Pier 21 Halifax often appears on the top of the list for places to visit in Nova Scotia. At this site, Canada's Immigration Museum tells the tales of the men, women, and children who came to the New World to begin a new life. The history of Pier 21 may not stretch back as far as you think. The first group arrived in 1928 and the last entered in Canada in 1971—among them war brides, families escaping poverty, World War II soldiers, enterprising youngsters dreaming of a better life, and others who just needed a new start.
The Pier 21 Museum has earned its place as one of the best things to do in Nova Scotia by offering compelling exhibits for visitors of all ages. Here, the exhibits and the programs detail the history of Pier 21 when it served as an immigration center. Canada's version of Ellis Island welcomed more than 1 million people who were coming to start a new life over those 45 years. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a group of volunteers, the museum opened in 1999 and has continued to grow ever since.
As one of the top museums in town, Pier 21 Halifax welcomes visitors throughout the year. From May through November, the museum is open seven days a week, while the rest of the year brings closures on select days. In the summer, you can hop aboard the local shuttle bus with the charming name of Fred to avoid paying for parking in the museum's lot. Discounted admissions are available for students and seniors, and a family pass can provide substantial savings.
In order to get your bearing, it makes sense to begin in the Bronfman In-Transit Theatre. Here, an engaging multimedia show will explain the importance of immigration to Pier 21 Halifax and how it changed the history of Canada. You'll have the chance to meet some of the people who passed through this very port before and after World War II, punctuated by specially composed music. Then, your tours can continue with a visit to the exhibit galleries at the Pier 21 Museum. You'll find a better understanding of the role the port played during the war as it served as a staging point for the Canadian Military, and how things were different before and after.
Along with the permanent exhibits, several travel displays and events help tell the history of Pier 21. A special program allows community groups the chance to stage exhibits and to tell their stories. Local cultural groups have three weeks to present an exhibit that is always free of charge for all visitors to see; these groups are also invited to screen films in the theater.
A range of visitor amenities will round out a visit. After you've explored the exhibits and heard the stories, you can spend some time browsing the gift shop. The onsite cafe at the Pier 21 Museum offers a convenient and tasty choice for dining, or you could walk to one of the nearby waterfront restaurants to grab a meal.
This museum on the Halifax Waterfront has joined an elite group. In 2009, it was declared the sixth national museum of Canada. The majority of these special museums are located in Ottawa, Ontario, the capital city. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was the first national museum outside of the capital, and Pier 21 is the first one in the Maritime Provinces. All of these important facilities explore certain aspects of Canada's history and are supported financially by Parliament.