Home Destinations The best kid-approved places to experience Alberta’s history

The best kid-approved places to experience Alberta’s history

by Karen Ung
The best museums and historic sites boast interpretive staff to bring history to life, and offer unique experiences you can’t have just anywhere. Our favorite places to experience Alberta’s history are Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, and Heritage Park. They are even kid approved! Discover why these Alberta attractions should be on your bucket list.
the best places to experience alberta's history
The best places to experience Alberta’s history from top left clockwise:
Atlas Coal Mine, Ukrainian Village, Heritage Park, Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site

Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, Rocky Mountain House

Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site
A costumed interpreter at the Métis camp serenades us with her fiddle.

With indoor and outdoor exhibits including a 3D virtual reality experience, Métis camp, play fort, daily puppet show (with life size puppets), walking trails, and more, it is easy to spend an afternoon at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site. Costumed interpreters help you see what life was like in Rocky Mountain House in the 1800s. Highlights of our last two visits were watching the blacksmith at work, dancing at the Métis camp, learning to start a fire with flint and steel, visiting the bison, and cooking bannock over the fire. Make it a weekend and book a tipi or trapper’s tent to live like the explorer, David Thompson.

Read more about exploring and heritage camping at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site in our story: Discover Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site.

The Western Festival runs from August 17-18, 2019 and promises to be lots of fun! For more information, visit Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site | Special Events.

Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, East Coulee (near Drumheller)

Atlas Coal Mine Train Tour
Atlas Coal Mine Train Tour

My kids loved the tours at Atlas Coal Mine thanks to their enthusiastic guides (and truth be told, my girls don’t usually like tours at all). The length of each tour was just right to keep everyone’s interest too. In fact, there were always lots of questions and the guides were happy to oblige.

We began with the Train Tour, pulled by “Linda” the 90 year old engine. As we click-clacked down the track, our guide shared colorful stories from when the mine was open. Next, we went to the mine office to get paid, heard about ghosts that haunt the place, then walked up the last standing wooden tipple (coal sorting facility) in Canada. Our third and final tour, the Tunnel Tour, required helmets and headlamps so we could go underground. All the tours were so well done, we couldn’t choose a favorite. If you have time to do all three, we highly recommend them! There are other tours to choose from if you have more time (Photography, Working Life of a Miner) or don’t have kids in tow (Unmentionables Tour 14+), as well as a really cool Mine and Dine event only offered a few times a year. See the Atlas Coal Mine | Tours page for more information.

To see why the tours are “mine blowing”, check out our story: Journey back in time at Atlas Coal Mine.

Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, Tofield (near Edmonton)

Wagon ride at Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village
Wagon ride at Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village

Inside the burdei (sod house) at Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, a “new settler” from Ukraine tells us about her family’s journey to east Central Alberta. It took months, and when they arrived, they had to build a home, clear the land, and start farming so they would have produce to eat and sell. She shows us the two panes of glass they brought all the way from the Ukraine as well as a small millstone for grinding grain. “Next year when we have more money, we will build a bigger house” she smiles before showing us her garden.

The interpreters, in costume and in character, fascinate my kids. They linger at each building, curious about pre 1930s life. We watch a choir practice, take a tour of buildings outside the public area, and enjoy a delicious Ukrainian meal (food available for purchase at Kalyna Kitchen). My kids are already asking when we can go back as we didn’t see everything during our three hour visit.

Ukrainian Day on August 18, 2019 will showcase Ukrainian dance, music, and food. Get more information from Ukrainian Cultural Village.

Heritage Park, Calgary

Street theatre at Heritage Park, Calgary
Street theatre at Heritage Park, Calgary

Heritage Park is Canada’s Largest Living History Museum. Discover “How the West Was Once” at this 127-acre attraction on the banks of the Glenmore Reservoir. Costumed interpreters bring the past to life and offer a lot of hands on experiences. Kids will love taking part in Street Theatre (we helped the NWMP arrest a thief!), riding the train and paddle wheel boat, making ice cream, learning aboriginal games, training to be a NWMP officer, and going on all the rides at the antique midway.

The park covers history from the 1860s to 1950s. Most of the activities are in the 1910 Prairie Railway Village, but the Fur Trading Fort and First Nations Encampment is also a must-see. Car lovers will enjoy Gasoline Alley’s great collection of vehicles. As you need days to see everything at Heritage Park, check the Event Calendar before you go, so you can plan accordingly. We usually see what’s going on at Livingston House (we have made butter and a rug there before), check out the Street Theatre, go for a boat ride and train ride, visit the animals, then hit the midway. Interestingly, the kids enjoy going to school on summer vacation too (try writing with a quill pen).

What’s new at Heritage Park? “Admission now includes unlimited horse-drawn wagon rides, steam train rides, antique midway rides, and sailings on the S.S. Moyie paddlewheeler.” No need to purchase ride tickets separately! There is, however, a new parking fee in effect ($6/day unless you are an annual passholder whose pass includes parking). If you play Pokémon Go, this map shows Pokéstops and pokégyms around Heritage Park.

What is your favorite historic site or museum in Alberta?

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2 comments

Jenn August 15, 2019 - 8:17 pm

We enjoyed 3/4 of those places and hoping to check the Ukrainian Village off our list next week to make it 4/4!

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Playoutsidegal August 21, 2019 - 3:56 am

Fantastic! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. 🙂 Which site is your favorite so far?

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