Spanning almost 100 years from 1860 to 1950, Calgary's Heritage Park brings the story of western Canada to life with its historic buildings, steam train and paddle steamer boat rides, children's funfair and staff dressed in period costume.
A recreated 1930s southern Alberta town plaza, Heritage Square, with a band stand, row of shops and Canadian Pacific Railway Station, forms the entrance to the Park. Here you will also find the Gasoline Alley Museum, which is open all year round and houses one of the largest public collections of antique vehicles.
Reputedly Canada's 'largest living history museum', Heritage Park covers a huge, 127-acre site beside the Glenmore Reservoir and comprises more than 180 'exhibits', the majority of which are genuine 19th and early 20th century buildings transported to the park from elsewhere in the country. All of the buildings are open to visitors and you can browse and purchase items in the various shops and cafes, the interiors of which also reflect the relevant period.
S.S. Moyie paddle wheeler at Heritage Village, Calgary
A self-guided walking tour will take you through a First Nations' encampment to a recreated Hudson's Bay Company Fur Trading Fort, through a ranch with its 1904 ranch house and on to a bustling young prairie town with an ice-cream parlour, town hall, post office, cottage hospital and even an opera house dating from 1898.
If you have young children with you, the Conklin Lakeview Amusement Park with its ferris wheel, carousel, swingboats and other rides will keep the youngsters occupied for hours.
I headed straight for the S.S. Moyie, an 1898 paddle wheeler, built to ferry miners to the Klondike gold rush. The boat leaves every 35 minutes throughout the day from about 10am to 4pm for a short trip on Glenmore Reservoir.
You can also opt for a ride on the steam train which leaves at regular intervals from Shepard Station, opposite the boat departure point, and takes you on a circuit of the park, stopping at a couple of other stations.
If you fancy a more leisurely tour of the park, there are horse and cart rides, taking about 10 people at a time round most of the exhibits.
Heritage Park is open from the middle of May until October and there are daily activities during the summer season. These include street theatre performances, guided tours of specific houses, story- telling and butter making. The Park also runs schools education programmes, summer camps and brewing workshops for adults.