Best-kept secret Visitors and locals alike often refer to Halifax, and indeed all of Nova Scotia, as the "best-kept secret" in Canada. With one of the largest natural harbors in the world, Nova Scotia's capital is the biggest and most cosmopolitan city in Atlantic Canada's four provinces. Less than two hours by air from New York and Toronto, it is the halfway point between Europe and the west coast of North America.
Though Haligonians are proud of their well-kept secret, they are quick to make visitors welcome. You won't stand for long with an open map on a city street; someone will invariably stop to help you on your way.
In 1995, the municipalities of Dartmouth, Bedford, Halifax and Halifax County joined together and became officially known as the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), today the population is near 360,000.
Nevertheless, visitors will still see street signs directing them to Dartmouth, Bedford and Halifax. Dartmouth is a quiet bedroom community across the harbor from Halifax, via the ferry or one of the city's two suspension bridges. But the 10-minute ferry ride from Halifax's waterfront across the picturesque harbor—home to luxury yachts, recreational boats and gigantic container ships heading for the open sea—is a must, just for the view. And despite its one-block long "downtown," Dartmouth is home to one of HRM's best restaurants,
Bedford is north of Halifax's city cent re on a long stretch of road called The Bedford Highway, a major route to the Halifax International Airport. Bedford is an old, treed, residential area extending west of the highway, but the highway, which follows the train tracks out of Halifax, is a busy commercial area with boutiques, specialty stores, garden nurseries, restaurants and large malls on both sides, all visible and easily accessible from the main road.
Located on the southeastern coast of Nova Scotia, Halifax's city center sits on a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. Farther south than Montreal, it boasts a mild climate that sees little or no snow until after January. “The Peninsula" refers to old Halifax, the area enclosed by the Bedford Basin on the east, the Atlantic Ocean on the south, and the Northwest Arm on the west.
The South End is the ritzy part of the peninsula. Canopied by ancient trees, wide avenues give view to palatial homes constructed in various architectural styles, with grounds that are beautifully groomed and well planned. A drive through these leafy streets will take you to the southernmost part of the community,
Downtown Halifax is where the action is. As an important shipping center, the commercial part of the harbor is busy year-round. Vessels from Russia, South America and Europe float next to stern, gray submarines. During the summer, huge luxury liners dock near the neck of the harbor and are a popular tourist destination.
The shopping is good, the galleries are great, the history is everywhere, and the food is fabulous. With the best people-watching in the city, downtown is where you can hear many languages and accents as visitors from around the globe stroll the busy streets. It's also the site of the large, well-appointed
You're never lost in downtown Halifax. If you're going downhill, you'll end up at the waterfront. If you're walking uphill, you'll arrive at the city's largest and most famous landmark, the
Halifax is a convenient city. Most points of interest, dining and entertainment establishments are within walking distance of major downtown hotels. The fresh breezes off the water make strolling a pleasure, and rooftop restaurants and bars are a good place to stop for a breather or to sample one of the locally brewed beers. It's an easygoing city where visitors can wander in comfort and safety until the wee hours.
The West End of Halifax is both a lovely residential area and a shopper's paradise. Four malls draw bargain-hunters from both sides of the harbour. The sprawling complex known as the West End Mall and the
The true East End of Halifax is in Dartmouth, in the Burnside Industrial Park, where the main industries are located along with the city's two newspaper plants. A sprawling complex of head offices and warehouses, Burnside will be a challenge for anyone without a map.
But Halifax is just a district within the larger playground that is Nova Scotia. If you want the best smoked-salmon in a 500-mile radius, it can be found 15 minutes out of the city. If you want to stay in a castle-like bed and breakfast, you can book it and be there in 30 minutes.
Connected by convenience
For most business travelers, the choice of accommodation in any major center is limited to chain hotels, which they select for their proximity to a city's commercial core. While most of the big-chain hotels are found in Halifax's downtown, the city is also home to some very quaint hotels. Many are housed in historic buildings that have been modernized to suit the most discerning traveler. Bed and breakfast establishments abound in the city, both near the center and in its outlying areas. For travelers with some free time and a rental car, B&B's and charming country inns outside the city are the way to go.
The oldest hotel in the city is The Lord Nelson, built in 1928. The rich and richer met at the hotel to consolidate their business interests in Halifax's early days. A stone building that has maintained its original architecture, the hotel was renovated and expanded in 1965 and has since upgraded to include luxury accommodations.
Just a few blocks east, on Upper Water Street, the Sheraton Halifax Hotel is the largest and most luxurious hotel in the area and has the added attraction of being adjacent to the popular, 24-hour Casino Nova Scotia as well as to a number of fine dining and drinking establishments.
Halifax is convenient for both leisure and business travelers. It is small, which means almost everything is within walking distance, or accessible via a short cab ride. The Halifax Metro Centre and the World Trade and Convention Centre are across the street from each other, and both are just minutes, on foot, from the Delta Barrington, Delta Halifax, Citadel Halifax Hotel, Radisson Suite Hotel Halifax and other major chains. Holiday Inn Select Halifax Centre shares the load with Holiday Inn Express in Bedford.
The The Westin Nova Scotian is the city's railway hotel, an old establishment built to accommodate Canadian Pacific rail travelers. Fully renovated, it's a huge edifice that houses the train station and is home to top-of-the-line meeting and banquet facilities.
The King Edward Inn, is a beautifully appointed historic building designed for people who prefer antiques to the more sterile atmosphere of most hotel rooms. It offers fully equipped meeting rooms and caters to business travelers. The same can be said of The Inn On The Lake, which is halfway between Halifax and the airport. For visitors anticipating a longer stay, the downtown Cambridge Suites Hotel allows its clientele to spread out and make the place home, with fully equipped kitchenettes.
Those in search of unique accomodations may want to check in to the Waverley Inn or Halliburton House Inn. Each of these historic buildings offers the convenience of a central location, combined with an atmosphere of the elegant past.
For the extremely budget conscious, who don't mind sharing facilities, rooms may be had at the YWCA of Halifax of Halifax (women only) as well as the Halifax Heritage House Hostel, both on the south end of Barrington Street only a few minutes away from all the action.
For something a little different in the center of the city, there's Bobs' Guest House. Bobs' is within a 25 minute walk to downtown on one side, and the Halifax Shopping Center on another. Ten minutes on foot will bring you to Quinpool Road where wanderers can access a nice variety of interesting restaurants, large and small, serving Indian, Greek, Japanese and Chinese cuisine. Many of the most popular fast food chains can be found in this area as well as specialty shops, an art gallery, grocery and hardware stores.
For those doing business across the harbour, the Dartmouth Holiday Inn is a popular venue and is 15 minutes from the airport. The nearby Burnside Industrial Park is home to many commercial head offices for the Atlantic region, and business travelers will find dozens of chain hotels within minutes of the sprawling park.
The Halifax International Airport is larger than might be expected for a city of Halifax's size. This is because of the city's east coast location and status as the major metropolis in Canada's four eastern provinces, and as a major entry point from Europe. While the airport is a 30-minute drive from downtown, the city is growing so quickly that the airport will soon be on the outskirts. The 151-room Airport Hotel Halifax is the only on-site accommodation, but major hotels provide frequent and reasonable limousine and bus service to and fro.
Access to the airport from both Dartmouth and Halifax is smooth; you won't sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic. There is a well-maintained, divided highway with a 100-kilometer-per-hour speed limit that moves traffic along swiftly. However if you're leaving the city during rush hour, be prepared for slow travel to the outskirts, though it's nothing compared to most major cities.