What iconic Calgary attraction has provided families with time-travelling entertainment for nearly 60 years? Heritage Park, of course! We are rediscovering the park this summer, checking out the newest exhibits, such as Prospect Ridge and a new Veterinary Practice at the Nanton Livery Stable. We plan on relaxing over picnic lunches and buying special treats, wandering the streets, perhaps taking in the 2022 street production, and visiting the Settlement. Through it all, we’ll ride the rails, visit the farm animals, and enjoy “The Way We Played.”
Our first stop on our summer adventures: Prospect Ridge! This newly-restored area of the park is dedicated to telling the story of Alberta’s energy and natural resources, and our history in the coal mines.
Prospect Ridge opened in 2021, but we hadn’t yet experienced it. The area was a must-do for us as we planned our trips back to Heritage Park. We first wandered through Innovation Crossing, a light-filled, open-concept building with an interactive “Storykeeper” exhibit and immersive displays about energy and its future.
Then, it was off to the mining office to “check in” for the day. We learned about three types of coal and the time card system the miners used, which is still being used in mines today. (It occurred to me that it would be a convenient system for living with teenagers, too.) The walk along the Glenmore Reservoir to the water wheel was picturesque and we saw the S. S. Moyie paddle wheeling around the corner.
We stepped into the darkness of the coal mine, and my kids were delighted to see a representative of the ‘canary in the mine’ before we had an interesting conversation with the interpreter standing in the darkness. Knowing the mine was normally only built as high as your horse made me subconsciously duck my head and everyone paid attention as we learned about dynamite.
The sunshine made us blink as we emerged from the mine, even though we were only “down in the mine” for a few minutes. It wasn’t easy to imagine an entire workday – 10 to 12 hours – or your entire life, underground, swinging a pickax, loading a cart, or setting off dynamite. It was easy to imagine how that existence could take 10 years off your life, though. Thankfully, we didn’t even have a speck of coal dust on us after we left the mine, and thoughts soon moved to a picnic lunch in the sunshine. Lucky us!
After Prospect Ridge, we enjoyed our picnic lunch, grabbed a treat at the candy store, and rode the train. With an annual pass this summer, we didn’t have to push ourselves to see everything and we enjoyed a relaxed, pleasant outing. Alberta is known for its energy, from coal mines to oil fields and Prospect Ridge makes a terrific addition to Heritage Park.
7 Tips For a Great Day With Kids at Heritage Park:
- Don’t rush! This is where an annual pass is so fabulous — you never feel like you’re missing anything because you can always come back. There is a lot of walking for little legs, but you can take breaks and ride the train and S. S. Moyie paddle wheeler. Don’t forget about the street car in the parking lot. Embrace slow travel.
- Pack a picnic, as there are so many wonderful places to relax and enjoy the outdoors, whether you want a private, quiet corner, or you like to people-watch in the centre of it all.
- Then, buy a treat. Maybe I’m a pushover, but a few 10¢ candies are always a hit! You can also visit the Vulcan ice cream parlour, stop by the Club Cafe on a cool day for a hot chocolate in a cozy booth, or grab a sausage roll from the bakery. There are so many possibilities!
- Remember, Calgary weather is changeable. An extra layer to take on and off is often a good idea.
- Visit the farm animals. Especially the pigs, if they’re out.
- Play games along the way. Many of the houses and exhibits have games and interactive activities for the kids. And remember, the theme this year is “The Way We Played”!
- Use your imagination! History is fascinating. During one visit when my kids were young, I enjoyed relaxing on the grass at the farm while they created a whole world for themselves, pretending they were new to the prairies and had to live in a sod house.
- And, of course, go to the Antique Midway! Ride the Ferris wheel or the merry-go-round with the vintage rocking horses for a classic experience.
Heritage Park Historical Village is open daily from 10 am – 5 pm, from Victoria Day Weekend until Labour Day Weekend then weekends only until Thanksgiving. Gasoline Alley Museum is open daily, year-round (holiday exceptions may apply).
Address: 1900 Heritage Dr. SW, Calgary AB
The author would like to thank Heritage Park for the visit, but all opinions are her own. CQ
Photos by Charity Quick