The summer months are naturally prime time for discovering Alberta—its unique cities and towns, its diverse landscape, its unforgettable history. But even with school back in session, there are still many opportunities for families to explore the province and learn a little as well! A day (or just a few hours) spent at these Alberta historic museums that remain open through the fall is certain to be enjoyable and edifying.
FRANK SLIDE INTERPRETIVE CENTRE
One of Canada’s deadliest natural disasters is vividly remembered at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. Reaching back to more than 100 years, it tells the story of the 1903 Frank Slide, when 82 million tons of rock fell from the top of Turtle Mountain, killing more than 90 residents of the coal mining town below.
HEAD-SMASHED-IN BUFFALO JUMP
The primary feature of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is its namesake cliff, which affords a glorious vista of the surrounding foothills and plains, while offering a millennia-old view of Aboriginal history. Through indoor and outdoor exhibits, the archaeological site examines the traditional buffalo-hunting culture of the Plains peoples—and the practice’s eventual decline.
The circa-1891 sandstone manor of James and Isabella Lougheed stands proud in downtown Calgary, and has been conserved to reflect the prestige and wealth of what was then one of the town’s most influential families. Until October 16, the heritage site presents an exhibition of gowns and wedding accessories reflecting diverse historical traditions, while those seeking to add even more refinement to their visit can enjoy lunch or brunch in the house’s posh restaurant.
OIL SANDS DISCOVERY CENTRE
Exploring the past, present and future of Alberta’s biggest natural resource industry, the Oil Sands Discovery Centre draws year-round visitors to Fort McMurray and the Athabasca Oil Sands. Among other things, an outdoor display of industrial equipment (closed during winter), features an 850-ton bucket-wheel excavator.
REMINGTON CARRIAGE MUSEUM
It’s sometimes hard to imagine a world without cars, but the automobile has been our primary mode of transportation for less than 100 years. Before that, the horse and carriage was king. The Remington Carriage Museum in Cardston offers an interactive look back to the turn of the last century, with interpreters and exhibits detailing the multifaceted of the carriage industry—from blacksmith shop to livery stable to carriage factory. The pastoral site also boasts North America’s largest display of horse-drawn vehicles, including carriages (of course), buggies, wagons and sleighs.
Halfway between Edmonton and Red Deer, the Reynolds-Alberta Museum is a top attraction for budding engineers and other mechanically inclined kids (and adults). Tracking the evolution of modern transportation, aviation and agricultural technology, the 90-hectare site features hundreds of lovingly preserved and painstakingly restored artifacts, including vintage cars and airplanes. It’s also home to Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.
Like Calgary’s Lougheed House, the stately, red-brick Rutherford House in Edmonton hearkens to a time when the West was shedding its “wild frontier” roots. Built in 1911, it’s historically notable as the residence of Alberta’s first premier and his family, and is now well cared-for museum detailing life in what was then the newest province in Canada’s confederation.
HOW TO SAVE
Welcome discount: Show your AMA membership card to save 10% on admission to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, the Reynolds-Alberta Museum, Rutherford House, the Remington Carriage Museum and the Oil Sands Discovery Centre.
Bigger deal: For an even steeper price reduction, look to Lougheed House, where AMA members save more than 50% on admission.