Downtown Antigonish comprises mostly independent local businesses that offer a microcosm of city selections: clothing of course, shoes, lingerie, jewellery, gifts and craft; Aphrodite, beside the town hall is an “Odyssey of Art & Fashion.” It’s a beautiful ladies clothing boutique and a gallery featuring fine craft and visual art. It’s in a big old house with lots of interesting rooms. My favourite is the Antigonish Five to a Dollar – an old fashioned department store that feels like a time warp when you walk inside. Except they have a state of the art photo department that competes with the best of them on digital camera sales and photo processing. Proprietor Steven Jewkes is a virtual wealth of knowledge on all things related to digital photography. His brother Lloyd takes care of the rest. No matter what obscure item you may need, you can probably find it there.

There’s also a mall that connects to the Trans Canada Highway. More of the chain stores show up there including Canadian Tire, Cleve’s Sporting Goods, The Source and numerous and sundry clothing retailers plus Boston Pizza. If you find you need something – no worries, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Except maybe a pet iguana.

The mall also houses one of the largest and most current liquor stores, known as the NS Liquor Commission. You won’t believe their selection of scotch whiskey. Remember, Antigonish was founded by the Scots. It links up to Sobeys, the Canadian grocery store giant that originated in neighbouring Pictou County. Further down the highway is the Atlantic Superstore also recently remodeled and full of fine fare just like Sobeys, except they try to nab you with all of those President’s Choice products at the back of the store. Takes forever! And alas, the adjoining parking lot leads to Wal Mart.

The best pharmacy is Halliburton’s Pharmacy on Main Street or the Pharma Save across the street. There is also a mega Shoppers Drug Mart with a full scale cosmetics department and just about everything else including some foods.

If you really want to get down and dirty with the natives, check out the Saturday morning market. It’s on James Street at the back of the arena. Lots of fun.

Dining Out

Little Antigonish has some excellent dining! Gabrieaus Bistro on Main Street has won numerous awards including the distinguished Pineapple Award for best restaurant in Nova Scotia
 Around the corner on College St. is Townhouse Pub – great food and great atmosphere. They are the fancier places in town but you won’t pay a fortune. The Sunshine on Main has good East Indian fare. My favourite daytime place in town is Myers Tea Room on Main St. It too is a time warp and I love the two women who run the place! The food is decent and I think they have the best old fashioned hamburger in the world! A real hangout for locals is the hippie styled Tall and Small Café just a few doors down from Gabrieau’s. During the day they serve up free trade coffee and lots of teas along with a Moosewood style cuisine. Always fun.

What’s fun is to shoot up the harbour road toward Cape George and have some chowder or fish and chips on the wharf at Cribben’s Point. Further up in Ballantyne’s Cove is a little kiosk style fish and chips place. Both are excellent. I just wish they’d get past the frozen fries. But the fish is fabulous!  Further along the Trans Canada towards Cape Breton is the Dragonfly - good food and they bring in some great performers on the weekends

Then there’s Mother Webb’s where you can get a good steak faster than you can reach for the salt . There are other fast food joints on the strip just like in any other North American town. Meh. You can’t miss the golden arch.


Aphrodite has a beautiful little gallery at the rear of the store that features contemporary Atlantic Canadian artists. Then there’s the Lyghtesome Gallery– on Main St. Despite cramped quarters they offer a great selection of some of the best local artists including prints, paintings and crafts. It’s definitely worth a visit. The Down to Earth Gallery further down the street is a great framing gallery that also carries and interesting variety of Nova Scotia art. StFX University has an art gallery but it’s a bit of an embarrassment for a university that boasts one of the top rankings in Canada. But they show some great art all the same. It’s in the basement level of the Bloomfield building on campus. The region has an active arts council that works diligently to get our artists seen. The main annual event is The Gathering of the Arts which is a group show in the old court house on Main St. that takes place the week of the Antigonish Highland Games.


One of my early impressions upon moving to Antigonish was the prevalence of music everywhere! You can’t go to a party that doesn’t break out into live music and dancing – often the Celtic genre! The pubs in town are always featuring acts from around the province. Pipers Pub, and Chuggles are the main venues where you swig beer and settle in for great music; jazz, blues, traditional (Celtic), hip-hop and good old rock and roll! If you’re lucky enough to be here in early July you might want to check out the famous Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso, Guysborough County Trust me on this one – for one low price per day or for the three day event, you’ll see some of the best performers anywhere – and lots of them! Most of Antigonish clears out of town for this event. Just one thing if you go – bring very warm clothes! The nights are freezing! Nearing the end of August another annual music event hits the county: The Evolve Music Festival. Bring your 60s gear for this one.


Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre is a big deal in these parts. There are performances every night and some nights there are shorter and edgier late night performances as well. Director Ed Thomason is an enormous talent and his wife Shelley Thompson (Trailer Park Boys) is frequently on stage with yet another brilliant performance. The Festival home is the Bauer Theatre, on the StFX campus. It’s a cozy 200 seat facility where you can’t have a bad seat.


Those fancy and expensive Cineplexes have bypassed Antigonish altogether. Seems there’s yet another time warp – our local cinema. But it still brings in good and current films in an old fashioned theatre that probably hasn’t changed since the 60’s. Tuesdays are cheap night. If you prefer to have movie nights at home there are several excellent video/DVD stores in town: Pioneer and Blockbuster. Our properties are equipped with DVD players.

Local Culture

The main event each year is the Antigonish Highland Games the longest running consecutive games in North America.  Columbus Field, in town, comes alive with hundreds of highland dancers, pipers and athletes. The caper toss is a favourite. The games take place in the second week of July and last for three days with a finale on the Saturday night replete with the famous beer tent where you’ll get a really good taste of the locals!

The Riverside Speedway

Now that’s something you wouldn’t expect to find in these parts. Local millionaire John Chisholm, affectionately known as John Nova (Nova Construction) is passionate about stock car racing and mascar. So a few years ago he sank millions into the refurbishing of this racetrack and turned it into the finest one in the Maritimes. Saturday nights are great fun for the whole family!

St Francis Xavier University

It’s the heart of the town, but difficult to visit as they still have not developed an adequate signage system. If you’re not with a local who knows their way around you might find yourself staring at a morass of buildings and no bearings. If you’re really interested in the Scottish heritage of the area you might want to ask where is the Hall of Clans and the Angus L. MacDonald Library. It exhibits a variety of tartans and coats of arms of the Highland Clans.


In case you didn’t know, Antigonish is known as the Little Vatican. While Catholicism is the dominant religion, others flourish here as well such as United and Anglican churches. There’s a Jehovas Witness Hall and a Gospel Hall in town. The closest synagogue is in New Glasgow - 45 minutes away.
I have been impressed by how tolerant the natives are. It matters not your religion, your sexual persuasion, your nationality or your heritage, all are welcome and accepted. The only thing we don’t like is arrogance and unfriendliness. People have been run out of town for having those qualities.


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