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Time Travel for Kids on Vacation

We weren’t wearing long flowing skirts or bonnets. Nor were we carrying lanterns to light up the muddy roads. But, within minutes, I and the two pre-teens accompanying me had landed in the last century anyway. During the annual Black Creek Pioneer Village lamplight tours, we arrived at the village homes in our horse-drawn sleigh, stomped our feet to the flickers of gas light and candles and were invited inside to make small dolls from wheat sheafs. After sampling a particularly tasty treat, an authentic sugar plum candy of dried fruit and honey, my daughter’s 11-year-old friend sighed, “I wish I could live in the olden days.”

She’s not alone. Some time travel programs for kids, like the dress-up days at Fortress Louisbourg in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, are so booked up that you have to wait years to participate. For the Visiting Cousins program at Kings Landing in New Brunswick, kids sign up months ahead. The Black Creek Pioneer Village lamplight tours are so popular with both adults and kids that they’ve added extra pre-Christmas evenings. Still the tickets sell out. Obviously, our cyberspace kids don’t mind letting go of the computer and Nintendo to work alongside a blacksmith, ride in a real stagecoach or perfect the fine art of eating with a knife! If you’ve got a kid who dreams of milking a cow or marching in rank with a musket, here’s where to travel back in time:

KINGS LANDING HISTORICAL SETTLEMENT, N.B.: The Visiting Cousins program offers kids nine to 14 stay an entire week at a restored 19th-century village near Fredericton. Moving into a family home, kids don bonnets, long skirts, breeches and waistcoats (nightshirts and caps at bedtime) and pitch right in with chores: milking cows, cooking food on an open hearth, making soap or butter or forging nails under the supervision of the experienced blacksmith.

Of course, there are lessons on blackboard slates at school and sessions in church. But time is put aside for fun too such as a kid-friendly agricultural fair totally organised by the “cousins.” When parents arrive at the end of the week, they’re treated to recitations, role playing performances and village dances. The time travellers leave not only with souvenirs—the calling cards they’ve made in the print shop, the journals they’ve kept or the mocassins they’ve worn—but also with an appreciation of simpler times when Roman numerals were readily used and lunch was the family big meal.

Over 200 kids get to play history each summer. A week of food, accommodation, costumes and 24-hour supervision costs $300. Call 506-363-4999.

UPPER CANADA VILLAGE, MORRISBURG, ONT.: At this re-created 1860 community on the banks of the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall, cyber-cadets play baseball the old-fashioned way, ride a stagecoach, learn to play a tin whistle or work with the village weaver. Don’t be surprised if offspring are “scolded” for not learning their Sunday school lessons or turning up their nose at their turnips. It’s all part of the fun. Each Time Travellers session running Sunday to Friday costs $400. Call 1-800-437-2233.

OLD FORT WILLIAM, THUNDER BAY, ONT.: No video games at this historic site. Instead, at the reconstructed trading post near Thunder Bay, you’ll find warehouses filled with furs, Indian encampments, a farm and a jail. If you want to sleep over, sign on as a Voyageur Overnight Adventurer. Outfitted in 1815 era period costumes, parents and kids paddle the war canoe, pass a peace pipe, sew mocassins and kick up their heels in a rousing dance. Sleeping accommodations are in a teepee or bunkhouse. Rates start at $185 and include all meals, activities and crafts. Call 807-577-8461.

COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA, U.S.A: Travel back even further to 1774 and pre-Revolutionary times. At this bustling restored colonial capital (there are 88 families living and working here) kids can interact with hundreds of costumed interpreters to learn the difference between quilts and quoits (a type of horseshoes game), mince and quince or partake in activities such as rolling hoops across the lawn. My guys loved the tavern where costumed interpreters teach youngsters how to eat with a knife and warn about the evils of alcohol. Voted “Favorite Living History Site” by Family Fun readers, the living history site offers a special program for girls over eight and their parent or grandparent called Felicity in Williamsburg. Like the spunky nine-year-old Felicity from the American Girls Collection of books, play-acting “Felicities” learn to tie a bonnet, curtsie when greeting the neighbours, sew a pin cushion and prepare their dancing steps for the Governor’s ball.

Various packages starting at $230 U.S. include on-site accommodation and a year-long pass. You and your time traveller can also play Felicity by day, $69 U.S. per adult, $54 U.S. per child, and return to the 20th century at night in a nearby motel. Call 1-800-HISTORY.





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