It has probably been quite a while since many Haligonians have been able to stroll around the museums dedicated to the city’s rich culture and history but with COVID-19 restrictions continuing to loosen in Nova Scotia, there is no better time than now to reunite with HRM’s many attractions.
In fact, with the Nova Scotia government recently announcing a campaign to boost tourism, many of the local provincial museums are not charging admission to visitors until the end of August so there truly is no excuse to avoid checking out one of these five free options this summer.
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
Located on the Harbourfront at 1675 Lower Water Street, Canada’s oldest and largest maritime museum will be offering free admission to all visitors until August 31. If you have yet to wander through the museum’s immersive Titanic: The Unsinkable Ship showcase or see the twisted metal chunks of plating from steamship Mont Blanc on display at the fascinating exhibit on the Halifax Explosion, you are missing out on essential viewing for local history buffs.
Open daily, the Maritime Museum’s permanent collection also includes dramatic panel displays on the 175-year-old Franklin Expedition tragedy, various shipwrecks as well as The Age of Steam — a classic look at the huge ships of the industrial age that were created to carry thousands of passengers across the Atlantic Ocean.
Museum of Natural History
At the downtown Museum of Natural History, visitors can explore all sorts of natural curiosities at no charge for July and August every day of the week. In addition to fossils, ocean life and all creatures of our local landscape, the popular museum houses cultural artifacts including This Is What I Wish You Knew, an exhibit in partnership with the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre that investigates Indigenous self-identity through personal stories carved and painted onto clay tiles.
And of course, there is also Gus — the museum’s mascot — a nearly-century old tortoise that is a popular attraction among the younger visitors.
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
For art lovers, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is also offering complimentary admission until the end of August. Open four days of the week, the Hollis Street gallery focuses on art primarily with local ties including the Maud Lewis Gallery and a collection of 22 hooked rugs by Deanne Fitzpatrick, one of the province’s most renowned rug hookers.
As of July 15, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia will present Tyranny, an exhibit that unites a group of contemporary artists that “confront dominant cultural narratives in the work they make” through sculpture, painting, video and other artistic means.
Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum
Since this museum runs on community support through donations, the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum isn’t technically free but for a small donation of a visitor’s choosing, people can explore and learn more about the area’s agricultural past seven days a week.
In addition to an abundance of farm animals and its popular gardens spread over nearly three acres of land, the Cole Harbour Heritage Farm Museum provides visitors a “rural oasis in the city” experience with its five heritage buildings dating back to the 18th century as well as offering a variety of soups, sandwiches and baked goods in its popular Rose & Kettle tea room.
Uniacke Estate Museum
A bit further afield, the Uniacke Estate Museum Park captures an important slice of Nova Scotia’s history. Located along the historic Halifax-to-Windsor stagecoach route (essentially, the province’s first highway), the Uniacke Estate is offering free visits for July and August of the wealthy country estate of Richard John Uniacke — Nova Scotia’s Attorney General at the turn of the 19th century.
Filled with original family furnishings and portraits, the elegant museum is an excellent rare example of an early 1800s home. After checking out the inside of the Uniacke Museum, eager hikers are welcome to explore the seven trails that traverse the 930-hectare property at their leisure.