You always have to start with the good. There is a lot of good in Halifax, and probably even more that I’ll think of later. (A little space can help.) I found Halifax to be a great, manageable, eclectic city on the water. I found Nova Scotia to be quite scenic and beautiful, especially in the fall. I’m confident I’d have even more to say if I’d been here during the summer months. If you’re going to visit, do so in late summer or fall because it’s still warm, lovely, and there’s plenty to do and see. If you’re staying for a while, take note of the things I really came to appreciate about Atlantic Canada’s largest city.
Moksha Yoga – It’s basically my favorite thing about Halifax, and I’ve made that abundantly clear over the last few months. I know you’re sick of hearing about it. If you’re setting up shop in Halifax and looking for a workout that is all-encompassing, meaning mind/body/cardio/strength, then this is your spot. You will lose interest in anything else. It becomes intoxicating-addictive. Known as Modo Yoga in the States, unfortunately, there is not a location near my home in Buffalo. I will truly miss my practice, and how it’s encouraged at your own pace and according to your own body’s needs in that moment. That’s what I love about it. I also love that the Moksha studio is an environmentally friendly, and a totally welcoming space for newbies and outsiders like myself. Thank you for helping me find my breath, and see what my body is capable of!
Natural Beauty – Even just the other day, during yet another April snow event (ugh!) I couldn’t help but look at the covered trees lining highway 333 to Peggy’s Cove, the road leading to our lake house and think, well, it is pretty. I thought that a lot while living here this year, and winter obviously wasn’t even the prime time for it. I was happiest in the fall, when the weather was still warm, the sun was still shining, and the leaves were turning incredible shades of orange, red, and yellow. I regret that we weren’t able to make it out to some of the main scenic locales like the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton and the Bay of Fundy. Bad planning on our part, (“Oh, we’ll just go in the spring!”) Yeah, we didn’t expect all the blizzards and such. End point: Nova Scotia is beautiful.
Living Next to the Atlantic Ocean – As a water sign (Cancer,) I found I feel a noticeable sense of peace near the water. Hell, even at the lake house on Hatchet Lake, I immediately relaxed and took it all in. I spent many an afternoon walking the harbor in downtown Halifax, and the endorphins I got from it were surprising. I should have probably done that every day. If you live on the ocean, don’t take it for granted!
The Harbour – As mentioned above, some of my favorite memories were strolling the Waterfront Harbour Walk (there’s that ‘U’) and just taking in the scenery, the fresh air, the people watching, cute dogs, etc. My only suggestion is- get some more coffee shop options, right down on the water. I would literally have sat there writing every single day, and who doesn’t love walking with a warm cup of something in their hands? I also enjoyed seeing cruise ships pull up and dock. I know for the locals, it’s annoying to be infiltrated by tourists every few days, but the sheer size alone of these floating cities is a sight to be seen, especially for people who don’t live near the water. Those things can be seen from kilometers away. (Like how I used KM there?)
Titanic Stuff – It’s everywhere, and it’s fascinating. #neverletgo
The Seaport Farmer’s Market – One of Halifax’s greatest assets, in my opinion, the Seaport Farmer’s Market is a lovely, permanent space on the waterfront, open every day but booming on weekends. A great mix of local produce, speciality pre-made items, crafts, take-away food, meat, cheese, seafood, and other artisanal goods- it’s an experience not to be missed, and one I wish other cities would adopt (are you listening, Buffalo?)
$500 Worth of Massage Included in your Health Insurance – We JUST discovered this right at the end of our stay. If you’re here for at least a year on a work visa (or had to insist your employer buy it for you, since it was promised but then they flaked out,) you can participate in all the benefits of federally funded health insurance. Although we didn’t have many options with our stunted insurance (more on that later,) we did get free money for massages. Even the hubs, who is not a massage therapy fanatic like myself, got his first one, and loved it. A fun way to spend the last weeks in town. We recommend Spirit Spa!
Point Pleasant Park – Another one of my favorite spots in Halifax. Great for nature walks, more seaside goodness, and playing with other people’s dogs.
Off the Hook Community Fishery – I was shocked, SHOCKED to find out that almost no one we encountered in Halifax even knew about the existence of this community-supported, locally sustained fishery. Early in our stay, we researched and found out about Off the Hook, a fish share connecting local fisherman to the community. We immediately signed up for the late fall season, a fresh catch every week for four weeks of incredibly fresh, line caught haddock, cod, hake, or pollock. They guarantee you get your fish within 24 hours of being caught, and best of all, you know it came from your own backyard. Seriously, with the price of food here, we found it to be more cost-effective to participate in this program, and the knowledge that we were helping the local community was just an added benefit. Check out my full review, here.
Live Music – On most nights of the week, at several different types of bars and restaurants, you’ll find live music. It’s a nice thing to have that option, and a variety of genres to fit your particular mood. Our favorites experiences included everything from fiddle to heavy metal.
The Views from The Citadel – The Citadel is the giant fort-on-a-hill in the center of town, and although it’s most known for tours and reenactment type activities, it’s also a great place to see Halifax from all around. Some people even go running up and down the hill. To each, his own.
Skate Park – Right in the middle of the Common (a large green space in the heart of the city,) lies an honest-to-God, 90’s style skate park. It’s just cool that it exists, that it’s used, and that you have the option of sitting on a sunny afternoon, watching extreme sport enthusiasts, and just hoping you catch a full-on wipeout. It’s the simple things.
Neighborly Neighbors – As “first time house dwellers,” we were introduced to the world of garbage day, home maintenance, and shoveling of property and sidewalks. It wasn’t always fun, and as you know, we weren’t always in town to ensure it happened. We were lucky to have friendly neighbors who pitched in, always helping to shovel, keep an eye on the house when we were gone, and even get our mail/water our plants. Considering they were complete strangers, we were touched at how people stepped up to help us when we were dealing with really terrible emergency circumstances. Thank you, neighbors.
Very Upbeat Local Business Community – When I wax poetic about the power of social media, I always think of Halifax as a prime example of what I’m talking about. As soon as I learned of the possibility of moving to Nova Scotia, an idea that seemed a little surreal, I immediately got on Twitter, and started reading about the people and the places in real time. What I found was not only did I learn about what Halifax had to offer (mostly good,) but I found the local businesses here were very vocal supporters of each other, which is not only nice to see, but an amazing marketing tool. I have seen very loyal fans of many local institutions here, as well as learned about the goings on in town, all from local love being spread virally. That sounds like an STD. Keep up the good work!
An Active Twitter Community – As mentioned above, without Twitter, I would have entered into this situation knowing even less than I did, and feeling totally disconnected. In a way, the Twitter community of Halifax was more welcoming and informative than the real life community, ha. That’s also another story. But, if you want to learn about a new place, the quality of their Twittersphere really does say a lot.
The Public Gardens – Again, during my Halifax happy time in fall, I had a few beautiful days taking in the Public Gardens, the exquisitely manicured Victorian-style park in the city. Lush. That would be the best word to describe it.
Cheap Mussels – One of the main things people ask about our Nova Scotia experience is how often we’re enjoying fresh, cheap seafood. The answer, unfortunately, is not as often as we’d like. That’s because, surprise- the seafood isn’t all that cheap! At least, not when it’s out of season (who knew there were seasons?) What we have found is that PEI mussels are almost ALWAYS the cheapest thing on every menu we’ve seen. You can always get a giant bowl of delicious mussels for between $8-11 bucks a pop, and it’s usually our go to appetizer or small dinner. Can’t go wrong. PEI mussels in other parts of the world will never feel the same again.
Blizzard Shut Downs – I poked a lot of fun at the city of Halifax and all of its pieces for completely shutting down under even the mere threat of severe weather. Then, I thought about what a favor they were doing for their citizens and the well-being of everyone, and changed my mind. Halifax will shut down, or make closure announcements the night before a major storm or blizzard, unlike most places in the US. Businesses shut down so their employees don’t have to risk their lives just to sell some retail or wait on a table or two. Everyone else stays home, stays warm, and stays off the roads so the city can work on clearing and cleaning up. Ya know what? It works. I applaud Halifax for putting people above maintaining the status quo, business as usual during dangerous weather. But, get milk, bread, eggs, and booze the night before, or you’re S.O.L.
The Canadian Border Patrol Show on Slice – Another recent find. Like ‘Cops,’ but at the end, no one really gets in trouble, apologies are said, and everyone can go about their business. Have a jar full of pot in your car? No worries. Sit in a holding cell for an hour, and you’re free to go. Hope you learned your lesson.
Loonies and Toonies– There is something about having a coin represent one or two dollars, that is misleading to your mind. It makes you think you aren’t really spending that much money. I felt this way in Australia, too, handing over that tiny little $2 coin for a beer. It’s like it was nearly free! Loonies and Toonies are fun that way, as well, except it’s rare to use a Toonie to pay for anything and have that be the total cost. Still, it’s about perspective. And no, I don’t understand why the US never embraced the $1 coin.