By Jenna Morton
Some of the best parts of a road trip are the adventures along the way. After you enter Nova Scotia, consider taking Exit 4 and head towards the Joggins Fossil Centre. Open from mid-April until late October, this is a great spot to stop along the way. Kids may or may not get excited about the tides and fossils, but they'll love running along the shoreline. You can also grab a coffee and snack in the Roundhouse Cafe. The cliffs are about an hour drive from Moncton, and two-and-a-half hours to Halifax.
Lions Parkland in Oxford, via novascotia.com
Another option is stopping at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park. About 40 minutes from downtown Halifax, this 40 hectare park is a great place to stretch your legs and visit with more than two dozen types of mammals and up to 65 species of birds. The park is open year-round and children 5 and under are free. Admission for a family of two adults and three youth is $12.
On to the main attraction — Halifax!
One of our favourite stops is the Discovery Centre, smack in the middle of downtown. It's only closed five days a year, so it's a pretty sure bet for a visit. Open 10am until 5pm (and till 8pm on Wednesdays), it's a great place to show kids (and adults!) how much fun science can be. Kids can run over a life-sized suspension bridge, build a roller coaster, play with thousands of LEGO and Duplo bricks, and have a blast in the Bubble Room. Children 2 and under are free.
Halifax has some great museums downtown. One of the best for kids is the Museum of Natural History. Visit Gus the Gopher Tortoise, a museum attraction for more than 65 years. There's also an impressive whale skeleton, permanent exhibits of snakes, frogs, and sea creatures, and displays dealing with forests and space. If you're in town on a Tuesday, try to take in the Wee Wild Ones hands-on sessions for kids under 5. The museum is always free for children 5 and under; a family with two adults and children is $17.95.
A tour around the Halifax Citadel is always an adventure, especially if you take advantage of the Xplorer program (free with admission, for children ages 5 to 11). Kids can try on a 78th Highlanders jacket and stand sentry, play hide and seek in the Citadel’s ditch, and see the noonday cannon fired.
Does your little one know Theodore Tugboat? Even if they haven't seen the show, you'll want to stop by the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic for their wonderfully kid-friendly exhibit that explores how harbours work. Depending on the time of your visit, you might even manage a tour on Theodore Too! The museum also details the history of Halifax's role in the Titanic sinking, the Halifax explosion, early shipbuilding, the Navy, and much more. The museum also includes the CSS Acadia, a ship that survived WWI, WWII, and the Halifax explosion. Kids will love getting a chance to explore the boat in the harbour. And the best part (again): open year-round and children 5 and under are free!
Theodore Too! touring Halifax Harbour, via www.mtcw.ca
Can't catch a ride on Theodore? There are other options for harbour tours, including the Harbour Hopper and a pirate cruise on the sailboat Mar, which are sure to delight small folks. And if you're not interested in a guided tour but still want the water experience, don't forget the Metro Transit ferries between Halifax and Dartmouth!
Halifax has lots of wonderful green spaces to explore. The Public Gardens, Point Pleasant Park, and the Dingle (Sir Sanford Fleming Park) are all great places to take a walk and enjoy the sights of the city.
Looking for playgrounds? Check out the great information at Playground Chronicles, a blog based on the adventures of one family with toddlers in tow; I particularly like their Top 10 Fun Pieces of Playground Equipment post. (But take note, the blog does not appear to have been updated recently, so double check any details if you're really set on a certain playground experience.) We think Westmount Inclusive Playground Park is one of the best in Halifax; no surprise it made Today's Parent list of playgrounds to check out in the Maritimes. The park has accessible swings, a climbable fire truck, an airport-theme and an awesome runway obstacle track.
If you're heading to Halifax during the summer, be sure to read momstown Halifax's guide to splashpads, outdoor pools, and more!
Hit a cold or rainy day? There are lots of great indoor play spaces to check out – momstown Halifax has a great list! Not all are accessible on the weekend, though, so if you want to incorporate a visit into your schedule, be sure to check ahead.
One of my favourite parts of a weekend away is eating out! Stock up on fun treats at Freak Lunchbox or Sweet Janes, grab a Hand Paddled Ice Cream at Sugah, stroll along the boardwalk to find lots to nibble (on my list: fish tacos and chocolate-covered bacon), or stop by The Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market. And no trip to the Big City is complete for me without at least a slice of donair pizza!
Inside Freak Lunchbox, a favourite Halifax sweet spot (photo via The Coast)