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Enjoying Halifax like a local; great pubs, shopping spots and things to do

This story originally appeared on Postmedia and Sun Media websites in Canada…

HALIFAX – This is one of the great cities of Canada; a vibrant but super-friendly spot where people aren’t in a rush and where drivers stop to let crazed Torontonians jaywalk across a busy street at rush hour. You’ll also find a wonderful waterfront, terrific food and trendy neighbourhoods to explore in a city that’s seeing a big boom in downtown condos.

The East Coast Salad at 2 Doors Down. JIM BYERS PHOTO

DINING 2 Doors Down is owned by the same folks who run the popular Chives restaurant. It’s modern and airy but also cozy, with lots of wood and deep orange accents. The East Coast Salad is outstanding; local greens, Nova Scotia peaches, goat cheese, toasted coconut, radishes and a golden beet vinaigrette. Excellent fish tacos, too. Over in super-trendy Dartmouth (take he ferry for $2.50), The Canteen has brilliant white and yellow décor that’s as bright and shiny as a fresh Bluenose dime. Try the “crobster” roll, with lobster and crab on a toasted bun, served with a simple but excellent salad of arugula with lemon vinaigrette. I didn’t have time to try one, but they say the nearby coffee shop Two If By Sea has killer chocolate croissants. Over in the emerging North End, Agricola Street Brasserie has exposed wood ceilings in what feels like an old warehouse. They make tasty and crispy samosas as well as fabulous scallops sprinkled with a bit of smoked seaweed and toasted sesame seeds. A very cool, hip spot.

DRINKING I don’t want to stereotype an entire city, but this is a town that loves its pubs and bars. Having a half-gazillion students in town nine months a year probably helps. The Lower Deck is a famous waterfront spot for live music and rollicking good times. On Barrington Street, Bearly’s is more of a local spot, billed as a blues and ribs joint with good craft beers and excellent karaoke. A little further north on Barrington, Stillwell is a popular beer bar. Gahan House Harbourfront has one of Canada’s top patios, with excellent harbour views. You can always do the Aexander Keith’s Brewery Tour, but better yet try a craft beer from 2 Crows or Good Robot. If you need a wake-up, Trident Café on Hollis St. doubles as a coffee shop and book store, with old-style chairs, black-and-white tile floors, oodles of dark wood and more warmth than a handmade Nova Scotia sweater.

Biscuit General Store is one of my favourite shops in Canada. JIM BYERS PHOTO

SHOPPING Biscuit General Store on Argyle Street is a quirky, cheeky spot that has clothing for sale in the back and odd books, home décor items and knick-knacks up front. You can buy everything from harmonicas to “Bad Girls Throughout History” note pads. Spring Garden Avenue features a great number of chain stores but also some nice independent places, including Mahone Bay Trading for shoes. Duck around the corner onto Queen Street for consignment and vintage specials in a series of colourful shops, including Put Me On. http://putmeonconsignment.yolasite.com/ On Grafton Street, Black Market Boutique has Asian-inspired jewelry, colourful wooden toys and much more. Dartmouth has a growing number of hip spots. New Scotland Yard has a great record and CD shop in a building that also houses a coffee shop and a barter/hair styling spot. You might find Halifax singer Joel Plaskett hanging out here. Around the corner is Kept, a lovely home décor and gift shop with candles, cocktail guides, kids’ books and beach-themed items.

Halifax has one of the prettiest waterfronts in Canada. JIM BYERS PHOTO

DOING Halifax Public Gardens is one of the finest public spaces in the country, with pretty ponds, towering trees and luscious flower displays in season. It’s only an hour or so from Halifax to the Nova Scotia wine region near Wolfville. The province’s wines are vastly improved in the past few years and consistently win major awards. Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards makes tasty wine and has a beautiful tasting room. In better weather, locals head out to Lawrencetown Beach Provincial Park (not far from Sidney Crosby’s boyhood home in Cole Harbour) for great surfing and beach picnics. Another great activity is a Segway tour along the waterfront with Segway Nova Scotia. The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 tells marvellous stories about how future Canadians arrived in the country under trying conditions. Oh, yeah, there’s also a pretty famous lighthouse down the road at a spot called Peggy’s Cove.

SLEEPING The Westin Nova Scotian is a classic down near the harbour, with nice, modern rooms, good food and a comedy club on the main floor. The Halliburton is a beautiful boutique hotel that used to house the law school for Dalhousie University. Look for unique rooms and a lovely breakfast.

MORE INFO: www.destinationhalifax.com

Email: jim@jimbyerstravel.com
Twitter: @jimbyerstravel
Instagram: @jimbyerstravel1

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