Cranbrook

Sample the frontier with your children

Step back in time and glimpse the lifestyle of the turn of the 20th century

A man with two children stand outside a building bearing the sign
Daphne, Tomas and Oliver Gonzalez wait for the horse-drawn wagon at Fort Steele Heritage Town. — Kimberly Shellborn photo

Four-year-old Oliver Gonzalez likes having a gold-panning lesson when his family visits Fort Steele Heritage Town near Cranbrook, B.C. His nine-year-old sister, Daphne, said that her favourite activity at Fort Steele is making ice cream the old-fashioned way—crushing ice and churning the ice cream mixture. Kids who help make the ice cream get to enjoy the results. 

“It takes a long time,” Daphne said, “but it’s worth it.”

“There’s something about stepping onto the grounds at Fort Steele,” said their mother, Kimberly Shellborn. “It’s another world, where you naturally walk slowly and chat with strangers and sit on the edge of the boardwalk to eat your ice cream. It’s a wonderful place to spend a day with the children.”

At regular intervals, majestic Clydesdale horses clop along the main street, harness jingling, pulling a wagonload of visitors enjoying the sedate pace. Street performers in period costumes interact with people on the street and invite them to participate in period vignettes. The Gossip Tour—which occurs twice daily during spring, summer and fall—is especially entertaining.

Children can get up close to lambs and kids, and can watch a variety of fowl—chickens, ducks and turkeys—as they cluck and quick-step, quack and waddle, gobble and stalk within their enclosures.

There’s lots to observe in the gardens and fields at Fort Steele Heritage Town. Spotting and identifying the first sprouts of spring is fun, and unearthing potatoes in the fall is like finding treasures in the dirt. There are daily demonstrations of old-time farming practices like horse-powered planting, haying, harvesting and grain grinding—depending on the season. Watching the barn loft being filled with hay via authentic horse power and a hay sling is a memorable experience.

Children may enjoy a stop in the historic schoolhouse, complete with a schoolmarm, for a sample of olden-days-style learning—and they get to leave whenever they like. Demonstrations at the blacksmith shop and the ice cream making may hold their attention for longer.

A steam-train ride and live performances at the Wild Horse Theatre are other popular family activities to experience at Fort Steele Heritage Town. To create a special memento of the day, a photography studio provides dress-up clothing for those who would like to have their picture taken in period costumes.

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