HAL­I­FAX: WHERE OLD AND NEW IN­TER­SECT

2017 Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY SU­SAN MACCAL­LUM-WHIT­COMB

Nova Sco­tia’s 268-year-old cap­i­tal some­how feels like both a vin­tage port town and a vi­brant 21st cen­tury ur­ban cen­tre.

Be­ing by far the largest city in At­lantic Canada, Hal­i­fax boasts the re­gion’s dens­est con­cen­tra­tion of up-to-date ar­chi­tec­ture, at­trac­tions and en­ter­tain­ment op­tions yet re­mains un­der­stand­ably proud of its il­lus­tri­ous roots. The end re­sult is a com­pelling mix of the trendy and tra­di­tional that ap­peals equally to va­ca­tion­ers and the 418,000-odd folks who call this place home (www.des­ti­na­tion­hal­i­fax.com).

A BLAST FROM THE PAST

Hal­i­fax’s great­est as­set and sig­na­ture sight —its huge nat­u­ral har­bour—re­minds vis­i­tors that the air is tinged with salt and touched by his­tory. Af­ter all, it was this deep body of wa­ter that first drew Bri­tish set­tlers in 1749, and the defin­ing role it has played over the cen­turies is still ob­vi­ous on the scenic wa­ter­front board­walk. Just wit­ness the His­toric Prop­er­ties (www.his­toricprop­er­ties. ca), a clus­ter of con­verted marine ware­houses dat­ing from the late 18th and early 19th cen­tury. Al­ways evoca­tive, they will ap­pear even

more so July 29 to Au­gust 1 when dozens of vin­tage ves­sels sail in for the 2017 Tall Ships Re­gatta (www.mtcw.ca/tall-ships­fes­ti­val-2017).

If you want to dive into the har­bour’s his­tory, the Mar­itime Mu­seum of the At­lantic sits on the board­walk too (mar­itimemu­seum. no­vas­co­tia.ca). Partly housed in a ship chan­dlery, the old­est and largest fa­cil­ity of its kind in Canada show­cases our sea­far­ing le­gacy and con­tains par­tic­u­larly poignant ex­hibits re­lat­ing to the Ti­tanic dis­as­ter— re­cov­ery op­er­a­tions were based here when the “un­sink­able” sunk in 1912—and the hor­rific Hal­i­fax Ex­plo­sion, which claimed nearly 2,000 lives in 1917. The mu­seum also has a gallery high­light­ing na­tional naval his­tory, which is fit­ting con­sid­er­ing Hal­i­fax has long been home port for the Royal Cana­dian Navy’s At­lantic Fleet.

Strate­gi­cally over­look­ing the har­bour, the Hal­i­fax Citadel Na­tional His­toric Site is an­other place where the past seems pal­pa­ble (www.parkscanada.gc.ca/hal­i­fax citadel). On Citadel Hill, you can lit­er­ally see the pas­sage of time in the Old Town Clock, which has ticked away in its oc­tag­o­nal tower for more than two cen­turies; and hear it in the fir­ing of the Noon Gun, a daily rit­ual since 1857. You can feel it, as well, in­side the for­mi­da­ble star-shaped fort. From May through

Oc­to­ber, cos­tumed in­ter­preters recre­ate gar­ri­son life within the ram­parts, while re-en­ac­tors wear­ing the kilted uni­form of the 78th High­land Reg­i­ment prac­tice syn­chro­nized drills on the broad pa­rade ground.

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR

As you would ex­pect in a bustling ur­ban cen­tre, there are more re­cent land­marks that un­der­score Hal­i­fax’s cool con­tem­po­rary side. In fact, this city has been on an ar­chi­tec­tural roll ever since the Sea­port Farm­ers’ Mar­ket opened on the wa­ter­front in 2010 (www.hal­i­fax­farm­ers­mar­ket.com).

A green gro­cery in more ways than one, the airy ed­i­fice sports rooftop wind­mills that are vis­ually dis­tinc­tive and en­ergy ef­fi­cient. Nearby, the Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre’s new lo­ca­tion al­ready has chil­dren cheer­ing (www.the dis­cov­erycen­tre.ca). Cov­er­ing four floors, it fea­tures five gal­leries de­voted to such top­ics as wa­ter and flight, plus a state-of-the-art In­no­va­tion Lab and Im­mer­sive Dome Theatre.

Tow­er­ing cranes, more­over, mark the spot where a strik­ing new down­town con­ven­tion cen­tre is near­ing com­ple­tion (www.hal­i­fax­con­ven­tion­cen­tre.com). Point­ing to­ward the wa­ter like a ship’s prow, it is part of one of the largest de­vel­op­ment projects in civic his­tory. How­ever, even the buzz sur­round­ing that can’t dampen the en­thu­si­asm lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike feel for the eye-pop­ping Hal­i­fax Cen­tral Li­brary, which was short­listed for the “2015 World Build­ing of the Year Award” and was awarded the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral’s Ar­chi­tec­ture Medal in 2016 (www.hal­i­fax­cen­tral­li­brary.ca). Can­tilevered glass boxes, a cam­era-ready in­te­rior, and stel­lar views com­bine to make this build­ing a must-see.

Of course, it is not just up-to-the-minute ar­chi­tec­ture that helps keep “Hali” on its 21st cen­tury toes. Home to seven uni­ver­si­ties, the city has a dis­pro­por­tion­ately large num­ber of stu­dents who lend it a youth­ful vi­tal­ity; Dal­housie alone has about 18,500 en­rolled in 180-plus un­der­grad­u­ate, grad­u­ate and pro­fes­sional pro­grams. They en­er­gize the arts scene and en­sure the club cul­ture is al­ways evolv­ing. They also in­flu­ence menus, mean­ing eater­ies fo­cused on clas­sic Mar­itime fare are off­set by an ar­ray of in­ter­na­tional ones, in­clud­ing High­way­man—a Span­ishin­spired spot that made en­Route mag­a­zine’s most re­cent list of Canada’s Top 10 new restau­rants (www.high­way­man­hfx.com).

AND A BLEND­ING OF THE TWO. . .

Hap­pily, many Hal­i­fax at­trac­tions have man­aged to cre­ate an au courant char­ac­ter while si­mul­ta­ne­ously tak­ing pride in their pedi­gree. The top-rated Cana­dian Mu­seum of Im­mi­gra­tion at Pier 21, which oc­cu­pies an erst­while im­mi­gra­tion shed where around a mil­lion prospec­tive cit­i­zens were pro­cessed be­tween 1928 and 1971, is a case in point (www.pier21.ca). Known as Canada’s an­swer to El­lis Is­land, it mor­phed into a mu­seum in 1999 and dou­bled its dis­play space in 2015. Now the re-imag­ined fa­cil­ity uses cut­ting-edge dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, mul­ti­me­dia ex­pe­ri­ences, and in­no­va­tive hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties to il­lus­trate the im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence in both a lo­cal and na­tional con­text.

A few blocks away, yet an­other con­verted build­ing—an 1868 Ital­ianate beauty hous­ing the Art Gallery of Nova Sco­tia—yields sim­i­lar sur­prises (www.art­gallery­ofno­vas­co­tia.ca). Its col­lec­tion of some 17,000 works con­tains paint­ings by ven­er­ated Cana­dian artists, such as Alex Colville and Mary Pratt, along with a strong as­sort­ment of Mar­itime folk pieces, most no­tably the wee, whim­si­cal, paint-slathered home of Maud Lewis, which was re­assem­bled on the premises. But cu­ra­tors keep things cur­rent by mount­ing dy­namic shows that spot­light up-and­com­ers, and then shake things up fur­ther by host­ing trendy events, like the af­ter­hours ArtParty which aims for cool rather than quaint.

Even the ven­er­a­ble Alexan­der Keith’s Brew­ery, a lo­cal in­sti­tu­tion opened in 1820 by the epony­mous for­mer mayor, has re­cently given tra­di­tion a mod­ern twist (www.kei­ths.ca). Fol­low­ing a makeover last year that al­lows for small-batch brew­ing, it has launched a new tour ex­pe­ri­ence and in­tro­duced a se­ries of craft beers—in­clud­ing the sea­sonal Lunen­burg Cof­fee Ca­cao Stout—that hon­our the brand’s long le­gacy while ca­ter­ing to to­day’s more ad­ven­tur­ous tastes. In do­ing so, it could be said to dis­till the true essence of Hal­i­fax, for this too is a place that com­bines the hip and his­toric in per­fect pro­por­tion.

HAL­I­FAX AT NIGHT • DES­TI­NA­TION HAL­I­FAX/SCOTT MUNN

HAL­I­FAX CITADEL • NS TOURISM/C. REAR­DON

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