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Halifax - Attractions

Halifax Citadel National Historical Site

Canada's most-visited national historic site, the Citadel is a huge, oddly-angled fort on top of Halifax's big central hill. The current structure is the fourth, built to defend Halifax from the Americans. The excellent guided tours explain the fort's shape and how, despite appearances, it was neither well designed nor well constructed. For some free entertainment watch the hourly changing of the guard - just look for kilts and ostrich-feather hats. And men standing very, very still.

Historic Properties

This group of restored buildings on Upper Water St were constructed between 1800 and 1905. Many of the buildings are long two-story places, designed for easy storage of goods and cargo. Most now house shops, restaurants and bars. Privateer's Warehouse, dating from 1814, is the oldest stone building in the area. The privateers were government-sanctioned pirates who fed off the US 'enemy'; their booty was hidden here. The timber Old Red Store was once used for shipping operations and as a sail loft. Simon's Warehouse, built in 1854, has had a myriad uses, including warehouse and office building.

Maritime Command Museum

As the name suggests, this museum on the Canadian Forces Base is full of displays of the past history of the Maritimes, so you can expect to see plenty of uniforms and medals. The museum is housed in an impressive stone building - it was the private residence of the commander-in-chief of the British Royal Navy in North America from 1819-1904 - and the grounds feature numerous cannons.

Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

This large museum, south of the Historic Properties, warrants a peek, and not just for boat buffs. It contains full-scale examples of many regional vessels, along with models, photographs and historical data. There's a wildly popular display on the Titanic and another on Halifax's Great Explosion. The lens from a Halifax lighthouse is impressive, as are the painted figureheads taken from various ships. A replica of Canada's best-known boat, the racing schooner Bluenose, is often moored at the wharf near the museum. You might recognise it from Canada's 10-cent coin - it's a symbol of Canada almost as famous as the maple leaf.

Pier 21 Centre

Pier 21 was to Canada what Ellis Island was to the US. Between 1928 and 1971 over a million immigrants entered Canada here. This included a whopping 48,000 war brides and their 22,000 children. During WWII nearly half a million troops departed from Pier 21 for Europe. In 1999 this naitonal historic site reopened as a museum featuring a large pavilion wth information displays, boutiques, cafes and multilmedia exhibits detailing the travails of refugees and immigrants hoping to call Canada home.

Pier 21 is somewhat hidden behind the VIA Rail station - go around the side of the Westin Hotel on Terminal Rd. Better yet, follow the waterfront boardwalk south from the Historic Properties and you'll bump right into it.

Titanic Grave Site

Since the film Titanic swept through the 1998 Academy Awards like, well, an iceberg, nondenominational Fairview Cemetery has been incorporated into the tour bus circuit. Halifax, base of rescue operations for the tragedy, is home to nearly all the residuals of the fateful voyage. Among the 121 victims buried here is a lowly coal shoveler named Jim Dawson, who was transformed by Hollywood into Jack Dawson. It's easy to find grave No 227, marked simply 'J Dawson, April 15, 1912', as weepy adolescents have made it a pilgrimage point and there are usually flowers.

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