Shopping in Halifax is central to the Hallmark Channel’s “The Secret Gift of Christmas” — Photo courtesy of Hallmark Channel/Waterstar Entertainment Inc.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, with its beautiful harbor, temperate winter weather, and lovely old buildings constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries, is the perfect setting for both Hallmark Channel Christmas movies and winter holiday visits.
And with Nova Scotia’s reputation as the “Balsam Fir Christmas Tree Capital of the World” (more than 350,000 of those classic Christmas trees are grown and sold from here every year), as well as the massive stacked lobster-trap Christmas trees, it’s no surprise that Halifax and Hallmark began a beautiful friendship in 2023.
Why Hallmark loves Halifax for Christmas romances
Halifax is lovely around Christmas and any time of year — Photo courtesy of shaunl / Getty Images
“Halifax is the perfect city for Hallmark Movies to create pure Christmas magic,” says Laura Mackenzie, the executive director of Screen Nova Scotia. “The historical architecture throughout our province needs minimal set dressing and our more modern designs can play any bustling city.”
The the November 2023 hit “Christmas Island” is the first of the network’s Halifax-set movies, starring, of course, popular Canadian heartthrob Andrew W. Walker. (He’s been in more than 25 Hallmark movies total, 13 of them holiday-themed).
Showcasing the historic city and nearby gorgeous scenic settings, including UNESCO World Heritage Site Lunenburg, as well as Peggy’s Cove and Hubbards, proved to everyone that the region really is ideal for both Canadian moviemaking and vacationing.
Halifax provides the picture-perfect setting for the Hallmark Channel’s “The Secret Gift of Christmas” — Photo courtesy of Hallmark Channel/Waterstar Entertainment Inc.
Next up this Hallmark holiday season is the December release of “The Secret Gift of Christmas,” featuring Canadian stars Meghan Ory and Christopher Russell. It’s a showcase for Halifax and places like Historic Properties, where seven National Heritage Site structures built in the 1800s are now filled with chic boutiques and popular eateries.
“If you can imagine one of the oldest and most historical cities in Canada, perfectly snuggled into a harbor that twinkles with the reflections of Christmas lights, that’s Halifax,” says Karen Wentzell, Nova Scotia-based producer of “The Secret Gift of Christmas.” “It’s the friendliest city in Canada and the perfect place to shoot movies. It is Victorian and Queen Anne homes, backyard skating rinks, 18th century storefronts, modern glass buildings, great restaurants, and the friendliest people in the world!”
The movie’s Canadian director-writer Christie Will Wolf concurs, and adds more reasons why travelers should come and experience this lovely northeastern corner of the world.
“Having directed upwards of 40 films across North America, Nova Scotia, Canada, ranks at No. 1 for me. There is an intangible fabric that weaves throughout the people, places, and landscapes that is rare and beautiful,” she asserts. “It’s a province textured with integrity and sophistication, while rich with heritage.”
Why you should visit Halifax and Nova Scotia
Halifax, Nova Scotia, is the perfect setting for Hallmark Christmas movies, but lovely any time of year — Photo courtesy of shaunl / iStock Via Getty Images
Halifax truly is a special place and a delight to discover. It’s long been a major port in the North Atlantic Ocean, well north of the United States-Canadian border. Halifax weather is surprisingly temperate during the winter months, with less snowfall than places further south along the Atlantic seaboard. That’s the influence of the Gulf Stream, and one of the city’s distinct appeals for a winter visit.
Winter in Halifax brings Christmas markets with a European feel, part of the outdoor Evergreen Festival that lasts for four weeks each year in November and December; a huge parade that brings Santa to town; special events high on the hill at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, a massive fortification built by the British in 1846; and many other events throughout the festive season. You can even join the whole town for the New Year’s Eve celebration at Glow Gardens.
Hotels in Halifax
For a perfect home base, choose the Muir, an elegant hotel smack dab in the center of the waterfront, in a section known as the Queen’s Marque. It’s tricked out with everything a visitor needs, with top-notch restaurants, an art gallery, a very cool speakeasy, and even a sailing yacht so you can see the harbor from the water — and the famed Georges Island Lighthouse — in style.
Things to do in Halifax
The maritime history around Halifax is strong — Photo courtesy of benkrut / iStock Via Getty Images
Grab a hotel bicycle and ride up to see The Citadel, then meander around this small, vibrant waterfront city. Visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, where the “Titanic: The Unsinkable Ship and Halifax” exhibit recalls the city’s important role in that disaster. (Segments of the 1997 film “Titanic” that were also shot in and around Halifax). Then pop into one of the delicious restaurants that make the Queen’s Marque a delicious place to stop and savor.
Where to eat in Halifax
Try the Lobster + Biscuits at Salt & Ash — Photo courtesy of Jenny Peters
Don’t miss the sublime lobster and biscuits served up in a skillet at Salt + Ash Beach House. Later, dive into the lively Latin vibe in Bar Sofia that goes on well into the evening. Be sure to check out Sofia’s pop-up Sleigh Bar during the holiday season for drinks like the hot rum-based Santa’s Naughty Nightcap.
At Drift Restaurant eat hodge podge, a famous local vegetable soup dish that’s loaded with local seafood. And make sure to have a bowl of mussels and a platter of oysters somewhere along the way.
See the sights near Halifax
Peggy’s Cove is one of the most famous sights in Halifax — Photo courtesy of onurkurtic / iStock Via Getty Images
Hop in the car to see some of the region’s other beautiful places, like Lunenburg and Peggy’s Cove. And if wine tasting is a favorite pastime, head up to Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards for everything from crisp rieslings to smooth pinot noir and more.
The setting is perfect for whiling away an afternoon with a sip and a perfectly paired bite of wood-fired pizza or fresh oysters, and a perfect way to round out a visit to Halifax and Nova Scotia.