January 2012

I have to admit that when someone suggests anything to do with cars, I zone out immediately or I race to change the subject completely, yet for some reason, I ended up attending Heritage Park’s CARnival this week with my two-year-old daughter, my sister, and her young son. I think the only reason that I would ever attend an event with the word CAR in it would have to be the fact that Heritage Park is putting on this event, and I have yet to have a bad experience with any function at that location; Heritage Park definitely knows how to appeal to both the young and old alike.

CARnival car
Although I spend quite a lot of time at Heritage Park throughout the year, I have not ever really explored Gasoline Alley before. In the past, I have attended functions in this part of the Park, but at those events, tables fill the area and there isn’t really a chance to go around and admire the artefacts in the building; that being said, I didn’t really know what to expect upon arrival. My gang and I entered the Alley around 11:30, and there were only about fifteen other people inside. As soon as we arrived in the main area, a lovely volunteer greeted us and gave us the lowdown: for kids my daughter’s age, there was a family area with tricycles and crafts. The volunteer also pointed out the car that my daughter was free to “drive”.

CARnival Car 2
We spent about an hour and a half at the CARnival, most of the time in the family area at the tricycle track. The track is an absolute blast, and even though my daughter can’t quite grasp the concept of pedalling, she was able to get around the track by pushing with her legs or having her mother awkwardly direct her around the twisty obstacle course. When she was all done with the track, which considering her age, was not that quick, she was able to sit in the tricycle area and play with a variety of well-crafted puzzles and toys.

CARnival crafts
The craft table was the next goal of my daughter, but she was distracted by the old car that she was able to climb in. After instructing the rest of us to get in the back, she pretended to drive us around for at least three whole minutes, which again, was a nice length for someone her age, so I can safely say she was enjoying herself. The craft table’s main focus was building a Zamboni, but the kids in our group were too young for that activity, although some older children, around eight, seemed to be enjoying themselves. Upstairs there were some table hockey games, a mini-stick hockey game, and some more puzzles and toys; in all, there were quite a few activities for an active two-year-old to engage in.

Although we all enjoyed our time at the CARnival, there were some things that I feel could have been improved. One aspect of the CARnival that really surprised me was the lack of cars that the kids were able to go in. I know the cars are antiques, but having all of those on display, and only two that children can crawl up into, was a bit of a tease for my daughter, and she was frustrated and disappointed when told the others were hands-off. In addition to the cars, the website talks about a scavenger hunt and some other activities, but those were not clearly marked or obvious as we wandered around the site, so we missed out on some things and did not realize that until we were back at home.

So, after all of this, the real question is, would I recommend this event? Yes, if you want to go someplace peaceful and relaxing, or if you have a car enthusiast in your family. The focus of the CARnival this year is also on the World Junior tournament, so young hockey buffs would also be entertained. Is it a venue where young kids, or even adults for that matter, could be entertained for hours? I don’t think so. The CARnival does have a lot of activities planned, but none of those really take that long to complete. The other group who arrived at the same time as us, with three tween boys in tow, left before us, spending only about 45 minutes there.

Overall, it was a relaxing morning at Heritage Park, and that is what I expect when I go there. The atmosphere both in the Park and in Gasoline Alley is calming and the staff and volunteers are always so polite and helpful, which adds to the experience. It was very quiet in the venue, with absolutely no crowds, so the result was a very laid back experience, which was nice after the bustle of the holiday season.

By Meagan Lundgren, lifelong Calgarian, teacher and Mom of an energetic 2-year-old girl.