Halifax is a perfect mini-vacation destination. Whether you’re going for March Break, a long weekend, or a spur-of-the-moment-let’s-get-outta-town trip, there’s plenty to entertain a family in Halifax. In fact, it’s one of the few destinations we’ve braved with our trio of travelers! Here’s a look at some of our favourite suggestions for things to do in Halifax with little kids. (Please note: This post was written in 2017; some attractions have changed since that time, though many of the places highlighted are still on the must-visit list! For a 2019 look at a weekend in Downtown Halifax with kids, check out this post.)
Plan the Drive
Some of the best parts of a road trip are the adventures along the way. After you enter Nova Scotia, consider taking Exit 4 and head towards the Joggins Fossil Centre. Open from mid-April until late October, this is a great spot to stop along the way. Kids may or may not get excited about the tides and fossils, but they’ll love running along the shoreline. You can also grab a coffee and snack in the Roundhouse Cafe. The cliffs are about an hour drive from Moncton, and two-and-a-half hours to Halifax.
Looking for something a bit more low-key or year-round? Try the Lions Parkland in Oxford (grab a donut and check out the Giant Blueberry, then cross the street for playground time), the Masstown Market (so much to do and amazing eats!), or Victoria Park (a walk to the waterfall makes a great spot for family selfies!) in Truro.
Another option is stopping at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park. About 40 minutes from downtown Halifax, this 40-hectare park is a great place to stretch your legs and visit with more than two dozen types of mammals and up to 65 species of birds. The park is open year-round and children five and under are free.
On to the main attraction — Halifax!
One of our favourite stops has been the Discovery Centre, full of amazing hands-on experiments and experiences. The Centre has been given a make-over and we can’t wait to check out it – it’s bigger and better and it was already fabulous! Check out the Just for Kids section – doesn’t it look inviting? Completely built with kids in mind! It’s open seven days a week. Admission for two adults and two kids is $40 plus tax, and kids two and under are free, making this a great value for your money if you’re exploring the city with little ones.
Halifax has some great museums downtown. One of the best for kids is the Museum of Natural History. Visit Gus the Gopher Tortoise, a museum attraction for more than 65 years. There’s also an impressive whale skeleton, permanent exhibits of snakes, frogs, and sea creatures, and displays dealing with forests and space. If you’re in town on a Tuesday, try to take in the Wee Wild Ones hands-on sessions for kids under 5. A family with two adults and up to four children can enjoy the museum for $17.95; a pretty sweet deal!
Does your little one know Theodore Tugboat? Even if they haven’t seen the show, you’ll want to stop by the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic for their wonderfully kid-friendly exhibit that explores how harbours work. Depending on the time of your visit, you might even manage a tour on Theodore Too! The museum also details the history of Halifax’s role in the Titanic sinking, the Halifax explosion, early shipbuilding, the Navy, and much more. The museum also includes the CSS Acadia, a ship that survived WWI, WWII, and the Halifax explosion. Kids will love getting a chance to explore the boat in the harbour. The museum is open year-round (though it is closed Mondays and Sunday mornings during the off-season) and kids under five are free.
Can’t catch a ride on Theodore? There are other options for harbour tours, including the Harbour Hopper or a pirate cruise, which are sure to delight small folks and adults, too. And if you’re not interested in a guided tour but still want the water experience, don’t forget the Metro Transit ferries between Halifax and Dartmouth! A great way to explore both sides of the harbour, and enough of a ride on the water to excite most little ones.
By the museum is another Halifax favourite for our family: the submarine playground! Our Octonaut-loving kids wouldn’t even leave when it started pouring rain on our last visit!
It doesn’t matter where you go, the kids are going to want to play. Check out our pals at Raising Haligonians for all things toddler-friendly in Halifax; it’s the Pickle Planet of the HRM, full of amazing tips for getting the most out of your trip – and lots of great crafts and activities for littles, too! A few road trip relevant links: Bedford’s DeWolf Playground (a pirate ship built for toddlers), a boat-themed playground on the Dartmouth waterfront, a natural playground at The Dingle (Sir Sanford Fleming Park), and animal-themed adventures.
Hit a cold or rainy day? There are lots of great indoor play spaces to check out. Hop Skip Jump bills itself as Nova Scotia’s largest indoor playground, and every review I’ve heard from parents gives it top marks!
The Play Box looks like another great option for indoor play, located in Dartmouth. Also in Dartmouth is Amazing Land which looks, well, amazing! The Kids Fun Factory is located near Dartmouth Crossing and advertises a drop-off service. Yes, you can leave the kids to play and shop if you’d like!
One of my favourite spots in Halifax is Woozles bookstore, right off Spring Garden Road. The store has been promoting the best in children’s literature for nearly 40 years, so you know these folks can steer you to all the best books for any interests!
I haven’t made it to 4Cats Art Studio yet, but it’s tops on my wish list – and tops on my wish list for a franchise here in Moncton! An art studio with a kid focus? How awesome would that be?!
One of my favourite parts of a weekend away is eating out! Stock up on fun treats at Freak Lunchbox or Sweet Janes, grab a Hand Paddled Ice Cream at Sugah, stroll along the boardwalk to find lots to nibble (on my list: fish tacos), or stop by The Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. You can find lots of guides to the best grub thanks to Destination Halifax. And no trip to the Big City is complete for me without at least one slice of donair pizza!
Where to Stay
This is always a tricky question, in my opinion, because families differ in what they look for in a space. But I want to give a shout out to the Prince George Hotel.
We stayed there in the fall for a family wedding and I was initially terrified. The hotel looks posh and polished and I was sure our three kids (ages 5 and 3 at the time) were going to be out of place and need to be under tight wraps. My mama fears were quickly set aside thanks to the amazing staff who were completely understanding and welcoming. We enjoyed the pool, the outdoor courtyard, the pedway to Scotia Square, room service, and being able to see East Side Marios from our window (honestly, the kids thought is was hilarious and amazing that we could see a place we went to eat – again entirely kid-friendly – from our room). Everything we wanted to see downtown was easy walking distance from the hotel and there was lots of parking in the garage for our trusty minivan.
The Hollis Halifax, a DoubleTree Suites by Hilton, looks like another great choice for traveling with the kids. There’s a family package available, it’s in a great spot downtown, and I even hear they have warm cookies upon arrival!
What are your must-see spots in Halifax? There are so many fabulous things to explore – and so easy to visit again and again. Share your suggestions in the comments!