5 reasons to rediscover Heritage Park

It had been a of couple years since we visited Heritage Park Historical Village during summer with the kids in tow. While it was fun back then, I recalled a lot of walking, and some weird rule about not being able to take strollers on the steam engine train. So it was nice to return with now-older children who could walk everywhere without complaint and last for hours while running on a diet of hot dogs and ice cream for energy. (For those readers not from Calgary, Heritage Park is an “old-time village” from 1910, complete with a main street, old-fashioned midway rides, farm animals and pastures, a settlement fort and an aboriginal encampment. The idea is you get off the train and it’s like you’ve travelled back in time 100 years.)

What’s more, we visited during the Calgary Stampede, on Stampede Family Day, so you can imagine the crowds at Heritage Park = non-existent. How refreshing to just walk on to rides, watch live street theatre with a front-row view and stand in line for ice cream for exactly two minutes. (Not that I don’t like the Stampede, but you gotta love how empty other Calgary attractions are during these 10 days.)

What I liked most about this outing was the leisurely pace. We just wandered from place to place as the mood suited. Here are our Top 5 stops:

1. The Ferris wheel

That's Blake and Avery waving from the very top car on the Heritage Park antique Ferris wheel.

That’s Blake and Avery waving from the very top car!

Yes, it’s old-school. All it does is spin around in a circle and take you up and down, up and down, but it’s fun. As a bonus (possibly because the lineup was so short), Blake and Avery got to go up and down for about 25 revolutions. Nice!

2. Street theatre

We loved watching the live street theatre next door to Alberta Bakery at Heritage Park.

We loved watching the live street theatre next door to Alberta Bakery.

Don’t worry, I haven’t gone all cultured on you. The street theatre that randomly takes place at Heritage Park ain’t high-brow, but it’s a lot of fun. We got to watch a boxing match between a cheer-worthy challenger and a boo-worthy title defender, plus all the drama on the sidelines. Avery loved seeing the story unfold (while she munched on a fresh chocolate chunk cookie from Alberta Bakery), and for once Bennett didn’t pull my hand to go somewhere else.

3. I scream, you scream…

Three cheers for chilly cones from Vulcan Ice Cream Parlour at Heritage Park.

Three cheers for chilly cones from Vulcan Ice Cream Parlour.

We all scream for ice cream! Eating a generous scoop of ice cream from the Vulcan Ice Cream Parlour was a particular treat for Bennett, who is dairy- and gluten-free. The ice cream shop offers a dairy-free version and we made sure he didn’t eat the cone!

4. The animals

By "the animals" I mean farm critters, not my children...

By “the animals” I mean the farm critters, not my children… Here they are on a fence, a better vantage from which to watch a calf frolicking in the distance.

Two years later and a park highlight was still looking at all the animals, especially the horses and lambs. The only drawback? Petting must be done through the fence. Plan a visit during Rural Roots, Aug. 24 and 25, 2013, when there will be a petting zoo set up for kiddos.

5. Wide open spaces

Home, home on the range...

Home, home on the range…

Maybe it’s just me, but I loved how open and uncrowded Heritage Park felt on Sunday. It was beautiful July day and there weren’t any lineups or rude people, just families and history buffs having some good, clean fun. After the flooding in Calgary in June, a dose of the “good ‘ole days” home on the range nostalgia is much needed (and appreciated!).

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