It has become a cliché in these parts that every second building in Halifax is a church, and every one in between is a bar.
Thanks to the city's history, deeply rooted in its role as the British Empire's main naval centre for two centuries, Halifax has the rogue's reputation with which most port cities are blessed.
Happily for those who like to partake, the bar-church-bar cliché is not too far from the truth. Also happily, it is not the whole truth.
As one of Canada's most alluring summer-vacation destinations, Halifax offers the best of the dark and dim indoors -- it has the second-most bars per capita of any city in Canada after St. John's -- and the best of the expansive, breathtaking outdoors, with pretty parks and beautiful beaches. No matter where you are in Nova Scotia, you are never far from the ocean.
Halifax in the summer is arguably one of the most idyllic places in Canada: not too hot in the day, cool enough at night to be perfect for strolling and sleeping, rarely humid, but with enough rain to keep nature green and blossoming.
But it's also a destination with unpredictable weather. Even in summertime, visitors to Atlantic Canada's largest city might experience three seasons in one day. Bring a rain slicker and some duck boots for wet days, a sweater for the pleasantly fresh evenings, and your shorts and bathing suit for trips to the sun and sand just outside the city limits.
And when it does rain, well, there are always those pubs to duck into.
Raising a glass
There is perhaps no more perfect pub experience in Halifax than the Lower Deck, nestled in the Historic Properties, down on the waterfront. Celtic bands are regularly on stage here, and the lively Maritime sea shanties and traditional folk tunes are great motivators for hunkering down and ordering a Keith's, Moosehead, Alpine or another of the Maritime brews.
There are plenty of fine local microbrews on tap as well, including Propeller and Garrison.
It can be elbow to elbow in the Lower Deck on weekend evenings and even during the afternoons, but the locals are welcoming and friendly.
There are many other possibilities within stumbling distance of the Lower Deck, all with great character (and great characters). Wander into O'Carroll's, the Old Triangle or the Split Crow at almost any time in the afternoon or evening and you will be treated to live music. It may not all be superb, but is likely to be delivered with foot-stomping enthusiasm. It's definitely worth a night out on the town to hear renditions of Stan Rogers' Barrett's Privateers in all its variations, from punk to reggae to traditional.
Those interested in picking up an instrument to continue the Maritime sound back home might want to visit the Halifax Folklore Centre on Brunswick Street. It's a treasure trove of new and used instruments, vintage guitars and violins, harps, banjos, bodhrans, fiddles and tin whistles. In town for a while? Sign up for a lesson or two and take the music of the Ceilidh -- the traditional Celtic kitchen party -- home with you.
If the Celtic music gets to all sound the same after a few days -- and how many times can you sing along to Farewell To Nova Scotia before you actually do say goodbye -- the city that spawned popular alternative rock band Sloan is still visited by plenty of non-Maritime musical acts.
Although the alt-rock scene is not what it was in the Nirvana-led '90s, the city's premier music club, The Marquee on Gottingen Street, still draws quality club acts and offers homegrown talent as well.
Culture and history
As home to the world-renowned Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax has no shortage of funky galleries and museums that celebrate local history.
Start with a tour of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia on Hollis Street, housing more than 2,000 works. Rotating exhibits are anchored by permanent collections from Atlantic Canadian artists such as Mary Pratt and Alex Colville, as well as regional folk art. Some of the best arts and crafts in Nova Scotia can be found for purchase in the AGNS gift shop.