After extensively exploring Halifax over the summer, we found Nova Scotia’s capital to not only be such a great base to explore the province, but Halifax is a really fun travel destination onto itself! Halifax delivers a perfect package for travel in Canada, boasting its unique maritime culture, the friendly Halgonians who live here, the weekly festivals, amazing summer weather, the abundant park space, the booming craft beer scene, delicious seafood, and the vibrant waterfront. This city is awesome and there are so many fun things to do in Halifax!
Yet one aspect 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 while spending the summer here and were ultimately delighted to discover that Halifax can be a particularly budget-friendly place to travel to. We almost couldn’t believe just how many free things to do in Halifax there are! Meanwhile we also found that hotels in Halifax are way less expensive here in comparison to other popular Canadian destinations. Even flights to Halifax are cheap right now too!
Add to that many Halifax 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 are similarly expensive. But there are ways to instead ply the harbor for just a few dollars and even all-you-can-eat lobster dinners for under $10! You can also enjoy free canoe rentals, $2 beers, and even centrally located places to stay for under $50 per night!
It is possible to travel to Halifax on a budget and we’re here to show you how! This detailed Halifax travel guide reveals all of our money-saving tips to help you enjoy all the best things to do in Halifax on any 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 things to do in Halifax. 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, 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.
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 very popular thing to in Halifax on nice summer days. Canoes do get rented-out completely and you may come to St Mary’s Boat Club to find a long queue of Halgonians waiting to paddle. 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.
Halifax Recreation Website: Official Website
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 farmers’ 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 Farmers’ Market. This one is open every day of the week, although it seems particularly happening on weekends. 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.
Historic Farmers’ Market (Saturday only): Official Website
Seaport Farmers’ Market (everyday): Official Website
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!
Hiking or biking around Point Pleasant is a fun thing to do in Halifax for those who are looking to get active within the city!
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 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.
Taking a few spins around the Emera Oval can is one of the fun things to do in Halifax for families, as kids love it. (But so do we.)
Halifax Recreation Website: Official Website
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 C$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.
Whether by ferry (on the cheap) or a proper tour, taking a boat trip into the Harbour is one of the “must” things to do for any visitor to Halifax.
Halifax Transit Website: Official Website
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 an hours’s drive with 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 one of the many great things to do in Halifax, on any 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.
Friends of McNabs Island: Official Website
Captain Mike’s McNabs Island Ferry: Official Website
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 the alluring, like a wooden deck chair, to the morbid, such as a body bag.
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.
Halifax Maritime Museum: Official Website
The Maritime Museum and Halifax’s other museums are good ideas for things to do in Halifax on a rainy day. So here are some more Halifax museum suggestions and ways to save!
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. At 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.
Parks Canada Halifax Citadel: Official Website
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)
Destination Halifax Events Page Listings: Official Website
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! So while walking around this city on a nice summer day, be sure to stroll through these gardens which makes a great free thing to do in Halifax.
Friends of Halifax Public Gardens: Official Website
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 the 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, a move that 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.
Outdoor Film Experience: Official Website
Shakespeare by the Sea: Official Website
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 the victims 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.
A visit to the Fairview Lawn Cemetery is among one of the sadder things to do in Halifax, but it’s an interesting sight to experience Halifax’s role in this tragic event.
15) Go Aboard Canada’s Oldest Warship
While strolling along the Halifax Waterfront, you can climb 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 explore 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!
HMCS Sackville: Official Website
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 accessible) murals can be found sprawling along the backside of Freak Lunchbox, which is a fun candy store located downtown.
To get you started on your street art pursuits, you can find this mural located here on Google Maps. But be sure to 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 ascending, 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.
The library makes an interesting thing to do in Halifax for its unique architecture. So come to see that, but stay for the free wifi or simply to take a break from a busy day of sightseeing in Halifax.
Halifax Central Library: Official Website
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 in the next section of the Halifax travel guide!
Bonus: Take the Free Walking Tour
Cost: Free (donations welcomed)
The city of Halifax boasts a free walking tour that provides a wonderful overview of the city. It’s a great thing to do in Halifax on your first day in the city to help get your bearings while also learning more about the history and culture of the city. The Halifax free walking tour departs from the pedestrian entrance of the Halifax Citadel at 10:00 am and 3:00 pm, every day during summer months.
For more info: see here.
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 tip back a few.
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 Farmers’ Market, where they’re pouring a variety of brews from their dozen taps.
Okay, so these C$2 beers are only 4 ounces each. But at that price, grab a few at a time. Many of them pack a high ABV too. We recommend the 8% Juicy Double IPA if they have this specialty beer on tap and you like hops.
Have a Drink During the Tradition of a Ceilidh
One Nova Scotia drinking tradition is attending a cèilidh, which is a party of Gaelic folk music and dancing. Nova Scotia is Latin for “New Scotland,” after all. And it’s during a cèilidh that Halifax’s Scottish roots shine brightest.
Arguably one of the best places to catch a cèilidh is at Durty Nelly’s on Thursday nights at 8:30. (Check their event calendar to confirm up-to-date times.)
Kitchen Ceilidh, as it’s known here, is a free weekly event, so it’s a great thing to do in Halifax on a budget. Just pony up to the bar for a pint while enjoying the live Gaelic music. Drinks are priced fairly too. Beers start at C$5.25.
Where To Get the Cheapest Pitcher of Beer in Halifax:
By local law, the least expensive that establishments are allowed to sell pitchers of beer in Halifax C$10. And we’ve found two places that do just that, all day, every day.
The Oasis Pub pours one of the cheapest pitcher of beer in town. This sports pub offers C$10 pitchers of Bud, all day, everyday. It’s also the oldest tavern in Halifax. So if not for cheap pitchers, you can give yourself the excuse of going for “historic purposes.” The bar’s dark basement location isn’t the most atmospheric during a beautiful summer day. …but C$10 pitchers! For added value, go to Oasis Pub on Wednesdays for wing night when wings are C$0.45.
A newcomer that just opened in late 2017 is Orso Pub & Grill. They have a generous promotion of $10 pitchers of Keith’s. This bear themed pub boasts an nice outdoor patio with great views of Citadel Hill and the Old Town Clock. Orso may just be the most scenic non-waterfront location in Halifax to drink cheap beer!
Join the Students for Power Hour
The Split Crow attracts many university students by luring them in with C$2.50 Molsons on Thursdays 9-10 and Saturdays 4:30-5:30. Come join the youth for power hour during this Halifax tradition.
Get a Free T-Shirt for Drinking at Halifax’s Breweries!
We love the Good Cheer Trail Passport Program! This passport can be used to discover local breweries, wineries, cideries, and distilleries all throughout the province of Nova Scotia. You can pick-up your passport at any of the participating drinkeries or use their online app. Once you collect a stamp from 10 different places, you can redeem your Good Cheer Trail Passport for a t-shirt to commemorate your drinking accomplishment!
You can easily collect 10 stamps right in Halifax. On the Halifax peninsula, there are seven participating breweries, one cidery, and one distillery. That only adds up to nine, but if you cross the Halifax Harbour, you can collect stamp #10 at a brewery that is conveniently located in close proximity to where you turn in your Good Cheer Trail Passport.
We can tell you from personal experience that this is a fun pursuit. Yes, drink costs may add up. But be strategic and spread out your drinking over your entire trip to Halifax. This will be a good move for your wallet and your liver.
Our favorite? Oh, that’s a really tough because they all have lots of appeal. But if you pressed us hard, we’d say Good Robot, Two Crows, and Gahan House round out our Top 3. But try ‘em yourself and tell us which ones you like best!
Good Cheer Trail Passport: Official Website
Patio Drinking in Halifax
During the summer months, Halgonians and visitors alike love drinking on a sunny patio. There’s nearly a sport to patio drinking in Halifax and it’s become a hardened summertime tradition in this city.
The Stubborn Goat is a perennial favorite on the waterfront. We love it too for the local beers and the open-air wooden seating. But our wallet seems to disagree with our favorable opinion of these patios, as drinks run about C$10+ and beers are about C$8.
Instead, our favorite patio in Halifax to drink on the cheap is: Stone’s Throw. This new patio bar (2017) is in a primo location, directly on the Halifax waterfront. But perhaps best of all, every day of the week, they offer local Nova Scotia craft beer for C$5 (including tax) for a generous 16 oz. pour.
And while neighboring patio bars get very crowded on sunny days, Stone’s Throw always seems to have a seat available overlooking the harbor even during this fantastic happy hour deal. Perhaps it’s because it’s new and word hasn’t spread yet. The patio bar is hidden in plain sight, as it’s part of the Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. We highly recommend Stone’s Throw for inexpensive pre-dinner craft beer on the waterfront.
Happy Hour in Halifax
Speaking of happy hours, there are many happy hours occurring at the bars and pubs all throughout Halifax. Stone’s Throw is our favorite. But there are many more happy hours to discover throughout town. The best way to find happy hours in Halifax is simply being observant of chalkboards and posters as you roam around the city.
Yet if you’re looking for a few suggestions, check this round-up. It’s from 2015, so the listicle has become a bit dated since specials change. But it’s a good starting point to check out and it’s the most comprehensive Halifax happy hour list that we’ve come across.
Eating in Halifax on a Budget
Halifax has some truly world-class seafood restaurants. They also come with world-class prices, so you won’t find any of them in this travel guide to Halifax on a budget. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still eat well in Halifax.
There are plenty of cheap eats to enjoy here! And you can still enjoy some of finer places in Halifax. Weekly specials and promotions provide for some very affordable options to sample the local seafood.
There’s a Happy Hour for Oysters Too!
Happy hour isn’t just for drinks in Halifax. There are happy hours for oysters too!
Nova Scotia is known for it’s oysters, so be sure to try some freshly-shucked half shells while you’re in Halifax. Our favorite oyster deal is the daily oyster happy hour at one of Halifax’s most highly regarded seafood restaurants, Five Fishermen. Go to the restaurant’s outdoor patio and oyster bar, known as the Little Fish.
From 4:00-6:30 the oyster happy hour includes 6 local fresh-shucked oysters and a 12 oz. beer or 5 oz. wine, for C$15. The only downside to this Halifax oyster deal is that after the first serving, you’re going to want to stay for several more rounds!
More info: here.
Try the Official Food of Halifax: The Donair
The Halifax Donair has been proclaimed the official food of Halifax. And lucky for budget-conscious visitors to the city, the Halifax Donair makes for an inexpensive meal to try while in town.
It may look like a typical Turkish doner kebab, but here in Halifax donairs have taken on their own identity. A large pita is stuffed with shaved spiced beef, rather than lamb or other doner meat. But what really makes it a “Halifax donair” is the “donair sauce.”
A concoction of condensed milk, sugar, garlic, and vinegar is what gives a Halifax Donair their distinction. As the story goes, it was 1973 when a Greek immigrant adjusted his recipe to local tastes by using beef and developing the signature sauce. A Halifax donair is completed with diced tomato and onion, and with that white sauce dripping everywhere.
Nearly 45 years later, there are now donair shops all over the city. But his “King of Donair” shop is still in Halifax. So go there to try this deliciously messy meal. Just grab some extra napkins!
King of Donair: Official Website
Where to Find All-You-Can-Eat Lobster for C$10
Yes, this really exists. For the past few years each summer, Casino Nova Scotia in downtown Halifax has offered an all-you-can-eat lobster and prime rib dinner for a mere C$10. We were skeptical and went there to investigate “what’s the catch?”
Turns out, there isn’t too much of a catch at all. You must sign up for the casino’s “Player’s Club,” which is free and only takes about one minute to complete the paperwork. No gambling is required.
The only other catch is that with such a crazy promotion, there is quite the wait for a table. When we got there around 5:00, wait times were already nearly two hours! You’re given a pager though, so you don’t have to queue up. So instead of waiting amongst the buzzing slot machines, we recommend using that time to take a stroll along the waterfront and perhaps having a pre-dinner drink along the harbor. Stone’s Throw happy hour is, well, just a stone’s throw away.
So if you have the patience for this deal, we found it to be well worth the wait. We were happy with the lobster and our waitress kept the tails promptly coming to our table. When asked, she told us they aren’t locally caught lobster. But at C$10 for all-you-can-eat lobster, who cares! They tasted great to us and the prime rib was pretty good too.
Note: The casino’s dining promotions are always changing and at time of writing this lobster deal is no longer being offer. But check the casino’s promotions page and hopefully you’ll see this deal come back for summer 2018!
Where to Get $3 Steak Dinners, $3 Mussels, and More!
For an inexpensive dinner out, Maxwell’s Plum became our go-to. Every night of the week, they have a different dinner special.
But without question, the best specials are
(1) the Tuesday night special – C$2.99 steak dinner with fries
(2) the Sunday night special – C$2.99 for 1 lb. of island blue mussels
The only catch here is these deals require a drink purchase. No problem! Beers start at C$4.99 for a 12 oz. mug of Dos Equis. So for C$8 you can have steak, fries, and a frosty mug of cerveza. And Maxwell’s Plum does have drink specials too. We highly recommend the local Boxing Rock Vicar’s Cross Double IPA to pair with your mussels on Sunday when the price for mugs drops to C$5.99.
Maxwell’s Plum daily specials: Official Website
Dinner Specials in Halifax
We thought Maxwell’s Plum had the best dinner specials in all of Halifax. But there are many more out there for the taking, with dinner deals on different nights of the week.
It can be difficult to track down all of these weekly promotions. Yet someone took the time to list many of Halifax’s restaurant specials – check them here. It may not be entirely inclusive of all specials throughout HRM, as there are many and they’re always changing. But this is definitely the best we’ve seen listed on web. We referenced it regularly to score many restaurant deals in Halifax. Thanks Jeff!
A Halifax Budget Meal for Local Seafood: Fish & Chips
Fish & chips shops across Halifax make for a casual and budget-friendly place to try the local fish. Fish & chips is fairly commonplace throughout Nova Scotia, perhaps a nod to the province’s British roots. The fish used here is always local haddock, a type of cod, which is abundant in the cool & clean Atlantic waters offshore. The mild white fish makes for some particularly awesome fish & chips!
Across the Halifax Harbour in Dartmouth, you can find what Canadian Living deemed as the “Best Fish & Chips in Canada.” It’s at a little unassuming place called John’s Lunch. This Halifax institution coats their haddock with a homemade batter, mixed fresh every morning, then fried to a crisp golden perfection. And we must concur with Canadian Living, as it’s definitely the best fish & chips we’ve had during our summer in Canada!
An easy money-saving tip for couples traveling to Halifax is to split a 3-piece fish & chips, which usually contains plenty of greasy fried deliciousness for two people to share. Rather than ordering a 1-piece + 2-piece meal separately, the 3-piece meal will instead save you at least C$5.
John’s Lunch: Official Website
Budget-Friendly Canadian Snacks at the Waterfront:
After you’ve gotten your fill of poutine, there are a few other local snacks to try while wandering around the Halifax waterfront.
Cows Creamery is known to have the best ice cream in Canada and is often listed as having the best ice cream in the world. It’s a staple in the neighboring province of PEI, but two of Cows Creamery’s 12 locations are actually located directly on Halifax’s waterfront. Scoops start at C$4, so it’s not particularly cheap. But we think it’s totally worth it and lives up to the hype.
BeaverTails are a snack food that originated in Ottawa and quickly spread across all of Canada. So you can now find this flattened fried dough at a kiosk along the Halifax boardwalk. They’re shaped like (you guessed it) beaver tails, and covered with cinnamon & sugar. If that’s not sweet enough, you can choose to have it loaded up with an assortment of other sugary toppings, from a maple spread to Nutella. BeaverTails start at about C$5.
Poutine If you’re visiting Halifax from outside the country, you must try Canada’s national dish – poutine. It’s an economical snack/meal/gut bomb. For the uninitiated, poutine is a delicious concoction of french fries covered in cheese curds and brown gravy.
Smoke’s Poutinery is a Canadian poutine franchise that has a kiosk in a central location on the Halifax waterfront. Yet locals in Halifax point to Willy’s Fresh Cut as the best poutine in town. We visited, devoured, and concur. Prices range from $6.00 for a small to $9.50 for a large. But you’ll have to step a few blocks away from the water. Willy’s is located at Pizza Corner.
Stumble onto Pizza Corner in Halifax
This notable cross street in Halifax has gained nearly landmark status for its cheap eats. At the intersection of Blowers and Grafton Street is where you can find a wide assortment of pizza slices, donairs, and poutine among other artery-clogging cheap meals. Pizza Corner was the original location of the King of Donair, credited with creating what is now the official food of Halifax.
But really Pizza Corner is a place to stumble onto after a night of drinking in Halifax. Although most popular in the late-night hours, Pizza Corner can also make for some economical eating options at any time of the day.
Where to Stay in Halifax on a Budget:
Accommodation in Halifax can get pricey. But this city still has some of the cheapest room rates among popular destinations in Canada. For perspective, take a look at average hotel rates for the top 15 most popular Canadian destinations and see how Halifax stacks up.
Halifax is among the lowest on the chart, with an average hotel rate of $184 for 2016.
To get the best rate on accommodation in Halifax, it’s very important to book as early as possible. During the popular summer season, hotels regularly sell out even months in advance. So book as soon as you can. Meanwhile prices are often slashed in the off-season when hotels have an excess inventory of rooms. That’s when you can get the best hotel deals in Halifax.
But let’s focus on summer hotel rates, since that’s when most people travel to Halifax. To help you secure the best rates, we’ve included affiliate links to HotelsCombined, which automatically searches and compares the rates of all the major booking sites (Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline, Booking, etc).
Go Back to School to Stay in Halifax for Cheap!
During the summer throughout the Maritimes, many of the universities here operate the empty dorm rooms like hotels. It makes for a great budget-option to consider. We stayed on a few different campuses while road tripping across Nova Scotia and had great experiences. It’s fun for short stays and it’s a great way to save your travel funds for more important things, like beer and lobster! Private rooms at Dalhousie University start at C$68 per night, which includes access to campus perks such as the swimming pool, kitchen, laundry facilities, and more.
The Cheapest Hotel in Halifax?
The Commons Inn: If you’d prefer to stay in a hotel and have a private bathroom, the Commons Inn regularly has summertime rates under C$100 per night including breakfast. Don’t expect the Ritz when it comes to quality. This isn’t the nicest room in Halifax, but it’s usually among the cheapest. And we think it’s perfectly adequate for a good night’s sleep and well worth the price.
Budget-Friendly Midrange Options
Garden South Park Inn: For a bit more comfort and an even more central location, near the Public Gardens, try the lovely rooms at the Garden South Park Inn.
Chebucto Inn: This traditional roadside motel is a good economical option only for those with their own vehicle, as it’s a bit far to walk to most of Halifax’s attractions from the North End location.
4-Star Hotels with Excellent Value!
If you desire a bit more luxury, most 4-star hotels can easily run upwards of C$500 during peak summer months. But we found two 4-star hotels with summer rates regularly under C$200!
The Atlantica Hotel is known for its large rooms and friendly staff. It’s located a bit of a walk (20 minutes) to the waterfront, yet it’s a very pleasant stroll through downtown and is only steps from the Citadel and the Emera Oval.
The Lord Nelson Hotel & Suites has stylish rooms and a very central location that’s close to nearly all of Halifax’s main attractions.
Or Stay Local with Airbnb
Another option to consider for low-cost accommodation in Halifax is using Airbnb. You can rent out entire houses and apartments all to yourself. Or you can stay in someone’s spare room.
We particularly recommend Airbnb for lengthier stays in Halifax, as many hosts offer discounted rates when you stay 7-days or longer and even deeper discounts for 28+ day stays. That’s what we did, and we scored a fantastic basement apartment for what amounted to about US$42 per night! (Note: this exact apartment is no longer listed on Airbnb, but there are plenty of other great pads in the city.)
If you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can get $40-off your first stay by simply using this referral link!
More Halifax Travel Tips
Here’s a few more travel tips to help you explore Halifax!
Not from Canada, eh?
You need travel insurance! While Halifax is a very safe travel destination, accidents can occur. If you’re visiting Canada from the US, be sure you have medical coverage while within the country. If not, you won’t be covered by Canada’s health care system. Medical costs will be outrageous should an unforeseen accident occur. That medical coverage is an absolute must, but travel insurance will also cover other mishaps like trip cancelation and lost luggage, which can also be assuring to have. For Americans visiting Canada, we recommend RoamRight travel insurance which contains the medical coverage you need to have while traveling in Canada.
Cheap Flights to Halifax
Halifax is well connected by flights from the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. Air Canada and WestJet have numerous flights throughout Canada which makes for convenient connections elsewhere. We’ve found some flights around $300 and less for roundtrip, from US locations such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and Orlando. Search around.
We found some of the best fares into Halifax by using Skyscanner, which has some very flexible filters and search functionalities to play with. So get creative with your flight searches and be sure to book at least 3 weeks out (or more) to secure a low fare.
The Cheap Way to Get from the Airport to Downtown Halifax
The Halifax Airport is located 35 kilometers (22 miles) away from downtown, so it takes over a half hour to get get into town. There’s no Uber or Lyft in Halifax, and a taxi will cost you a flat rate of C$63. Don’t do that!
Use the bus: Instead, there are direct buses that leave every 30-60 minutes and will drop you off in Scotia Square, right in the heart of downtown Halifax. The cost is only C$3.50, so it’s quite the savings over taking a taxi! It’s the #350 MetroX and you can find all the timetable and route info: here.
Cheap door-to-door car service: If your flight gets in late or you simply prefer direct door-to-door service, you can have a car waiting for you at about half the price of a taxi! Driver Dave’s will pick you up from the Halifax airport and drop you off downtown for $20-$35 per person. (Prices vary based on number of people.) After public transport, there is no cheaper way to get from the airport to Halifax. We personally used Driver Dave’s and our airport pick-up went off without a hitch. Rates and more info: here.
Getting around Halifax on a Budget
There is no Uber or Lyft in Halifax, so don’t come here expecting to rely on a ride share service to get around. But thankfully, Halifax is a very walkable city. Most all the attractions, restaurants, and bars that we’ve mentioned throughout this guide can be walked to. Be sure to pack a pair of comfortable shoes!
If your feet get tired while walking around downtown, consider taking Hali the Road Train. It’s a free (donation-based) trolley that makes a short loop around the Waterfront area, only during summer months. More: here.
Using Halifax’s buses is yet another inexpensive way to get around town. They’re frequent and easy-to-use. Yet we usually found them unnecessary since walking in the summer weather seemed to almost always make for a more pleasant alternative to sitting on a bus.
Halifax Transit bus routes and maps: Official Website
Use Cheap Rental Cars for Day Trips from Halifax
There’s no need to rent a car to get around Halifax itself. In fact, it may even be a burden to find parking. Yet Halifax makes a great central base to explore much of Nova Scotia.
Car rentals from Halifax can be a great way to access places like:
- the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse,
- the record-breaking Bay of Fundy tides,
- the UNESCO-listed town of Lunenburg,
- the Annapolis Valley wineries, or
- even to go Tidal Bore Rafting on the Most Extreme Tides in the World!
We found rental cars to be surprisingly inexpensive in Halifax, with rates as low as C$40 per day for an economy car. Most of the big rental agencies have locations in downtown Halifax (Hertz, Avis, Budget, Alamo, etc.). Often rental car prices were cheaper from those downtown locations compared to picking up a rental car at the airport.
We scoured through all the main booking sites and even got quotes from agencies directly. In doing so, we found the best rental car rates in Halifax by searching on Priceline. Book your rental car as early as possible, because these also become sold out during popular summer days.
Things To Do in Halifax on a Budget
We hope that this post has helped shown that it is very possible to enjoy Halifax on a budget. It’s a wonderful city that has proven to be one of our favorite lengthy stays while traveling all over the world. We fell in love with Halifax while roaming around the city over the summer.
If this post has helped you plan a trip to Halifax on a budget, please let us know in the comments below. Or if you have been to this fun Canadian city and have your own travel tips or suggestions for things to do in Halifax – let us know too!
Happy travels to beautiful Nova Scotia!