Visiting Fort Edmonton Park and Other Things to Do with Kids in Edmonton, Alberta
1. Fort Edmonton Park
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
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?
Have You Been to Fort Edmonton Park with Kids?
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:
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 Métis 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?"
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
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.
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.
Weather Network - Edmonton
- Edmonton, Alberta - 7 Day Weather Forecast - The Weather Network
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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 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?
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.
- 13 P7 Fort Edmonton Park history tent city | Family Outdoor Adventures
Many lived in tents, even through the winter while they waited for a home. 137
- Rescue At Fort Edmonton - Teacher Resource for Study of Book By Same Name
The book "Rescue at Fort Edmonton" was written by a mother and kids who volunteered as interpreters at Fort Edmonton Park.