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New Brunswick’s Family Adventure: Learning the Fun Way

The kids were fascinated. There in the public square, groups of women were heaping scorn, dirty looks, and cries of “Shame, how could you do such a thing?” toward one spectacled gentleman in a top hot. Only he wasn’t exactly a gentleman. According to those now holding him on trial, he had seduced a married woman while her husband was away chopping wood in the bush.

Even more shameful—a child had been born as a result. “I can count,” pleaded the beleaguered husband. “And I know that it takes nine months to make a baby. And I know that I was chopping wood for six long months. So the child could not be mine!” With a flourish, he swept his arm toward a young woman clutching a very alive and squirming toddler, true evidence of a serious crime committed.

“Is this for real?” asked one of the kids. I knew what he meant. This scene was taking place in July, 2001, but we might as well have been plunked down in a true 19th-century Loyalist town in New Brunswick. No surprise that the public trial we were witnessing had actually taken place at Kings Landing Historical Settlement more than100 years ago when spectators travelled to the square in their horse-drawn buggies, young girls giggled behind their bonnets and shawls, and even accused sinners sported top hats.

As the kids go back to school this week, we parents rejoice in unison. But we often forget that kids can learn as much outside the classroom as trapped inside it. At Kings Landing, the celebrated living history village peopled by more than 100 costumed “residents,” families can cover the curriculum from history (Loyalist life between 1840 and 1890) to geography (experimental field crops) and from science (how to read a sun dial clock) to music (traditional song and dance) to family studies (how to make pine needle cough syrup). As one 12-year-old Visiting Cousin wrote after trading in her baseball hat for a bonnet and her Harry Potter books for pig duty for five days, “I know there’s a more fun way of learning history than sitting in history class. Why can’t school be more like life at Kings Landing?”

It’s fitting that this excellent living history village is in New Brunswick, a province that has turned learning adventures into a full-time industry. Their Adventure Guide booklet lists dozens of experiences for families from sea kayaking at Hopewell Rocks, the highest tidal paddling experience in the world, to rappelling 40-metre cliffs or spelunking down the Hillsborough Caves. Kids (and parents) can sign up for intriguing outings such as learning about owls during a night hike at Kouchibouguac National Park, or “training” as a soldier for a day at the Military Compound barracks in Fredericton.

Some are offered year-round such as a farm vacation where kids can milk a cow (my daughter’s friend’s ultimate fantasy); some run until October such as the spooky walk along the Fundy Trail in search of the burial grounds of sea captains. Others are summertime multi-day family outings such as Capital City Splendour with hotel accommodation in Fredericton, a river cruise, dinners and breakfasts and a family pass to Kings Landing.

A couple of don’t miss adventures if you’re planning a trip to New Brunswick: The whale watching expeditions in a zodiac with Fundy Tide Runners (506-529-4481 or www.townsearch.com/ftr.htm) for kids over five. Based in St. Andrews-By-the-Sea (through October), owner David Welch leads expeditions to hunt for minke, humpback, and finback whales as well as harbour and gray seals and tons of birds. And it’s an exciting ride out into the ocean.

Though the Irving Eco-Centre La Dune de Bouctouche is not as exciting, it’s a great beach for kids with good family programs and a little-kid-friendly interpretive centre with puzzles and a simulated piping plover nest. Kids can pretend to sit on an egg. Prices for the New Brunswick adventures are reasonable ranging from an unbelievable $2 for a wine and cider tasting to about $300 for a family multi-day package.
As for the outcome of the public trial concerning the wayward wife, her child and the unlikely top-hatted seducer? He was ordered to pay for the upkeep of the child but to stay away from the wood-chopper’s wife. A good decision that was applauded by all.

Kings Landing Historical Settlement, just west of Fredericton, is open daily until Thanksgiving weekend. For information on next summer’s Visiting Cousins program when kids ages 9 to 14 are given the opportunity to live with a family at the settlement for five days, call or e-mail now for application forms (363-4999 or www.KingsLanding.nb.ca). The weeks fill up fast. This summer’s tuition of $325 covered food, lodging, period costumes and hands-on experiences from blacksmithing to taking lessons in the one-room schoolhouse. To plan next summer’s family adventures, call for a free Official Touring Guide to New Brunswick or the New Brunswick 2001 Adventure Guide, 1-800-561-0123, or e-mail www.TourismNewBrunswick.ca





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