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My Favourite Family Tradition: Day Trips with My Grandchildren

With two grandmas in charge, there is no telling what adventures lie ahead!

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Far left: Alexa and Gramma Linda on a wagon seat with the driverCourtesy Linda Ronsko

Day Tripping in Alberta

My sister-in-law, Gloria, and I take our granddaughters on a day trip every year. The girls, five-year-old Emily and four-year-old Alexa, call it their “adventure.”

For our very first outing we decided to take the girls to Railway Day at the Alberta Central Railway Museum south of Gwynne, Alta. This special day included a pancake breakfast and beaver tails with admission, model train exhibits, telegraph service and spike-pounding demonstrations, as well as train rides, speeder rides and wagon rides all day.

We paid our admission at the gate, parked our vehicle and walked to the building where breakfast was being served. All the tables were full so we sat outside at a picnic table to eat. After breakfast, we toured the scaled-down version of the 1907 Wetaskiwin CPR station. The entire baggage room was converted into a gift shop with all kinds of railway souvenirs. Beside the station sits a charming dining car with red-checked tablecloths and a flower on each table.

The train whistle could be heard outside, so we got in line for our first ride of the day. The conductors set out little stools to help us get onto the train and we chose the upper class travelling car with plush red seats and private four-person compartments. One compartment even contained a narrow cot and small desk for overnight journeys. Each 15-minute ride was two turns around the quarter-mile track, which passed a smaller station building, a 1906 grain elevator and a farmyard.

On site is the original one-room Rose Briar School, which was established back in 1895. Back then, one teacher was responsible for teaching about 20 students in Grades one through nine. Emily and Alexa sat at old-fashioned desks and drew with chalk on little blackboards. Beside the school is the little red barn which housed the horses that students used to ride to school, but now contains Rose Briar memorabilia.

Our next ride was on an open-air speeder railcar. After our very windy ride, we went back to the spot where we ate breakfast to enjoy some delicious beaver tails—flattened dough, deep fried in oil and topped with cinnamon and sugar, marmalade or jelly. Entertainment for the afternoon was provided by a four-piece band playing on the station platform.

Our third ride of the day was by horse and wagon. Alexa and I got to sit up front with the driver, while Gloria and Emily sat on benches in the wagon box. It was the first time here for one of the horses and he balked at going over the railway track but eventually did. We decided we had time for one more train ride before the museum closed, so we got in line for a different car this time. After that it was time to go home. Both girls were very tired but decided they’d had a good time on their first adventure together.

These are the places in Canada every Canadian needs to visit.

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Emily (left) and Alexa at Canada’s largest baseball glove in Heisler, Alta.Courtesy Linda Ronsko

Twice as Nice

For our second annual day trip, we decided to take the girls to Big Knife Provincial Park near Forestburg, Alta. This park was established in 1962 on the Battle River, where it is joined by Big Knife Creek.

On the way there, we stopped in the town of Heisler, where both girls were able to sit in the palm of Canada’s Largest Baseball Glove. In 2007, a local artist built the glove next to the town’s baseball diamond.

The first thing the girls did when we arrived at Big Knife was check out the playground. There was a double slide so the girls could go down at the same time; there were lots of structures to climb on and best of all, sand to play in!

Shortly after that it was time for our lunch of buttered buns, sliced cheddar cheese, celery sticks and garden cucumbers. That particular summer was extremely bad for wasps and one of the grandmas was terrified of them. The girls were curious as to why she took off her flip-flop and waved it around in the air. I said that wasps don’t like stinky shoes so the girls proceeded to take off their shoes and line them up around the picnic table to protect our food. Surprisingly, we did not have any trouble with wasps buzzing around us after that!

After lunch, we walked to the boat launch so the girls could see the river up close. Emily found a small snail shell along the edge of the water. By then we were ready to check out the hiking trails. Beginning at the lower level by the parking lot, we crossed a bridge, rested in a gazebo and climbed a steep hill. Both girls were excited to each find a small red bead at different places along the trail. At a fork in the path, we had to decide to follow the trail along the river or head to the hoodoos. We decided to follow the river trail and, at a bluff overlooking the Battle River, we stopped to view the beautiful scenery.

The bench I’d remembered from a previous visit was gone so we looked for a shady spot to rest, have some raspberries we’d brought along and apply temporary tattoos on the girls’ arms.

At another junction in the trail was a map that we studied to find the shortest way back to our vehicle, as everyone was getting tired. We stopped at a picnic table for a refreshing snack of watermelon and Jello. The girls again took off their shoes to line them up on the table so no wasps bothered us.

Our next stop was the Diplomat Mine Interpretive Site, where the girls played on mini excavators in the sandbox. The interpretive centre is home to the Marion 360, which in 1927 was the world’s largest mobile land machine. It is also home to the Bucyrus-Erie 120B shovel, which was used for loading coal. The girls had their pictures taken in the model coal-car and in the huge shovel buckets.

Our last stop was in Forestburg for ice cream—always a treat on a hot day—after which it was time to head home. Emily and Alexa both agreed they’d had another great time and can hardly wait for their next adventure!

Next, check out the biggest tourist attractions in Canada!

Originally Published in Our Canada