Here’s a final round-up of good kid-friendly experiences that Oliver and I indulged in over the weekend.
The Discovery Center on Barrington Street was a lot of fun: we spent almost three hours there. It’s no Ontario Science Centre and it looks like no new money has been invested in a decade, as things are a little dated. But its small size works for it: we didn’t get exhausted or overwhelmed by the need to “see everything.” The Van der Graaf show uses a dinky little aparatus and cotton balls, but the host is goofy and endearing and, again, the small scale (there were only 8 of us in the audience) makes for a much better experience — and more opportunities for questions — than in a “big city” science centre. Highlights for us: the Bernoulli exhibit, with compressed air and pingpong balls, kept both of us entertained for at least 15 minutes; the bubble room is great, especially the “wrap yourself inside a giant bubble” exhibit; there’s a great set of Brio-brand construction toys on the third floor that were a sort of cross between Meccano and Lego. Cost: $11.50 for both of us.
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic was somewhat less kid-centric, with lots of ship models and examples of historical lamps. But the original models from the ill-fated Theodore Tugboat program are there, which was enough to keep Oliver going for half an hour (it is really quite a neat setup) and there are enough old anchors, full-sized sailboats and canoes, and giant lighthouse mirrors to make it a worthwhile visit. Theodore Too, a full-sized replica of Theodore, is moored in the harbour just up the shore near Murphy’s restaurant; in the summer they offer tours of the harbour, but even in the winter it’s a cool stop just to take a look from the wharf. Admission to the Museum was $4.00 for me, and free for Oliver.
Even though I’m quite averse to the “ye olde” waterfront developments that have infected the eastern seaboard, the Historic Properties on the waterfront in Halifax do have a couple of things going for them: there’s a nice food court with a decent selection of vendors at the water-end of the main building, and the Maps & Ducks store — selling maps, travel guides and duck decoys — was interesting (Oliver likes globes and flags) and the staff were nice. We gave the balance of the ye olde merchants a pass.
Right next door is the Dartmouth Ferry where, for $1.75 each way, you can cruise over to Dartmouth and back. We didn’t do it this visit — ran out of time — but we did go over last year, and it was lot’s of fun.
The big Mountain Equipment Coop store downtown was interesting, and they had a surprisingly broad selection of surprisingly inexpensive (at least relative to expectation, if not to Wal-mart) children’s gear.
Otherwise for eating, we ate Friday dinner at “I Love Sushi” on Blowers Street, a longtime favourite of ours. Friendly staff, a nice fish pond, and good food. Saturday night we hiked up to Maki Maki on Spring Garden Road for another sushi meal, this time in a bento box, which Oliver quite enjoyed (we walked, but there’s a bus that goes right out Spring Garden that would be a good option on a really cold day). It turns out that Satisfaction Feast, a vegetarian restaurant, was right next door to our hotel; we didn’t go in this visit, but we plan to try it next time. Finally, there’s a brand new downtown Pete’s Frootique on Dresden Row, off Spring Garden Road, open 7 days a week long hours. We picked up Samosas for the train ride home, along with special Christmas treats for our friend Ann. They also have a very nice juice bar and deli counter.
We stayed two nights at the new Residence Inn by Marriott, which is very central — on Grafton St. between the Public Library and the Metro Centre. We had a “studio suite” for $99/night, which was the special weekend rate. This was a larger room with king bed, pull-out sofa bed, and full kitchen. They have a great selection of videotapes that you can borrow and watch in the lounge downstairs, and the rate includes a full hot breakfast buffet, which was better than most (and included do-it-yourself waffle making station, which Oliver really liked). The place was clean, and the staff were universally nice and helpful. We’ll stay there again.