Torontonians may be tired of craning their necks at the dizzying heights of the downtown core, with buildings competing forever to outdo the tallest concrete contender. Need to escape to the olden times to find out what people wore, ate or learnt at school? Just head over to Black Creek Pioneer Village, Toronto’s open-air heritage museum, overlooking a tributary of the Humber River just west of York University. As you navigate wooden boardwalks and dirt country roads, you will be mesmerized by dozens of nineteenth century buildings decorated with period furnishings. The village experience is deliberately kept basic, hence hardly any sign boards are available. Visitors are encouraged to ignite their curiosity and question the knowledgeable history interpreters and tradespeople—available in houses and stores across the village—the significance or purpose of their costumes, tools, lifestyle etc.
Trades buildings lend a rustic charm to the laid-back village complete with a water-powered grist mill, a blacksmith’s shop, a church, a leather store, a small school and a hotel. What’s a village without farm animals? Some of the rare heritage breeds that you encounter at the village include Border Leicester Sheep, Toulouse Geese, Tamworth Pig, and Ridley Bronze Turkey. Step back in time to wonder over The Herb Garden where settlers grew medicinal plants to relieve symptoms of common illnesses.
This expedition in nature’s lap has no dearth of activities for adults and kids alike. If parents are sipping a pint from the past at the Historic Brewery, kids will have enough to explore at the Country Kid’s Trail, whether it be saying hello to horses, pigs, and geese, or taking an etiquette class to become a proper lady or gentleman. Weekly activities and special events abound at this historic bliss, making each day unique at this village.
Just before or after your trip, stroll by the snack bar for a treat, or browse the inviting gift shop located in the Visitor’s Centre. You will have a wide choice from historical books to souvenirs and hand-crafted 19th century maps, newspapers, lanterns, slate boards and slate pencils. The good news is that the gift shop also offers light snacks, beverages and candies.
Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. She is also a contributor for India’s largest English daily, The Times of India.