Exploring Edmonton: The John Walter Museum

“How many old buildings?” Little dude asks me as I put on his shoes. 

At almost-four he is well acquainted with the love his dad and brother have for old buildings and historic sites. Old buildings are cool but little dude is a mover-and-shaker who is always looking for his next chance to start a game of tag or hide-and-seek.

“Don’t worry buddy, you are going to love John Walter Museum,” I lean in to whisper in his ear. “There’s a park close by that’s huge.”

I totally called it. Big dude loved the John Walter Museum. My husband – a master at engaging kids with historic sites – and big dude spent ten to fifteen minutes in each house looking at what the past had to offer.  Little dude tore through all three houses, stopping long enough to point out all the differences between those houses and ours (spoiler – none of the historic homes had a television – gasp).  Then he was off to explore Kinsmen Park and the spray park. 

In my opinion, that’s what makes John Walter Museum a great site to explore with little kids. At six and just about four years old, big dude and little dude love variety in our family outings.  We spent two hours this afternoon exploring John Walter Museum, Kinsmen Park and the spray park but we could have easily have stretched it into a whole afternoon (or even all day). 

I’d suggest starting at with the museum.  There are three houses on-site and each house was built and lived in by early Edmonton resident John Walter and his family. The houses, full of period artifacts, were built between 1875 and 1901 and staffed with costumed interpreters. Here are five great questions to get your kids thinking about life in the past.

  • How is this house different than our house?
  • How is this house different from the last house or the first house?
  • Would you want to live in one of these houses now? What about in the winter time?
  • If you had to live in one of these houses, which house would you pick? Why?
  • What would be the best thing about living in this house?

Then head over to the Kinsmen Park which I love because it feels like a series of mini-parks.  Each space is clearly divided and there are a lot of natural features that offer a nice change from the primary colours of most parks.  Or bring a swimsuit or change of clothes and let the kids splash at the splash park. With a variety of features, both of my dudes had a blast and ended up soaked. With Queen Elizabeth Pool on-site and free admission all summer, I regretted not packing my swimsuit. We haven’t taken the dudes to an outdoor pool yet and it’s on my summer bucket list.

Next Sunday, August 13 from 1:00-4:00 p.m., John Walter museum is celebrating John Walter’s birthday with the Walterdale Block Party.  Cake, lemonade and activities on site for the kids make it the perfect day to visit the site. I found a flyer advertising the event in our bag as I unpack so I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up back there next weekend. This time – maybe we’ll hit up the pool too. 

This post is part of a sponsored campaign between Edmonton Mama and the Edmonton District Historical Society, all opinions are our own.  The Edmonton Historical District Society is dedicated to promoting, preserving and celebrating the history of Edmonton and northern Alberta. 

Photo credit: Edmonton’s Architectural Heritage





We're a team of local moms, sharing our stories about raising children in Edmonton. Places to explore, tips to help local parents and things to see and do.