Earlier this year, Fort Edmonton Park in Alberta welcomed its first visitors after a nearly three-year closure and a $165 million renovation. The living history museum is typically only open for the summer, so Labour Day looked to be your last chance to check out the impressive upgrades.
But after a brief hiatus in September, parts of Fort Edmonton Park have now re-opened for weekend exploring, with plenty of perks to make your visit worthwhile.
See Edmonton through the ages
Fort Edmonton Park is tucked into wooded parkland on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, a portal to another era standing in stark contrast to the modern city of Edmonton that surrounds it. For more than 50 years, visitors have been able to explore an old fur trading fort set up to mimic life in 1846, and then walk forward through history along 1885 Street, 1905 Street, and 1920 Street. Thanks to a talented team of period actors, you’ll get a sense of Edmonton’s growth from a small hamlet snubbed by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the Settlement Era, to a booming metropolis just a few decades later.
But there was a gap in storytelling over a thousand years long, with no space devoted to life before European settlers arrived. Featuring local Indigenous stories was a big part of the recent renovation, and this fall visitors have an extended opportunity to explore the brand new Indigenous Peoples Experience. Saturdays and Sundays until Dec. 19, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., the 1846 Fort and Indigenous Peoples Experience are back open — plus your ticket is good for a free return visit next summer when the whole park is open again!
To create the new Indigenous Peoples Experience, Fort Edmonton Park consulted with more than 50 Indigenous Elders, historians, educators and community members. Through stories, music, artwork and text, you’ll learn about life in the Beaver Hills (modern day Edmonton) and the Cree, Dene, Anishinaabe, Nakota, Blackfoot and Métis people who continue to call this land home.
“It is a great vessel, from which the stories will be told, the story of the Métis and the story of the First Nations people, who lived and worked in this area and helped create what Fort Edmonton Park is today,” says Métis Nation of Alberta President Audrey Poitras.
The exhibit centres around the kisiskâciwanisîpiy (the North Saskatchewan River) and the Indigenous people who moved along it, with tipis, boats, sleds and a Métis cabin for visitors to explore.
“Eyes are going to pop, and jaws will drop. Fort Edmonton Park has always brought Edmonton history to life through stories past and present but the new Indigenous Peoples Experience completes that job with conveying the rich history and legacy of this land’s original Indigenous peoples,” says outgoing Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson.
Games… and ghosts!
The park upgrades also brought an expanded midway, including a 1920s-style Ferris wheel and old fashioned carnival games, plus the Cabinet of Curios sideshow and an outdoor maze. If you missed the midway this summer don’t worry, it will be back in May 2022, and in the mean time you can still enjoy horse and streetcar rides this fall.
The midway and other streets outside the fort are closed this fall, but through Oct. 31 a few ghosts will haunt those streets… DARK is back for a fourth year of Halloween thrills. Test your nerves at three immersive haunts: face a killer clown Under the Big Top, navigate a mutant outbreak at Core Industries, and battle terrifying scarecrows at Blood Harvest. When you’ve recovered your wits, grab a bite from one of the local food trucks on site, join DJ Thomas Culture (AKA ‘The Groove Digger’) in the Raveyard, then tuck in for the night at the Hotel Selkirk.