Summer begins in the Maritimes with a long weekend


Sailors and tourists prepare for the unofficial start of summer with the long May weekend.

Halifax's waterfront was packed with tourists on Friday as a cruise ship docked.

“I think this is the most beautiful place we have been on the ship,” said Irene Lamb, who traveled from the UK with her husband Ian.

“It's just very nice. There's a lot going on. Very relaxed, there's a lot to do.”

The Lambs wanted to stay on land while others went out on the water to see the city from a different angle with the Harbour Hopper.

Across the harbor, the MacKenzies were preparing for a busy weekend with their children and grandchildren after the three-hour drive from Prince Edward Island.

“I brought them some plants for their garden. They are gardeners,” said Kelly MacKenzie.

“We're hoping to go out to dinner tomorrow night. We're just going to play in the park. Walk the dog. Plant some flowers.”

Not everyone was lucky enough to have the weekend off, like nurse Sarah Bungay, but she tried to make the most of her Friday.

“I’m going to get some more to finish planting my tomatoes,” she said.

“I'm actually working all weekend, so I hope I can make it before three o'clock and then I'll be at work.”

A busy tourism season is ahead

For those who don't work this long weekend, there are numerous activities to take part in. For example, the Blue Nose Marathon.

“We have people from all over the Maritimes and a lot of people from all over the country. Some even travel from abroad,” said Ross Jefferson, president and CEO of Discover Halifax.

“This weekend is also the Asian Food Festival, so you can really feel the excitement and increased activity that is building up here in Halifax this weekend.”

Jefferson is expecting another busy tourism season in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

“We saw investments in brand new experiences and new things. Some new hotels opened. It was really exciting.”

Jefferson says the region receives an average of 5.3 million visitors over the course of a year.

“Our peak season is definitely in the summer, so we'll see the peak in the summer. We'll see our hotel rooms start to really fill up,” Jefferson said.

Elsewhere in the Maritimes, Area 506 Waterfront Container Village in Saint John, NB, officially opened for the season on Thursday.

“We're excited. We have concerts here all weekend,” said Ray Gracewood of Area 506.

“Over 30 providers opened for a cruise ship with 4,500 seats. We had a great start to the long weekend.”

Visitors from previous years may notice some changes this year.

“I think the improvements we've made, both with the artwork on site, with amazing installations, a new bar setup, new vendors, there's just a great energy here this summer, and I think with all the events and the different things we have planned through November, we're very, very optimistic and very excited.”

During the long weekend in May, Area 506 takes part in the “Vicky Day” celebrations.

“Over 60 local businesses, retailers, galleries, bars and restaurants have come together with unique offers and experiences to celebrate the long weekend and I think the whole idea is energizing people in the uptown areas,” Gracewood said.

NS provincial parks opened

For anyone who wants to enjoy nature, Nova Scotia's provincial parks are now open.

“It's spring, so there are some bugs out and about, so bring your bug spray and remember to check for ticks outside,” said parks officer Sandra Fraser.

The parks now have provincial restrictions on lighting fires, meaning campfires are only allowed after 2 p.m. if permitted.

“People need to be prepared that they may not be able to build a fire and will need to bring a gas stove or another method of cooking their food if they need to heat it up,” Fraser said.

Violations of daily burn limits will result in a fine of $25,000.