When history hits the stage in these five top historic attractions, you can learn how to bake a loaf of soldier’s bread, practice your can-can kicks or forge a nail, and more.
1. Village Historique Acadien, New Brunswick
Outside the town of Caraquet on the Acadian Peninsula are roots so rich they go back four hundred years. This is la belle vie, Acadian style, circa the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Hear the anvil ring in the blacksmith shop. Listen as French fiddlers tap out a lively tune for you during a musical dinner theatre performance. Visit the period lobster hatchery. And don’t leave without trying “poutine râppé”—a traditional Acadian dish of potatoes and pork you can eat with molasses, ketchup, butter or brown sugar.
2. Barkerville Historic Town, British Columbia
In another life, I craved the adventure of being a gold prospector and drawing the attention of a dance-hall girl. Barkerville is an original gold-rush town and a place to live out your dreams. Pan for gold, visit Chinatown, go to school as it was in the 1800s, catch live theatre and stroll through a town of more than 140 restored heritage buildings and historic displays.
3. Old Fortifications of Québec, Québec
Every time I visit Québec City, I fall in love all over with the cobblestone streets, glorious architecture and seductive French cuisine. No wonder they keep the city protected. Québec City is the only remaining fortified city in Canada or the US—a big reason it’s designated a World Heritage City by UNESCO. In this 400+-year-old city, explore three centuries of a dramatic military past in fortifications set atop a plunging cliff.
4. Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, Nova Scotia
If you ever wanted to break bread like a soldier but eat like a king, the Fortress of Louisbourg is the place. This is the largest reconstructed 18th-century French fortified town in North America. Along the streets and on the waterfront, costumed interpreters capture the mood of a fabled century with tales of dancing, music and cooking. Inside the King's Bastion—“a fort within a fortress”—soldiers share their secrets. Just plug your ears when the muskets fire.
5. Upper Canada Village, Ontario
When I was a child we visited Upper Canada Village every year, wandering around this 19th-century village in the former British colony. I remember laughing at how short the beds were, and loving the scent of fresh baked bread pulled from a red brick oven. Once you tour the schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, sawmill, printing office, tavern, cheese factory and family farm, you may never want to step out into contemporary life again.