Canada is home to all kinds of great historical attractions, but some are definitely more fun to visit than others—especially if you’re travelling with kids. Here are five of our family-friendly favourites.
Heritage Park Historical Village, Calgary
Touted as Canada’s “largest living history museum,” Heritage Park offers up hundreds of exhibits, live demonstrations and classic rides that celebrate life in the West from 1860 to 1950. This year marks the park’s 50th anniversary, which means a variety of special events and exhibits (including the new Famous 5 Centre of Canadian Women) have been added to the mix. Sip a sarsaparilla in a saloon, nosh on fresh-baked gingerbread or ride the steam train for a trip through the Prairies’ past.
New France Festival, Quebec City
This popular annual festival celebrates the arrival of the first Europeans on North American soil. Kicked off every year with a twilight parade that snakes past the city’s 400-year-old buildings, the festival runs for five history-filled days that will let you experience what life was like in the region (once known as New France) in the 1600s. Dress like a 17th-century peasant or aristocrat, listen to traditional folk songs or stop for a traditional street performance. This year’s festival takes place from Aug. 6 to 10. (nouvellefrance.qc.ca)
Fort York National Historic Site, Toronto
Standing outside a blockhouse that British soldiers occupied during the War of 1812, you can almost hear the rumble of a cannon. Home to Canada’s largest collection of War of 1812 British Army buildings, Fort York is a fascinating time warp in the heart of downtown Toronto. Gaze from the fort’s ramparts and imagine invading troops, take in a fife and drum performance and pick up a cool trinket at the Canteen Museum store.
Fort Langley Historic Site, Langley, B.C.
You’ll understand the Hudson Bay Company’s critical role in Canada’s history the minute you walk through the palisades guarding this erstwhile company outpost beside the Fraser River (40 minutes east of Vancouver). The Storehouse is one of the oldest buildings in B.C., dating back to 1840. The rest of the buildings—from servants’ quarters to log bastions—are reconstructions. Enjoy watching costumed interpreters demonstrate barrel-making, blacksmithing and panning for gold, and get a taste of what life was like at the height of the fur trade.
L’Anse Aux Meadows National Heritage Site, Newfoundland and Labrador
Here on a barren northern Newfoundland plain fronting a wave-lashed beach, Vikings made landfall 10 centuries ago. You won’t meet any Vikings today, but if you tour the site and then duck into a sod hut, you’ll meet some believable stand-ins who will regale you with sagas of Viking derring-do and show you what Leif Erikson cooked for lunch. If you’re lucky, they might even teach you how to make a Norse leather pouch.