Time Travel at Upper Canada Village

by Stephen Johnson

Having studied history in university, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in a different time period. Since time travel is still only the stuff of science fiction movies, I thought a way to fill the void would be to visit Upper Canada Village. This heritage park, which depicts life in a rural Canadian setting during the year 1866, certainly did the trick.

My wife Sandy and son David were willing participants in my time travel adventure. Our first stop was more about filling a need for adrenaline than taking a trip to the past. We checked out the Skywood Eco Adventure Park. This recently opened attraction is a zipline and aerial park intended for all ages.


We chose the discovery course for David as his height and age did not allow him to do the adventure course (a relief for us parents!). The guide assisted him with the harness and he was ready to go. He climbed, zipped and jumped his way with confidence over the two courses. We spent about 45 minutes exploring the courses and then moved on to the Treewalk Village, a cool playground using the surrounding trees as part of the structure. David had a great time at the park and was looking forward to when he would turn nine to try out the adventure courses.


We headed out from Skywood and took scenic Highway 2 to Upper Canada Village. When we passed through the gates of the village it was like taking a step back in time. Cars and trucks were replaced by horse-drawn wagons. We were also fortunate to arrive for the horse-lover’s weekend so there were horse activities aplenty. Our first stop was at a mock horse auction where the crowd got to bid. We then went to take a ride on the tow scow boat, which was propelled literally by horsepower. The tow scow is a flat-hulled barge that would have been used to transport heavy goods. Now, the only heavy goods the barge was carrying was me, since I’d had a substantial meal in Prescott, Ontario!


We arrived at the start or end of the village—depending on your perspective—and started to explore. The village is set up with different buildings you would have seen in 1860s rural Canada. They include a blacksmith shop, schoolhouse and printing office. Costumed interpreters in the buildings provide information about the various activities. David was filled with questions for the different interpreters, gaining insight into life in the 1860s. I was fascinated by how labor-intensive life was in that era.


David particularly enjoyed seeing the schoolhouse, where the teacher was considerably sterner than most teachers today. We finished the day enjoying the entertainment of the Travelling Tiltons who pedal their “Tilton’s Tonic” while regaling the crowd with songs and humour. On the way home, we sang part of one of their songs, proving we had captured a piece of 1866 and transferred it to 2016. Our time travel trip was a success.


Upper Canada Village will be a beehive of activity with Pumpkinferno in October and Alight at Night in December. Both events have become family traditions for us and are well worth the trip.


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