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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!