How to make a Halifax Bucket List

Based on the movie in which Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman do everything they want to do before they die, but set in the HRM.

You have one summer left to live. The world ends after Labour Day. Now is the time to do it all, to suck the marrow out of Halifax. Start working on that bucket list.

That's the challenge we put to The Coast's Twitter and Facebook friends and we received a pile of must-do activities. In response, I planned a fantasy bucket day for Haligonians which includes everything you should do in the city before you die.

On the eve of B-day, remind yourself how we all eventually become anachronisms by visiting a drive-in. The Valley Drive-in is closest and is conveniently next to Nova Scotia's only skydiving school, the Atlantic School of Skydiving.

Skydiving starts our perfect day, but tonight watch a double feature on the big screen in a vintage car with bucket seats, eat fries, popcorn and make out with your greasy-lipped bucket friend.

Atlantic School of Skydiving owner David Williamson has made over 6,400 jumps. He recommends a tandem jump, where you skydive with him in a "parachute system built for two." For $275, Williamson will provide training, a 15-minute practice run, a Cessna ride to ten thousand feet, a walk out of the plane with him and the enjoyment of 30 seconds of freefall and four minutes of floating to the ground.

Ideally, Williamson would fly you to Halifax to jump over Georges Island. Why? Because it is our number one bucket list request: every Haligonian wants to explore Georges Island. Skydiving in Halifax is a challenge, Williamson says, because it would be an exhibition jump, requiring 500 previous jumps, and the permission of Parks Canada and Transport Canada. Start planning, B-team.

Regular Joes can visit Georges Island once a year on Explore Georges Island day. That was last weekend before this issue hit the stands. In the future, we will be able to go anytime, since Parks Canada recently received $3.5 million to install plumbing, a wharf and electricity on the island. Tanya Taylor White of Parks Canada says they plan to open it up to the public in three years.

The island is not totally inaccessible, however. Private parties can be arranged. If you want to rent Georges Island, draw up a proposal and be prepared to have deep pockets. Or, land on it with a parachute.

Our next objective is to get to the peninsula by noon to fire the cannon at the Citadel. Taylor White won't confirm the legend of a secret tunnel to the peninsula from the island; personally, I say her denial is an admission of its existence, but to play it safe, have a sailboat ready.

Aside from an extensive program of adult sailing classes, Erin Norwood, coordinator of sail training at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron tells me the fastest way to get up to speed on sailing would be to take private lessons ($55/hr for non-members).

Arrange for a teacher and a sailboat to meet you on Georges Island. Sail for a couple hours in the harbour or, because many people voted to get drunk on the Harbour Hopper, just flag it down, start drinking early and catch a lift up the Hill.

Tanya Taylor White from Parks Canada tells me that until now, celebrities like the White Stripes were the only public figures to fire the noon cannon. The only Haligonians letting 'er rip are trained black-gunpowder experts, but anyone can write to Parks Canada explaining the importance of their bucket list. Who knows, they might say yes.

Between noon and 9pm you have, er, time to kill. This is a good moment to improvise. Here are some suggestions from your fellow citizens: skateboard down Citadel Hill to Sackville Street to the harbour; play softball or cricket or cheer on a team at the Halifax Common; drag the Halifax explosion anchor from Regatta Point back to the narrows; have sex in St Paul's cemetery or under "The Wave" on the waterfront; swim in the harbour; pie Peter Kelly and make a movie with Jimmy Melvin Jr. before he passes on.

Speaking of which, a final meal is important. One person proposed a bucket menu: "Eat a poutine, donair and beavertail all in one day." In this spirit, my bucket menu would include all the stuff I probably shouldn't eat but will, if only because like Everest, it's there. This includes Papa Mario's donair egg rolls, thanksgiving pizza from Xtreme, chicken fried steak from Fid, deathly hot wings from Bubba Rays (where you must sign a waiver absolving them of any responsibility) and finally, a boiled dinner in the old Midtown Tavern before it moves June 25.

As the sun wanes, climb the 320 steps to the peak of the Macdonald Bridge to watch the sun set. The top is not open to the public, but the Bridge Commission is open to private requests.

With The Coast however, you can reach for the top! Find out how to bid and win a trip to the top of the Angus L. Macdonald bridge!

"We've never offered [tours] because of so many safety issues, but that's not to say it couldn't happen," said Michelle Hynes-Dawson of the Bridge Commission. "Sometimes the Commission offers up tours for silent auction." They did that last year to help raise funds for Saint Mary's Elementary School.

Once you're up on the bridge, why not help set off the Natal Day fireworks? For normal over-the-counter fireworks, you don't need any certification; for pro fireworks, you need to become a fireworks supervisor.

"There's more energy coming out of those shells than a VW car coming at you at 40 km/h," says Juri Kasemets, the only federal explosives inspector in Nova Scotia. The federal Department of Natural Resources teaches a one-day course on July 6 in Grand Pré for $150 which gives you certification. There's a half-day of classroom training and a half-day of blowing up stuff in a field. After that, find out who got the contract from city council to provide fireworks and you're dynamite.

After the fireworks, continue the pyrotechnics on stage. If you haven't played in a band in all the time you've lived in Halifax, you should be ashamed of yourself. This city has one of the busiest, most supportive live music scenes in the country.

Gus' Pub is a good starting spot to book a show, or try to hop onto an existing bill. One-man-band BA Johnson books shows at Gus' Pub. "At Gus', it's pretty easy," he wrote via email. "Have some recorded music up somewhere on the internet and have a band or two in mind you can play with. That's all it takes."

OK, after you've set fire to your drum kit, run to Dalhousie campus to do an all nighter at CKDU. This old rite of passage was revived recently and is a perfect summer activity because many studentprogrammers are away. First, attend an orientation session. Then do five hours of volunteer time, make a demo, pass a little test and boom, you're on the air from 2am to 8am Saturday or Sunday, playing late-night music to drunks and insomniacs.

After the all-nighter, the final thing you should do to remind you of the final way of all flesh, is to visit the Titanic gravesite at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery.

If you've managed to do all these things in one day, then you will be king of the world.

Or, at the very least, Halifax.


The Valley Drive-in Cambridge, NS, 902-538-0772,

Atlantic School of Skydiving Waterville Airport, 902-423-JUMP,

The Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Sqaudron 376 Purcell's Cove, 477-5653,

Parks Canada 1-888-773-8888

The Halifax Bridge Commission 463-2800,

Canadian Department of Natural Resources 426-3599,

Fairview Lawn Cemetery Chisholm and Windsor, off Connaught, call the city at 490-4000

About The Author

Andy Murdoch

Andy Murdoch is an awesome guy.

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