Visiting Fort Edmonton Park and Other Things to Do with Kids in Edmonton, Alberta

1. Fort Edmonton Park

Rowand House, the largest structure at the Fort Edmonton Park.
Rowand House, the largest structure at the Fort Edmonton Park. | Source

Are you moving to Edmonton, Alberta and wondering what child-friendly activities await you and your family? Visiting your grandkids in 'Oil City' and looking forward to engaging in some fun expeditions together?

This article will explore three of many opportunities to have fun with your favourite children in Edmonton: a trip back in time to Fort Edmonton Park, a chance to get up close to the area's natural history at the Royal Alberta Museum, and, of course, the required visit to the super-charged West Edmonton Mall's Galaxyland amusement park.

Each of these adventures have something to appeal to all ages and stages of childhood, youth and adulthood. Each venue has wheelchair accessible restrooms.

I have chosen to review the following activities since my husband and have visited them with our children and/or grandchildren.

These are each fairly costly and physically-rigorous excursions so we have limited our grandchildren's expectations to "just one of these activities" per our visit. Fortunately in Edmonton, as in most large cities, there are loads of inexpensive family fun times to be had. Whatever you do, enjoy the time you have together!

Welcome to Fort Edmonton Park

So much fun to be a Grandpa and walk down the historical lanes of old Fort Edmonton!
So much fun to be a Grandpa and walk down the historical lanes of old Fort Edmonton! | Source

Fort Edmonton- Then and Now

The burgeoning city of Edmonton, Alberta-- provincial capital and the farthest northern city in North America with over a million inhabitants-- started out as a fortified fur trade post. What Canadian-schooled adult doesn't remember learning in Social Studies that "Edmonton is the Gateway to the North"?

Fort Edmonton Park is a re-creation of the original Fort and settlement that grew up around it. The Park is described in its brochure as a "living-history museum". If you are looking for interactive and hands-on ways of learning, Fort Edmonton Park meets that criteria. The historic buildings, costumed interpreters and other animated experiences are open from May until September. There is a variety of other programming available year-long.

Where is the Fort Edmonton Park?

A markerFort Edmonton Park, Edmonton Alberta -
Fort Edmonton Park, Edmonton, AB T5J 2R7
[get directions]

Have You Been to Fort Edmonton Park with Kids?

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What Will We See and Do?

The designers of Fort Edmonton Park have thought of everything that entertains, delights, meets comfort needs and instructs! You and your kids will get to relive the pioneer experience and discover the fascinating stories about the shaping of Edmonton. Fortunately, though, you will not have to use or empty even one of the chamber pots seen under the beds on the tour, or deal with the stench of the Fort's tanning hides and drying meat.

Be sure to find yourself some suitable transport to get an overview of the Park before you jump out and make your way around on "shank's pony". You have a choice of steam train ("the caboose"), cable car or a horse-drawn wagon. The train is the best way to start.

The Fort Edmonton Park is arranged into four different periods of history, each era represented by a theme from a particular year:

Gran and girls on a country road together.  Reminds me of the John Denver song found here: Take Me Home, Country Roads (iTunes)
Gran and girls on a country road together. Reminds me of the John Denver song found here: Take Me Home, Country Roads (iTunes) | Source

1846 Fort > represents the time when there was a Hudson Bay fur-trading post and Fort (there were several of them, and not in the location of the present Fort.)

  • Check out the authentic-looking fort and hear what the M├ętis interpreter has to say about life in the fort, at the Trading Post. Check out the rooms and hidey-holes in the fort. Ask your kids questions related to the experience: "What do you think they kept in those barrels?" "Who do you think ate their meals in this big dining room? Families? Men all by themselves? Orphan kids?" Pointing at the chamber pots: "What do you suppose those pots under the bed were for?"

What could be more fun than a horsey ride? At the  Ottewell Homestead, 1885 St., Fort Edmonton Park.
What could be more fun than a horsey ride? At the Ottewell Homestead, 1885 St., Fort Edmonton Park. | Source

1885 Street> reflects the Settlement era when people from "back East" and elsewhere 'founded' the City.

  • Walk through the Ottewell Homestead and ask things like, "Why did they grow such a big garden?" "What is a homestead?" "How do you think the kids in the Ottewell family helped out? What chores do you think they did at your age?"
  • Go into Bellerose School, a one-room classroom. Ask questions like, "What would you think of being in the same class with the same teacher for 8 years of school?" "Where do you think their computers are?"
  • Take turns choosing different businesses to tour. Have each child form questions that they will ask an interpreter and let them overhear one or two of your questions.
  • Ride in the wagon down 1885 Street.

Tour of Fort Edmonton Park

The Great One

McFarlane Toys NHL Sports Picks Legends Series 1 Action Figure Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton Oilers) Blue Jersey
McFarlane Toys NHL Sports Picks Legends Series 1 Action Figure Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton Oilers) Blue Jersey

The Great One-- Wayne Gretzky-- made his famous hockey history in Edmonton.

 

1905 Street> The theme of this street is the Municipal Era and celebrates the booming of early Edmonton's economy. In 1904 Edmonton had a population of 8,350. September 1, 1905, Alberta was formed as a province, and Edmonton became the Capital City.

  • Tour the prominent family homes on 1905 Street. Rutherford House is the actual first family home of the first Premier of Alberta, Alexander Rutherford, and his family. Mrs. Rutherford did all of her own decorating, including the extensive paper hanging evident on walls in every room (and on the ceilings too). I had a fairly lengthy conversation with the Rutherford "son" (i.e., interpreter). Our 8-year old granddaughter had speculated about the academic robe in one of the bedrooms, suggesting that likely a teacher lived there. He told me that he, as a University student, wore a robe to class each day.
  • Walk through the Tent City. Ask a child, "Why do you suppose these families were camping in tents here?" Point out the furniture in the tents that is not usually taken on camping trips.
  • Our granddaughters tried out the Shooting Gallery at the Penny Arcade on 1905 Street. They were about as interested as I had been the first time I shot at a target (with beebees). I don't think they will campaign to take shooting lessons any time soon.

The Al-Rashid Mosque at its opening in 1938.  This Edmonton mosque just missed being the first "Little Mosque on the Prairies" (North America) and was moved to its current location at Fort Edmonton Park in 1991.
The Al-Rashid Mosque at its opening in 1938. This Edmonton mosque just missed being the first "Little Mosque on the Prairies" (North America) and was moved to its current location at Fort Edmonton Park in 1991. | Source
At the Fort Edmonton Park Midway on the Chair-o-Plane ride, looking cool, having fun!
At the Fort Edmonton Park Midway on the Chair-o-Plane ride, looking cool, having fun! | Source

1920 Street> This Street's theme signifies the beginning of the Metropolitan Era when Edmonton came into the 'modern age' of leisure and recreation.

  • We had a snack at #67 - 1920 Street, Johnson's Cafe in the Hotel Selkirk. You can actually book a room at the Hotel for an overnight stay.
  • We were surprised to see the Al Rashid Mosque at #78 1920 Street. I grew up in small-town rural Canadian prairies and was not aware of any churches beyond the usual Christian denominations and the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall. The Al Rashid Mosque was opened in 1938 in Edmonton, although it had been started earlier than two other mosques in North America and had been expected to be the first. When I first saw the small onion bulb domes I had thought it was a Ukrainian Orthodox Church, common sights on the prairies. However, the style was the result of the Muslim community having hired a Ukrainian contractor to build the mosque. The building was moved to the Fort Edmonton Park in 1991.
  • Meet you at the Midway! This was by far the favourite part of the Park for our granddaughters-- the rides were thrilling but not so scary that you could not go back on the repeatedly.

Best Time to Go to the Fort

We attended one week-day in August with our two granddaughters, aged 6- and 8-years old. It was a gorgeous late summer day, exactly the sort of weather I would suggest that you take advantage of in May to September if you plan to take in the range of "living-history" opportunities, many of which either happen outside or that require dashes from shelter to shelter/train. We spent a full day (as in, SIX hours) at the Park. We didn't manage or choose to see and do everything that was available in that time. I suggest that if there is even a hint of inclemency in the weather report, that you skip the Fort Park experience for one of the other two experiences reviewed here (both fully under roofs).

2. The Royal Alberta Museum

The Royal Alberta Museum, Edmonton, Alberta
The Royal Alberta Museum, Edmonton, Alberta | Source

The Royal Alberta Museum is the second choice of a fun family outing for this particular Grandma and Grandpa.


Granddaughter Recites Lord's Prayer in Cree Language

The Museum contains fascinating collections of natural history and Aboriginal peoples' history. There are also collections related to Military and Political History, and Western Canadian History.

Our experience with visiting with our grandchildren (early school years) has been concentrated in discovering together the amazing numbers of wild animals indigenous to Alberta. The Wild Alberta Gallery houses several series of wildlife dioramas. The children are able to get up close to examine animals in realistically replicated ecosystems.

They are also very interested in the Syncrude Gallery of Aboriginal Cultures that traces back the history of North American First Nations peoples. There are various displays of life-like integrated audio demonstrations of various Aboriginal languages, customs, and folklore. Because our granddaugthers have lived in far Northern Alberta where their father taught school, they have had the opportunity to participate in Aboriginal dance. In delight, they broke into a remembered round dance when some familiar music played.


The Advantages of A Visit to the Royal Museum with Kids

Visiting the Royal Museum has a few advantages over visiting the Fort Edmonton Park with young children:

  • The collections in the Royal Museum are all under one roof which means that there is no nasty Edmonton winter weather able to prevent the planned excursion.
  • The cost of visiting the Museum with children is considerably less than the cost of visiting the Fort Edmonton Park, what with its several tempting eateries, the Midway, and the stores that hawk "old fashioned candy" and like doodads with allure to young children. One parent writing a review on Trip Advisor calculated that it is unlikely that a family can get out of spending less than $200 during a day visit to the Fort Edmonton Park-- good value, he thought, but still pretty pricey. The family price for visiting the Museum is currently $30, or half-price on Saturday and Sunday morning between 9-11 a.m. This means that the visit can be significantly shortened from the 6 hours that were spent at the Fort Park ("getting our money's worth") which is frequently more amenable for visits with young children.

New Museum vs. Old Museum?

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New Museum To Open in 2015

A new Royal Alberta Museum is being built with a projected opening to take place in 2015 in downtown Edmonton. This museum will be vast, with both indoor and outdoor areas of "engagement and exploration". As you can see from the video below, this museum would appear to have the potential to change the child's current 'old fashioned' experience of visiting the museum with grandparents.

The Mindbender at Galaxyland

3. Galaxyland Amusement Park at the West Edmonton Mall

The third and final suggestion for a grandparent-grandchild excursion in Edmonton is to the Galaxyland Amusement Park at the huge West Edmonton Mall. The West Ed. Mall is described in Wikipedia as "the largest Shopping Mall in North America by gross leasable area" (whatever that means exactly).

For quieter, more introverted grandparents this is a suggestion that will be taken up with some reluctance. I have found, however, that our granddaughters do not clamour to go to Galaxyland now that they have been there a couple of time with their parents. But for those of you who either (1)love the high sensory stimulation of an amusement park that includes the world's largest indoor roller coaster, the triple loop Mindbender, and various other rides, this could well be a more exciting adventure with your grandchildren than going to a stuffy museum. For those of you who (2)have grandchildren who expect and / or demand to be taken to Galaxyland in lieu of less exciting activities, one or two trips to an mall amusement park may provide the 'memory-making' experience that you are looking for in building closeness with your grandchildren.

I wish you well. There are other rides besides the roller coasters, of course, but there will always be the intense noise of thousands of people milling about, screaming from the Mindbender, and the incessant, amplified cacophony that only an indoor Amusement Park can produce. I wish you well.


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33 comments

RachaelOhalloran profile image

RachaelOhalloran 2 years ago from United States

Great ideas! The West Edmonton Mall is actually on my bucket list. My and I granddaughters are planning a "shopping vacation" in the spring and they told me to think up where I'd like to go. I don't think they are planning on going clear across the US or into Canada, but that's my plan. Who says Malls are just for the kids? I love them! I can't wait to experience the Royal Alberta Museum, it looks fabulous. Your presentation was great! Thanks for a great travelogue of ideas!


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Oh Rachael you are most welcome-- I am so grateful for the diversity of grandparents out there! You fun-loving extroverts (?) really balance out us more cautious, nit-picky introverts! I look forward to reading about your trip with your granddaughters! Thank you for stopping by and for your kind comments!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a lovely hub that brought back great memories for me. I used to live in Edmonton near Fort Edmonton Park. Thank you for sharing the useful information and the lovely photos and videos. Edmonton is definitely worth visiting!


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Thank you AliciaC-- it's meaningful to receive kudos from someone who has experienced the positives of what one has written about! We were very impressed with Fort Edmonton Park and will make more visits there.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Thanks for the tour and the historical information on Fort Edmonton Park. I know I would enjoy it with or without kids. I'm even excited about the new museum; yes, the video give a new perspective on museums. Great article and invitation to family fun. Voted Up!


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

thank you MsDora! I know that you would enjoy the Fort with or without children-- and I am curious to see this new museum as well, although I do rather enjoy the musty, cluttered, smelly old archives... thank you for the vote as well! ~Cynthia


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

That sounds like a great place to visit, I love museums and would love to go and see this, looks like great fun!


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Hi Nell-- thanks for dropping by! Fort Edmonton is indeed a "living" museum, and as such, is lots of fun to visit for both adults and children. I am still aiming to see some of the famous British historical monuments and museums. Thank you for your comments!


mySuccess8 profile image

mySuccess8 2 years ago

Fun locations in Edmonton to bring kids and grandkids to, with a good selection of 3 varied choices to choose from. Geat info for someone new to Edmonton, and congrats on HotD!


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

Congratulations for HOTD!

Sounds like a wonderful place. I have not visited this park and would definitely like to visit.

Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures and description.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for highlighting the Fort Edmonton Park.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

Congratulations on HOTD! Sounds like great fun to take the kids and enjoy the day.


smallbizloandepot profile image

smallbizloandepot 2 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Wonderful, well written article. A pleasure to read. Looking forward to the next one.


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Thank you so much for the visit and comments, mySuccess8-- and welcome to Hubpages! I'll be over to read at "your place" in the next few days! ~Cynthia


Brigitte Thompson profile image

Brigitte Thompson 2 years ago from Austin, TX

Nice Hub! Thanks for the Tour. I am going to put that on my list of must see things go do.


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Thank you for dropping by ChitrangadaSharan-- I look forward to reading your hubs as well! The HOTD was a pleasant surprise and I thank you for your congratulatory remarks. It gives me an opportunity to meet more people in the HB community!


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Thank you for your kind words RTalloni-- it is such a sweet thing to be acknowledged by one's peers in this community-- humbling, and an honour. Have yourself a great day!


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Thank you FlourishAnyway-- the Park is great, really something to see and experience, with or without kids, and your words are much appreciated!

smallbizloandepot-- I appreciate your kind words as well!

Brigitte Thompson, if you do get up to Edmonton, there are many places to see and things to do-- it's a big city that has had a lot of 'oil money' poured into it and I would give it a "family-friendly" rating. The Fort Ed. Park was definitely a highlight for our family this summer. You are welcome for the little Tour! ~Cynthia


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

Congrats on HOTD!! Well done!

I have actually been to the WEM twice. Once, when I accompanied my younger daughter to her college campus, and we went early and did a side-trip there, and again 2 years later when she came home, and my mom and I drove up to get her, stopping at the mall first.

When I went with my daughter, we actually used up 3 days exploring the mall. We spent one entire day in the water park! Loved it! Did not stay at the Fantasyland Hotel in the mall, though--that was well outside our budget.

At the time, I did not know of the other attractions you describe here,or I might have taken those in as well.

When I went with my mom, we also spent time in Calgary and took in their zoo, and on the way up, stopped at Butchart Gardens in B.C. Loved Canada, what we saw of it--so clean--no gum on sidewalks; no graffitti scrawls...


aminebombom profile image

aminebombom 2 years ago from Doha, Qatar

Dear Edmonton, expect a visit from me next few years,

Thanks for the informative article, do you happen to be living in Edmonton?


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Wow, DzyMsLizzy, I imagine you could do a pretty good travel hub on your trip and explorations in Edmonton and Calgary and other parts of Western Canada! I love your description of us as being so clean-- no gum on sidewalks, no graffitti scrawls-- I think I'll go with that-- and I do believe that that is true of the beautiful Butchart Gardens, lol! Thank you for your lovely words about the hub, and do come back to Canada to see more! I'll be over to 'your place' to do some reading there soon! ~Cynthia

Aminebombom-- no, I don't live in Edmonton, but it is a great place to visit! Thanks for dropping by! ~Cynthia


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 2 years ago from Germany

Congratulations on the HOTD award! A very interesting place to visit especially with children. Thanks for the information.


Marion Reads profile image

Marion Reads 2 years ago from Canada

I'm an ordinary Ukrainian woman who lived in Edmonton long ago. I was married in the Al Rashid Mosque. I think it's time I vacationed in Edmonton and visited the park.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 2 years ago from Northern California, USA

Lots of valuable information. All the information a person would need to make the decision to visit Fort Edmonton Park. By the way, congratulations on receiving the Hub of the Day award.


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Thelma Alberts, thanks for stopping in and for your congratulations-- I am humbled. You are welcome for the information!

Marion Reads, I think you would enjoy a trip back to Saskatoon to see the Mosque where you were married and the Park where it is now located. I wonder if there isn't a hub in your story?

MarleneB, Thank you for dropping in and for the lovely comments! I'm pretty sure you would enjoy a visit to this Fort Ed. Park, even without so much information! It's quite the offering to visitors on the part of Edmonton.


Relationshipc profile image

Relationshipc 2 years ago from Alberta, Canada

I live five minutes away from West Edmonton Mall. It really is a great place to go and spend the day - but it is BUSY! Besides the amusement park, you can go to a ton of places for dinner, catch a movie, or go swimming in the waterpark. It's a great way to make a day go fast. BUT it is busy!


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

yep, Relationshipc, that has always been my experience of the West Ed. Mall-- bountiful and busy! Thanks for dropping by!


lifeandhealth profile image

lifeandhealth 2 years ago from Washington State

You make Edmonton sound exciting and interesting. I'd like to visit there sometime....in the summer, of course. You certainly deserved the Hub of the Day award.


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Thank you Clara Mae, dear friend, for dropping by and for your kind words! I hope you get an opportunity to visit Edmonton because I think you would enjoy what it has to offer! ~Cynthia


Heidi Vincent profile image

Heidi Vincent 2 years ago from GRENADA

Thanks for the tour, techygran! Beautiful park and interesting activities. Thanks for sharing & congratulations on winning the Hub of the Day!


techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Thank you for your comments, Heidi! I will be over to "your place" to read in a couple of days-- look forward to that! Have a great weekend!


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 18 months ago from Canada

@Techygran, great hub! I noticed that you did get hub of the day, which is great. Congrats to you. I am a former Albertan (now transplanted to Manitoba) and lived in Edmonton for one year. The first two places you mention sound fascinating, and I can't believe I have never been. Like you said, this would be so good for teaching kids about the history of the pioneers, and Aboriginal history.

As for the mall, I have been there numerous times, but do confess I have gotten lost almost every time. The waterslide park is pretty fun, though! Great hub, and as always, so nice to see a fellow Canadian getting some buzz! Cheers!


techygran profile image

techygran 18 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada Author

Thank you prairieprincess-- high honour to be commended by someone who is actually from the place one writes about! There is a lot of activity in Edmonton and it is quite a beautiful city in the summer, particularly. Thank you for your comments!

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