Sometimes I wish that cell phones had never been invented. So many of us, including our kids, are non-productively slumped over them for way too much time. What would it have been like in a simpler time, long ago? Step through a portal to the past at Kings Landing Historical Settlement and experience it for yourself.
The Village and the Exhibit Experience
History is recreated at Kings Landing Historical Settlement near Fredericton, N.B. in a lovely setting on the Saint John River. It’s an authentic glimpse into the 1800’s. Venture into the village where each building represents a distinct time period reflected in the differences in clothing, technology and decor. There are lots of costumed interpreters and try as you might, you probably won’t be able to convince them that it’s 2017. Stroll across the bridge, and you’ll find the buildings that make up the exhibit experience. There are museum homes where the focus is on artifacts, teaching gardens, black history, theatre and more. At Kings Landing, you can also enjoy: dining at Kings Head Inn, a general store, a working farm, pony and horse rides, a children’s play park, an apple orchard, a sawmill/gristmill with a working water wheel, and so much more. Characters from the past await your visit to jump out of the history books.
Every day there are free hands-on workshops available and no registration is required. Choose from about 40 different activities like woodworking, rug hooking, paper crafts, candle making; something for everyone! But you can pretty much show up anytime and have an immersive experience on site. I had a grand time trying out a few things while I was there checking out the facility.
Get into the swing of the 19th Century by trying on some fashion from the times for your perfect souvenir photo op. The responsibility of producing and caring for costumes happens behind the scenes in a massive costuming department, with such admirable attention to detail.
I met Mrs Lint who is a jack of many trades. She represents a village midwife, and also the provider of herbal medicine. She showed us how to gather up various bits of trees to boil up some cough syrup. While it cooked she shared the medical concerns and remedies of the day, using plants from her garden and the wild. After that we watched her cook a feast over an open hearth. The hearty menu included a casserole of chicken pieces and vegetables, followed by a yummy dessert. Like most of the ladies, she’s very handy with making useful things out of leftover rags like penny rugs. “ Everything is recycled”, she said. She’s also an expert on the spinning wheel and says, “I can spin anything but a broken heart and the crack of dawn.” Did you know that the term “spinsters” comes from a time when if a woman could spin well, she didn’t need a husband!
In the Perley House, I learned some important etiquette from Mrs Perley over tea, lemonade and homemade cookies. She discouraged any gossip or fancy airs and instructed that it would be very bad manners to comment on another’s belongings. We learned how to make butter in her pantry and she even shared some of her red ribbon recipes.
I was thrilled to try my hand at milking a cow. She was the essence of patience as I fumbled with her udders; I definitely need some practice on that one. The wagon ride was relaxing until we had to get off and help fix a broken fence, another lesson (fun actually). In the evening, there was a great performance by local talent that had the crowd singing, dancing, and making music beating on drums.
Summer Fun for Kids
Visiting Cousins and Family Kin programs, summer residential camps for 9 to 16-year-olds, are extremely popular with kids going back year after year. You’ll see the children working around the village, in historical clothing and divested of their cell phones. They are living their history, working and learning to be respectful and responsible. Some of the older kids will be learning a chosen trade or skill during their time there. For some, just the experience of running through a field is novel!
Kids learn some lessons in the teeny tiny schoolhouse. I too got to experience the steely stare of the schoolmistress over poor penmanship on my slate. All in good fun and followed up with smiles, she says that visiting kids say they like to learn in this stricter environment. She herself was once a Visiting Cousin as are many of the facilitators.
A few 2017 highlights
New this year, there is an outdoor performance venue with lights, sound, and shelter; and rum tasting in the Covenhoven Distilleries Gallery.
And in the fall, get into the spirit of Thanksgiving at the annual Harvest Festival. There’ll be lots of fun activities, kids’ games, an auction, themed dinners and more.
When everyone said “g’day”
Kings Landing reflects a simpler time when people shared such a tremendous sense of community and individually possessed survival skills to live off of the land. Krista Rae, a former Public Relations Officer, said to me, “It was a slower time; there was more time to be thankful.” When asked if it was a better time, she said, “In some ways, yes, but no, I wish everyone got to experience this and appreciate today’s conveniences. “
I certainly felt like I made friends with my history there and can’t wait to go back. Kings Landing, you do make history awesome.
Kings Landing Historical Settlement is a Crown Corporation and also offers special seasonal events, meeting facilities, group tours, and more. For more information please visit their website at: www.kingslanding.nb.ca
Jan Napier is a Halifax-based photographer/travel writer. Tourism New Brunswick, Fredericton Tourism and Kings Landing Historical Settlement assisted her travel. All opinions are her own.