Halifax, Nova Scotia is a maritime city with considerable international claim to fame for its size and location.
It is the city of the
Halifax Explosion in 1917. It is the city that answered the distress calls from the Titanic in 1912. It is a city located on one of the largest natural harbours in the world, and as such is a yearly venue for the Tall Ships Festival, a majestic parade of sail celebrating the Atlantic tradition that is so evident everywhere you look. But it is also just a great day out for the family! If you have 24 hours, but you need a vacation, look no further!
Coming to Nova Scotia from Prince Edward Island on the ferry is a magical nostalgic trip for those of us who remember that being the only way off the Island. And for the kids, it's just plain magical. How can they fit all these cars on a boat? Why doesn't the boat sink from the weight?
Sitting out in the sun on the deck looking for dolphins in the vast expanse of blue is second only to getting a world-famous Cow's ice cream right there on the boat! For us, it is also a great break from the driving, where kids can run off some of that car-seat energy.
And once back on the road, when we need yet another break, right on the 102 only an hour out of Halifax, Truro is home to the fabulous Victoria Park which is well sign-posted when we get off the highway. Here, there are playgrounds and a splash pad for kids, but better still, easily accessible hikes in the forest leading to quite spectacular water falls (where you can get wet, apparently!).
Back on the road within an hour, we arrive at the lovely Best Western Chocolate Lake, a fantastic deal compared to other similar hotels downtown, and
only five minutes from the hub of the city at Quinpool and Robie. The hotel has a great pool and gym, offers free parking and a free breakfast, and has rooms with two Queen beds that can house our family of five quite nicely.
The best part, though, is the view. Instead of the usual parking lots, building roofs, and brick walls, many of the rooms overlook the very picturesque Chocolate Lake.
A quick dip in the pool, and then it's off to Montana's for supper. Yes, it's a franchise much the same as many, I suppose, but the moose heads mounted on the walls, the real log piles outside, the brown paper table cloths (with crayons!) and the great service make it a family favourite.
The next morning, another swim, a great cooked breakfast, and it's off to the Museum of Natural History, which has some great new exhibits - a permanent one including lots of live reptile specimens (Gus, the tortoise, is 80 some years old!), and for fans of movie memorabilia, the current temporary exhibit has original costumes from movies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Batman. Very cool.
After a thorough exploration of the museum, we are off to the Public Gardens for a stroll where the kids are pretty sure they spot Mother Goose (as well as a beautiful pair of swans and lots of other bird-life). We have lunch in the fabulous little Uncommon Grounds café right there in the Gardens (amazing home-made soup and sandwiches). And there's just time for a stroll down Spring Garden Road for a bit of window shopping, and a smoothie at the infamous Pete's Frootique, where we also stock up on British treats, fresh fruit and pastries to get us through the rest of the day. And it's off home to PEI - 24 hours of vacation that felt like a three-day weekend at the very least!
Jane Hastelow is a former high school English teacher currently working as a Secondary Curriculum Coach in PEI, Canada. She has a Masters in Communication Studies from Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, and loves to combine her love of writing with her love of travel.