Grass-Roof Houses, Canoeing and History – How to Spend a Day Exploring East of Edmonton

“We should take the kids to the Ukrainian Cultural Village.”

I look at my husband and nod. The two of us had visited the site pre-kids but we had never taken the boys. And it’s perfect because I’ve wanted to visit Elk Island Park with the boys and the two sites are located within minutes of each other just east of Edmonton.

We make a tentative plan for the day.  We’ll start our day at the Ukrainian Cultural Village and then head to Elk Island Park.  Big dude runs ahead with my husband – the two of them love historical sites and can’t wait to see what the site has to offer.  Little dude stays close to me so that he can point out every bug he sees.

As we travel through the Village, my husband and big dude visit different buildings and costumed interpreters share information about the time period and the experiences of Ukrainian settlers.  The one-room schoolhouse is a huge hit. Big dude loved the chance to be a student and practice his letters on a chalkboard, but the best part was when the interpreter offered to show them the teacher’s house and walked big dude through the process of lighting a wood stove.

Little dude wandered throughout the site. Popping quickly into buildings, the Greek Ukrainian Orthodox Church held his attention the longest; he would take a quick look around before continuing his exploration of the wooded paths that criss-cross the site.

I get text updates from my husband.

Feeding the pigs.

Working the stone wheel sharpener.

Big dude’s in jail.

Two hours later when we meet up again, it’s clear that big dude and his dad will have to return for a much longer visit – it took a candy bribe before he agreed to leave. As we load the car, the two boys share stories about what they did that morning. Both of them agree that the house with the grass on the roof was crazy (definitely a must see).

As we cross the highway and head towards Elk Island Park, I admit to my husband that despite growing up in Edmonton, I’ve never visited the park as an adult. A friend recommended heading straight to Astotin Lake because there is a playground next to the lake.  As we pull into the parking lot, we managed to snag one of the last open spots.

Despite the full parking lot, we found a picnic table next to a small sandy area.  The lake is beautiful but my boys are more interested in the water right next to the sand. Cut off from the main lake by a huge stand of reeds, there is a fantastic little ecosystem full of tadpoles, water bugs and a few leeches.  In other words, everything little dude loves.

Both boys made some new friends as they caught (and released) tadpoles and even a leech or two. I’m pretty sure that little dude could have stayed there for most of our visit but big dude noticed the canoes and kayaks that lined the shore. At $25/hour, we decided to take the boys for their first canoe ride.  Within a few minutes, little dude was sound asleep which was perfect because it gave me a chance to talk to big dude about how canoes have been used as transportation in Canada for hundreds of years. And that the Indigenous people of Canada used them before European settlers arrived in Canada.

After returning the canoe and waking up a slightly grumpy little dude, we headed to the playground. The boys played for a little bit but spent most of their time snacking at our blanket. Recognizing it was time to head home, we took the boys up to the Astonin Theatre (just behind the park) to use the washrooms, and quickly realized that the small interpretive space had a lot to offer.  Both boys loved touching the owl wing and dressing up in costumes of the animals located in the park. I wasn’t quite quick enough to grab a picture but the bison costume was definitely my favorite.

Leaving the park, we debated driving the Bison loop but looking at the exhausted little boys in the back, we decided to start our next visit with the loop. With our free Parks Pass, we will definitely be making repeat trips to Elk Island Park.

If you are interested in visiting heritage sites in the Edmonton area check out Historic Festival and Doors Open Edmonton (July 1-8, 2017).

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. 




Allison is a mom of two energetic boys.Constantly trying to balance life, often caught between the needs of her boys, financial reality and her own desire for a meaningful career, you'll find her leaning on her village in North Edmonton.Her philosophy of more experiences less stuff is constantly challenged by her kids love of all stuff.

1 thought on “Grass-Roof Houses, Canoeing and History – How to Spend a Day Exploring East of Edmonton

  1. Helen jones this would rock!

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