Need a Cheap Vacation? Here’s Why You Should Add Halifax to Your List

two people riding bikes on a boardwalk
A couple rides bikes on the Halifax Boardwalk on a sunny day. Photo courtesy of Celtic Colors

It’s always great to find deals on vacations, but what if everything on that trip was another 25% off?

The Canadian dollar is currently equal to 75 cents in America. This means a big built-in discount for U.S. residents traveling to Canada. And you can really stretch your buck in the Nova Scotia capital of Halifax, where prices are very reasonable to begin with.

For example, I stayed at the luxurious Lord Nelson Hotel in Halifax;a room in this historic building can cost $200 a night Canadian, but it’s only $150 in U.S. dollars.

And I also had a delicious meal at Five Fishermen that would normally be out of my price range, but I could swing it with the built-in U.S. dollar-to-Canadian dollar conversion discount. (I would have saved even more if I went to the three course Sunset Menu, which is only $26.25 after the conversion.)

The savings from the hotel allowed me to take a sightseeing tour with Ambassatours, which cost even less than the meal.

Halifax has plenty to see, eat and do on the cheap. Here are a few I experienced on my trip.

Free Sites Well Worth Seeing

Skip the guided tour if you are on a tight budget —Halifax has plenty to do for free.

If your schedule is flexible, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is free on Thursday evenings, and admission to the Museum of Natural History is by donation  on Wednesday evenings.

The Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum has a suggested donation, but admission is free every day. Admission is also free at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, where the largest number of Titanic Victims are buried.

The Citadel is free through the end of 2017 as part of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. The hilltop location provides a view of the Halifax Harbour while you learn about the soldiers who worked in this fort. You can also see the guards dressed just as they are at Buckingham Palace in London.

Soldiers in a line
Guards stand at The Citadel in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Photo courtesy of Tourism Nova Scotia

The Halifax Public Gardens is free to enter, and Friends of the Public Gardens offer complimentary horticultural and historic tours.

For sports lovers, the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame does not charge admission to explore the best in the region’s athletes, including hockey player Sidney Crosby, Olympic figure skater Rob McCall and gymnast Ellie Black.

St. Paul’s Anglican Church, the oldest building in Halifax, founded by King George II in 1749, has free guided tours all summer and self-directed tours after August 31st.

Four university art galleries, the Dalhousie, the Anna Leonowens, the Saint Mary’s and the Mount St. Vincent University Art Gallery have no entry fee to see the exhibits of Canadian art.

Affordable Food and Drink

Nova Scotia lobster and salmon are just a few of the treats from the sea you’ll find to eat in Halifax. One of the most popular dishes, fish and chips,  goes with the region’s English heritage.

John’s Lunch, a small no-frills restaurant in Dartmouth, was named 2017 Best Fish and Chips in Halifax in  The Coast Reader’s Choice Awards. It had also received Canadian Living’s Best Fish and Chips in 2016. You can purchase one large piece with French fries and tartar sauce for $7.25.

The runner-up for Best Fish and Chips at The Coast, Fries & Co, offers a seafood sampler. It’s big enough for at least two to share and you can get it to go for the ultimate picnic.  For $23.99 you receive: large shrimp, crab and jalapeño poppers, calamari fire cracker, calamari peppercorn, haddock nibs, large clam strips, coleslaw and chips.

My daughter enjoyed every seafood imaginable while we were in there.  I myself am allergic to fish but found many of other budget-friendly meals in Halifax.

Casino Nova Scotia has an all-you-can-eat 3Sixty Buffet that has a different theme each day for $9.99.

Other local restaurants have daily specials: Maxwell’s Plum has $1.99 grilled cheese and fries on Mondays; Your Father’s Moustache offers 50-cent wings on Thursdays evenings; and The Fickle Frog Pub sells $2 tacos on Tuesdays.

Cheap and Free Activities

After all that food, you’ll want to get some exercise — Halifax offers many scenic areas to do just that.

Climb Citadel Hill and watch a sunrise at the Old Town Clock, a favorite spot of locals.

Skating at the Emera Oval is a popular pastime here. It’s used year-round, with free rollerblade rentals in the summer and ice skating in the winter.

Take a walk through English history at Point Pleasant Park, where St. Aspinquid’s Chapel was built in the 17th century and was the site of a battle during the French and Indian War. Additional structures in the park, including the Prince of Wales Tower and Fort Ogilvie, were constructed in the 18th century.

Hike the Sir Sanford Fleming Park, named after the creator of Standard Time Zones. The 95 acres include trails, a beach, and woodlands.

a landscape view of Sir Sandford Fleming Park
Sir Sanford Fleming Park is a destination for hiking through woodlands and beach areas. Photo courtesy of Discover Halifax

Follow the locals to Chocolate Lake, aptly named since it was originally the site of a chocolate factory. Swim the manmade lake or play on the tennis courts at the beach.

You can add even more to your discount by taking advantage of Groupon’s Halifax page and restaurants, hotels and activities on Living Social. Before you go you should also subscribe to Coastmark and Red Flag Deals, two local sites offering up to 50% off Halifax restaurants stores and services.

Marcia Frost is a lifestyle journalist who has been writing about travel for the last decade.