I live in the North End and work near the Halifax waterfront, and explore downtown as a regular part of my life. I wasn’t born here but it is definitely my home. I spent the last couple years using Downtown Halifax Business Commission’s Big Day Downtown as opportunity to let my daughters have a bit of input in all the fun and spending. This year, I added a healthy dose of “self” awareness. Not to say my girls are spoiled (they are) or that we don’t have fun downtown (we do), but this was a chance for me to move outside of my comfort-zone by treating myself like I actually have a comfort-zone and decided to try out a couple new and fun things for me.
To kick things off, I was invited to the launch at Noble, an amazing sub-terreanian (beneath The Middle Spoon) speak-easy specializing in Great Depression era cocktails that are accessible by secret password only. I was asked to randomly select three cards from a large bowl and was left holding Dramatic, Exotic, and Happy as ways to experience <a href="downtown Halifax.
The first challenge? Parking. Definitely a contentious issue but never an area of stress for me personally. My usual plan is to find my destination and then drive in concentric circles until I can squeeze into a spot. Usually, this is after 6pm or on the weekends, so I don’t worry about scrounging for change for the old-school meters. If you are looking to take in as much of the downtown as possible, you don’t need to park outside of every place you visit. The answer came at $8 a day and a couple blocks from Scotia Square; Centennial Pool. Not technically downtown, but definitely close enough for you to get there on foot. Also, don’t forget there are “lots” of other parking options plus other smart options outside of driving a car downtown
The next challenge? Activating my $150 RBC Pre-paid Visa.
Besides Neptune, Halifax Feast, and Grafton Street Dinner Theatre, I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach this category. I was lucky to be smack in the middle of the 23rd Atlantic Fringe Festival which provides heaps of drama, comedy, musicals, and magic from a wide array of talented people. I choose Tara Thorne’s re-staging of her 2007 Law & Order: Musical Victims Unit play. It is a tribute to the Dick Wolf institution, playfully recasting the cliches and stereotypes as only a true fan can do. Plus, with an added layer of “cop rock”. How can you go wrong? Hint: you can’t, it was a great time and you only have to heed this warning:
Please don't bring your children to our show and ask what the chung-chung is every time. I mean thanks for coming but
— Tara Thorne (@thorneyhfx) September 3, 2013
Depending on where your mind may wonder when faced with the thought of something exotic (really depends on whether you are a Venus Envy or a Night Magic type of gal or guy), we are lucky enough to have many diverse options downtown. I didn’t go down that road per se, but I opted with the more traditional definition and focused on goods imported from far “away”.
Just down from the Cogswell Interchange, RCHMND (1876 Hollis St) is a men’s clothing store that is all class and home to the latest styles from Gitman Vintage, Norse Projects, United Stock Dry Goods, and many more. I picked up an item that is part of my arsenal of office supplies, a pack of Fields Notes Brand notepads. They had the limited edition “County Fair” additions and, maybe I am stretching “exotic” a little, but I went with Oregon. It is home to Portland, after all.
I swung by Two If By Sea (1869 Upper Water St), aka TIBS, and grabbed a freshly roasted bag of their El Salvador, Monte Ray Anchored Coffee beans (a hint of blackberry, dark chocolate, and dried fruit) to bring home for burr grinding and drinking black or bullet proofed. Importing from Dartmouth is pretty exotic, right?
Chocolate By Design (1360 Lower Water St) provided me with the energy needed from a double mocha to keep going and I went with a $10 sampling of some of their best dark gourmet Belgium chocolate.
Other potential exotic options that cross my mind:
- Japanese Food Paradise (1020 Barrington St)
- Kee Heong Cantonese Bakery (1532 Granville St)
- Sawadee Tea House (1871 Granville St)
A quick, easy, and happy lunch in the food court was next: Kebab Kitchen’s (5201 Duke St) Special mezze plate which is an affordable and delicious mix of dips (hummus), cheese (halumi), falafel, grape leaves, and pita plus a 480 mL Green Hornet from Booster Juice, which is a blend of carrots, celery, spinach, and parsley. It only (!) has 16g of sugar, but I dare you to look up what your seleced smoothie has, because it looks like that lowest you can go there.
I’m a pretty happy guy by nature, but I’m also a non-drinker. How can that be? That’s a long story, but I thought about the idea of dipping my toe in the sea of alcohol and throught this would be an interesting way to start. I walked to Bishop’s Cellar (1477 Lower Water St) and got a staff member to unofficially walk me through a basic version of Red and White Wine 101. I learned about dry, sweetness, regions, grapes, and the term fruit-forward. I had tons of options and ended up playing it safe and relatively inexpensive with Adolia Valpolicella and Caposaldo Pinot Grigio, both from Italy.
I also would check out the following for:
- clothing and cool nicknacks, there’s Biscuit General Store (1661 Argyle St)
- music there is Taz Records (1521 Grafton St)
- hobbies and creativity check out Maritime Hobbies and Crafts (1521 Grafton St) or Halifax’s Makers Space (101-1657 Barrington St)
- Saint Lou’s Gentlemen’s Barbershop
- Men’s services from Spirit Spa or Interlude Spa