There are many ways to learn Canadian history, but few of them pack the same kind of punch as actually visiting a historic site and living in that world for a day. As you brush up against costumed interpreters, chow down on classic dishes, and take part in activities that have stood the test of time, you’ll develop a great understanding and appreciation for the stories that shaped this great country.
Here are 10 great places to relive Canadian history.
L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site
It’s at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site that you’ll find the very first evidence of a European presence in North America. It was the Vikings who discovered Newfoundland and Labrador, and at L’Anse aux Meadows you can see the remains of one of their settlements dating back to the 11th century. Interact with Viking actors as you explore the historic buildings and artifacts.
Ksan Historical Village and Museum
In the Hazelton community of Northern British Columbia lies the 'Ksan Historical Village and Museum, a re-created Gitxsan village. Seven longhouses, the first of which was built in 1959, replicate a community that stood on the same riverside site for hundreds, or possibly thousands, of years. Look up at totem poles and visit the smoke house and food cache.
Sainte-Marie among the Hurons
In 1639, French Jesuits began constructing Ontario’s first European Community, Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. The headquarters for the French Jesuit Mission to the Huron Wendat people included a church, workshops, barracks, and more. In this recreated environment, watch the interaction of the French and Wendat nations while enjoying demonstrations, storytelling, and games.
Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
When you step inside the walls of the Fortress of Louisbourg, you’re actually stepping back into the 1700s. This National Historic Site was one of the busiest harbors on the content in the 18th century, acting as a key French site for trade and defense. You’ll rub shoulders with French soldiers, sailors, servants, and children; you’ll see food being cooked on an open fire, watch lace being made, and drink rum alongside fishermen who will regale you with tales from the sea.
Kings Landing Historical Settlement
Escaping the cannon fire of the American Revolution, Loyalists made their way north to Canada to rebuild their futures on the peaceful banks of the St. John River in modern-day New Brunswick. At Kings Landing Historical Settlement, you can experience daily life as the Loyalists lived it, from the 1780s to the early 1900s. 'Villagers' grow their own wheat and vegetables, milk the cows, chop the wood, and stoke the fire.
Fort William Historical Park
Travel 200 years back in time and live like a voyageur at Fort William Historical Park. The park was the headquarters of the North West Company’s inland fur trade during the early 1800s, which played a key role in the foundations of Canada. Walk among 42 historic buildings, and interact with members of 19th-century fur trade society – Scottish fur traders, French voyageurs, artisans, farmers, Ojibwa First Nations – and hear their personal stories.
Festival du Voyageur
Dubbed “The World’s Largest Kitchen Party,” the Festival du Voyageur is a chance to experience food, fun, and French Canadian heritage on the snowy streets of Winnipeg. Tour a re-created 19th century fur-trading outpost, take a swig of traditional fortified wine, and enjoy dozens of live musical performances at a variety of venues. Taking place for 10 days every February, this annual celebration of Manitoba’s fur trader history is not to be missed.
At Fort Edmonton, you can explore a Hudson’s Bay Fort as it was in 1846, bartering for beads in the trade store, or interacting with characters from the era. From there, slowly trace the evolution of the city as you walk down streets representing the years 1885, 1905, and 1920, traveling by horse-drawn carriage and historic street cars.
Barkerville National Historic Site
In 1862, Billy Barker struck gold while panning in the waters of Williams Creek, and the crazy days of the Cariboo Gold Rush were on. That snapshot in time is preserved at Barkerville National Historic Site, a museum town where visitors can peek into more than 100 of the town’s original buildings and enjoy period re-enactors like the hanging judge and the local saloon keeper.
Dawson Historical Complex
From one gold rush to another. The Dawson Historical Complex is not so much a historical site as it is a community. There you’ll find 17 protected buildings, each with a gold rush story to tell. Walk the wooden boardwalks and pay a visit to a general store, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, and a newspaper building, all brought back to life by costumed guides.