12 Free Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Spending money in Halifax is incredibly easy. The patio beers, the museums, the art galleries, the tours, and the food. It all ends up taking its toll on your wallet. Having been a starving student in Halifax, I’ve managed to acquire a rather large list of free things to do in Halifax. Try and do at least half of these next time you’re on the east coast of Canada. Really, you can’t beat the price!

1. Point Pleasant Park

Point-Pleasant-Park-Container-Ship-Halifax

Located about 3km south of downtown Halifax, Point Pleasant Park can provide a full days worth of enjoyment for people of all ages. It’s absolutely free for everyone, so hang onto that money for patio beers, souvenirs or some of that famous Cows Ice Cream (located on the boardwalk by the Lower Deck Pub & Grill). Point Pleasant Park has a whackload of trails for hiking and biking (no biking on weekends). There’s a supervised beach, which while locals will tell you not to swim in, is “apparently” now safe for the public after the city fixed some sewage issues. If hiking, biking, or swimming isn’t your thing there’s plenty of grass to park your keester on for a picnic or a read. If boat watching is more your thing, be prepared to be pleasantly distracted by the number of container ships, cruise ships, yachts, and sailboats you’ll see float by. While walking through Point Pleasant Park you should also expect to see plenty of old historic pieces, including cannons, old forts, and my personal favourite, Prince of Wales Tower.

2. The Halifax Public Gardens

Halifax-Public-Gardens

Located on the corner of Spring Garden Road and South Park St, the Halifax Public Gardens is another quiet refuge from the occasional busy streets of Halifax. Upon walking in the Gardens you’ll notice the incredible smells of thousands of flowers and the gentle sounds of flowing streams. The Halifax Gardens are great for a long stroll or for a relax and read session. It can get busy in here during the summer months, so be sure to have a Plan B in your back pocket incase crowds aren’t your thing.

3. The Halifax Common a.k.a The Commons

The Halifax Common

Definitely a more “local” park than the Halifax Public Gardens, the Halifax Common (Or “The Commons”) is where families, students, couples, and the occasional band of hippies go to enjoy the sun. It’s only about a 10 minute walk from downtown. The North Commons has several softball diamonds, a couple walking paths, a fountainand plenty of room to starfish on the warm summer grass to partake in the worlds greatest hobby, cloud-watching. If you’re bored of the massive fields, head to the Central Commons (just across the road), where you’ll find , an outdoor pool, a skateboard park, tennis courts, a fountain, and a few more fields to sprawl in.

Fun fact about The Commons, it was originally pasture land for horses and cows of citizens and military forces.

4. The Halifax Boardwalk

Halifax Boardwalk

The Halifax Boardwalk extends across the entire Downtown Halifax waterfront, just below Lower Water St. The Boardwalk is hands down one of the few things I’d say you have to check out while in Halifax. Sure, it’s a little touristy at times and can get pretty hectic with how many people check it out. But a walk down the Boardwalk in the early morning with your coffee or after finishing a meal out on the town is probably one of the coolest free things to do in Halifax. If you want to walk the entire Boardwalk, head down to the Casino and start walking south. You can actually get all the way to the new Farmers Market. Along the way expect to find pubs, artists, buskers, Fish & Chips, Beaver Tails, Souvenirs, Boat Tours, Historic Boats, shops, and some great scenic vistas to snap a photo or two.

5. The Halifax Seaport Farmers Market

Halifax Seaport Farmers Market

Take a break from the Halifax Boardwalk and check out the new Farmers Market in Halifax. This complex was just recently finished, and is filled with vendors from all over Nova Scotia. While entry is free, the goods are not. But even if you don’t plan on spending anything, it’s just a great building to walk through. Whether it’s coffee, food, fresh legumes, fruit, or meat, you’ll have a tough time not coming home with something. If you’re a robot and have no interest in food, you’ll be happy to hear there are plenty of vendors selling art, trinkets, souvenirs, and other knick-knacks. Don’t miss checking out of the best views in town, head upstairs to the rooftop of the Farmers Market, there’s a few benches up there for the public along with the best view of Georges Island.  The Farmers Market is open daily, all year round!

Halifax Farmers Market Hours

  • Tuesday 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Wednesday 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Thursday 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Friday 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Saturday 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Sunday 8:00 AM -4:00 PM

6. Get out on the water with the Halifax Ferry

Halifax Skyline from the Ferry

While this is a stretch on the word “Free”, I like to think of it as “pretty much free”, which means it’s being included whether you like it or not. For $2.00, you can get a round trip ticket on the Halifax Ferry to Dartmouth. It is the cheapest way to get on the water and provides some fantastic views of downtown Halifax and Dartmouth. During the summer months, scoring an upstairs seat on the Ferry can mean a fantastic reprieve from the Halifax summer heat. The Ferry Terminal is located just down from the new Tim Hortons (With Cold Stone Creamery), right near where they park Thomas The Tug Boat. If you’re heading to Dartmouth for the afternoon, walk up to “Two If By Sea” for Halifax’s best coffee and the most mind-blowingly-awesome cheese croissant I’ve ever eaten.

Edit – The Cost went up from $2.00 to $2.25! Don’t be sad though, now you can break a dollar and spend those quarters on the candy machines in the ferry terminal! 

7. Free Halifax Concerts at Grand Parade & Alderney Landing

alderney-landing-music

 

Halifax has a large and thriving music scene, and if you play your cards right you might be in for experiencing some world class live music, for free! Every summer there is at least one or two free shows worth checking out at either Grand Parade (across the street from the Dome) or at Alderney Landing (in Dartmouth). Natal Day consistently brings free concerts to Halifax. Be sure to check out their schedule. This year, Natal Day is putting on Wintersleep, Gloryhound, Town Heroes, and Jay Smith at Alderney Landing, on July 30th.

8. Watch Buskers in Halifax

Buskers on the Halifax Boardwalk

For 10 days in August, Buskers from all over the world head to Halifax to perform their acts. Be it music, theatre, or dare-devil-esque performances. Watching is completely free, but I highly suggest tossing what you can into their hats if you really enjoyed the show. While the International Busker Festival in Halifax is definitely the show stopper, there is always busking going on in Halifax. If you’re in town, look for Buskers on Spring Garden Road (Typically near the library), downtown Barrington Street, or along the boardwalk. There are plenty of talented local buskers in Halifax, including Fiddlers, Guitarists, Sax Players, and my personal favourite, this one African-Canadian guy who is the worlds greatest karaoke singer (find him along the Boardwalk).

9. Visit A Halifax Cemetery

Halifax Burying Ground - Downtown

If it’s a depressing kind of day, maybe the fog rolled in, and the sun is hiding, experiencing some of the historic cemeteries in town can be a surreal change from the upbeat streets of Halifax. There are two cemeteries I’d recommend checking out. The first being the Old Burying Ground, located on the corner of Barrington Street & Spring Garden Road, which contain the remains of some of the earliest Canadians. While most of the names are pretty hard to make out from weathering, it’s still a neat little spot in the middle of downtown. If you have wheels, be they bike or car, wander up to the Fairview Lawn Cemetery. It’s located in North Halifax, on Windsor St. What’s unique about this cemetery is that many of the remains of victims from the Titanic ended up there. Apparently there’s even a Jack Dawson there, which gets a lot of attention care of James Cameron’s famous film.

10. Listen to the Cannon go off at Noon on Citadal Hill

Citadal Hill

Everyday at Noon, a cannon goes off in downtown Halifax, shaking the bodies of locals and tourists, and typically scaring both. If you play your cards right, you can experience the whole event in the most up-close and personal way possible. Head up to Brunswick Street and look for the Halifax Clock Tower. Walk up the hill, or take the Citadel Hill Tour if history is your thing (costs about $8.00 for the tour), and wait. If you can make sure you’re there for noon, you are in for a treat. As the thunderous roar from that cannon goes off, you’ll witness dozens of people on the hill and along Brunswick Street freak out, then laugh as they remember “Oh, just the noon cannon, woops!”

11. Halifax Historic Sites

Point-Pleasant-Park-Prince-Of-Wales-Tower

History Buffs will love Halifax. The amount of historic properties, forts, churches, and ships in this city is border-line crazy. Best of all, many of these sights are free, or damn-near free. Stroll through Point Pleasant Park and check out the Prince of Wales Tower, or walk along the boardwalk and hop on the H.M.C.S Sackville, the C.S.S Acadia, or if you’re timing is right, the infamous Bluenose (the boat on the Canadian dime). For a city thats so youthful and vibrant, it’s great to see so much historic “stuff” being preserved.

12. Ride the FRED bus

If you’re in Halifax during the Summer without any wheels, fret not. FRED will take you just about anywhere in downtown Halifax, for FREE. FRED (Free Rides Everywhere Downtown) runs between July 3rd and October 22nd. This vibrantly coloured bus runs seven days a week between 10:30am and 5:00pm. An on-board tour guide rides everywhere with FRED and provides a commentary on Halifax and its many historical locations. Even if you have nowhere to go downtown, hopping on the FRED can be a great way to get your bearings in Halifax. Check out the FRED Schedule to find out where it stops. Just a heads up, the FRED is not an alternative to get anywhere fast as it has a habit of being late. If you need to be somewhere fast, you can get from one end of downtown Halifax to the other for about $10 in cab fair.

Edit – March 7th, 2012 – Unfortunately FRED no longer exists. The public bus’s are also cheap ($2.25) or you can look into grabbing a a pass with the Big Pink Sightseeing Bus’s!

 Map of Free Things To Do In Halifax

Have I missed any must-do free activities in Halifax? Love to hear from you in the comments!

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27 Responses to “12 Free Things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia”

  1. Dylan Lowe
    August 2, 2011 at 1:47 am #

    Brilliant timing seeing I’m here for the next two weeks. Cheers for the recommendations, will check out a few of them with you sometime no doubt :)

    • Corbin Fraser
      August 2, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

      Glad to hear my little guide will be of use to a fellow writer/blogger. Have fun in Halifax, its an amazing little city. See you tonight for a beer or two!

      • Kristine
        May 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

        Hey Corbin,

        Do you have any recommendations for pubs with live music? I’m going to be in Halifax with my mom in August and can’t wait to check out some east coast music.

        Thanks!
        Kristine 
        (Edmonton)

        • Corbin Fraser
          May 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

          Hey Kristine,

          If you’re looking for some good maritimes music and beer consider stopping by “The Lower Deck” – it’s along the waterfront – try and catch a show by Signal Hill, they play the best of the best and accept shoutouts from the crowd.

          If you’re looking for a quiet atmosphere where you can enjoy a wine or a beer without fear or spilling it all over yourself, definitely hit up the Carleton on Argyle St. They have some incredible bands from all over, both big names and lesser known names come in nightly to play music. They’re always intimate shows and the food and drinks ain’t half bad either. Cover is sometimes around $10 or so, but they do occasionally have free shows.
          Your best bet is to keep an eye on The Coast- halifax’s culture / music / everything awesome guide. Their website is updated daily with new music and shows going on at different pubs across Halifax.

          See: http://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/EventSearch?eventSection=981499&sortType=date&eventCategory=981533
          Enjoy Halifax! :)

  2. Sarahhill033
    August 2, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    I am heading to Canada this fall to do a coach tour with Vacationscanada.travel and now I am thinking about extending my trip to visit the Halifax Public Gardens. That is beautiful!

  3. Nomadic Samuel
    August 22, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    Great list!  I’ve yet to check out Halifax other than to connect with a flight.

    • Corbin Fraser
      August 22, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

      Thanks Sam! If you ever make it back let me know, love this city & happy to show people around.

  4. Ray Dimock
    September 13, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    The Halifax/Dartmouth Ferry is now $2.25, the transfer is good for 1 and 1/2 hours on any bus or ferry around H.R.M. Note most buses and the Ferry allow bicycles using racks to hold ‘em.

    • Corbin Fraser
      September 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

      Thanks for the updates! I’ll try and pop in today to update this to $2.25.

      Cheers

  5. Moritz Menzel
    February 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    This is great. I’m coming to Halifax on March 5th as a starting point for a 6 months east to west coast, work and travel adventure. I’ll definitely check out some of these spots.

    • Corbin Fraser
      March 7, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

      Glad to help out! If you have access to wheels there’s also a bunch of great beaches nearby (30 mins drive from downtown halifax)

  6. Shannon
    February 26, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    FRED doesn’t exist anymore

    • Corbin Fraser
      March 7, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

      Thanks Shannon! I’ll include that in an Edit! 

  7. Andywkeith
    March 7, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    My favorite thing is to steal a bike and give myself a free tour. Naw, all joking aside if you want some cheap entertainment check out a Moosehead’s game. Either that or go for a Skate on the Emera Oval in the winter. Don’t have skates? It’s free to rent a pair! Yeah!

  8. Kristian Platt
    March 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    If you’re around in the Summer time, you might want to check out the Tall Ships! The boardwalk is packed full of energy and excitement as people get to view the ships come in. It’s a pretty cool sight to see. There are even tours! 

    • Corbin Fraser
      March 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Ahhh indeed! Tall Ships should definitely be on this list! Great suggestion!

  9. Shayla Miller
    March 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    trivia night is also a sweet free thing to do in halifax! (minus the cost of beers, of course!)

    • Corbin Fraser
      March 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

      Ahhh Trivia night indeed!

      Rogues Roost on Wednesday Nights & Rock Bottom Brewery On Thursdays. Thank you kindly!

  10. Lcaden
    April 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Great list! I just want to flag that in the first paragraph, within this sentence: “Try and do at least half of these next time your on the east coast of Canada”. The ‘your’ should be ‘you’re’.

    • Corbin Fraser
      April 1, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

      Thanks Lcaden!

      You are awesome for catching that. I’m normally a stickler for “yours” and “you’res”, musta snuck by me. I blame lack of coffee. haha. Appreciate you flagging it!

      High fives comin’ atcha!

      -Corbin

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