Back in February, the girls had a Highland dance competition out in Langley, BC. Since we were out there, it seemed like a great excuse to check out Fort Langley National Historic Site too. Thankfully, the weather co-operated with our plan and we had a lovely sunny day to enjoy the fort.
There was lots of parking at the Fort and very few other visitors when we arrived (perks of being tourists in the off-season!). The visitor’s centre is a beautiful, modern building with a gift shop, washrooms, introductory video and some displays about the fur trade. The girls were given a Parks Canada Xplorers booklet to complete as we toured the park. Then it was a short walk to the fort…
The first thing to catch the girls’ eye was the staircase to the top of the fort wall. Up we went, where they ran along the walkway at the top of the wall. I think this is actually the first fort we’ve visited where we could go up the walls like that, so it was a lot of fun.
From there, we got a great view of the river outside the wall (the reason the fort was built where it was!) and everything that spread out within the fort. There’s the roof of the blacksmith’s shop on the left, the cooper shop on the right, and the big white chief trader’s house straight across the fort.
When we got down from the wall, we were able to catch the blacksmith’s demonstration. The girls enjoyed it so much we came back for the next demonstration later. Actually, Sunshine really wanted one of the coat hooks which the blacksmith made and then traded for something from the crowd. The girls also had fun trying to be blacksmiths themselves at the junior blacksmiths’ shop with some soft wire the blacksmith gave them.
After that, we headed into the cooperage to find out about barrel-making. There was a table where we could try to put some barrels together ourselves. This was much harder than it looked! My husband managed to get his barrel put together, but when he held it up for me to get a picture, it fell apart.
In another part of the shop, there was a workman’s bench where the girls could try to shave barrel staves (similar to something we’d just read about in Farmer Boy). (Daddy supervised carefully here, and Sunshine wore the leather gloves supplies, although the knife was so dull I doubt it would have cut anything.) It sure made me appreciate how much work the fur traders had to do!
In other parts of the fort, the girls got to try on a fur hat, pretend to make a trade, squish furs in the press, carry a pretend bale of furs (a real bale would have been heavier than me!), pan for gold, saw a log, ring the dinner bell, and even build a fort building with the plank-and-beam construction used at the time. They loved all the hands-on stuff!
Overall, we had a lot of fun wandering around Fort Langley National Historic Site. We easily spent the entire afternoon there, even though a couple of the buildings were closed (the cafe inside the fort wasn’t open) and we skipped through the chief factor’s house quickly because a birthday party was happening there. It’s definitely worth the drive out from Vancouver for a visit!
Kid-friendly: VERY! As I’ve mentioned, there was a ton of hands-on activities for the kids. The blacksmiths got the kids involved in the demo there as well, asking questions and giving them things to do. The girls really enjoyed filling out their Parks Canada Xplorers books and finding the embosser at each station to stamp their books with. The only washrooms in the fort are back at the visitor’s centre, so we did a bit of running back and forth (you might want to take advantage of the washrooms when you get there!).
Baby-friendly: Yes. Most of the fort is accessible by gravel paths. There were ramps into several buildings, with wide doorways, except for the chief factor’s house (two stories, with stairs up to the door).
Fees: Kids five and under are free and a family can get in for less than $20. You can also get a dual entry pass to both Fort Langley and the Gulf of George Cannery, or discounts at either Parks Canada site by visiting the other site (so keep your receipts and give yourself time to visit both places!).
Drop by the Parks Canada website to find out more and check out the events coming up each month, such as Victoria Day and Canada Day.