I would use this to get around: Anything but my own vehicle. Stay downtown so you don’t need to go very far to get to the good stuff and then stick to walking, cabbing or biking. The bus system is decent, but slow as cold molasses running uphill (an East Coast saying courtesy of my grandmother). Driving is a lost cause because the city is old and, thus, full of one-way narrow streets that are kind of a nightmare when it comes to navigation and absolutely humiliating when it comes to parallel parking. Leave it to the professionals.
I would stay here: The Lord Nelson Hotel. First, you will have fun saying the name because it’s pretty much impossible to do so in anything other than a fake English accent. Second, the free bathroom products are Aveda which, alone, are worth close to forty bajillion dollars and smell so delicious I challenge you not to Google map the nearest retail shop and spend next year’s food budget on shampoo. Third and most important, it’s a historic old hotel in a historic old city that’s been tastefully restored and renovated. It’s got the perfect balance of rustic, antique charm and clean, modern style. Beautiful people get married there, it’s that nice.
I would eat here: The Economy Shoe Shop has a great atmosphere and the best nachos in Halifax, if not the entire eastern seaboard. Try to get a seat in the atrium at the back and be prepared to wait if you go on a Friday after work because everyone knows that’s happy hour. Chives is a fantastic spot for local, sustainable and delicious food. If you’re going to get spiffy and splurge a little, this is the spot. I’d also make it a point to get a donair while in Halifax, if I were you. It’s somewhat of a local delicacy, like smoked meat in Montreal or a hot pretzel on the streets of New York: That is to say, it’s not healthy and maybe not even all that delicious, but it’s what you do when in Halifax. Similar to a gyro or a shawarma, a donair is a pita filled with questionable street meat, a few veggies and a boatload of garlic sauce that will keep you company well into the next day. If you really want to roll with the in-crowd, grab a late-night donair from one of the take-out spots on Pizza Corner at the intersection of Blowers and Grafton Streets.
I would drink here: If you’re heading to the Maritimes, be prepared to join in at least a few happy hours and sociables. It’s sort of our thing. A few suggestions: The Lower Deck is right downtown in the Historic Properties and has got the whole fishing-village-pub scene pretty much dialed; the Alexander Keith’s Brewery offers a tour that is as educational as it is inebriating, plus it’s pretty cheap and tons of fun; The Company House is a fantastic live music venue, usually showcasing up-and-coming artists and always offering some sort of drink special. There are oodles of Irish-style pubs in town, but my favourite is still the Split Crow. It’s been around forever and doesn’t feel as contrived to me as some of the others. Finally, if you’ve reeeeeaaaaallllly got your party pants on and want to hit the giv’er switch, the Palace is open until 4am. It’s a dirty dance bar but it serves as an easy and reliable transition between classy evening drinks on the town and sloppy stumble home with donair sauce all over your jacket.
I would do this: Go to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, take a walk in Point Pleasant Park or the Public Gardens and be sure to catch live music somewhere, somehow. Halifax has got some incredible local talent and there’s a great chance the band or artist you catch for $10 at a pub today will be the one winning a Juno Award two years from now and getting interviewed on Q with Jian Gomeshi.
I wouldn’t do this: Go to Halifax during Frosh Week. In fact, most of September is a mess of overindulgence and underacheivement as university students learn to pace themselves so, if I were you, I’d book a visit for some other time.