Confession time – Aside from a night visit for a wedding a couple years back, I hadn’t been to Fort Edmonton Park since my Grade 4 field trip (more years ago than I care to remember or admit). I grew up outside of Edmonton, and once I moved here, my focus was on school and starting a career. But having kids has prompted me to explore parts of my city that I’d ignored for too long – and Fort Edmonton Park is one of these gems that I’ve truly been missing out on.
As we entered the main gate, I looked around to get my bearings, wondering where we would start. I didn’t have to think for long, as my three-and-a-half year old twin girls saw the colour and spectacle of the Johnny J. Jones Exposition just across the train tracks, and made a bee-line for the fun!
They started off on the little hand-cranked carousel and bug swing rides, but it wasn’t long before the colour and sound of the big carousel drew them in. (They’re still too small to ride a horse alone, so we settled for a bench on a chariot.) The day we visited the ferris wheel was closed for maintenance and my girls are too small for the Chair-O-Plane ride, but they had a riot running between the 3 rides they could use! Employees in wood-clad period outfits didn’t once complain about another round of hand-cranking on a 30 degree day. We played a couple of free games, then visited Midway Treats and Treasures to purchase tickets for the games of chance. (Note to self: make a return visit to Midway Treats and Treasures for early Christmas shopping. Their throwback candy selection, and vintage toys are second to none!)
We surveyed the options, and both girls wanted to play the fishing game. (I did have to talk one daughter down from choosing the Strong Man High Striker. She was desperate to try it after watching a couple of teenage boys play, but the giant rubber mallet probably weighs more than she does!) My young anglers had success at the pond, and walked away with nifty prizes, and I was finally able to convince them to branch out beyond the midway.
We hopped on the street car and rode down to 1905 Street. Our destination was the penny arcade, as we really wanted to see the player piano in action. A shooting demonstration was underway in the adjoining building and the piano and arcade games were roped off. As we started to leave, a lovely young woman approached us and told us that while she couldn’t work the piano, she had another fun idea. She unhooked a rope, grabbed a quarter, and introduced the girls to a historic picture show.
We wandered our way back along 1920 street, poking in here and there to see old fire trucks, the Ukrainian book store, and to watch a round of Tom Thumb mini golf, but the heat was taking its toll, and lunch was calling. We barely scratched the surface of what Fort Edmonton has to offer, and are already planning our next visits. Priorities include meeting the animals at Ottewell farm for “A” and finding the horse-drawn wagon for “E”. Both are excited to try the ferris wheel, plus I want to get through more of the park to see the Fort! The girls are scheming to bring daddy along to tackle the Strong Man High Striker. (a trip which will no doubt also include an ice cream stop at Bill’s Confectionery.)
Fort Edmonton Park offers families hours of throwback fun. Without a doubt, your best option is to buy a family Fort Edmonton Park Flexi-Pass, for just $175. (The family day-rate is $95, so with 2 visits, the pass pays for itself!) You have unlimited access to the park until September 3, 2018, and received discounts on many purchases while you’re there. Plus, if you’re like me and have young kids that may not last the full day, you have the freedom to pop in for a couple of hours at a time, and explore another part of Edmonton’s history. (Fort Edmonton Park also offers great summer day camps for kids – check them out here!)