I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia. If your cruise ship docks in Halifax on a sunny July morning, as they often do, I’d meet you in the early-to-mid morning at the Seaport Farmer’s Market. Like most downtown farmers’ markets, it can be touristy, but because you’re visiting, you won’t mind – you can buy local specialties like ice wine, and lavender oil, and messenger bags made from re-purposed ship’s sails. From there, we can stroll along the boardwalk toward downtown, watch the sailboats, and see where Theodore Tugboat is docked. Of course, you can always pay for a city tour on an amphibious vehicle that crawls in and out of the harbour. Once you get to Historic Properties, you’ll be hard-pressed to decide between a croissant and a pour-over coffee from Two If By Sea, or an ice cream cone at the famous Cows creamery. Maybe you should make two trips!
My favourite thing about Halifax is all the independent shops. While they are a bit spread out, it makes for a fun day of poking around. Some notables are Freak Lunchbox and Sweet Jane’s (vintage candy brands), Strange Adventures and Monster Comics (comics and nerd toys), Venus Envy and Night Magic (sex toys, erotic books and lingerie), Paper Chase and Atlantic News (magazines), Maritime Hobby (models and trains), Black Market (cheap jewellery), Woozles (children’s book store) and Ink Well (art cards and prints). If you’re not “from around here,” you might even like some of our chain stores such as Lululemon (athletic wear), Roots (classic Canadian rugged wear) and DeSerres (art supplies).
I would hardly know where to escort you for lunch and dinner because there are so many options, but it’s a non-intimidating amount of choice! So we have, say, 4 Thai restaurants and 2 vegetarian restaurants and 2 Indian restaurants and 6 fresh fish restaurants and 3 sushi bars, and so on. As long as you leave time in the late afternoon for a beer or two at the Lower Deck – and listen to the ever-present Celtic-rock cover bands – you’re good to go! I like to take visitors to the Wooden Monkey for fresh local food including veggie meals, or Salty’s for not-too-crusty fine dining on fresh fish. But if I knew you better, we’d go to little hole-in-the-wall Indochine for Korean subs, followed by a “turn” around the Public Gardens. And I would point out our new Central Library which is shaping up to be an iconic building, that I’ll be able to take you inside when it opens next year.
After dinner we’d probably go home for a siesta and meet up around 10 to go see a band at a club; we have late nights out, with opening acts at 10:30 and headliners rarely coming on stage before 12. Between acts we can go around the block for pizza, donairs or shawarma, if we aren’t finished with eating yet. When the music winds down around 2, we can head out of downtown and be anywhere we need to be in 10 minutes.
Now all of this would happen on an ordinary summer Saturday – it would be doubly lucky if you were here for Canada Day or the Tall Ships Festival or the Pride Parade or the Buskers Festival!
Like in the UK, though, we have a lot of cloudy and rainy weather in all 4 seasons, so we might need a back-up plan. I would suggest a day of thrifting at the flea markets and charity shops, but Rom recommends hi-geek social board gaming at a gaming store, or laser tag 🙂 Of course we could always join the locals down the pub and sample all the local brews, or go a bit higher-end at the wine bar.
If it was downright stormy, we would drive to the beach and sit in the car and watch the breakers crashing in – with a few cups of Tim Horton’s coffee.
If you spent time at someone’s home, they would probably show you what they make, because everyone makes something, whether it’s chain mail or fishing lures or stained glass, and they’d invite you to give it a try. They’d probably put on some local music and make you listen to “Inner Ninja” or, of a certain generation, The Men of the Deeps! They would apologize for not having baked anything, and serve you some tea and Pirate cookies. And there is a 100% chance they’ll tell you, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes,” which is what everyone says in every place I’ve ever lived.
A day in Halifax is charming in a down-home kind of way. You won’t be blown away by the speed of life, or the lights or the noise, but you’ll find it greatly lacking in snobbery, and abundant in warmth. Except for, you know, the actual temperature 🙂