I know the feeling well – it’s first thing in the morning and you’ve got a full day with kids who need to be entertained. You’ve done the usual favourites (museums, indoor playgrounds, etc.) a thousand times and want to shake things up.
When you just want to grab the kids and go somewhere easy, fun, low-cost or free, here are 5 year-round fantastic Halifax (Hali-tastic…is that a thing? If not it should be!) outings to keep in your pocket for an instant adventures – no advance planning required!
The Halifax-Dartmouth Ferry
For $2.50 you can take one adult and as many kids under 5 (they’re free) as you want back and forth across the harbour on a ferry boat (make sure you get a transfer when you pay your fee). If it’s warm enough you can sit on the top deck outside, but even in the winter or rain it’s exciting for the littles to watch the waves crash from the back of the boat, see the tugboats pushing barges to the bridge, watch the city loom closer, and, if you’re really lucky, you might spot a seal bobbing around. When you get to the other side, hop off and you can either hand in your transfer and get right back on again then; or you can take a walk along the waterfront (on either side) to the Dartmouth waterfront playground or the Halifax waterfront playground – or even walk to the end of the boardwalk and check out this train themed playground on Hollis Street. If you return to the ferry before your transfer time is up, you don’t need to pay for the return trip! If you want to get super fancy, use the transfer to add a bus ride around the downtown area! Check out the schedule, although the ferries come at least every thirty minutes on the weekend so it’s never a long wait. (Bonus: you’ll have Joel Plaskett singing in your head the rest of the day)
Halifax Stanfield Airport
The airport is an adventure all by itself for little Haligonians, no need for a plane ticket to an exciting destination! Pop out there any time and take a walk around the main area and check out the people coming and going; then ride the glass elevator up to the Observation Deck and get a front row seat for planes taking off and landing. The last time my littles were there a plane parked right in front of the Observation Deck window and the WestJet pilots in the cockpit both looked up and waved right at them. Talk about the thrill of a lifetime for kids! Combine your visit from May-October with a stop at the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum and get to touch and peek in real planes in this amazingly huge volunteer run museum mere moments from the airport. If you have an airplane fanatic be sure to check out the Eastern Passage listing below too. (Note: you will need to pay for parking while visiting the airport)
This area has lots of opportunity for adventure. Check out Fisherman’s Cove, a quaint, working fishing village. They have a great boardwalk to take a stroll along; charming and colourful shops and eateries for lunch; and working fishing boats coming and going. If you plan ahead you can also book a boat to pop over to McNab’s Island which is just a short ride away. There’s also the Shearwater Aviation Museum nearby, another great place to get up close and personal with aircrafts, and it’s free and open year round. If you want to add an exciting surprise at the end of the visit, zip over to Cow Bay and check out the giant moose at Silver Sands Beach (aka Cow Bay Beach)! Don’t forget to include time to stop at this awesome playground as well!
Just about every community has a Farmer’s Market and they are an exciting adventure to a little person. Lots of interesting smells, sights, and sounds, there’s usually someone playing live music. You can even buy the fixings for a snack or lunch that you can have as a picnic after your visit. It also provides a great opportunity to talk about farmers and their role in our community. The Seaport Market is fantastic and open all week, but on weekends we love the Historic Farmer’s Market on Lower Water Street for the fun architecture – you never know what will be down the next twisty stone hallway, it’s almost like being in a castle! We also enjoy the Dartmouth Farmer’s Market at Alderney Landing – it has a great playground outside, a beautiful waterfront walkway, and it’s close to the library and the ferry (see above for more information on the ferry) so you can easily add a visit to the library and/or hop on the boat for a supersized outing! Finally, the Bedford Basin Farmer’s Market has been getting lots of chatter as of late and it’s next on our list to check out!
Walk (or Bike or Snowshoe) in the Park
Our region is home to countless trails and parks. Some are “unofficial” ones that community members have built, others are official ones that community groups or the city maintains. The city has an online list of trails sorted by community that notes the length and amenities on the trail. Bring along bikes or snowshoes (snowshoes are available to borrow at many rec centres), pop by the dollar store for a bag of bird seed for the ducks and woodland creatures, or download a nature scavenger hunt to keep the kids focused on the walk. A couple of our favourite trails are the BLT Trails and St Margaret’s Bay Trails (tip: if you start in Tantallon you can pop into the Train Station Bike and Bean for a pre or post walk treat!); and the First Lake Trails in Sackville (below) which has the Sackville Kinsman playground, beach, and splash pad near one end of the route.
What are your favourite Hali-tastic outings? I’d love to hear them!