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'You can really start to feel the excitement': Unofficial start to summer kicks off in the Maritimes

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Maritimers and tourists are gearing up for the unofficial start to summer as the May long weekend gets underway.

The Halifax Waterfront was full of tourists Friday as a cruise ship docked.

"I think it's the nicest place we've been on the ship," said Irene Lamb, who travelled with her husband, Ian, from the U.K.

"It's just really nice. Loads going on. Very chill, lots of things to do."

The Lambs were planning to stay on land, while others took to the water to see the city from another angle on the Harbour Hopper.

Across the harbour, the MacKenzies were preparing for a busy weekend with their kids and grandkids after making the three-hour drive from Prince Edward Island.

"I brought them some plants to put in their garden. They're gardeners," said Kelly MacKenzie.

"We hope to go out for supper tomorrow night and we're just playing in the park. Walk the dog. Plant some flowers."

Not everyone was lucky enough to get the weekend off, like nurse Sarah Bungay, but she was trying to make the most of her Friday.

"I am getting some more to finish planting my tomatoes," she said.

"I actually work all weekend, so I'm hoping to fit it in before three o'clock and then I'll be at work."

Busy tourism season ahead

For those not working this long weekend, there are plenty of activities to take part in. For instance, the Blue Nose Marathon.

"We've got people in from all around the Maritimes and a bunch of people from across the country. Some people actually travelling internationally," said Discover Halifax president and CEO Ross Jefferson.

"We've got the Asian Food Festival that's on this weekend as well, so you can really start to feel the excitement and the activity picking up here in Halifax this weekend."

Jefferson is expecting another busy tourism season in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

"We've seen investment in brand new experiences and things going on. We've had some new hotels open up. It's been really exciting."

Jefferson says the region sees 5.3 million visitors on average through the course of a year.

"Our busy season definitely is through the summer, so we'll see that peak in the summertime. We'll see our hotel rooms start to really fill up," said Jefferson.

Elsewhere in the Maritimes, the Area 506 Waterfront Container Village in Saint John, N.B., officially opened for the season Thursday.

"We're excited. We've got concerts all weekend here," said Ray Gracewood with Area 506.

"Over 30 vendors opened up to a 4,500 person cruise ship. Had a great kickoff to the long weekend."

People who have visited in the past may notice some changes this year.

"I think the improvements that we've made, both in on-site artwork, with amazing installations, a new bar setup, new vendors, it's just great energy here this summer, and I think with all the events and the different things we have planned right up until November, I think we're very, very optimistic and very excited."

As for the May long weekend, Area 506 is taking part in the "Vicky Day" festivities.

"Over 60 local businesses, retailers, galleries, bars, restaurants, have come together with unique offers and experiences to celebrate the long weekend, and I think the whole idea gets people uptown full of energy," said Gracewood.

N.S. provincial parks open

For those looking to enjoy nature, Nova Scotia's provincial parks are now open.

"It's springtime, so there's some bugs out, so bring your bug spray, and also remember to check for ticks as you're outdoors," said parks promotion officer Sandra Fraser.

Parks are now following provincial burn restrictions, which means campfires are only allowed after 2 p.m. when it's permitted.

"People need to be prepared for maybe not being able to have a fire and bringing a gas stove or another method for preparing your food if you need to heat it up," said Fraser.

A $25,000 fine applies to violations of the daily burn restrictions.

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