Halifax, Nova Scotia: Pier 21 and the Canadian Museum of Immigration

pier 21
Part two of our Halifax trip has to be about Pier 21. I have spent the past couple of weeks trying to absorb everything that happened and all that we experienced in our four days out east. I was going to group Pier 21 and the Canadian Museum of Immigration with all of our other excursions but have come to the conclusion that it needs it’s own post. Because I am an immigrant and it spoke to me in a way that I never imagined it would. 
I came to Canada in the winter of 1989 with my mom and sister. With just a couple of suitcases, my mom left everything she knew to move here. It wasn’t until I was older and had kids of my own that I truly came to understand the sacrifices and risks she took to ensure a brighter future for her kids. To be completely honest I don’t know if I could do the same being put in the situation. 
Walking into Pier 21 I didn’t know what to expect. I read my friend Yashi’s post on her visit and still didn’t fully understand just how historically important this space was. As we walked into the building and got our tabs I began to take in my surroundings.  
From the 1920’s to 1970’s Pier 21 was where 1,000,000 immigrants landed when they came from over seas. Their journey started at Pier 21 where they were documented and processed by immigration officials and then made the journey across Canada to start their lives.

Our Visit

It was on our last day after we checked out of the hotel that we made our way down to the pier. The kids were not entirely thrilled to be going somewhere that I had no idea how to explain but we managed to lure them in with promises of an experience that was interactive and they could touch.

On the first floor of Pier 21 also houses the Scotiabank Family History Centre which houses immigration records for all of Canada. We didn’t go in because it was full of people trying to find their roots but I couldn’t get over the fact that it actually even existed.

pier 21

First up for us was the Empress of Ireland exhibit. The kids got to look at all of the artifacts of this doomed ship and we happily walked around and took it all in. Our favourite was the porthole though.

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Upstairs is where the real magic was for us. The Pier 21 Museum let us really get a feel for the past and the contribution that immigrants had in shaping Canada into the country it is today. The whole exhibit was interactive. You could open the luggage of passengers, play with the same toys that were brought over by immigrants and even see a train caboose that would take families accross Canada. The kids could have stayed there all day.

pier 21 pier 21    pier 21 pier 21 pier 21 pier 21 pier 21 pier 21 pier 21

This though was the part where both my husband and I were in tears. It somehow ended up being the last area we explored and I am glad. It gave us time to read what real visitors to Pier 21 felt about the Pier. Reading these cards and seeing messages from descendants about just how thankful they were that their relatives made the journey was heartwarming.  pier 21 pier 21pier 21

To read the first part of this series on Halifax about our stay at the Lord Nelson Hotel you can click here.


Disclosure : This trip was coordinated by Destination Halifax and we received complimentary access to certain exhibits during our travels.
Aneta Alaei
Aneta Alaei

Aneta is a Toronto-based mom of four that loves a good meal, great company, and learning something new. In her free time, you can find her trying to keep yet another plant alive.

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  1. Treen Goodwin
    December 7, 2016 / 12:18 pm

    I have never been to the Pier 21 , looks like a great place to visit thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Darren Scrubb
    April 13, 2017 / 12:06 pm

    Good looking places I will put on my bucket list for when I visit Nova Scotia in the future.

  3. Corry L.
    June 16, 2017 / 7:09 pm

    Never been East of Quebec City but it’s on my bucket list to see the East Coast. Thanks for sharing as this looks like a must-see!

  4. Mike Gismondi
    December 6, 2017 / 4:43 pm

    This is a great piece of Canadian history!

  5. Tannis W
    January 5, 2018 / 8:31 pm

    Wow, I did not realize there was a museum like this. My ancestors were immigrants and it would be interesting to check out.

  6. January 6, 2018 / 8:35 am

    It was really nice to see. I want to go back without kids one day and really look around and read some of the stories

  7. Debbie White-Beattie
    October 26, 2018 / 3:05 am

    I’ve never been out east but I would really love to because it looks beautiful and informative