Tip Sheet: 10 Great Events for your Historic Site

Hosting events is a great way to attract first time visitors to your site. If there’s a particular demographic you want to target (i.e. seniors, millennials, families) tailor your event to the experience they’re looking for. Remember there’s competition for events, so really think outside the box. Come up with themes that will create a memorable experience for your visitors that will keep them coming back.

Here’s a few theme ideas to get you thinking:

01. Canada Day Through the Years

Canada will have turned 152 just 5 days before this year’s Historic Places Day rolls around. Why not hold a Canada Day party that goes back to a time relevant to the history of your site? How did your community celebrate Canada Day then? This would be a great opportunity for a community picnic featuring live music from local talent and dramatic representations of characters and happenings from your community’s past.

02. Downton Abbey Days

Yes, it’s a British series, but it chronicled so well the transition from the rigid class system and strict etiquette, dress, and moral codes of the post-Edwardian age, to the rise of the middle class in the inter-war period. And it’s so popular. Try a costume contest, episodes of the series running in rooms at your site, and costumed characters interacting with visitors telling them how life at your site was in that era.

03. Time Travellers

We have long been fascinated with fictional accounts of time travel from Dr. Who and Back to the Future, to Outlander. Here’s a fun event for families – turn them into time travellers by taking them back to another era and letting them experience first hand what family life was like then. What did the boys and girls do? What were the parents’ roles? Add an interactive element by letting them dress in character in simple costumes you can make ahead, play games that were popular in that era, or let them perform olden days chores like churning butter. All of this led by hosts portraying different family members of the day.


04. For the Foodies

Buy local is a big trend today, but in years gone by it was the way of life, especially in rural areas. Create a farmers’ market. Invite local producers to display and sell their produce. Include opportunities for informative interactions with modern day and older farmers – how has farming changed over the years? Present cooking demonstrations, showing how food was prepared in days gone by.

05. Craft Beer Tasting

Craft beer makers are springing up all over Canada and it’s not a new art. There’s a long history to beer making. Invite your local brewers to present their product and talk about how beer is made. Pair their products with local foods. If you’re in a wine area, or have local distillers this works just as well. Remember to check with your jurisdiction for any alcohol licensing requirements well in advance of your event.

06. Tea Party with a Twist

Afternoon tea is always a big hit and you can create something for everyone. A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party for children with costumed characters, a hat-crafting session, and readings from children’s literature; or a tea social for seniors with parlour games and presentations about the etiquette and history of afternoon tea; or even a re-creation of Queen Elizabeth’s annual garden tea parties.


07. Selfie Scavenger Hunt

The object of this hunt is for participants to find items you have chosen in and around your site, take a selfie with the item, and post it to their social media. Tagging your social media is how you’ll track your participants’ progress. It will also get you lots of new followers for your social media. Finish the hunt with a celebration at your site to announce the winners and present the prizes. Be sure to include several categories and solicit lots of great prizes.

08. Eco-Friendly Focus on Cycling

Another great family event. Include any self-propelled “vehicles” with wheels – bicycles, tricycles, push cars, wagons. Let children decorate their “vehicles” and, if you have the space on your site, organize them into a parade. Include bicycle safety organizations, bicycle repair, tips on family cycling. And of course, lots of lemonade and ice cream.

09. How Does our Garden Grow

Many of Canada’s historic places boast beautiful gardens. Do a garden tour led by informed gardeners. Be sure to include an interactive element, perhaps a bed your visitors can plant, and lots of time for Q&A. Make sure everyone leaves with a small planting pot, some soil, and seeds or starter plants as a memento of their visit.

10. Create a Community Quilt

This is a great way to celebrate the history of your site and the diversity of your community. It sounds complicated, but it’s really all in the advance preparation of materials. Consult your local craft experts. Include diverse groups in your community and let everyone’s imagination take hold in the creation of their individual blocks. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with and nothing creates a buzz of conversation more than people working together on a project. Be sure to make arrangements for a suitable area to display your quilt when its finished.