Winter in Halifax is not for the faint of heart. With snow, cold temperatures and short foggy days, it can be challenging for some to embrace the snowy season.
However, if you bundle up and brave the elements, you’ll find that there is a lot to love about Halifax winters.
I lived in Halifax for almost 2 years, and in this article, I share what the winter is like here, plus things to do in Halifax in winter so you can make the most of the season and know what to expect.
What is Winter Like in Halifax?
Halifax winter lasts from December to March and is much milder than in the rest of Canada. The average winter temperatures range from -3° to -6°C, with February being the coldest month. Halifax ranks in the top 10 warmest Canadian cities in winter.
Halifax gets, on average, around 150 centimeters of snow per year. January and February are the months with the largest snowfall of the season.
Historically, the snowiest day was February 19, 2004, with 95 cm of snow in Halifax.
There is a saying in Halifax that If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes. And it’s pretty spot on. Winds combined with the mixing of two major ocean currents—the cold Labrador Current of the North Atlantic and the warm Gulf Stream from the Gulf of Mexico, make the weather in Halifax quite unpredictable. Get ready for a mix of sunshine, fog, rain, and cloudiness all in one day.
Our first winter in Halifax was in 2022. After living in Alberta for three years, we weren’t sure what to expect. In December, we barely had any snow, so we thought winters in Halifax would be a breeze. Only to have a couple of big snow dumps in the following winter months when we had to shovel our car out.
We also hit one day in February at around -20° C. I know that doesn’t sound very encouraging, but overall, the winter season wasn’t bad at all.
Although Nova Scotia is Canada’s 5th snowiest province or territory, the average number of snowy days in Halifax in 2022 was only 30.
Lots of rain and fog are also common. Halifax gets about 122 foggy days per year. On a positive note, because of the abundant rainfall, the snow melts fairly quickly.
The main highways are well-maintained during the winter. Sidewalks or residential roads in Halifax take a bit longer to get cleared. Also, make sure to keep an eye on the status of an overnight winter parking ban.
When there’s a large snowfall, Halifax Regional Municipality requires the streets to remain free of vehicles so they can perform snow-clearing operations effectively. During bans, you need to find a spot to park in a driveway.
I recommend investing in a good set of winter tires, a warm winter jacket and winter boots.
Fun Things to Do in Halifax in Winter
Although Halifax may be a more popular travel destination in summer and autumn, winters in Halifax are just as great.
1.Ice Skate at Emera Oval
There is no better way to kickstart winter in Halifax than by ice skating at the Emera Oval ice skating ring. Bring your ice skates or take advantage of free rentals and enjoy ice skating outdoors while taking in the beautiful views of downtown Halifax.
After your skating, stop in at one of the nearby local cafes for a hot chocolate and a bite to eat. I like Cafe Lara or Ramblers.
2.Explore Cross-Country Ski Trails
In winter, walking paths become cross-country ski trails at Point Pleasant Park, Sir Sandford Fleming Park, and Hemlock Ravine. Dartmouth maintains groomed surfaces at Lake Charles, and several lakes in Halifax are great for skating.
The closest downhill skiing and snowboarding is at Ski Martock, an hour’s drive from Halifax. It’s a popular family hill, suitable for beginners.
3.Watch Local Hockey Match
Through the long winter, when outdoor activities are less appealing, watching hockey matches is a fun activity.
Local fans flock to the Halifax Metro Centre to cheer on their own Halifax Mooseheads, who play from mid-September to mid-March in the Québec Major Junior Hockey League.
After all, Nova Scotia is said to be the birthplace of hockey (specifically Windsor).
4.Admire Lights at Halifax Public Gardens
Halifax Public Gardens is beautiful to visit any time of the year, but in winter, it turns into a magic wonderland full of lights. It’s one of the oldest formal Victorian gardens in North America, established in 1753.
Gravel paths wind among ponds and trees illuminated by colorful holiday lights. It’s a great place for a romantic evening stroll or to take the whole family.
5.Shop Goodies at Halifax Seaport Farmers Market
Halifax Seaport Farmers Market takes place on weekends and hosts more than 100 local farmers, food producers, and artisans.
There’s a wonderful array of fresh produce and crafts, and the international backgrounds of many vendors make it particularly interesting, with some unique offerings.
6.Try Legendary Halifax Donair
Believe it or not, the statement “Can I have a poutine with my donair?” is acceptable in Halifax. This sandwich wrapped in pita bread features spicy meat, tomatoes, onions, and a distinct Halifax sauce that is sweet, creamy and garlicky.
While these donairs are available all over the province, King of Donair on Pizza Corner in Halifax claims to be the original home of the popular snack.
7.Watch Ships at Point Pleasant Park
Most of the city’s former fortifications have been turned into public parks, including Point Pleasant Park. It’s an urban park that encompasses 186 wooded acres with walking trails and seafront paths.
The major military installation here is a massive round tower dating from the late 18th century.
Point Pleasant is a popular spot for strollers, joggers, and dog walkers. It’s the perfect spot for a winter walk from which you can watch ships entering the harbor.
8.Take a Ferry to Dartmouth
Take the 20-minute ferry ride from the boardwalk terminal at Lower Water Street across the harbor to downtown Dartmouth. The ferry terminal is right next door to Portland Street and has many cafes and restaurants. Make sure to try pie from Humble Pie and grab coffee and pastries from Two if By Sea.
Every Saturday, there is also a farmers market at Alderney Landing. If you have extra time, Shubie Park is a beautiful place to take a stroll in winter.
9.Sample Nova Scotia Wines at the Icewine Festival
The Nova Scotia Icewine Festival is the winter wine festival that takes place in the heart of the Annapolis Valley at Luckett Vineyards.
The festival takes place in February and features wines from across Nova Scotia. It’s a great way to spend a day wine tasting, touring, and experiencing Nova Scotia Wine Country in the winter.
There should also be shuttles departing from Halifax.
10.Visit Peggys Cove
The iconic Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is a 40-minute drive from Halifax and the ocean scenery is definitely worth the trip.
The lighthouse is enveloped by massive granite boulders overlooking the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The fishing village in which the lighthouse is located is full of cute, colorful houses.
Taking a photo with a lighthouse is a must when you’re visiting Nova Scotia.
11.Explore Halifax Dining Scene
When it gets cold outside, the best way to spend your winter evenings in Halifax is by exploring its dining scene. Halifax has a wide variety of restaurants offering different cuisines, from seafood to Italian and local Canadian dishes.
Popular spots are The Bicycle Thief for delicious Italian food, Stillwell for craft beer and tasty burgers, and Fredie’s for amazing seafood chowder and lobster rolls.
12.Go Sledding in Citadel Hill
Citadel Hill is one of Halifax’s most iconic landmarks. It’s a fort that was built in 1869 by Scottish Highlanders to protect Atlantic coast from Brits. Every noon in Halifax is announced by the firing of the Noon Gun.
The Citadel is perched on the hill, making it a perfect spot for sledding in winter on a snowy day.
13.Stargaze at St. Mary’s Observatory
The Burke-Gaffney Observatory in Halifax is not only a scientific research facility but also serves as a tourist attraction for stargazing enthusiasts. Here, you can experience the wonders of the night sky and learn about astronomy in a captivating way. The observatory is operated by the Department of Astronomy and Physics at Saint Mary’s University.
Free private group tours are available on Monday evenings.
14.Immerse Yourself in the Holiday Spirit at Evergreen Market
Halifax is also enchanting around Christmas. The city has a 59 % chance of a white Christmas, while there is a 40 % chance along the Atlantic Coast of the province.
My favorite Christmas activity is strolling the Evergreen Market at the Halifax waterfront.
The market has the perfect atmosphere to bring you into the holiday spirit, with local vendors selling their crafts and hot cocoa from wooden chalets.
Also, the Halifax Convention Center has cool Christmas shows and exhibits.
15.Marvel at Ice Sculptures at Dartmouth Ice Festival
Every year in January, the Dartmouth Ice Festival takes place, with ice sculptures on display all over downtown Dartmouth. The festival features interactive activities, music, and food to keep you entertained while admiring the beautiful ice art.
It’s a great way to spend a winter day with friends or family, admiring the creativity and skill of the ice sculptors.
16.Check Out Halifax Museums & Art Galleries
Winter is the perfect season to explore indoor activities like visiting museums. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic showcases Nova Scotia’s rich maritime history, while the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia displays an impressive collection of local art.
The Museum of Natural History is also worth checking out. This is the place to learn about fossils and dinosaurs, as well as the native animals and plants of Nova Scotia.
Final Word: Is Halifax Fun in Winter?
The winter in Halifax is relatively mild. Although the temperatures often drop below zero at night with occasional snow blizzards. This is good news for winter sports enthusiasts, of course. There are plenty of opportunities for cross-country skiing, skating, and snowmobiling.
Halifax is a town that has a lot to offer in any season of the year, and that includes winter. Its rich history, lively culture, and friendly locals make it a charming destination whether you’re planning to move here or just visit.
Winter in Halifax FAQ
Is Halifax colder than Toronto?
Toronto tends to be slightly colder than Halifax because of its inland location, unlike Halifax, which is on the Atlantic coast. Halifax is also affected by the warm Gulf Stream. That said, average temperatures are similar in both cities. Summers are hotter in Toronto. Halifax gets more snow.
Is Halifax colder than Calgary?
Calgary is significantly colder than Halifax, especially in winter. Halifax’s climate is wetter, milder and more humid, while Calgary gets colder and dryer. Average daytime winter temperatures in Calgary are between -5 to -15°C and can drop to as low as -30°C, while in Halifax, average daytime winter temperatures are from 6 °C to 2 °C, rarely falling below -7 °C.
Are winters harsh in Nova Scotia?
Winter in Nova Scotia is cold and snowy, but the temperatures vary depending on the location, whether it’s inland or on the coast. The average winter temperatures in Nova Scotia are between -3° to -6° C.
Nova Scotia gets, on average, 110 snowy days per year. The average amount of snow that falls each year along the coast is 150 cm, while inland, the amount is a lot higher – 250 cm. In northern Cape Breton, it’s 300 cm.