When visiting a new place, we often just scratch the surface by visiting some of the better known attractions and eating a few nice meals. To truly understand a place like Halifax, you need to hang out with locals so that you can understand why we are so passionate about our city. Visiting in the winter months makes that a bit trickier than in the summer when we are all hanging out on patios with our craft beers and lobster rolls. Luckily, there are some really interesting ways to get close to locals in the warm and dry, and pick up a new skill in the process. There are a range of different classes and workshops offered in the city that connect you to the diverse and creative people that live here. Here are my picks for your next trip:
Get crafty (and take something pretty home)
Nestled in the heart of Halifax’s hip North End is Patch, an indie fabric store that runs sewing classes where you can learn to make something gorgeous in as little as a few hours, though there are longer courses where you can learn to make something complex too. Chris Pasquet, owner and shopkeeper at Patch, says that many of their classes are, “One hundred percent designed for people with no experience. You’ll learn to thread a sewing machine and make something as simple as an envelope back pillow, or something more ambitious.”
There are also hand-sewing and embroidery classes, which Pasquet says would be especially great as you could continue to work on your project on the train on the way home, “It is a very relaxing hobby to take up.” Patch is a beautiful store, filled with very modern fabrics, notions, and patterns. You can buy everything you need for your class right there. After you’re done, take a little time to explore the ‘hood (there are tons of great bars and restaurants within a few blocks of Patch).
In a similar vein, downtown Halifax’s coolest yarn store The Loop also also offers a range of one day workshops for those looking to learn to knit or crochet, or for those looking to learn more advanced techniques.
Shimmy and shake with pro bellydancers
At downtown Halifax’s Serpentine Studios, you can study a range of exotic dance techniques with some truly amazing and encouraging professional dancers. The most popular classes that they offer are belly dance, burlesque, and hula hoop, but you can also checkout Bollywood dance, and several fusion styles (hip hop and belly dance, for example). “You can absolutely come as a beginner,” says studio co-founder Monique Ryan, but if you’re already accomplished in any of those styles you can up your game too. More advanced techniques taught at Serpentine include sword balancing choreography (as in belly dancing with swords) and some mastery of classic burlesque routines.
Learn an ancient artform
Bookbinding is something of a lost art, but Halifax-based bookbinder and book artist Rhonda Miller is doing her very best to keep historical techniques alive. Miller has created historical prop books for TV shows like Haven, and teaches various styles of binding, from Japanese to early Coptic binding of the 3rd and 4th centuries. You can take classes with Miller at the Nova Scotia Centre for Craft and Design. “People always love the finished books,” says Miller, “Usually even the simplest books are very satisfying.” At the end of your workshop, you’ll get to take a beautiful leather-bound journal or two home with you, and be able to casually say, “Oh this? I made this,” whenever someone comments on how much they love it.
Make your own cheese
Heather Squires, aka the Curd Girl, teaches cheesemaking at her farm 45 minutes outside the city in Mahone Bay (you can do a farm stay at their AirBnB too). Squires offers workshops for people who’ve never made cheese, and these are heaps of fun, as well as classes for those looking to learn more advanced techniques. “Classes are small, with lots of hands on interaction,” says Squires, “It is a fun experience with lots of learning.” And of course, you get take home all the cheese you make.
Pick up some old school skills
Step back in time and learn the old ways at the Cole Harbour Rural Heritage Society. They offer a number of workshops related to rural life in a retro setting, including blacksmithing (book early, they sell out fast!), beekeeping, and pickling. In order to encourage community participation, costs are kept low and some classes are free to take.
Get your ohm on
Halifax is home to one of the world’s largest Shambhala buddhist communities, so if you’re interested in learning more about this branch of the buddhist faith then you’re in the right place. The Shambhala Centre in downtown Halifax runs regular guided meditation sessions for beginners, as well as multi-day introductory courses and various other workshops targeted at beginners and beyond.
Top image: get your craft on at Patch.