Vancouver families do more than step back in time at the Fort Langley National Historic Site. They also step into the life of a colony when British Columbia was first appearing as a name on world maps.
Over 150 years ago, the Hudson’s Bay Company established a trading post at Fort Langley and the enterprise led to the birthplace of our province. When you arrive as a visitor today, the first step of your unforgettable family trip is signing an HBC labour contract and agreeing to three years hard work. (All in fun, of course!)
Life in the colony was demanding and settlers relied on trade with Stó:lō First Nation and other indigenous nations to survive. Furs, cranberries and salmon were prime trading items.
Colonialists also coveted the iconic Bay blanket, which were valuable given the time and material — wool from four mountain goats over the course of a year — to produce. The blankets were like gold to pioneering traders such as James Murray Yale but had a more nefarious reputation among indigenous inhabitant of North America. A principal trader for 30 years, Yale’s name is still recognizable in Vancouver as Yaletown.
Fort Langley is packed with interactive displays about making a home in a colony: starting a fire with flint, making wood barrel and even witnessing re-enactment of a wedding ceremony.
A night at Fort Langley is an unparalleled experience. The historic site comes alive with the sights and sounds of colonial Canada thanks to roaming goats and farm animals during the day and howling coyotes at night. A communal fire pit brings visitors together to imagine what life might have been like for European settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries.
“Without the marriage of cultures and commerce, the map of Canada would look different today,” said the national historic site manager Dennis Wasylenko. “The Fort was very multi-cultural, a harmonious community.”
Accommodations within the walls of the old fort also enhance the sense of time travel. Families can bunk up together in a unique A-frame shelter that has a unique heritage theme. Designed and made in Canada, the oTENTik tent is exclusive to Parks Canada, sleeps six and are available for rent May through Thanksgiving weekend. The rental fee is $120 per night plus fort admission. You must provide your own personal items such as sleeping bags, pillows and personal effects in addition to food and drinking water.
Active families should bring bikes or plan on renting from Fort Langley Cyclery. Gear up, grab a map and follow the Fraser River trails and bike paths.
Artisanal work is for sale, and the family can also visit the Langley Centennial Museum and B.C. Farm Museum, with the latter showcasing the largest collection of B.C. pioneer paraphernalia anywhere, including chainsaws, rifles, tractors and an original Vancouver milk wagon.
Grave Tales are an October tradition at Fort Langley. Guides like Aman Johal tell spine-chilling tales from the town’s gravesites about long-gone pioneer spirits.
To book an oTENTiks for next year and learn more about admission visit the Fort Langley website. Grave Tales continue Oct. 25, 26 and 27 on the hour from 7 to 9 p.m. and Oct. 28, 29 and 30 at 7 and 8 p.m. Admission is $15.10 per person for visitors 17 years old and up.
Stephanie Florian is always chasing her next adventure and plays with her family in the mountains and on the sea. Get in touch on Twitter: @PlayoutdoorsVan.
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