Move over Anthony Henday, there's a new explorer in Edmonton! Whether you're taking a tour through museums and immersing yourself in Edmonton's culture, or sneaking past lethal predators at Jurassic Forest, there's no shortage of things to do that will make your inner history buff jump for joy. Now, go on! Channel your inner explorer and embark on a new adventure.
The Alberta Legislature
Set atop the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, this is where Canadian premiers and political parties debate and make history. Discover “the Leg” on a free guided tour, offered hourly. Ask about the Famous Five who fought for womens’ right to vote. Learn the fascinating stories behind the portraits and magnificent art. Glance at the bejeweled gold and silver ceremonial Mace. And don’t forget to listen for the phenomenon known as the “magic spot”.
A Little Slice of History
Step back in time at McKay Avenue School and enjoy free admission for the whole family at this Edmonton landmark that illuminates Albertan and Canadian political history. Then, swing over to The Telephone Historical Centre which offers drop-ins by donation. Located in the beautiful Prince of Wales Armouries within minutes of downtown, this interactive museum preserves and displays the history of telecommunications from Alexander Graham Bell to modern day cell phones.
Defy time, and begin your historic tour where the city originated, at Fort Edmonton Park. Untold adventures await as you travel back in time aboard a buggy or streetcar to be transported into the authentically re-created streets of 1846, 1885, 1905 and 1920. Engulf yourself in a full sensory experience to see what life was like long before Instagram famous dogs, Segways and our hockey hero Connor McDavid. Try your hand at bartering with a merchant to get the best return for your furs, ride an antique midway attraction, sample freshly baked bannock, and chat with costumed interpreters about life in the past.
Next on your list of stops should be the Royal Alberta Museum, a must-see for historic enthusiasts. Discover the treasures of Alberta’s cultural and geological past with the museum’s three permanent exhibits showcasing everything from pictographs to prehistoric plant-eaters. The Syncrude Gallery of Aboriginal Culture is one of the largest explorations of First People’s history on the continent, with stories spanning 11,000 years and more than 3,000 artifacts.
[NOTE: The Royal Alberta Museum is currently closed while they pack and move to their new downtown location, slated to open in 2018.]
Follow in the Footsteps
Walk in the footsteps of many great minds as you tour the 110-year-old University of Alberta Campus. With the Friends of Rutherford House Society Walks App (downloadable on Google Play or iTunes) you can stroll along campus with this guided, interactive digital walking tour. During the 30-minute leisurely walk you'll glimpse the historic beginnings of the University: from Rutherford House, the former home of Alexander Cameron Rutherford, Alberta's first Premier and Minister of Education, to the Old Arts Building, arguably one of the most beautiful buildings on campus, to Pembina Hall where the Wauneita Club, a social organization for female students, was founded in 1909. Don't forget to finish off your tour at the Room at the Top (RATT)— the perfect place for a refreshing pint and great views.
[NOTE: The walking tour is entirely wheelchair accessible]
Fly Through the Past
Ever wonder what it's like to sit inside a Cold War jet fighter? Well, you can cross it off your bucket list after visiting The Alberta Aviation Museum. Discover why Alberta has been deemed the “Gateway to the North” at this museum that showcases the incredible progress of technology and the culture of flight through informative tours, rare artifacts and interactive exhibits. Ask about the time when Edmonton Mayor Joe Clarke threw the opening pitch for a baseball game… it may be worth mentioning that he did so from the passenger seat of ‘Wop’ May’s airplane as it flew over the field and then under the High Level Bridge.
You can take a ride across the same 100-year-old bridge that ‘Wop’ flew under in a beautifully refurbished streetcar dating back to the early 1900s. Each streetcar in the Edmonton Radial Rail Society's fleet has its own unique history and are all refurbished from different parts of the world, with names like Osaka #247 or the ex-Melbourne tram #930. Get off at any stop you want and keep returning until you've ridden them all! The High Level Bridge Streetcar takes you right from the Alberta Legislature in downtown Edmonton over to one of Edmonton’s most historic neighborhoods, Old Strathcona.
[NOTE: The High Level Bridge line operates daily from May 18, 2018 - September 3, 2018)
A Land Before Time
This is one Dino-mite adventure that the kids won't ever stop talking about. Visit Jurassic Forest, located just 15 minutes outside of Edmonton, and witness life-size and startlingly realistic dinosaurs in this prehistoric preserve. Visitors can enjoy guided safaris, observe dinosaurs in action, dig for ancient remains and explore 2 km of discovery trails through an old-growth forest.
[NOTE: Jurassic Forest is open during the summer season from late April until Mid October]
Part of Alberta's Heritage
Any historic itinerary wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. Explore over 30 historic structures that depict the history of east central Alberta and tell the story of Ukrainian immigrants who settled in this region in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Interact with costumed role players who re-enact the historic routines and activities of real-life Ukrainian pioneers. Sample fresh baked goods from a traditional pich (clay oven), watch a blacksmith at work in his forge, play a game of horseshoes with the kids or help a farmer tend to his heirloom garden.
[NOTE: UCHV is open seasonally from the May long weekend to Labour Day in September.]
The funny thing about history is we rely on stories passed down from those who are no longer with us... or maybe they are? Take an Edmonton Ghost Tour and explore your supernatural side. Be sure to keep your eye out for otherworldly sightings—there are more than a few stories about spirits that have been haunting Edmonton's neighbourhoods!