Halifax Public Gardens showcases beautiful Victorian horticulture and is accented with fountains and statues among the numerous flower beds and ponds, which are often dotted with ducks and other waterfowl.
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is the largest art museum in Atlantic Canada. It houses 13,000 pieces with an emphasis on the Maritimes and the Nova Scotian folk artist, Maud Lewis. One of the most popular exhibits to see is Lewis’ shed-sized house, which she decorated with vibrant paintings.
This science center aims to make learning about science fun. There are exhibits and hands-on activities to entertain all ages and it’s a great thing to do for families visiting Halifax.
Anyone interested in ships or maritime history will enjoy a walk through the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. It houses an interesting collection of small craft and model ships as well as photographs and exhibits detailing the history of shipbuilding and maritime practices, particularly where Halifax played a role. The museum has both informational exhibits and hands-on activities, making it engaging for visitors of all ages.
One of the most popular exhibits at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is about the Titanic. Halifax was the city where survivors were brought after the Titanic sunk in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and the exhibit provides details about that part of the disaster.
Continue your ship learning at the HMCS Sackville, which is separate from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, but located nearby. The HMCS Sackville is the last remaining Flower Class corvette in the world and is Canada’s oldest warship. The HMCS Sackville was used in combat during World War II and the ship has been restored to reflect its configuration during that time. Today, it houses a museum and a naval memorial dedicated to the Battle of the Atlantic.
Province House is a Georgian sandstone building that dates back to 1819 and today serves as the seat of Nova Scotia’s Parliament. Guided tours are available to see the inside of Province House and during the tour you’ll see the parliament chamber, the library and its grand staircases that used to house the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. In addition to its opulent beauty, the latter is also famous for being the location where journalist Joseph Howe was tried for defamation and acquitted, which marked the beginning of a free press in Nova Scotia.
Point Pleasant Park is a great place to stroll along one of its footpaths and enjoy nature and views of the Halifax harbor. It has many historical monuments and sites, including the Prince of Wales Tower. This tower is unique in that it was the first of its type in North America; it provided barracks, artillery storage, and cannon and gun mounts all located within a circular stonewall that could only be accessed via a retractable ladder.
Halifax has over 600 dining establishments, with something for every taste preference. You can find dining experiences ranging from casual family dining restaurants to international cuisine and fine dining restaurants. Halifax’s Hydrostone Market and Quinpool Road are two good places to find a variety of popular cuisine options.
Halifax’s street food scene is also famous for its donair, which is made with meat formed into a cone shape and topped with onions, tomatoes and its prized ingredient: creamy donair sauce.
As the capital of Nova Scotia, Halifax serves as a thriving business center, the political center of Nova Scotia, and a popular place for travelers to visit.
Halifax has a rich history, much of which can still be seen when visiting. For example, the warehouses called Historic Properties that are still visible along the waterfront were used by privateers during the early 1800s and helped cement Halifax’s reputation at the time for being a big trading hub.
Before it became a big industrial and trade spot, Halifax served as a camping and fishing spot for the Mi’kmaq, who referred to the Halifax area as “Jipugtug,” which meant “the biggest harbor.”
In 1749 the British discovered the appeal of Halifax’s large harbor and built a colony and fort by it. The colony was named Halifax after Lord Halifax, who was the President of the British Board of Trade. While military pursuits have made their mark on Halifax, particularly during the War of 1812 and both World Wars, the city has been shaped by other entrepreneurial endeavors as well. Today, Halifax blends its maritime history with business headquarters, arts, brewing and culinary feats, and politics.
Cruises to Halifax, Nova Scotia, pull into the Port of Halifax. After you depart your ship in the Halifax cruise port, you’ll walk down covered hydraulic gangways that take you to Pavilion 22. You’ll find a visitor information center in Pavilion 22 and right outside it is where you’ll meet tour buses and can find taxis.
While figuring out your transportation (or being easily guided to it if you’re on a shore excursion through Celebrity Cruises) you can listen to the bagpipes that greet cruise passengers arriving in Halifax.
For those not taking off on a shore excursion right away, it’s a short walk to the waterfront attractions in Halifax and from there you can also walk to other downtown sights.
Taxis are readily available in Halifax and are easy to get by waiting at one of the designated taxi stands located around the city center.
In Halifax, you can find public transportation through Metro Transit which runs bus routes throughout the city and beyond to Bedford, Dartmouth, Halifax, Sackville, Timberlea, and Cole Harbour. Metro Transit also runs Access-A-Bus, which is a pubic transportation service for people with disabilities who are not able to use regular Metro Transit bus service.
If you’re in Halifax cruise port on a Saturday, you can visit the oldest running Farmer’s Market in North America, which is located in Halifax along Lower Water Street. Wander around the underground halls and passageways of the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market to find some unique souvenirs ranging from food products to artwork to clothing and many other items. Haggling is frowned upon. When you’re all shopped out, stop by the adjacent Alexander Keith brewery and enjoy a pint in one of the oldest running commercial breweries in North America.
Another great place to go for a special souvenir from Halifax is NovaScotian Crystal. It is the only place in North America where you can find crystal glass blowing.
If you’re looking for other souvenir knick-knacks or clothing boutiques, you can find lots of shops throughout Halifax with plenty located near the south end of the harbor. You can even find souvenirs and gifts right on Pavilion 22, which is the cruise passenger handling facility.
Businesses in Halifax accept the Canadian dollar. To get cash, you can utilize one of the ATMs located around the city, which you can often find in grocery stores, malls, and near banks. Credit cards are also widely accepted in Halifax, though check with the business or taxi driver beforehand if you’re not sure.
Tipping for services is common in Halifax and is expected for dining service or taxi rides. Tipping in Canada is similar to the United States and a tip of 15% to 20% of the total bill is expected for dining services or bar service. A tip of 10% to 15% is common for taxi rides.