After extensively exploring Halifax over the summer, we found it to be such a fun summer travel destination! It delivered the perfect travel package. We loved the unique maritime culture, the friendly Halgonians, the weekly festivals, the amazing summer weather, the abundant parks throughout town, the booming craft beer scene, delicious seafood, and the vibrant waterfront. Halifax is awesome!
Yet one thing that concerned us traveling to Nova Scotia’s capital was the potential costs involved. With so many things to do in Halifax, we were fearful that a modest travel budget may be prohibitive to fully experiencing everything this lively city has to offer.
So we did some thorough research and were absolutely delighted to discover that Halifax can be a particularly budget-friendly place to travel to. We almost couldn’t believe how many free things there are to do in Halifax! Meanwhile we also found that accommodation is much more inexpensive here in comparison to other popular Canadian destinations. And flights to Halifax are cheap right now too!
Add to that many restaurant deals to take advantage of the region’s renowned seafood. And you can wash it all down with delicious pints of locally brewed craft beer, thanks in part to all the happy hours around. Halifax may just be one of the most budget-friendly destinations in Canada!
Yet if you’re not careful, travel costs can easily accumulate here. When looking for things to do in Halifax we came across expensive harbor cruises for $100+. Lobster suppers were similarly expensive. But we ultimately found ways to ply the harbor for just a few dollars and even lobster dinners for under $10! We also uncovered free canoe rentals, $2 beers, and even centrally located places to stay for under $50 per night!
This travel guide reveals all of our money-saving tips to help you enjoy all the best things to do in Halifax on a budget!
Top 20 Things to Do in Halifax on a Budget
You can manage to cover all 20 of these things to do in Halifax on a budget of C$40 per person. In fact, 16 of these 20 suggestions are completely free. So save your loonies and toonies while experiencing the best of Halifax!
1) Strolling the Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk Is a Must-Do
Arguably the best thing to do in Halifax on a budget, is simply roaming around the Halifax waterfront. This working port on the Halifax Harbor boasts one of the longest downtown boardwalks in the world! You could easily spend an entire afternoon strolling amongst the timber-frame and stone warehouses lining the scenic seaside.
The walk is dotted with patio restaurants, former naval ships-turned-museums, eclectic galleries, colorful seafood shacks, and inviting outdoor beer gardens!
As you walk along the iconic waterfront, you’ll hear the chatter of seagulls, the lapping of the water, the soft creaking of boats against the docks, and the laughter of children running by. It’s such an alluring place that truly defines the city of Halifax.
If you were going to only do one thing in Halifax, let it be a visit to the waterfront. Take a stroll along the Halifax Harbour and soak it all in. This is a must-do activity in Halifax and it’s free!
2) Go Canoeing in the West Arm with St Mary’s Boat Club
There are a few different opportunities to canoe or kayak along Halifax’s popular waterfront, and they’re priced accordingly. But if you venture across the peninsula to the West Arm, you’ll come to St Mary’s Boat Club, which provides free canoe rentals during weekends!
It’s a pleasant paddle through a sailboat-filled harbor, along rugged coastline, and residential areas. You can even paddle over to Sir Sanford Fleming Park and briefly dock the canoe, to have a stroll along the waterfront trails or climb to the top of Dingle Tower.
The free canoe rentals at St Mary’s Boat Club are only available on Saturdays and Sundays, so be sure to plan this excursion for a weekend. Although this seemed to be enjoyed mostly by locals, you don’t need to be a Boat Club member or even a Halifax resident to use the canoes. All you need is some form of identification for the free canoe rental.
It’s wise to arrive early because this is a popular pursuit among Halgonians on nice summer days. And although clear days make for enjoyable conditions, more importantly we recommend using the canoes when the winds are calm. On windy days, people have been known to flip right into the harbor!
The free canoe rentals at St Mary’s Boat Club are available weekends, 11:00 am – 6:00 pm from June 1 – September 30.
If one-hour of paddling isn’t enough or you can’t make it across the peninsula on the weekend, consider this 4-hour kayak excursion to George Island instead.
More info: here
3) Visit the Oldest Continuously Operated Farmers’ Market in N America
Cost: Free to browse
Halifax boasts two notable farmers markets. The original is known as the Historic Farmers’ Market. This is housed in the Halifax’s Brewery Square (same building as Alexander Keith’s Brewery) and is open only on Saturday mornings, 7:00 am to 1:00 pm. This farmers market was founded way back in 1750, which makes it the oldest continuously operating farmer’s market in North America.
But this long-standing Halifax market has grown over the years. As such, many of the farmers’ market vendors have relocated to the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market. This one is open every day of the week, although it seems particularly happening on Saturdays. At these markets you can find everything from locally farmed produce and meats to locally made crafts and fresh flowers. We enjoy shopping here for Canadian staples like local honey, maple syrup, and even local spirits! There are also some affordable lunch options to consider if you arrive hungry.
Whether you’re coming here to shop, eat, or simply browse, these farmers markets are a long-stranding local tradition that makes for a fun thing to do in Halifax on a budget.
More info: Historic Famers Market (Saturday-ony), Seaport Farmers Market (everyday)
4) Go Hiking Around Point Pleasant
Although Halifax is Nova Scotia’s largest city, it still maintains some enormous park space that’s only a short stroll from downtown.
Point Pleasant boasts 25 miles of hiking trails along with awesome harbor views. It’s a great place to come get some fresh air, do some light trekking, or have a picnic by the sea on a bright sunny summer day.
An aspect that makes this park unique is that Halifax doesn’t actually own it. Instead the city rents this land from the British for 1 shilling (about 10 cents) a year, with a 999-year lease. What a deal!
While roaming around Point Pleasant, be sure to find the Prince of Wales Tower, which is the oldest Martello Tower in North America (1796) and one of Halifax’s National Historic Sites. While many National Historic Sites have an entrance charge, this one is free. Neither the tower nor Point Pleasant Park carry an entrance fee. Perhaps we can thank the British and their cheap lease agreement!
5) Go Skating for Free at the Emera Oval
A fun and free activity in Halifax is to go skating at the Emera Oval. Rollerblades are popular here but you can really opt go retro and borrow a pair of roller skates instead. Bikes, scooters, and even plastic toy cars are also available over the summer. And all of these equipment rentals are entirely F-R-E-E!
It’s all such good, clean fun. Slap on a pair of skates and go!
In the winter, the oval becomes ice and hence free ice-skating commences for a popular wintertime activity in Halifax. Whatever season you visit the Emera Oval in, just be sure to bring an ID, which is required for any of the free rentals.
More info: here
6) How To Tour the Halifax Harbour for C$2.50!
Cost: C$2.50 adults, C$1.75 seniors & children
Harbor cruises are popular pursuits for travelers to Halifax, but they can become pricey activities, ranging from about C$30 to well over C$100 for a luxurious dinner cruises around the Halifax Harbour.
While those are undoubtedly great experiences, they’ll quickly eat into your Halifax travel budget. For a more economical way to get out into the Halifax Harbour, you can simply take the public ferry from Halifax to Dartmouth. The fare is only $2.50 each way and ferries depart about every 15 minutes. You can even ask for a free transfer.
It’s a quick and fun ferry trip across the harbor. While crossing, you’ll have some of the best views of the Halifax Waterfront. Grab a seat on the back of the top deck for fleeting views of Halifax. Once the ferry makes it across, you can take the opportunity to explore Dartmouth. And that free transfer we mentioned earlier can be used for buses too, so consider catching the #60 bus onward to Fisherman’s Cove. We’ll explain why next.
More info: here
7) Poke Around Fisherman’s Cove
When visiting Halifax, one of the most popular day trips is to go to Peggy’s Cove to see the recreated fishing village at the famed lighthouse. But going there will either require your own transportation or you’ll need to join a day tour like this one.
For a more budget-friendly alternative to Peggy’s Cove, we recommend venturing across the Halifax Harbour by ferry and then bus to see Fisherman’s Cove.
There’s no lighthouse here, but you will get to see a restored 200-year-old fishing village full of seafood shacks, artsy boutiques, and fishing boats lining the canal. There’s also a free Heritage Centre to pop into and, of course the fishing village itself is free. So Fisherman’s Cove makes for yet another great thing to do in Halifax on a budget.
8) Explore Halifax Off-the-Beaten-Path: McNabs Island
Cost: Entrance is free, round-trip ferry to McNabs Island: C$20
If you’re planning a visit to Fisherman’s Cove, don’t stop there. This is the perfect opportunity to visit McNabs Island. We find McNabs Island to be one of the most underrated things to do in Halifax. This half-day excursion is highly recommended to anyone who wants to get off the beaten path and inject a little adventure into their Halifax itinerary.
McNabs Island has a sorted history, as it’s been used as a military fort, an amusement park, and it even had its own soda factory operating there at one point. You can still find some of those bottles scattered throughout the island today.
McNabs Island has a well-maintained network of trails that zigzag across what is the largest island in the Halifax Harbour. Those trails will take you to old crumbling forts, scenic cliffs, secluded beaches, and the modern day ruins of former homes that remain on the island today. McNabs Island is a great place to explore that seemingly few people make the effort to venture out to.
Getting to McNabs Island directly from Halifax can be a very pricey proposition since you’re required to charter a boat with a minimum group size. Instead, simply make your way to Fisherman’s Cove where Captain Mike Tilley will give you a lift in his skiff for C$20 round-trip from Fisherman’s Cove to McNabs Island and back. “Captain Red Beard,” as he’s also known, is full of local knowledge about the island and even has some personal ties that he’ll share with you. Be sure to ask questions and get him to tell you some tales.
More info about McNabs Island: here
More info about Captain Mike’s Island Ferry: here
9) How to Visit the Halifax Maritime Museum for Free
Cost: Free on Tuesday evenings, C$10 otherwise
Halifax’s Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is the city’s most popular museum. It contains over 30,000 artifacts. Perhaps most notable is the Titanic exhibit that tells the story of Halifax’s grim role in the recovery efforts. You can see artifacts from the tragic sinking, from wooden deck chairs to morbid body bags.
Yet there is so much maritime curiosity to explore here which goes far beyond that famous unsinkable ship. Those who are really interested in history could easily spend several hours perusing through what is Canada’s largest maritime museum.
Adult admission to the Halifax Maritime Museum is C$9.55. But if you show up on a Tuesday, after 5:00 pm, entry is free! This free admission is only Tuesday evenings, so plan accordingly.
More info: here
10) Climb Citadel Hill for History and Views
For sweeping views of Halifax and the harbor, be sure to go to the top of Citadel Hill. But you’ll find much more atop this military fort than views. The Citadel also packs in loads of Halifax history. Atop the Citadel, you can explore the fort walls and check out the cannons. Try to be here at Noon to experience those cannons being fired!
Another regular occurrence to catch at the Citadel is the changing of the guards. It happens every hour.
Admission was free in 2017 as part of Canada’s 150 celebration. Into 2018 and beyond, the entrance fee still remains reasonable, C$11.70 for adults, making for yet another budget friendly activity to do in Halifax. Prices drop if you visit the Citadel outside of the popular summer season.
More info: here
11) Go to a Free Festival While in Halifax
Halifax has festivals all throughout the year and these events really come to a pinnacle over the summer. It seems that there’s some major event happening in Halifax every single weekend over the summer. Perhaps best of all, for those traveling to Halifax on a budget, most of the festivals are free! Or they at least have a free component.
Perhaps one of the biggest festivals of the year is the Jazz Festival. It does have modest entrance fees for some of the more notable performances. Yet it still maintains many free concerts throughout the four-day annual event. But Sunday is the day to go, because that’s the free day for the Jazz Festival. On Sunday, even the main stage remains complimentary to enter for a jam session.
Halifax’s most popular free annual summer events include:
- Halifax Canada Day (July)
- Halifax Jazz Festival (July)
- Halifax Pride Festival (July)
- Halifax International Busker Festival (August)
- Halifax Natal Day Festival (August)
For an up-to-date listing of upcoming events in Halifax: check here.
12) Take a Stroll Through the Victorian Gardens
The Halifax Public Gardens are one of the finest surviving examples of a Victorian Garden in all of North America.
Be sure wander through the blooming flowers and over the quaint bridges. You’ll stroll past charming ponds, ornate fountains, and you can even find a replica of the Titanic. Perhaps consider pausing for reflection or to indulge in an ice cream cone.
The Halifax Public Gardens are a popular attraction in the summer. Yet it’s a fairly big space in the middle of the city, so you may end up seeing more traffic in the form of ducks rather than people.
While many notable gardens around the world charge hefty entrance fees, Halifax’s Public Gardens are open to the public for free!
More info: here
13) Catch an Outdoor Movie or Play for Free
Cost: Free (by donation)
Every summer in Halifax there are two local outdoor favorites to entertain you. For movie buffs, you can catch an Outdoor Film Experience in the Public Gardens monthly. Favorite Canadian flicks are projected onto a giant inflatable movie screen.
We adored mixing with Halgonians and enjoying some Canadian comedies we’d never heard of. The Grand Seduction, which takes place in Newfoundland, is absolutely hilarious!
Meanwhile, if you prefer to watch acting live on stage, you can attend Shakespeare by the Sea. Shakespearean classics along with other popular theater occurs daily (except Mondays) in Point Pleasant Park. It’s all completely free but charitable donations are encouraged. For an up-to-date schedule, check the calendar here.
More info Outdoor Film Experience: here
More info Shakespeare by the Sea: here
14) Pay Your Respects to the Victims of the Titanic
This is one of the more somber sites in Halifax. The Fairview Lawn Cemetery is notable because it has the grim distinction of being the final resting place of the most Titanic victims.
Survivors rescued from the infamous maritime tragedy were brought to New York City. But the White Star Line had an office in Halifax, which commissioned 3 ships with the task of recovering the victims from the icy waters.
Some were never found, while others were buried at sea. But a total of 209 bodies from the Titanic were hauled back to Halifax. The White Star Line paid for simple gravestones, many of which remain unnamed because they couldn’t be identified.
Today the Titanic section of the Fairview Lawn Cemetery shows a somber yet interesting reality to this port town’s young history. It’s still an active cemetery that’s open to the public, so your respects is the only thing you’ll pay to visit.
15) Go Aboard Canada’s Oldest Warship
While strolling along the Halifax Waterfront, you can go aboard Canada’s oldest warship. It’s the HMCS Sackville, which is the last surviving of 123 corvettes. The Sackville was actually used during WWII and it played a crucial role in winning the Battle of the Atlantic.
Today it is now a museum ship that is a worthwhile detour off the boardwalk. You can climb all throughout the WWII ship, from the bow and down into the engine room to learn about the wartime conditions.
The modest C$5 adult admission makes it a great budget-friendly attraction in Halifax too!
More info: here
16) Check Out Halifax’s Vibrant Street Art
Halifax has a thriving street art scene, so keep your eyes peeled while roaming around town. We appreciate how some of the artists keep true to the city’s maritime theme.
One of the best (and easily accessibly) murals can be found sprawling along the backside of Freak Lunchbox, which is a fun candy store downtown.
Roaming around #Halifax and stumbling across some really cool street art that is keeping true to the city's maratime roots!
To get you started, you can find this mural located here on Google Maps. But wander around Halifax on your own and keep a look out for more. The North End is also a good area to find some creative street art.
17) Why to Visit the Library During a Trip to Halifax
The modern glass structure of the Halifax Central Library is a recent addition to the cityscape, opening in 2014. It’s a good place to visit for any architectural buffs. Inside, you’ll find an Escher-like series of stairs taking you to the top floor. And it’s well worth climbing to the top, whether you’re into architecture or not.
Arguably the best reason to venture over to the Halifax Public Library is for the panoramic views you can find on its top floor. There’s also a café up there. So grab a cup of coffee and gaze out over Halifax’s downtown at those harbor views.
Come here for the architecture, yet stay for the free wifi or simply to take a break from a busy day of sightseeing.
More info: here
18) Find the Drunken Lampposts
If these street lamps look a little tipsy, it’s not just your imagination. They were actually placed on the Halifax waterfront in 2013 as a temporary art installation. But the drunken lampposts were beloved so much that the city decided to keep them as permanent fixtures.
The drunken lampposts have since become a funny little attraction for travelers to seek out in Halifax. They are said to represent “the nakedly honest portraits of unseemly behavours that are often playing out on our own streets after dark.” We think it’s hilarious and shows off city’s quirky side!
Where are the drunken lampposts in Halifax? You can find the drunken lampposts while strolling along the waterfront. They are located on the pier in front of the Bicycle Thief restaurant. Here’s their exact location on Google Maps.
19) For Offbeat Halifax: Look for the Face in the Window
St Paul’s church is the oldest building in Halifax which dates all the way back to 1750, so it’s worth a stop simply for that fact alone. It’s also the oldest Protestant church in Canada.
Yet what makes it particularly interesting is a face that remains forever etched into one of the church’s windows. Reminders of the tragic 1917 explosion, which claimed about 2,000 lives, can be found throughout Halifax. Yet perhaps none are as attention-grabbing as the lingering silhouette that is etched into this old church’s window.
Lore tells of a deacon that happened to be standing perfectly aligned with the window at the time of the explosion and the intense heat left his profile burnt into the glass. His portrait remains in the window today. Hence St Paul’s church makes for a fascinating offbeat sight to visit during a trip to Halifax.
20) See the Iconic Halifax Clock Tower
If you’re walking to or from the Citadel, you must take a moment to check out what has become an iconic landmark to the city: The Halifax Clock Tower. It’s a three-story clock tower that dates back to the early 1800’s and sits at the base of the Citadel.
There’s not a whole lot to it. It’s pretty. It’s a clock tower. And it’s free to visit, making it a great way to conclude this Top 20 list of things to do in Halifax on a budget. So go snap of pic of this famous Halifax landmark as you make your way to the waterfront for some drinks, because that’s what we’re talking about next!
Bonus: Drinking in Halifax on a Budget
Halifax is said to have the most bars per capita of any city in Canada. With such an accolade, drinking IS a thing to do in Halifax!
But beverage prices are not cheap here overall. So drinking your way across the city can be a total budget buster.
Yet with so much fun to be had on a night out in Halifax, don’t put down the glass just yet. Use the money you saved with all the free and cheap things to do in Halifax, to wind down the evening with a few pints on the waterfront. And if you take advantage of happy hours and drink specials, this can really help to extend your beer fund. There’s loads of great local craft beer to try in Halifax, so be prepared to drink up.
Here are some suggestions not only for cheap drinks in Halifax, but also some notable drinking experiences to partake in while in Halifax.
Visit Alexander Keith’s Brewery to Drink While You Tour
This Halifax mainstay is one of the oldest breweries in North America, dating back to 1820. Sure, the operation is now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, but Keith’s has maintained the historic brewing facility that goes back nearly two centuries in Halifax’s history.
It’s a fun brew tour that’s one part history, one part brewing, and one part Nova Scotian tradition, with many opportunities to drink the namesake beer while being toured through the old hallways. You’ll learn just as much about the namesake Scottish brewer that became Halifax’s beloved mayor, as you will the brewing process.
The C$26 price-point is a bit on the higher side for our travel recommendations of things to do in Halifax on a budget. But the tour does include four glasses of different styles of beer, so that certainly helps to justify the cost. Be sure to save your ticket – you can use it to redeem yet another drink at the onsite Red Stag Tavern. Tours occur about every 30 minutes.
Where to Get C$2 Craft Beer
Halifax has a great craft beer scene. But pints of the golden nectar tend to average about C$8 or so. Instead, here’s a brewery you can visit and sip on C$2 tasters.
Go to Garrisons Brewery, near the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market, where they’re pouring a variety of brews from their dozen taps.