Every so often, an opportunity comes my way that is almost too good to be true. This year, Downtown Halifax invited me to participate in Big Day Downtown, where 30 local bloggers are armed with $100 Visa cards, sent out to experience the best of downtown Halifax and blog about their experiences. To make things extra interesting this year, bloggers were randomly paired up. I was paired with the amazing Mo Handahu of Lion Hunter (formerly known as Curvy Geekery) who is super-friendly, up for adventure and my new style hero.
Update August 2013: I participated again in 2013, check out my next Big Day Downtown adventure!
Downtown Halifax is compact and easily walkable, with a blend of historic buildings, independent shops, eats from street food to haute cuisine and drinking spots that seem borrowed from your favourite movie (complete with witty bartenders and good times). To fit everything in, you’ll want to clear your week or so for your own Big Day Downtown.
Biscuit General Store
When Mo and I were talking about how to spend our Big Day Downtown, we agreed that Biscuit General Store was a must-do. When we arrived, we were lucky enough to find owner Wendy Friedman and my style navigator Johnny MacDonald on hand to show us the best of the all of the amazing new items that have been arriving at the store.
Biscuit’s motto is “there’s nowhere like Biscuit” and I promise you, it’s true. Men’s and women’s fashions, accessories, shoes, gifts, housewares, fancy frocks, baby stuff, handbags, generally fun things and much, much more. I love Biscuit for many reasons, but I could spend hours browsing the amazing selection of anything and everything you might need in your life.
Mo and I burned through the accessories, trying on sunglasses, jewelry, handbags and pretty much anything else that wasn’t nailed down.
I picked out a brand new hat for winter and an utterly adorable kitchen timer that looks like an owl. What do you think?
There’s even a mechanical horsey named Biscuit for the kiddies and more compact adults. He absolutely demanded to try on my new hat.
For our next stop, I got to play tour guide and show Mo one of my favourite shops, Inkwell Modern Handmade Boutique and Letterpress Studio, which features a carefully-curated selection of cards, papercraft and fun gifts.
Browsing without a specific item in mind is best, because you will certainly find something unexpected and amazing. Like these super cute wine tags.
Inkwell also has a set of working letterpresses. You may be lucky enough to see art in action during your visit.
And since this is a blog, what better complement in paper form than an analog blog?
See for yourself: Inkwell Modern Handmade Boutique and Letterpress Studio, 1658 Market Street, @Inkwell on Twitter
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia was a great way to insert some culture into our Big Day Downtown. Luckily for us, we caught the weekly late opening on Thursday night, taking time for a quick stop to talk about some of the art I last visited at Nocturne and during my longer trip earlier this summer.
For our Big Day Downtown, I wanted to explore the Museum Shop for its unique collection of art, jewelry, pottery and other gifts. If your’re stuck for ideas, the helpful staff will be pleased to make some suggestions. Here they are by the door, waiting to be called into action:
Seriously, though, I always discover something new at the AGNS shop. On this trip, I found an amazing selection of cards, which I scooped up for the upcoming birthday-heavy winter.
Ghost Hunting at the Nova Scotia Legislature?
After the Art Gallery, Mo had to leave for an event, but I continued on. The next part of my Big Day Downtown got spooky when I noticed the lights were on in the Legislative Library at Province House, Nova Scotia’s House of Assembly. Look closely, there’s something in one of those reflections, right?
If ghosts aren’t your speed, but unicorns are, stop by Province House to see the giant lion and unicorn on the facade of the building. I imagine they watch over us, providing witty commentary about silly humans.
See for yourself: Province House, 1726 Hollis Street, @NSLeg on Twitter
The short version: you can’t miss Freak Lunchbox in downtown Halifax. First, because it’s visually impossible to miss:
Second, you’ll regret it. Freak Lunchbox is a candy-coloured wonderland of, well, candy.
I’m a fairly regular customer since my office is conveniently located close to all of that sweet candy. On occasions when I have writer’s block, a quick trip for a treat is usually the fresh air (+ sugar) I need to get my brain working again. Plus, I recently discovered a caffeinated chocolate bar which fueled a good two hours of uninterrupted brilliance.
Candy of every size, shape and flavour, include a lot of brands familiar to those of us, ahem, who may have a fond recollection of things from the 1980s. There’s also a wonderfully diverse bulk candy section which merits more than a quick trip. I guarantee you’ll make an amazing discovery.
Like I did when I found peach penguins. They look like penguins, but, paradoxically, taste like gummy peaches. A perfect treat.
Obladee, a Wine Bar
What to do when you start to get a little hungry? Go for a bite to eat, of course! I love Obladee for two reasons: 1) it’s right around the corner from my work; and, 2) they have an extensive selection of wine by the glass and an amazing selection of cheese and charcuterie. Honestly, if I had my druthers, I’d happily eat this meal every single day.
I also love Obladee for the ambiance. Great lighting, cool music, fun staff and a strategic location on Barrington Street that’s perfect for people-watching. As the night passes, people trickle in and out, and you’re very likely to see someone you know. It also reminds me the wine bars and bistros I find while traveling: menus written in chalk, wine bottles everywhere and appropriately moody lighting.
Much, much more in Downtown Halifax
I want to thank Downtown Halifax for inviting me to participate in this year’s Big Day Downtown, I had a lot of fun, made a new friend and I hope I’ve given you some great ideas for fun things to see, do, eat and more for your own Big Day Downtown!
If you like this post, be sure to check out some of my other favourite things to do in downtown Halifax, like the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the Historic Bank of Nova Scotia. I also spent a lot of time with even more great Downtown Halifax merchants like Bishop’s Cellar, Carbonstok, Chives Canadian Bistro, Biscuit General Store, Inkwell, World Tea House, Sugah!, Rumrunners Rum Cake Factory, Garrison Brewing during Halifax’s first Open City in May 2012.
The opinions presented are my own, and I would like to extend my thanks to Downtown Halifax Business Commission for inviting me to participate in Big Day Downtown and for providing a $100 prepaid Visa card. Any time I receive a complimentary service in my capacity as a travel blogger, I disclose it.