Coming from New Brunswick and the west, the most direct route to Halifax by car is via Route 102 from Truro; allow 2 or 2 1/2 hours to drive here once you cross the invisible provincial border at Amherst. From the ferry docks at Yarmouth, it's a 3 1/2-hour drive up the coast . . . if you don't stop and linger anywhere. Which you will.
Many travelers arrive in Halifax by air. Halifax's Stanfield International Airport (airport code YHZ) is 34km (21 miles) north of the city center in Elmsdale; to get there, take Route 102 to exit 6. Airlines serving Halifax currently include Air Canada (and its commuter airline Jazz), WestJet, American Eagle, CanJet, Provincial, Continental Express, Delta, and Icelandair. Nova Scotia's notorious fogs mean it's always a good idea to call your airlines before heading out to the airport to make sure your flight will depart on time.
For transportation to and from the airport, you can either take a cab (a flat fare of C$53 by law); rent a car (plenty of big-name chain options in the terminal); or take the Airporter (tel. 902/873-2091) shuttle bus, which makes frequent runs from the airport to major downtown hotels daily from 6:30am to 11:15pm. The rate is C$21 per person one-way. There are also a surprising number of long-haul shuttles from the airport directly to Cape Breton, Yarmouth, Moncton, Antigonish, and even PEI. Some of these shuttle services require advance reservations, because they only run once per day and the vans may be full up on any given day. Check the airport's website (www.flyhalifax.com), or call the airport (tel. 902/873-4422) for an updated list of these shuttle services.
There's also a province-run Visitor Information Centre (VIC) located in the domestic arrivals area of the main terminal of the airport (tel. 902/873-1223), open year-round from 9am until 9pm.
You can even arrive by train. VIA Rail (tel. 888/842-7245) offers train service 6 days a week between Halifax and Montréal. The entire trip takes between 18 and 21 hours, depending on direction. Stops include Moncton and Campbellton (with bus connections to Québec). Halifax's train station, at Barrington and Cornwallis streets, is within walking distance of downtown attractions.
There's a ton of tourist info here. The city's tourist information booth (tel. 902/490-5963) in Scotia Square (two blocks below The Citadel) and the government-run visitor information center (VIC) (tel. 902/424-4248) on the waterfront at 1655 Lower Water St. (Sackville Landing) are both open daily, year-round until 9pm in summer, until 4:30pm and 6pm, respectively, in winter. Each is staffed with friendly folks who will point you in the right direction or help you make room reservations in a pinch.
There's another provincial VIC at Halifax's airport, also open year-round, while a helpfully central fourth seasonal VIC opens downtown at 1598 Argyle St. (corner of Sackville) from mid-May through mid-October only. As if that weren't enough, tourism office staff cruise the waterfront and boardwalk on Segway scooters during the summer months. For online information about the city, visit www.halifaxinfo.com.
Parking in Halifax can be problematic. Long-term metered spaces are in high demand downtown, and many of the parking lots and garages fill up fast. If you're headed downtown for a brief visit, you can usually find a 2-hour meter. But if you're looking to spend the day in town, I'd suggest venturing out early and snagging a spot in an affordable parking lot or garage. There's plentiful parking near Sackville Landing, or try along Lower Water Street (south of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic), where you can sometimes park all day for around C$6.
Metro Transit operates buses throughout the city. Route and timetable information is available at the information centers or by phone (tel. 902/490-4000). Bus fare is C$2.25 for adults, C$1.50 for seniors and children.
Daily throughout the summer (early July through late October), a bright green bus named FRED cruises a loop through the downtown, passing each stop about every 30 minutes from 10:30am until 5pm. It's free. Stops include the Maritime Museum, Water Street, the Grand Parade, the Citadel, and Barrington Place. Request a schedule and map at the visitor center. FRED, by the way, stands for Free Rides Everywhere Downtown. But it's still a cool name.
The annual Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo (tel. 902/420-1114; www.nstattoo.ca) features military and marching bands totaling some 2,000-plus military and civilian performers. The rousing event takes place over the course of a week in early July and is held indoors at the Halifax Metro Center. Tickets are C$31 to C$62 per adult, depending on the position of your seating, less for seniors and children.
The annual Atlantic Jazz Festival (tel. 902/492-2225; www.jazzeast.com) has performances ranging from global and avant-garde to local and traditional music each July. Venues include area nightclubs and outdoor stages, and prices vary considerably; consult the website for the latest details and specifics of performance and price.
In early August, expect to see a profusion of street performers ranging from folk singers and fire-eaters to clowns and jugglers. They descend on Halifax each summer for the 10-day Halifax International Busker Festival (www.buskers.ca). Performances take place along the waterfront walkway all day long and are often quite remarkable. The festival is free, though donations are requested -- you can donate and get complete info by buying a comprehensive festival guide for just C$2 on the waterfront before and during the festival. Any hotel reception desk in town worth its salt should also be able to give you updated info on what's happening where.
The Atlantic Film Festival (tel. 902/422-6965 or 422-3456; www.atlanticfilm.com) offers screenings of more than 150 films at theaters around Halifax over a 10-day period in mid-September. The focus is largely on Canadian filmmaking, with an emphasis on independent productions and shorts, and the quality level is high. (The 2009 offerings included We Are Wizards, Josh Koury's documentary on the Harry Potter phenomenon, and Real Time, with Randy Quaid as a humane hit man). Panel discussions with industry players are also part of the festival, meaning you get a chance to see mid-level directors and stars up close and personal. Some films are free, while others cost C$5 to C$15 each to view.
In early August, a great new outdoor event showcases more than 140 different beers and ciders from the U.S. and Canada, including a bunch from Maine. I'm talking about the Halifax Seaport Beerfest (tel. 902/453-5343; www.seaportbeerfest.com). It takes place at the Seaport Harbourwalk, at Terminal and Marginal streets, in two 3-hour sessions. If you're crazy for microbrews, and always wondered what a Muskoka Cream Ale or a Galt Knife Old Style tastes like, this is your chance; keep me away, because I would go nuts here. There's also food and live music, of course. Tickets cost C$35 to C$40 per person, and they get you a program plus a 4-oz. glass with which you can sample all the wonderful beers surrounding you. Bring a picture ID.
Finally, the annual mid-October Nocturne (tel. 902/233-0003) is a fun, free art museum-and-gallery walk that kicks off at 6pm and concludes around midnight, highlighting what's fresh on the local art scene. Free shuttle buses ease the load on your feet, too. Only drawback? It only lasts 1 night.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.