Open City will blow your mind wide open

Come downtown for this weekend's unique shopping festival

Halifax’s independent businesses are going to be completely wide open. And I’m not referring to their shop hours, or their doors. It’s more of a figurative thing, and it’s a pretty hip way to support local companies. This weekend, the Downtown Halifax Business Commission is teaming up with I LOVE LOCAL to hold an event Halifax has never seen before called Open City. Imagine all your favourite local stores, restaurants, museums, galleries, fitness centres and any other cool places you like, ALL having deals on the same weekend. Mind. Blown. That’s the gist of Open City.

Selected restaurants---which happen to be some of Halifax’s best---will be offering $5-10 dollar meals out their “side doors.” Museums and the Discovery Centre will have discounted admission, along with demonstrations and activities. Local shops will be offering discounts, contests and free stuff, happening just in time for Mama’s Day. If buying for that special woman isn’t on your to-do list, then kick back and enjoy the sound of Halifax musicians all over the city. There are so many events going on, looking at for specifics is your best bet at making the most of Open City.

The website lists the participating businesses, and their special events and deals. By checking that list out, you’ll notice there is a “passport” column, filled with either “YES” or nothing. Don’t fret, no real passport is required---just pick up a make-believe one at any location with a “YES” in their column. The toy passport can be stamped 10 times at any of the 40 participating locations, and is meant to be your personal guide to the cool things you find in the city. Or give it to a relative. Maybe mom would like it.

If you’re a little freaked out by how new and unique this all sounds, it’s because Halifax has never held an event like this before. To Gordon Stevens’ knowledge, no city in Canada, maybe even North America, has held an event like this. Stevens is the president of The Uncommon Group, and turned the idea of Open City into a reality that he hopes will become annual. “It’s really about building our sense of community. We’re asking stores to sweep out front, plant some flowers, and get to know their neighbours,” said Stevens.

He hopes that Open City will get Haligonians checking out places they haven’t been to before. It’s also an attempt to interest people living on the HRM outskirts to drive into downtown---especially because parking is free along Lower Water Street and in many lots by the harbour. “We want to make it easy for people to experience things. If you’ve never tried yoga, there are free lessons all weekend. If you want to try a new restaurant, some are serving cheap food out the side doors. We want people to become ambassadors of the city, and they can show friends and relatives what’s going on here,” said Stevens.

Unless you already know everything about Halifax, it sounds like there’s something for everyone at this event. So get out there and bring mom along for the fun. Unless she’ll cramp your style, of course. That’d be lame.

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