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architecture

Ultimate Halifax

History, entertainment, fun on the water and more—discover everything we love about Halifax

By Trevor J. Adams

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Photo: NS Tourism Agency

Photo: NS Tourism Agency

At the tip of Halifax’s historic South End, Point Pleasant Park is a popular year-round destination with native Haligonians and visitors alike. The park’s coastal and woodland trails are a hit in any season, but Point Pleasant really comes to life in summer when it hosts theatre al fresco withbarrington-cemetary-web Shakespeare by the Sea throughout the summer.

History buffs will be pleased to find the Prince of Wales Tower National Historic Site in the centre of the park. Back downtown on Barrington Street, the Old Burying Ground is a secluded historic cemetery and the burial site British Major General Robert Ross, who burned Washington, D.C. in the War of 1812.

Uptown on Spring Garden Road, the Halifax Public Gardens are one of the finest Victorian gardens in North America. In the summer, its bandstand hosts Sunday afternoon concerts. Across the harbour, the Dartmouth Common features lovely flower gardens and panoramic views of the Halifax skyline.

FAMILY FUN

Nautical adventures abound at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on Lower Water Street. With lots of hands-on exhibits and a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere, it’s a great spot for kids to explore and learn about the Titanic, fearless explorers, swashbuckling pirates and the world wars. See shipbuilders at work and explore a scientific vessel moored dockside.

Just up the hill on Barrington Street, the Discovery Centre is a hands-on science centre where kids can explore trippy optical illusions, stand inside a giant bubble and even freeze a banana in liquid nitrogen.

The Museum of Natural History on Summer Street offers hours of entertainment for inquiring young minds. Explore Nova Scotia’s forest and ocean environments with interactive exhibits. Visit legendary Sable Island and experience Science on a Sphere. Live amphibians, reptiles, bees, a new Tide Tank and Gus, a 92-year-old tortoise.

BACK IN TIME

The Hydrostone. Photo: Lisa Enman

The Hydrostone. Photo: Lisa Enman

This province is the birthplace of hockey and boasts a long line of sports heroes—most recently, Sidney Crosby. Learn all about them in Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame at Scotiabank Centre on Duke Street.

Looming over the downtown, the Halifax Citadel Canada’s most popular National Historic Site and home to the Army Museum. Visit at 12 pm to see historical animators fire the fort’s signature Noon Gun.

Perched on the side of Citadel Hill, you’ll spot Halifax’s iconic Old Town Clock on Sackville Street.

Shop and dine where privateers once stashed their plunder—the stone warehouses of the Historic Properties on the Halifax waterfront.

Devastated in the Halifax Explosion during the First World War, Young Street east of Robie is now a stylish neighbourhood called The Hydrostone noted for unique architecture, quaint shops and fine dining.

NEW & IMPROVED

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 reopens this month after extensive renovations. From 1928 to 1971, almost 1.5 million immigrants and military personnel passed through Pier 21. Today, the museum (Canada’s only national museum outside Ottawa) tells the story of Canadian immigration from first contact to present day.

SPIRITED ADVENTURES

With centuries of history, Halifax teems with mysteries, folklore and reputed hauntings. Explore the city’s darker side with the Halifax Ghost Walk. Meet the group at 8:30pm at the Old Town Clock on Citadel Hill (just up from Sackville Street). Narrators lead you through historic Halifax’s nooks and crannies, sharing tales of pirates, ghosts and murder most foul.

ROAMING AROUND

Peggy's Cove

Peggy’s Cove

Centrally located, Halifax is an ideal day-trip base. Take a 45-minute drive east, and you’ll find the Memory Lane Heritage Village, a living-history museum re-creating life in rural Nova Scotia as it was 70 years ago.

Take a 45-minute drive west, and you’ll find the historic fishing village of Peggy’s Cove. Its iconic lighthouse, perched on the rocks just above the wild Atlantic waves, is Nova Scotia’s most photographed site.

ART IN ACTION

master_stemming_philip-web

At the foot of George Street on the Halifax waterfront, NovaScotian Crystal is one of the province’s most unique tourism attractions. In the workshop, you can watch craftsmen use Old World techniques to create functional art: mouth-blown, hand-cut crystal creations.

Hot Entertainment: Book Celebrates Photographer Selwyn Pullan and West Coast Modernism

Selwyn Pullan: Photographing Mid-Century West Coast Modernism

Heavy timber post-and-beam structures with sleek sculptural lines built on dramatic sites boasting spectacular views of the ocean or forest—these are the hallmarks of West Coast Modernism, which transformed BC architecture in the 1950s and ’60s. Selwyn Pullan captured this innovative style in images that appeared in popular magazines of the era, photographing projects for leading architects such as Arthur Erickson. See Pullan’s critically acclaimed work in the new book Selwyn Pullan: Photographing Mid-Century West Coast Modernism (Douglas & McIntyre; $45), which is being released in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name at the West Vancouver Museum (to Dec. 15), and you just might fall in love with the West Coast all over again.—Sheri Radford

Calgary Attractions: Discover Ralph Klein Park

The Environmental Education and Ethics Centre. Photo: Courtesy Ralph Klein Park.

Located in the city’s southeast, the Shepard Wetlands at Ralph Klein Provincial Park is the largest man-made urban wetland in the country and the cornerstone of the city’s wetland conservation efforts.

The wetland was created to control flooding and naturally purify urban runoff as it flows toward the Bow River.

Opened in 2011, the park is named for former Calgary mayor and Alberta premier Ralph Klein and is home to the Environmental Education and Ethics Centre. The interpretive learning venue houses an art studio, classrooms, meeting rooms and viewing decks. (more…)

Hot Entertainment: VanDusen Botanical Garden’s Green Design

VanDusen Botanical Garden's visitor centre. Photo by KK Law

From the top of its green roof to the depths of its geothermal energy system, the new visitor centre at VanDusen Botanical Garden is blazing a path in sustainable design. The building, with its eye-catching undulating roofline that resembles an orchid, uses green strategies such as rammed-earth walls, reclaimed lumber, on-site water capture and treatment, a photovoltaic system to generate electricity, and a giant skylight/solar chimney (pictured) that functions as a natural air conditioner. Designed to exceed LEED Platinum certification, the centre is also on track to be the fourth building in the world (and first in Canada) to meet the stringent Living Building Challenge (www.ilbi.org), which analyzes seven key components: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. Even for those who don’t know anything about eco-friendly design, there’s no denying the building’s beauty. See it for yourself this month, and be sure to stop by on Plant Sale Day (Apr. 29), when admission to the garden is free. —Sheri Radford

Where in Toronto: Of Buildings and Bridezillas

U of T's ivy-covered campus is home to numerous historic buildings (photo by Alistair Edmondson)

I’m not a bridezilla. Really. I haven’t been planning my wedding since I was 12. I don’t have a dress picked out. And not everything has to be done my way. My wishes are simple: I just want a summer wedding and amazing photography.

My summer-wedding wish was granted fairly early in the planning process. So I was able to get straight to work on ensuring my fiancé and I would have top-notch photographs. For that I needed to find an amazing setting.

I wanted our photos to be backdropped by some classic, European-style architecture. Big columns, grand arches, rotundas, the works—like the Pantheon in Paris, or, even better, Rome’s Coliseum! I thought it would be poetic to pick an Italian-inspired building. My fiancé and I both have a trip to Italy on our respective bucket lists, our favourite movie is The Godfather, and our very first conversation happened to uncover a mutual love for Italian soccer. How cool would it be if our wedding pictures were shot in Italy? Of course, travelling to Rome would put us slightly over budget.

Thus, we looked to Toronto’s underrated stock of heritage buildings. Forget the high-rise towers and the edgy ROM and the artistic AGO. They’re nice and all, but they faded to the background of my thoughts as I rediscovered the city’s gorgeous Old World–influenced architecture. (more…)

Canada’s Best New Attractions for Summer 2011

Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta

For travellers planning their summer trips in Canada this year, the regional editors of Where magazine have released their top picks for summer travel. The winners of Where Canada’s Best New Attractions for Summer 2011 represent the most exciting attractions – new, significantly improved, or celebrating major milestones this year. A diverse group of attractions from coast to coast, this year’s winners offer a wide range of activities and events suitable for any family, art lover, sports fanatic, nature lover or adventurer. Together, these attractions serve as the top must-see and must-dos for anyone travelling in Canada this summer. (more…)

Hot Attractions: Explore with Doors Open Ottawa

7 Rideau Gate is just one of the sites on offer during Doors Open Ottawa.

June 4 and 5. Discover the city’s architectural treasures during Doors Open Ottawa. With more than 100 buildings on offer, you can tour some of the city’s finest landmarks, some of which are often not open to the public. See the sparkling dome of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, 7 Rideau Gate (the historic guesthouse for visiting heads of state), an assortment of embassies, and other gems. Whether you want the hallowed halls of churches or ultra-modern construction, this annual event takes you to the hidden side of Ottawa design.

Hot Date: Welcome In!

Peek inside Toronto's Old City Hall and many other buildings as part of Doors Open

MAY 29 & 30 Step out into the street and discover some very interesting buildings as part of Doors Open Toronto, an annual celebration of the city’s architectural excellence. This free event offers visitors access to 150 unique modern and longstanding structures—including Old City Hall, St. James Cathedral and the reopened City Hall Podium Green Roof—each with their own historical, cultural, architectural and even environmental stories. Some locations offer tours, interpretive materials and activities to augment your visitor experience. And don’t forget to bring your camera—some of these sites are not open to the public at any other time of the year. Various venues and times; call 416-338-0628 or click here for further details.

This Weekend: Stroll the City

photo by TorontoCityLife

Spring has officially sprung in Toronto (though if recent, relatively balmy weather is any indication, the season snuck in unannounced at least a week ago). In this city and any other, there are few better ways to celebrate the temperature’s rise than by getting outside for a nice long walk.

Tomorrow—Sunday, March 21—the Canadian Tour Guide Association of Toronto offers an extra reason to partake in a reinvigorating amble. From 10 a.m. until noon, the organization’s learned and friendly members will be leading free walking tours of Toronto’s downtown core. Starting from Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen St. W.) and departing every 15 minutes, these hour-long excursions are sure to give you a new perspective on Toronto’s history, architecture and unique urban fabric.

Hot Art: Taste of Local Talent

Arbutus Tree by Emily Carr. Photo courtesy Heffel Fine Art Auction House

The desire to inspire has moulded Canadian art into something unique and synonymous with life here in the north. The iconic paintings of Emily Carr brought to life the diverse landscape intermixed with Native culture (pictured). Master carver Bill Reid showed us his passion for Haida art with intricate totem poles, sculptures and jewellery. Arthur Erickson pushed architectural design into the future with his contemporary creations, including the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. Photographers Fred Herzog and Jeff Wall continue to immortalize life in Vancouver with their powerful photographs. Visual artist and novelist Douglas Coupland is always changing the face of pop culture, and painter Gordon Smith has received the Order of Canada. There must be something in the water here.—Jennifer Patterson

30 Things We Love About Toronto This December

The Paper Place1 Pondering Audrea DiJulio’s multi-material sculptures at Loop Gallery.

2 Finding perfect paper for creating seasonal cards at The Paper Place.

3 The magnificent arched ceiling of the Great Library at historic Osgoode Hall.

4 Ambling through peaceful Mount Pleasant Cemetery after a snowfall.

5 Melt-in-your-mouth triple- cream brie from a local fave, the Leslieville Cheese Market (891 Queen St. E., 416-465-7143).

(more…)