Whether you're visiting from out of town or you've lived here all your life, it's good to know there's plenty to do around Halifax that won't cost you a penny.
Let's start with the art galleries. Just a few blocks from Celebration Square, the Anna Leonowens Gallery is named after the famous heroine of The King and I who went on to establish the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design. There and at NSCAD's new Port Loggia Gallery, you can view exhibitions featuring art by NSCAD University students and faculty. And be sure to check out our other university art galleries too. Dalhousie, Saint Mary's and Mount Saint Vincent all have excellent public art programming, and admission is always free.
The action never stops at Celebration Square! Canada Games visitors are turning out in droves to take in the noon-hour performances and evening concerts showcasing the diverse range of talent Nova Scotia has to offer.
Last week, the Dartmouth & District Pipe Band and Scotia Highland Dancers treated noontime audiences to a taste of our Gaelic heritage, offering music and dance rooted in the time-honoured traditions of Scotland.
Nova Scotia's ski scene could be be one of our province's best-kept secrets. With the Canada Games in full swing, the secret is out -- and fans are loving it.
Two excellent venues showcase the high-level competition taking place throughout the games. Ski Wentworth hosted some spectacular Freestyle action during week 1, with Alpine Skiing kicking up the speed in week 2.
Folks who enjoyed last week's Biathlon competition at Ski Martock can enjoy Cross-country skiing and Snowboarding this week -- two sports alive and thriving on our outdoor recreation scene.
I grew up skiing in Nova Scotia. Back then, Ski Keppoch drew skiers from around the Antigonish area. The hill was a hub of activity all winter. We raced, skied with friends or just hung out in the lodge -- good times!
The ice is cold and the competition is hot at the Mayflower Curling Club for the 2011 Canada Games. Featuring six sheets of ice and plenty of viewing room, the facility has fans flocking to watch women's curling in week 1, while the men's teams compete during week 2. Curling fans from all over the country are here in Halifax to cheer on their team and take part in the festivities.
Curling has a rich history and an avid following in Nova Scotia. There are 35 clubs in the province, including the Halifax Curling Club -- the oldest continuously active club in North America and the fourth oldest organized curling club in Canada.
You never know who you'll run into at Celebration Square during the Canada Games. I spent some time at the Nova Scotia Tourism tent, meeting folks who were stopping by to record a Nova Scotia Shout Out Video to share on the internet.
And who should drop in to make a clip but the President of the Canadian Surfing Association, John Fluke -- a big fan of our province's excellent surfing scene. "Some of the best surfing in Eastern North America is found here in Nova Scotia," he says. "The water's a little cold in the wintertime, but we like it here."
The very thought of surfing in February sends me running for the nearest hot tub, but John assured me that Nova Scotia's surfing scene is active all year long. Wetsuits, hoods, gloves and boots protect against the winter cold and in summer our warmer beaches see surfers riding the waves in swimsuits or board shorts.
When I arrived in Halifax in 1982, the restaurant scene focused mostly on traditional Maritime fare -- places like Hogie's on Quinpool Road, where you could get a steak or some fresh pan-fried haddock. Or the Midtown Tavern for a burger and a beer.
And there was the legendary Momma Camille's -- a favourite among visiting sailors and locals who knew where to find the best fish & chips in town. A few Chinese-Canadian and Greek restaurants added some variety in those days but in terms of anything ethnic or exotic, we still had some growing to do.
And grow we did! Today, Halifax boasts a fantastic array of restaurants offering menus to tempt even the most adventurous palates. From Lebanese to Thai, Japanese, Indian, Caribbean, Vietnamese, southern Barbecue and beyond, the choices are as diverse as they are delicious.
My first encounter with Joel Plaskett was at the Bay Road Fire Hall in Lewis Lake, just outside Halifax. This was back in 2003. A bunch of young local garage bands hired Joel to headline at a multi-band concert that they'd organized. My son's band was part of the lineup, so naturally I wasn't going to miss it.
The concert was great. After all the bands played, Plaskett got up to perform -- just him, his guitar and a microphone. It was an intimate, magical show -- between songs he told stories and we were all enthralled. And after the show he stayed to talk to the young musicians who were there, answering questions patiently, so generous with his time. I'm sure everyone there remembers that night.
I got the chance to watch some high-powered hockey at the Metro Centre on Sunday night, where Team Nova Scotia played hard against British Columbia. Fans were out in force to cheer on our team, and the game was fast and exciting.
On the way home I passed an outdoor hockey rink that neighbours had made by flooding a corner lot, lighting it with spotlights. That scene brought back memories. Kids were playing shinny under the stars, like they used to do on the rink in my back yard when I was growing up.
Cheers! Sláinte! Salud! What do you say when you raise a glass with friends?
In Nova Scotia, we say "sociable!" -- which the dictionary defines as "engaging readily with other people." Yep -- that's us! We're friendly people and we're so excited to welcome the Canada Games to town!
Well there's nothing like home-grown talent to make you proud of your province. And at the Canada Games Opening Ceremony, we did it up!
Cheticamp's Elsie Delaney and JRDN (Haligonian Jordan Croucher) sang O Canada like it's never been heard before -- an English/French duet sung in sweet two-part harmony.
And it just got better and better. The Stanfields and the Trews rocked the house while Grand Dérangement gave us their neo-Acadian blend of folk, Celtic, rock and dance. And Cape Breton's Jimmy Rankin rounded the whole thing off with a heartfelt ballad that got everyone into the spirit of things.