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Nova Scotia’s festivals flourish in August

SmarterTravel

This August, it’s possible to save on airfare and yet still enjoy the music, culture, and sea air of Scotland without having to cross the Atlantic. Nova Scotia, or New Scotland, experiences its best weather of the year in late summer, has an array of festivals to attend, and offers much cheaper flights for U.S. visitors than its Old World counterpart.

What to do

Though Nova Scotia boasts more than 100 beaches with the warmest salt waters in Atlantic Canada, summer swimming may prove too bracing for all but the hardiest of vacationers. Even if you don’t take a dip, the sea can be a rewarding part of your adventure, whether you’re dining on lobster in an old fishing village or driving the scenic Cabot Trail on the island of Cape Breton.

For many, the reasons to visit Nova Scotia are event-related. With hundreds of festivals each year, there’s one for just about every type of traveler. And August has some particularly interesting ones, too.

From August 1 through 7, the town of Digby celebrates its Scallop Days festival, with events from a scallop shucking contest to live music and fireworks.

That same week, the Lunenberg Folk Harbour Festival showcases local and not-so-local musical talent. Concerts run from August 4 through 7, and full-day adult passes are $35 Canadian (about $29 American).

For the ultimate in street performance, consider the Halifax International Busker Festival, now celebrating its nineteenth year. From August 4 through 14, buskers, or street entertainers, from around the world come to showcase their talents at this free festival. Featured buskers this year range from a fire-eater to a man who makes music with crystal bowls.

For even more music, St. Ann’s hosts the Festival of Cape Breton Fiddling on August 20 and 21. This is a great opportunity to hear what the people of Nova Scotia have done with the sounds they inherited from their Celtic forbears.

How to save

One of the biggest travel expenses is airfare, particularly when oil prices are so high. To see what the potential savings might be, we compared fares from major U.S. cities to Edinburgh, Scotland, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. In all cases, flights to Halifax were much more affordable, between 43 and 55 percent less costly than Edinburgh flights. See the chart below for details on flights from New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, departing on August 17 and returning on August 24:

Departure city Destination Fare
New York Edinburgh, Scotland $878
New York Halifax, Nova Scotia $392
Chicago Edinburgh, Scotland $800
Chicago Halifax, Nova Scotia $454
Los Angeles Edinburgh, Scotland $1,103
Los Angeles Halifax, Nova Scotia $494

If you do decide to fly to Halifax, regional affiliates of the major airlines may offer good value. For example, SmarterTravel.com’s Executive Editor Anne Banas found competitive fares on both Delta Connection and Delta’s low-cost carrier, Song, when she traveled to Nova Scotia for her Escapes Under $500 column.

When exactly you go to Nova Scotia may also help increase your savings. Randy Brooks of Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture & Heritage, notes that in terms of bookings, “We do see a slight dip in the third week of August by visitors traveling by road, prior to school starting up and the fall season beginning.” By the time the end of August rolls around, it seems that many would-be travelers have other things on their minds and decide to stay at home. If you’re flexible enough to go at that time, you may find more availability.

For additional savings, try searching the package deals on NovaScotia.com’s website. We found 83 offers for everything from skydiving to lodging to kayak tours.

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