I love living in Nova Scotia. There is so much to do here for families and so much history. Here’s my list of the top 25 places for families to visit in Nova Scotia, in no particular order, and some comments on our favourites. Hopefully these ideas will help you plan your trip to Nova Scotia, or, if you’re from here to go to at least one new place in Nova Scotia this summer with your family!
Halifax Citadel National Historic Site
1) Martinique Beach & Musquodoboit Railway Museum – Our family loves Martinique Beach for swimming and walking. It is a little further than Lawrencetown Beach (one of the most popular) from Halifax (about 15 minutes) but worth the drive. It’s 5 km long and the longest beach in Nova Scotia. It is sandy and perfect for children to play on. Parking can get crowded on the weekend in the summer, so arrive early for a good spot or you might end up walking from the road. Bring a picnic and stop at the Railway Museum on the way home for ice cream! There is also a fantastic fish and chips shack across the street from the Railway Museum if you’re hungry. I love their chicken strips too.
2) Lawrencetown Beach – Can you tell we love to go to the beach? Well in a province almost surrounded by Ocean it’s a natural thing! We recommend Lawrencetown Beach for surfing. It’s a fun activity for the whole family! You can take a surfing lesson from East Coast Surf School, Happy Dudes or Kannon Beach.
3) Upper Clements Theme Park/Adventure Park – One of our favourite amusement parks in the Maritimes. It is located near Digby in the beautiful Annapolis Valley. There are many options for accommodation nearby including many campgrounds, which is how we like to travel. We love the roller coaster, water slides and haunted house in the theme park. The new adventure park looks like a blast with 14 zip lines and more than 43 challenge courses. There are so many other things you can do in the Valley while you are there from museums to farm visits. It’s a great road trip destination. (CAA Discount)
4) Martock Ski Hill/OnTree Adventure Park – Martock is a ski hill in the winter with Alpine and Nordic terrain. OnTree is a ropes and zip-line course, open during the summer, with 350 foot zip lines, a bicycle on wire, tarzan ropes, spider webs and a 50 foot base jump! Martock is only 1 hour from Halifax, so it’s a great spot for a day trip.
5) Peggy’s Cove – A fantastic spot I’m sure you’ve heard of where you can hike, over large boulders, close to crashing waves and a looming lighthouse. A place worth going back to if you haven’t been in a while. Don’t forget to step inside the gift shop to press a penny for an interesting souvenir! The fishing village surrounding Peggy’s Cove is also very interesting and there are many spots to eat and shop for local art on the way. Did you know Nova Scotia has the largest number of lighthouses in Canada? See my full post on our visit to Peggy’s Cove HERE.
6) Fortress of Louisbourg – The Fortress of Louisbourg encompasses 60 kilometres of land on the Cape Breton seacoast. The highlight is the partial reconstruction of the 18th Century French town and fortress, which is Canada’s largest historical reconstruction, where aspects of French colonial life between 1713 and 1758 are presented.
7) Cape Breton Highlands National Park– You can’t say you’ve travelled Nova Scotia if you haven’t seem the highlands. The Cabot Trail is arguably one of the most beautiful drives in the world! It’s also a fantastic place to get your family to put down the phones and out into nature. You will be amazed by the mountains and cliffs overlooking the ocean. You can Whale Watch from the MacKenzie Mountain Look Off and Ingonish Beach is a great spot to go for a swim. Stop at the Keltic Lodge for a drink and to listen to some music. If you like hiking there are many trails all around Cape Breton and there are multiple Parks Canada Campgrounds as well!
8) Halifax Seaport Farmers Market – Want to have a great meal, go shopping for local art and crafts or teach your children about nutritious local food and farms? This is the spot! It’s as close as you can get to the farm from downtown Halifax. We love to spend a morning shopping for healthy food and listening to the musicians play. Children love that it’s a busy, colourful place and that they can see cruise ships and trains from the front door! Have more time to spare? Walk down the boardwalk towards the Halifax Waterfront (see below).
9) Shubenacadie Wildlife Park – A fantastic day trip from Halifax; the Wildlife Park is popular with everyone in the family. I love how much space they give the animals and that the trails are wheelchair accessible. Their website is a great learning resource for children, as well, with a kids corner. The park often does special events/tours. We love the nighttime tour as you can hear the wolves howling! There is also a playground and picnic tables on site. There isn’t any food available to purchase so it’s a good idea to bring a picnic or plan lunch somewhere close by like Mastadon Ridge.
10) Halifax Citadel National Historic Site – What child could resist a fort on a hill with pathways deep underground, movies, soldiers in costume and an actual gun firing every day at noon?! Not ours! There is so much to see here that we return often. From the school room to the tailor shop we love learning about the history of Halifax at Citadel Hill. If you’re brave enough there is a fantastic Ghost Tour at night during the summer. Read all about our experience with the Ghost Tour HERE.
11) New Ross Farm – Nova Scotia is full of fantastic farms you can visit but New Ross, a living heritage farm museum does double duty as both a working farm and historical museum. Enjoy hands on activities like candle making, wood working, butter churning and more. There is a blacksmith’s shop, schoolhouse and cooper’s shop, horse, oxen, Berkshire pigs and much more to see. (CAA Discount)
12) Maritime Museum of the Atlantic – There are an impressive number of boats (full size and miniature) in this museum, hand carved figureheads, tributes to the Halifax Explosion and the sinking of the Titanic and even a live parrot! There are often children’s activities going on as well as a fantastic gift shop with maritime treasures. We love this museum! (CAA Discount)
13) Ovens Natural Park – The Ovens Natural Park is located on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia just past Lunenburg. Known for the natural sea caves called the ovens, you can also pan for gold on the beach, visit the Miner’s Museum and camp overnight. They have nightly musical entertainment by the fire as well!
14) Halifax Waterfront – There are so many child friendly events and activities to do on the Halifax Waterfront. Two of our children’s favourite festivals are Buskers and the Tall Ships. The waterfront is enjoyable all summer long with playgrounds, museums, cruse ships, festivals and vendors. Stop by the famous wave sculpture and don’t forget to take a tour on the Harbour Hopper. It’s a blast!
15) The Fundy Geological Museum – This award-winning museum displays some of the oldest dinosaur bones in Canada! Located in Parrsboro, only 2 hours from Halifax it can also work as a day trip. Take a guides tour and find your own fossils. They also have over night group programs. Combine this with Joggins Fossil Cliffs (see below), the Age of Sail Museum and camping at Five Islands Provincial Park and you have a full weekend of fun planned! (CAA Discount)
16) Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site – My parents recently took our children to the Alexander Graham Bell Historic site and they had so much fun. They cam home full of knowledge and with homemade kites. This is a museum that knows how to connect with children! ”
17) Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum – What I love about the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm is that it is right in our back yard. Less than 15 minutes (depending on traffic) from downtown Halifax and on a bus route it’s perfect for people looking for a farm atmosphere but not wanting to leave the city or not having enough time to go far. They have multiple barn museums with excellent displays of old farm equipment and buggy’s, an 18th century farm home, a lovely tea room, and many farm animals. They also have events going on monthly such as a Corn Boil and Harvest Dinner. An excellent way to spend a few hours.
18) Discovery Centre – The Discovery Centre is Halifax’s Hands on Science Museum. It recently moved to a new location and is huge, fun and hands down the best museum for kids in Halifax right now. Hands on science really just means lots of fun for children of all ages. Go on family night, Wednesday, and you can catch an extra special event like a Lego Build, Planetarium Night or watch Scientists make Ice Cream with Liquid Nitrogen. They even have piano stairs!! Make sure you see a Live Star Show or Full Dome Film in their dome theatre while you’re there. (CAA Discount & Wednesday evenings are free!)
19) Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic – If you love the ocean don’t miss this museum. The Fisheries Museum has an aquarium, a touch tank, two floating vessels you can go on, a children’s play area, a theatre and many exhibits. There are also daily activities like rug hooking demonstrations and fish feedings. (CAA Discount)
20) Neptune Theatre – Theatre in Halifax is not just for adults. My daughters, my mother-in-law and I all love to go to the theatre. We go out for dinner downtown at a restaurant of their choice, get dressed up and enjoy the show. Neptune has at least one play a season perfect for children and we also enjoy going at Christmas for their holiday themed show. We’ve seen Elf, A Christmas Carol, and Mary Poppins at Neptune and they were all fantastic! (CAA Discount)
21) Oaklawn Farm Zoo – I have to admit, I’m not actually a fan of animals in cages but it’s hard to argue when you children love to see them so much. And the Oaklawn Farm Zoo does give an incredible about of space to the animals. (50 Acres!) They have ice cream, pony rides, so many different animal species and a petting zoo. There’s no doubt your children will be overjoyed if you take them here.
22) Sherbrooke Village – Nova Scotia’s largest museum site! I am clearly a fan of museums but it is for good reason. The Museums in Nova Scotia really do an amazing job at educating children in a fun way. Sherbrooke Village has about 80 buildings and 25 are open to the public including a blacksmith, pottery shop, and print shop. They have a fun program where you can wear period costume and experience life in the 1800’s with hands on activities throughout the day. There are many other events and activities you can do throughout the year.
23) Joggins Fossil Cliffs – A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Joggins Fossil Cliffs reveal the world’s most complete fossil record of life as it was 300 million years ago. The interpretive center showcases the fossils and the history of coal mining in the area.
24) Museum of Natural History – Located in Halifax this museum has recently undergone some nice additions including a globe of the world that rotates and shows current data on live weather, temperature, earthquakes, air traffic, sea levels and more. It’s really quite amazing. There are permanent exhibits on Archaeology, Geology, Marine Mammals etc of Nova Scotia and of course the 90-year-old Gopher Tortoise Gus is very popular. (CAA Discount)
25) Art Gallery of Nova Scotia – Every child should see the childlike art and colourful house of folk artist Maud Lewis and examples of other art in this museum. Once a month the art gallery has a family Sunday where children can participate in an art project and Thursday nights from 5-9 are free. (CAA Discount & Thursday nights are free!)
Did I miss a place your family loves in Nova Scotia? Please leave a comment and let me know!
Hint – If you’re going to be visiting a lot of the museums in Nova Scotia in one year especially you might want to look into purchasing the Museum Pass which gets you into 27 museums in Nova Scotia for one low price. Look carefully at the list as it doesn’t include all of the museums in Nova Scotia.
Hint – If you will be going to more than a couple of Parks Canada sites in one year, you should consider getting the Parks Canada Discovery Pass. It’s free for the whole year in 2017 for the #Canada150 event!