50+ Free or Affordable Things To Do In Halifax!

Halifax Arm

I wrote this post in June… then summer happened and July disappeared into August and here we are. It’s been a thoroughly excellent summer so far, but by this time of year all the gatherings and get-togethers have started to add up, and free or affordable adventures are looking even more inticing.

If you’re in the same boat, read on. We’ve rounded up 50 Halifax activities that are under $15, with many FREE Halifax activities!

These are mostly summer and sometimes fall adventures. Some are things we’ve tried, others we’ve discovered and have yet to try. If you have something awesome to add to this list, or if you have an update on something featured here, let us know. Our guides are often shared year after year and we aim to keep them up-to-date, however it is always advised to double check times and availability before you go in the event the program, business, or price has changed.

Take a Paddle In The Northwest Arm: FREE
Saint Mary’s Boat Club: https://www.halifax.ca/smbc/canoeing.php
Each Saturday and Sunday from 11 am – 7 pm during the summer, the Saint Mary’s Boat Club offers free one-hour canoe rentals. Get out on the water with friends! Last rental is available at 6 pm.

…Or Participate In Adult Paddle Night: $15.00
Saint Mary’s Boat Club: https://www.halifax.ca/smbc/kayaking.php
If kayaking is more your thing, the Saint Mary’s Boat Club also holds adult paddle nights each Monday and Wednesday evening during the summer months. They also have a youth paddle night on Tuesdays. Meet new people and get out on the water in a kayak on the Northwest Arm in Halifax.

Roller Skate on the Oval: FREE
http://www.halifax.ca/skatehrm/
The Oval is perhaps best known for free winter skating and free skate rentals. It’s a popular winter date spot, and space to gather with family and friends for some active fun. But come summer time, the Oval switches their skates for free rentals of inline and roller skates, scooters, bikes, trikes, helmets & pads! Rentals can be used on the paved Oval in the Halifax Commons. Be sure to bring your drivers licence so you can rent. There are a few food vendors on site if you care for a snack.

Take a Guided Tour of Halifax: FREE
Halifax Free Tours: http://halifaxfreetours.wix.com/halifaxfreetours
Take a free guided walking tour through historic downtown Halifax. Led by people who live here, expect city highlights, personal stories, and historical facts. These tours depart daily during the summer (June 1 – Sept 4) at 10am and 3pm. Meet at the pedestrian entrance of the Halifax Citadel. These tours are free, however donations are welcome. Tours are occasionally cancelled. Check the online calendar before you go HERE.

Rent a Pass to Visit All 28 Nova Scotia Museums: FREE
Culture Pass: https://museum.novascotia.ca/culturepass
If you have a Nova Scotia library card, you can now borrow a pass to access 28 Nova Scotia museums free of charge. The rented pass can be downloaded to your smart phone or tablet and gives you three weeks of complimentary access to all provincial museums – as many as you’d like for the duration of your pass. It’s a trial program running until September 5, 2016. These passes are popular, and there are a limited number, so you’ll want to try to rent or put your name on the wait list. The pass allows regular admission for one adult or one family (two adults and their children under 18 years). Learn more about this program HERE.

Photo: Em Lawrence

Photo: Em Lawrence

Pick Up a Picnic Starter Pack: FREE
http://www.eyelevelgallery.ca
Eyelevel Gallery has created a picnic starter pack, a basket fit with everything for a perfect picnic of four, as part of their Food For Thoughts project. The starter pack is available to rent free of charge. Drop off a deposit and prepare your own food, then simply pick out a picnic destination! 

Take in a Free Outdoor Film: FREE
Atlantic Film Festival: http://www.atlanticfilm.com/
Each July and August, the Atlantic Film Festival holds weekly free outdoor movie nights across the city. Bring a chair and blankets and enjoy the show on an oversized inflatable outdoor movie screen. Every year gets a theme, and for 2016 that theme is Animated City. See the schedule HERE.

Watch Artisans Create Mouth-Blown Hand Cut Crystal Glassware: FREE
Nova Scotia Crystal is North America’s only maker of mouth blown, hand cut crystal. During the summer, their waterfront shop demonstrates parts of the process to admiring onlookers. You can watch artisans hand cut crystal free Monday to Friday, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch artisans mouth blowing their beautiful creations. Call in advance for the most up-to-date schedules 1-888-977-2797.

Point Pleasant Park: FREE
5718 Point Pleasant Dr, Halifax
Speaking of picnics… this large municipal park in Halifax’s South End is home to 35 km of walking trails and a lot of history. Towers and other military buildings dating back to 1796 can be found along the gravel trails that weave through the forested park. Many sections are off-leash, great for local and visiting dogs. Pack a picnic and enjoy beautiful views of the Halifax Harbour, or take in a live theatre show by Shakespeare By The Sea (shows by donation).

Explore Canada’s Oldest Legislature: FREE
1726 Hollis St, Halifax: www.nslegislature.ca
Nova Scotia is home to Canada’s oldest legislature. Book a tour of Province House and learn about the history, interesting architectural features, and more!

Park Oven Dartmouth

Park Oven Dartmouth

Bake Something Up in the Open Oven: FREE
Dartmouth Park Oven: http://www.parkoven.ca/open-ovens-bookings/
Park Oven is an urban garden and outdoor community oven located in the Dartmouth Common.  Every Thursday and Saturday from noon until 3 pm, they have an open oven where anyone can bring food and cook it in the outdoor community space. It’s a fun way to connect with others over food. The oven can also be rented during the week for a small fee. Rentals aren’t private at this community space. When the oven is on, everyone’s welcome!

Visit The Seaport Farmers’ Market: FREE
Nova Scotia is also home to the longest continuous running farmers’ market in North America. The Halifax Farmers’ Market was created by Royal Proclamation in June of 1750, a year after the founding of Halifax. It has changed locations a few times, and now resides at one end of the beautiful Halifax waterfront in a LEED Certified building. It’s open every day during the summer, and while it’s free, you’re going to want to pick up some of the delicious local produce, prepared foods, and artisan goods!

Virtual Literary Walking Tour of Halifax: FREE
Halifax Public Libraries: http://www.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/research/topics/local-history-genealogy/literary-walking-tour.html
This one is an online resource that you can add to your phone or print one out. The route takes you through downtown Halifax to 15 stops that highlight Halifax’s literary history (including famous authors, publishers, bookstores and libraries and nods to Dickens and Wilde, Howe and Montgomery).

Walk One Of The World’s Longest Boardwalks:  FREE
The Halifax Boardwalk stretches 4 km along the Halifax Harbour. During the summer, it’s bustling with activities, including patios, a brewpub, bike and kayak rentals, restaurants, buskers, and public art.

Kayak the Shubie Canal: $10/Hour
Kaynoe Rentals: http://www.kaynoe.ca/
Kayak down the historic Shubenacadie Canal. There are 114km of waterway here. Pricing includes all necessary equipment, ie; life jacket, paddles and safety equipment. Dogs welcome in the boats. Great spot to see beavers, otters, seals or mink.

Take a Stroll Through a Century-Old Victorian Garden: FREE
Halifax Public Gardens: http://www.halifaxpublicgardens.ca/
The Public Gardens is located right in the core of downtown Halifax. The 16-acre property contains flowers, fountains, plants, statues, ponds, and more. The gardens have been open since 1867, and were named a national historic site over 100 years later, in 1984. There are more than 140 species of trees within the wrought iron fencing at The Public Gardens. Can you spot them all?

Bike and Bean Nova Scotia

Cycle The Old Rail Cuts To A Transformed Train Station:
Bike and Bean: http://www.bikeandbean.ca/
Grab a bike, hop onto the start of the trail at Ashburn golf course and follow the trail, which is on the old rail cut, past lakes and trees and a little bit of wildlife until you get to the old Tantallon train station. It’s been transformed into a bike shop and cafe with a serious community vibe. They serve great coffee, they’re licensed if you want to grab a beer instead, and they make great baked treats and sandwiches. This is a half-day adventure – the trail is about 30 km each way. Fun. Active. Go!

Titanic Graveyard: FREE
http://www.novascotia.ca/titanic/connection.asp
121 victims from the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic have their final resting place at the Fairview Cemetery in Halifax. Markers form the shape of a hull of a ship. The reference was unintentional, the graves were aligned that way to accommodate the slope of the hill where the bodies were buried.

Take a Guided Tour of the Oldest Building in Halifax: FREE
Saint Paul’s Anglican Church: http://www.stpaulshalifax.org/tour-st-pauls/
Saint Paul’s Anglican Church opened in 1750. Not only is it the oldest building in Halifax, it is the oldest Protestant church in Canada. The building even survived the devastating Halifax Explosion in 1917. Free guided tours of Saint Paul’s are available Monday through Friday during select hours, and self-guided tours are also welcome.

Explore The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia: $5 – $12 (FREE Thursday Nights)
AGNS: https://www.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca/visit-halifax
For Summer 2016, the AGNS exhibits in Halifax include The Culture We Share, a collection of student paintings that consider the cultural and historic paths shared by the Mi’kmaq and the Acadian people in the Truro region, In the Artists’ Footsteps, a curated collection looking at art history in Halifax, 4th Wall: Justice, Art and Youth, as well as a number of permanent and ongoing exhibits.

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Get a Prime View of the Northwest Arm from the Top of a Tower: FREE
http://www.novascotia.com/see-do/attractions/sir-sandford-fleming-park-the-dingle/1521
In Sir Sandford Fleming Park you’ll find a large tower guarded by two giant bronze lions. The Dingle Tower was built in the early 1900s to commemorate 150 years of representative government in Nova Scotia. Climb to the top for some amazing views of the Northwest Arm. The Dingle Tower is surrounded by a park complete with walking trails, a gazebo, picnic tables, a small beach, and a kids playground. Pack a picnic and make an afternoon of it!

Visit The Halifax Central Library: FREE
http://halifaxcentrallibrary.ca/
I can’t say enough good things about the new Halifax Central Library. It’s won all kinds of architecture accolades since opening, and its one of the first places I take visitors. In addition to its awesome architecture, it’s a fantastic place to bring the kids. The library has two XBox consoles that you can play for free on-site if you’re 17 years old or younger and space to professionally record music, podcasts, and video, and edit them on-site (must book ahead). Grab a coffee and head to the roof for great views of the city.

Deadman’s Island: FREE
Deadman’s Island, a great spot to step back into history.  In the 1800s, the island was a military training grounds, but later became the burial grounds for war prisoners. There are detailed interpretive boards on-site, and our Halifax Blogger friend Noticed in Nova Scotia wrote an excellent piece on the island’s history HERE.

York Redoubt: FREE
http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/ns/york/index.aspx
This national historic site was part of the same network of forts to guard the harbour as the Citadel and today features the World War II Command Centre.  It’s built right at the entrance to the Halifax Harbour and offers much of the same sense of visiting an historical site as Citadel Hill, but it’s free! Plus, there are some stunning views from the top walkway (and creepier views from the tunnels below). No car? You can reach York Redoubt by public transit on the #15 bus!

Enjoy A Little Music With Lunch: FREE
http://downtownhalifax.ca/news/tunes-noon-2016
Tunes at Noon is a summer concert series that brings free live music to Grand Parade every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 12:00 noon – 1 pm.  Pack a picnic and enjoy the show! This series runs until September 2.  See the schedule HERE.

Duncan's Cove

Duncan’s Cove: FREE
There are tons of great hiking opportunities outside the city, and Duncan’s Cove tops our list. It’s a bit of a trek to get there, but worth it. It’s 4 km each way and with the rough terrain it can take a few hours to hike the full trek. This cove guards the entrance to Halifax Harbour, and was thus guarded during WWII. There are two WWII bunkers along the route, one near the start of the trail and one near the end.

See The Heart Pond and Hike to a Ravine: FREE
http://www.trails.gov.ns.ca/shareduse/hx085.html
The whole area around Hemlock Ravine once played host to Prince Edward and his French mistress, Julie St. Laurent. What was once a huge estate, it fell into disrepair in the late 1800s, and was broken up and sold into lots. The circular building that can be seen from the road turning into Hemlock Ravine is an old music room. At Hemlock Ravine, picnic by the  ‘Heart Shaped Lake’, which Edward built for his mistress, then walk the series of well-groomed trails.

Learn the History of Canada’s Navel Forces: FREE
Maritime Command Museum: http://psphalifax.ca/marcommuseum/
If you’re keen on navel history or model ships, this is the stop for you. The Maritime Command Museum features  model ships, weapons, photos, medals and more historical artifacts related to the navy during war and peace times. They also house a library with more than 50,000 volumes and archives on the topic.

The Old Burying Ground: FREE
If historic graveyards are your thing, head to the city’s oldest graveyard, aptly named the Old Burying Ground.  The first grave was dug the day after the English first arrived here in 1749.  Interpretive signs on-site offer information on who’s been buried here.

Cool Off At The Splash Pad: FREE
City of Halifax: http://www.halifax.ca/rec/splashpads.php
I spent a lot of time just around the corner from one of the four Halifax splash pads. I think they’re mostly meant for kids, but if you’re with kids why not jump in yourself? These are so much fun on a hot summer day, and free! See the four locations HERE.

Board Games and Pinball Games Halifax nova Scotia

Spend a day playing board games: $5.00
The Board Room Cafe: http://boardroomgames.ca/
Five bucks gives you access to the more than 1,000 board games available at the Board Room Cafe. It’s a fun, comfortable space, great for an afternoon or evening with friends. Plus you can purchase local craft beer and cider, and food perfectly suited to marathon gaming. Menu items start at just $3 and range from bowls of candy and popcorn, to veggie platters, to drool-worthy sandwiches.

Visit The Africville Museum: $3.00
Africville Museum: http://africvillemuseum.org/
Learn the story of Africville, a settlement of early Black immigrants that was destroyed in the 1960s to make way for development. The destruction of this community was a shameful act on the part of the Halifax government, who formally apologized for their actions in 2010. The church has now been re-built and chronicles the history of the community until it was destroyed, and how former residents work to keep the spirit of their community alive.

Maxwell Plum Breakfast: $3.00*
http://www.themaxwellsplum.com/
With purchase of a drink. But that still puts you under $10 per person, and you get an excuse to order a beer with brunch. This is just one of a number of really great food deals at Maxwell. We go just for the beer line-up most of the time, it’s the largest selection in the city and always a fun, casual atmosphere.

Explore Your Roots at Pier 21: $7.00 – $11.00 (Kids under 5 are FREE)
https://www.pier21.ca
For decades, Pier 21 was the first place immigrants coming to Canada reached. From here, they either settled in Halifax, somewhere else in Nova Scotia, or boarded a train to head west. There is an admission fee to the museum, but you can see the train car outside that represents immigrants’ journey to the west, and imagine what it must have felt like to arrive in Canada for the first time.

Do Happy Hour At Temple Bar:
Halifax has quickly grown a really great cocktail scene, each good in their own ways, but my favourite cocktail happy hour is Temple. Local ingredients, creative and oh-so-delicious cocktails, and they happen to have a great happy hour. Join them 4pm – 7pm Tuesday to Saturday. Arrive early. Bring friends.

Vintage Arcade Halifax Nova Scotia

Play in a Vintage Arcade: $0.25+
http://www.silverballgames.ca/
If vintage pinball and NBA Jam are more your style, head over to the Daily Sweets, a little corner store on Oxford Street. It looks like your typical convenience shop, but hidden in the back you turn the corner into a throwback to the packed video arcades of the 1980s. Game plays start at just $0.25. It’s a total homage to misspent youth, a must-visit gem in Halifax.

Cool Off At Dee Dee’s:
Dee Dee’s Ice Cream: http://deedees.ca/icecream
Dee Dee’s ice cream is made right here in Halifax using local milk and cream, organic fair-traded raw cane sugar, real fruits, nuts, European chocolate, and other real ingredients. Try the Mexican Chocolate, a rich chocolate ice cream with a kick of cayenne, the tart haskapa, curry cashew, or one of the other fun flavours crafted by Dee Dee’s!

Meet a 90 Year Old Turtle: $4.00 – $6.30
Museum of Natural History: https://naturalhistory.novascotia.ca/
The Museum of Natural History was one of my favourite places to visit as a kid, and I still enjoy exploring as an adult. The museum is focused on collecting and showcasing culturally significant artifacts from Nova Scotia, with a big focus on wildlife and marine life. Gus, a 90 year old turtle, is a permanent resident of the museum. This summer he’ll be joined by a group of reptiles, part of Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, for an interactive exhibit on animals at night.

Iheartbikes

Rent a Bike and Explore the Boardwalk: $12.00
I Heart Bikes: http://www.iheartbikeshfx.com/rentals
I Heart Bikes is a cute rental and tour shop located in a repurposed shipping container along the Halifax Boardwalk. Rentals start at $12 per hour, and are a fast way to explore the Halifax Boardwalk and surrounding area. You can also rent a “bicycle built for two”, a tandem bike ($12 each). It’s a really fun experience, and a good way to test your communication skills with a friend or partner.

Glow in the Dark Bingo: $9.00
Halifax Forum: http://www.halifaxforum.ca/bingo-promotions/cosmic-bingo-starting-feb-25th-2012
Every Saturday night the Forum in Halifax’s North End hosts Cosmic Bingo (like cosmic bowling). Don white or bright clothing, grab some friends, and try your luck. There is music and black lights and a bar (they also have an all ages section). Cards start at $9.00 but you’ll want to bring or get a glow in the dark dobber, which are $2 on site.

Glow in the Dark Golfing: $8.50 – $10.50
Putting Edge: http://www.puttingedge.com
Bingo not your thing? Try this glow-in-the-dark mini-put experience. Putting Edge is a good activity for a rainy day. The course has 18 holes. This place gets busy and reservations are recommended. You can click to reserve using their online reservation system.

Climb the Walls: $11.30+
Seven Bays Bouldering: http://sevenbaysbouldering.com/en/
Seven Bays Bouldering is a great addition to the rapidly growing North End of Halifax. It has a 120 ft long bouldering wall, and the course changes weekly to keep things interesting. An early bird day pass (before 2 pm) is just $11.30. There’s a licensed cafe on-site, too!

Explore Nova Scotia’s Marine History: $5.15 and up – FREE Tuesday Evenings
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic: https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/
The Maritime Museum is fairly well known for it’s Titanic Exhibit, a collection of items recovered from the titanic and a look at Nova Scotia’s role in the aftermath of the disaster. The museum has a large collection of items and exhibits that look at Nova Scotia’s marine history, and is the oldest and largest maritime museum in Canada!

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Tee Off Into The Halifax Harbour: $10.00
H2O Golf: http://www.h2ogolf.ca/
Halifax is home to the only floating ocean golf green in North America. Purchase golf balls and see if you can hit a hole in one in the Atlantic! Part of the proceeds go to charities within the community, plus you can win prizes, including $500 for a hole in one!

Take a Mini-Harbour Cruise: $2.50
Metro Transit: https://www.halifax.ca/transit/ferries.php
Halifax has a harbour ferry as part of our transit. It’s the fastest way to get from downtown Halifax to downtown Dartmouth, but it’s also a fun addition to a day in the city. Go stand up on the top and take in the great harbour views from out on the water. It’s also the  oldest, continuous, salt-water passenger ferry service in North America!

Explore Halifax’s Haunted History: $15.00
Tattle Tours: http://www.tattletours.ca/ghostwalk.html
I recommend this tour a lot. It’s a very different and fun way to learn parts of Halifax’s history, plus there are a lot of great ghost stories here. It’s spooky, and interesting, and the tour guide, Andy, is a true entertainer. Don’t wait until October! This tour is great for a warm summer evening exploring the city on foot!

Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia: $4.00 – $6.00
www.bccnsweb.com/
From the arrival of Black Loyalists from America and the Maroons from Jamaica to the history of the oldest and largest Black communities in Canada such as Birchtown, Hammonds Plains, and Preston to the contributions of African Nova Scotians such as the No. 2 Construction Battalion, the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook is a wonderful place to learn about Nova Scotian history.

Garrison Brewery - Taste Halifax Craft Beer Bus

Garrison Patio: $2.00
http://www.garrisonbrewing.com
Enjoy a $2.00 tasting glass on the Garrison patio while you people watch market shoppers and cruise ship passengers. Garrison brews on-site, and you can indulge in flagship favourites like their raspberry wheat, or try one of their regularily rotating taps. Garrison is also a dog-friendly space, making it a personal favourite to soak up summer with friends.

Bubble Tea: $6.00
http://www.indochine.ca
Before (or after) heading to The Public Gardens, visit Indochine. Come summer, few things are better in my books than one of their fruit bubble teas. Rather than a chilled tea with milk and tapioca, they whip up all-fruit smoothies, then fill them with big, delicious tapioca balls.

Free Events:

These free things are very timing dependent, but should you find yourself in search of something fun and free during one of these set times, check these out!

Annual Lebanese Festival:
July: http://lebanesefestival.ca/
Get a taste of Lebanon in the heart of Halifax. Enjoy traditional dance and music. Admission to Lebanese Festival is free, but you’ll want to bring some money to purchase some of the mouthwatering food available on-site.

Halifax Jazz Festival:
July:  http://www.halifaxjazzfestival.ca/
The Halifax Jazz Festival has been bringing talented local, national, and international jazz artists to Halifax for 30 years. Join them for free daytime shows on the halifax waterfront daily during the festival, and free evening shows at select bars in downtown Halifax, or grab tickets to one of the paid shows online (tickets start at just $5 for paid venues).

Halifax Pride Festival:
July: http://halifaxpride.com/events/halifax-pride-parade-2016/
Halifax is home to Atlantic Canada’s largest LGBTQ+ Cultural Festival! Celebrate at venues and events across the city, and don’t miss the Pride Parade! See photos from the 2016 Pride Festival HERE.

Halifax International Buskers Festival: By Donation
July/August: http://www.buskers.ca/
Halifax is home to the oldest and biggest Busker festival in Canada. Wander the Halifax Waterfront and take in national and international performances that include street theatre, acrobatics, music, visual arts, fire displays and comedy.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your favourite low cost thing to do in Halifax during the summer and fall? What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @GillianWesleyNS!

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About the author

Gillian Wesley

Since getting together six years ago, we have given away our television, begun weekly DIY nights, experimented with urban homesteading, challenged ourselves to drive less (100 days car-free in 2013), and have learned more about food security. We have experimented with a range of budgeting strategies, all of which involve consuming less stuff. We buy food with reducing packaging in mind. We got a dog. We have been doing these things for a variety of reasons: financial, social, environmental, to achieve a better work-life balance. It has resulted in us enjoying an increasingly simple and satisfying lifestyle. We’ve been influenced by a lot of people we’ve encountered and things we’ve read about along the way, notably the Transition Movement, the Antigonish Movement, and, more recently, traditional Acadien living. And we’ve learned that we are by no means alone. There are many, many people who are taking steps to downshift their lives. Sign up for our eNewsletter, and we’ll send you a round-up of our new and upcoming projects once a month.

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