Arts·I He(art) My City

Theatre, green space and a whole lot of pizza: An artist's guide to falling in love with Halifax

Local playwright Lee-Anne Poole offers a deep dive into the many wonders of the Nova Scotia capital.

Local playwright Lee-Anne Poole offers a deep dive into the many wonders of the Nova Scotia capital

(CBC Arts)

Everyone knows about the art scenes in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver — but what about Calgary, Yellowknife or Saint John? In CBC Arts's continuing series "I He(art) My City," a local artist offers an insider's guide to the city they call home. Here, playwright and arts producer Lee-Anne Poole shows you her Halifax.

Mi'kma'ki, K'jipuktuk / Halifax, Nova Scotia is the traditional territory of the Mi'kmaq. It is a perfectly sized city — for me. You can walk from one end of town to the other in 30 minutes and ride your bike to a lake, and people who didn't grow up here would probably put "city" in quotes.

Here is a list of some of the reason I love Halifax. Full disclosure, I've worked at some of these places, but it's Halifax — it's small, of course I have! 

Coffee!

Java Blend Coffee Roasters. (Lee-Anne Poole)

Favourite place to get coffee: Java Blend Coffee Roasters

Java Blend is a small, locally-owned roaster/cafe that has been operating for over 70 years. If you wanna run into everyone you know, sit down for a cup. If you visit Halifax and don't make it to their cafe, you'll probably still get to try their coffee. They supply to a lot of restaurants and other cafes in town. My neighbourhood cafe, Dilly Dally, serves Java Blend coffee and makes delicious treats in-house. 

Pizza!

Delighting in some Salvatore's Pizza. (Lee-Anne Poole)

Favourite place to eat pizza: Salvatore's

Recently some people from out of town asked me where to get the best pizza in Halifax. Well, I typically hate getting asked stuff like that. How am I gonna know what you'll like?! But I have real opinions about it, so I was excited to give them some suggestions. I told them my absolute favourite is Salvatore's, but there are lots of great options — Rinaldo's, Mothers Pizza and Morris East all have delicious pizza. They asked me which one of those would have stuffed crust and I knew we had very different taste in pizza. 

Salvatore's is, by far, my favourite. I'm eating it right now. They have a lovely little restaurant in the Hydrostone. The staff are historically hip weirdos who probably also play in five different local bands. Be warned, if you order for delivery, order BEFORE you're hungry. I'm not the only one who thinks they're the best, and on a Friday night, delivery can take over an hour. Worth it.

Beer!

"Enjoying" some beer at Good Robot Brewing. (Stoo Metz)

Favourite place to get a beer: I fucking hate beer.

Beer is popular. I get it. I tried. I swear. From the age of 19 to 20, I forced it down, hoping to acquire the taste and finally become cool. I gave up and have lived a happy life, never drinking beer. But I know everyone else loves it (I know this by how shocked everyone is when I tell them I hate it). So since I know you wanna know, here are some local breweries you could try in Halifax. We have many: North Brewing CompanyUnfiltered Brewing, Good Robot Brewing Company. Good Robot Brewing Company has a nice outdoor area that is wheelchair accessible, allows your emotional therapy pup and the washrooms are all-gender. 

Sitting down!

The Commons. (Lee-Anne Poole)

Favourite place to sit down: The Halifax Common(s)

This is gonna get controversial. If you grew up here, chances are you call it The Commons. If you found your way to Halifax later in life, you are probably forever frustrated that we call it The Commons when the name is really The Common (no s). Yeah yeah yeah, the legal deed says The Common, Wikipedia says The Common, it's called The Common. Fine. But that's not what we say. 

The Halifax Common(s) is a big open green space in the middle of the city. There's a fountain going in the summer, a skating rink in the winter and dogs running around all year long...though I think there is a bylaw against that, so don't tell! 

Pack some snacks (or get a delicious burrito and ice cream from Dee Dee's) and bring a book. You can spend hours here people-watching or having a nap. When you get there, make sure to check out the public art. There are three entries on North Park Street. Each entry hosts a design in concrete — one created by the Indigenous community and the other by the African Nova Scotian community. A third is forthcoming and celebrates the LGBTQ2S+ community.

Theatre!

The Bus Stop Theatre Coop. (Stoo Metz)

Favourite place to see theatre: The Bus Stop Theatre Coop

The Bus Stop Theatre is a well-loved black box theatre. I have a long history with The Bus Stop Theatre, ranging from a renter, volunteer, manager and community member. My very first apartment was right above the theatre! I think you'll find many theatre-makers in Halifax can say the same. The Bus Stop Theatre has been a place to explore and share stories, a launching pad and a home. The co-op that runs the space has put together a campaign to buy the building and make improvements to it. Check out their website and the venue, and support if you can.

Be yourself!

Venus Envy (Instagram)

Favourite place to be yourself: Venus Envy

Venus Envy is our favourite local sex shop! It was voted Best Sex Shop in Halifax in The Coast readers' poll so many times that they retired the category. It's where I purchased my first vibrator, and my second, my third, fourth, and so on. It is an education-based bookstore and sex shop. They have so many amazing books, very friendly and informative staff, and regular workshops. It's a no-pressure environment where you can be exactly who you are. Looking for some summer reading? You could pick up a book written by one of their inspiring staff. Hot, Wet, and Shaking: How I Learned to Talk about Sex by Kaleigh Trace and Disintegrate/Dissociate by Arielle Twist are both brilliant and personal books that I'm forever recommending.

Take a day trip!

Alderney Landing Farmers' Market in Dartmouth. (Tourism Nova Scotia)

Favourite place to day trip: Dartmouth

So there's Halifax and there's Dartmouth...and the local government says we're the same city or all a part of the Halifax Regional Municipality? I can't keep up. Either way, Dartmouth is a charming ferry ride across the harbour and well worth checking out. It's been lovingly referred to as The City of Lakes, so bring your swimsuit. In Dartmouth, you can check out the Alderney Landing Farmers' Market, get a coffee and treat at Port City Cafe, get refreshed at Lake City Cider and walk the bridge back over to Halifax. 

Free things!

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Favourite place to be entertained on a budget:

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is free every Thursday evening from 5-9pm year-round. 

Neptune Theatre offers PWYC performances on the first Tuesday of every show. 

Anna Leonowens Gallery is always free! 

Nocturne is an annual free event where the city transforms into a nighttime art gallery. Check it out this year on Saturday, October 19!

Get outside!

Kejimkujik National Park. (Lee-Anne Poole)

Favourite place to get outside near Halifax: Kejimkujik National Park

OK, so maybe this isn't fair because Keji isn't IN Halifax. But I'd argue that one of the best parts about living in Halifax is that you're close to stunning places like this! Spend an afternoon hiking and canoeing, or a few nights backcountry camping. Here is a pic of my little dog and me on a solo camping trip. I tipped the canoe, and she was pretty unimpressed with me. Remember your lifejacket!

More local essentials

About the Author

Lee-Anne Poole is a writer & arts producer. The author of 7 plays; her first full-length play, Splinters, has been adapted into a feature film.