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Halifax, Nova Scotia

by Andrea MacDonald

Overshadowed by its big-city Canadian cousins -- namely, Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto -- Halifax, Nova Scotia is the ultimate unsung travel destination. And only until recently, has the seaside city's quiet charms remained under wraps. Now, sidewalk entertainers from all over the world converge on Halifax for the international BuskerFest each August.

Visitors can take in any of the featured acts for just a couple of dollars, though some of the city's best entertainment won't even cost you that.
Star spotting may seem an unlikely activity in such a remote setting, but keep your eyes peeled. From late spring to early fall, it's not unusual to see a Hollywood celebrity shooting her scenes on a local street.

Canadian tax breaks have lured countless movie crews to Nova Scotia over the past few years, using the province as a stand-in for everywhere from Maine to New York.

Rob Lowe, Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore and Sandra Bullock -- not to mention Sex and the City's Kristin Davis and indie queen Parker Posey -- are just a few of the stars to have filmed here.

(Don't be surprised to bump into them at a local bar or restaurant. In their off hours, they've been known to make the rounds without an entourage.)
Halifax is a college town, meaning budget dorm rooms during the summer and a lively club scene come September.

The city is said to have the highest number of bars per capita in all of Canada, so there are plenty to suit your taste. Some of the city's best are housed in privateer-era buildings and invite patrons to join in an old-fashioned Maritime sing-a-long.

The history buff in you will want to check out the star-shaped Citadel fortress overlooking Halifax Harbour.

The harbour is too polluted for swimming, but it serves as a potent reminder to Haligonians of one of the world's largest explosions. A munitions ship collided with a cargo ship in 1917, killing scores of people and levelling a chunk of the city. Artifacts are scattered throughout Halifax.

More than 100 Titanic victims are buried in local cemeteries as well, with the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic boasting one of the largest Titanic collections.

Close to 330,000 people live in Halifax and its suburbs, yet it can still feel like a small town.

Just ask the hundreds of Buddhists from Boulder, Colorado, who made the city their international headquarters more than a decade ago for its peaceful way of life. Today, they run some of the city's finest restaurants and shops.

Halifax also makes a great base for day trips to the province's scenic South Shore, where you can celebrate the works of local artisans or pan for gold in ancient sea caves.

Feel like splurging just once before you leave?

Take a chance on the waterfront casino, where you can gamble the night away in a colourful, yet admittedly gaudy, atmosphere.

Maybe you'll get lucky and win enough for a return trip.


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