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Fall is almost upon us, so we decided to investigate one of North America’s best leaf-peeping destinations: Halifax, Nova Scotia.
A jumping-off point for folks looking to experience Maritime Canada’s amazing natural beauty, wildlife, fishing, dramatic coastline and more, Halifax is a quaint little city with plenty to offer, and plenty of opportunities to earn and redeem points and miles.
WHAT TO DO
Your first stop should be the idyllic Halifax Public Gardens, a Victorian-era 16-acre city park that was first opened back in 1867 and designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1984. The garden boasts 19th-century touches like a bandstand, classical-inspired statuary, elaborate fountains, and over 100 species of plants.
Your next stop should be the 19th-century Citadel National Historic Site, a former fort in the heart of the city with great views of downtown and the water. Guests can explore soldiers’ barracks, take pictures with historically dressed docents and watch the noon-time gun salute. The Old Town Clock, which has been telling time since 1803 is another popular landmark.
The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 is a popular stop for visitors whose ancestors might have immigrated through this major North American checkpoint and provides an interesting look at Canada’s recent past. The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia contains a quirky collection of local and folk art, while the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has several fascinating exhibits on the city’s shipping past well as a new permanent exhibit on the Titanic.
Though the Titanic is linked to the city’s history since ships from the town went out to search for survivors, it is actually another shipping disaster, the sinking of the SS Atlantic and the loss of nearly 600 souls near the city on April 1, 1873 left an indelible mark on the city. The incident is commemorated at the SS Atlantic Heritage Park.
Visitors can take complimentary tours of Government House, the residence of Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant Governor and the oldest official government residence in all of Canada, on Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The city has a long maritime history, so get a better sense of Halifax from the water as you take the Harbor Ferry to the nearby town of Dartmouth and back; or take an hour-long drive from the city to Peggy’s Cove, one of the prettiest stretches of coast in these parts where there is an iconic lighthouse and fishing village many people come here to photograph. There are also plenty of boating tours for everything from pleasure cruises to deep sea fishing available.
You should make time to visit Alexander Keith’s Brewery, originally founded in 1820, to try their famous line of beers, stouts and ales, which only became available in the US back in 2011.
There are also several exciting events happening in the next two months before the weather turns colder. Wine enthusiasts should make time to visit between September 13-October 14 for the Nova Scotia Fall Wine Festival, while bibliophiles should enjoy the waterfront Word on the Street literary festival. October 13 is Nocturne: Art at Night where art galleries all over town will celebrate local artists from 6:00pm-midnight, and Halifax Pop Explosion is a five-day celebration of music, culture and media taking place from October 16-20 this year. Those planning a trip a little later in the season should come to the city for the 17th annual Holiday Parade of Lights, where over 100,000 spectators line downtown’s streets for a holiday-themed light parade. Find out information on all these events at the Destination Halifax Festivals & Events Page.
One of the biggest draws to the city actually happens in the summer when it hosts the world-renowned Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, a performance showcasing Britain’s military past along with music, dancing, videos and more in a 2.5-hour show every day for a week. The 2013 Tattoo will take place June 30-July 7, though tickets go on sale October 1.
The city’s dining scene is undergoing something of a boom at the moment as well, with new restaurants emphasizing local, sustainable, seasonal ingredients as well as the city’s ocean bounty. CUT Steakhouse and Urban Grill is supposed to be a swank little gathering place for well-to-do city dwellers, Elements on Hollis and FID Resto focus on sustainable, seasonal fare, Brooklyn Warehouse is a good ol’ gastropub (again with a focus on local, sustainable ingredients from nearby farms, ranches and fisheries), while Saege Bistro strives for a more refined ambiance. For a simple, tasty seafood meal, you can’t beat Waterfront Warehouse.
A truly welcoming city, Halifax has also become a favorite gay destination with a Rainbow Halifax site devoted to LGBT visitors, and an annual Pride festival that celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012.
For your visit, consider downloading the Visit Halifax Mobile App with customizable maps, weather updates, event schedules and up-to-date information on the city and things to do while you’re there as well as restaurants, shopping, hotels and more.
Destination of the Week pieces are not meant to be comprehensive guides to destinations since we don’t have the time or funds to visit all these places in person and report back to you. Nor are they endorsements of all the hotels we mention. They are simply roundups of top destinations that we have specifically pinpointed for the opportunity they present to use your miles and points to get to and stay there. As always, we welcome your comments to help enrich the content here, provide opinions and first-hand experiences of these destinations.
Halifax Stanfield International Airport is a small but full-service airport serving over 3.5 million passengers annually. It serves as the main airport for Nova Scotia. WestJet and Star Alliance member Air Canada have the largest presence here jetting all over Canada and even over to Europe from this base.
When it comes to US airlines, it’s all on the connection carriers: Delta Connection serves New York-LGA and offers seasonal service to Detroit, United Express flies to Newark, Chicago-O’Hare and seasonally to Washington-Dulles, and U.S. Airways Express serves Philadelphia and seasonally Washington National.
Icelandair offers seasonal service to Reykjavík.
If you’re a train enthusiast, you have to pull double duty to get here from the US. You can take Amtrak to Montreal from various US cities including New York, Philadelphia, Boston and DC (though you have to connect for the last two) and several other stations in Amtrak’s Northeast Zone. Ticket prices vary (you can also redeem Amex Membership Rewards points for Amtrak gift certificates that you can then use to purchase fares). Tickets from New York to Montreal are going for as low as $63 each way in September. You can get a huge bargain by redeeming Amtrak Guest Rewards points (transferable from Chase Ultimate Rewards) for tickets within the single zone: 5,500 for coach, 6,500 for business class, 15,000 for a Roomette or 25,000 for a Bedroom.
From Montreal, you switch to Canada’s national rail line, VIA, and take the almost day-long journey out to the far reaches of Canada’s east coast. Tickets are going for as low as about $150 CAD ($152 USD) in September each way.
Radisson Suite Hotel Halifax: Located in downtown Halifax just a short walk from the historic waterfront, this hotel offers all-suite accommodations. The 104 guest suites have living rooms queen-size pull-out sofas and bedrooms featuring Sleep Number beds. The property has an indoor pool and fitness center with sauna plus complimentary high-speed internet access throughout. Dining includes the hotel’s steakhouse, Ryan Duffy’s. Rates in August start at $169 per night or 44,000 Gold Points since this is a Category 5 hotel.
When it comes to Hilton, the only options are the 145-room Hilton Garden Inn Halifax Airport which is a Category 4 property requiring 30,000 points for a free night – rates in September start at $129 - and the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Halifax -Dartmouth, a Category 5 property requiring 35,000 Hilton points where rates also start $129 per night in September.
Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel: Overlooking the harbor – or should it be “harbour” – this hotel has 331 rooms and 21 suites. There is a concierge floor with a lounge serving complimentary continental breakfast, midday snacks, hors d’oeuvres and desserts. The property features a full-service Interlude Spa offering a variety of treatments, and there is a fitness center, indoor pool and whirlpool on site as well. The main restaurant, 44 North, is an all-day dining establishment with panoramic views of the harbor. Rates in September begin at $199 per night. This is a Marriott Category 5 property, and requires 25,000 Marriott Rewards Points (20,000 with PointSavers) for a free-night redemption.
Other Marriott options Courtyard Halifax Downtown, a Marriott Category 4 property requiring 20,000 Marriott Rewards Points (15,000 with PointSavers) for a free-night redemption. Rates in September begin at $135 per night. There is also the newly renovated Residence Inn Halifax Downtown, another Marriott Category 4 property which requires 20,000 Marriott Rewards Points (15,000 with PointSavers) for a free-night redemption. Rates here in September begin at $169 per night.
Holiday Inn Halifax Harborview: This hotel is located just across the Angus L. MacDonald Bridge from Halifax in the town of Dartmouth and has 196 guest rooms and suites featuring 37-inch LCD televisions, triple sheeting with white linens on the beds, and complimentary high speed internet access. There is an on-site fitness center and 24-hour business center. The hotel’s restaurant, Café 101, has a pretty standard but diverse menu and serves all day. Rates in September start at $129 or 10,000 Priority Club points per night.
Other Priority Club options include the Holiday Inn Express Bedford which starts at $120 per night in September, or 20,000 Priority Club points.
Westin Nova Scotian: Located in the heart of downtown, this hotel has 310 guest rooms and suites designed with a contemporary aesthetic and which feature oversized bathrooms. The rooms include standard Westin amenities such as the Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Shower. The hotel has an indoor swimming pool, whirlpool and Westin Workout facilities and the hotel features Halifax’s only hotel tennis court. Elements On Hollis serves all-day dining in a tranquil setting where locals and visitors mix. Rates in September start at $179 per night. This is a SPG Category 3 property requiring 7,000 SPG points for a free night redemption.
There is also the 177-room Four Points by Sheraton Halifax. This is a SPG Category 3 property requiring 7,000 SPG points for a free night redemption. Rates in September start at $120 per night.
Fox Harb’r Golf Resort and Spa: Located on the coast just about two hours north of Halifax, this all-suite resort overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. The accommodations here include flatscreen televisions, white linens and duvets, heated granite bathroom floors and Molton Brown bath amenities. The resort has a championship golf course, a golf academy, tennis center and a sporting lodge offering skeet shooting and sporting clay. There is a luxury spa and wellness center, a private 4885-foot airstrip and a deep sea marina for boating and fishing excursions. Dining options include the upscale Great Room restaurant and the Willard restaurant for casual dining. Rates in September start at $350 per night for a studio suite.