Have you ever wanted to time travel? Imagine what it would be like to hop from one century to another and see how people lived long before you were born. Well, if you’re in Ottawa, time travel is definitely possible.
Initially launched as a pilot project last July and back this summer, the Time Travel Trail Adventure is the Haunted Walk of Ottawa’s newest walking tour and I can tell you from experience, you’re going to have fun on it.
Leaving from the Haunted Walks Inc. office at the corner of Sparks and Elgin Streets, follow your steam punk-styled guide through the streets of Ottawa while learning about the city’s colourful and scandalous political past. Yell the special time travel sentence “Allons-y, Allonso!” and jump from one time period to the next. Be on the historic Sparks Street when Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of Canada’s Fathers of Confederation, gets shot or stroll along Wellington Street with Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s seventh Prime Minister. You’ll be a part of important historic Ottawa events all along the way.
But on this 90-minute walking tour, it isn’t enough to be a silent time travelling observer; you have to get in on the action taking place around you. Though you must go unnoticed by Ottawa’s popular 1800’s politicians – your guide will sneak around downtown and see that you do – you’ll be called upon to participate in a few important Bytown moments and even fight in a duel, with friendly foam weapons of course. And as you’re switching between time periods, you’ll also stop by one of the city’s more modern aspects; a Silly Walks sign.
Located along the pedestrian Sparks Street, these blue signs are in homage to British comedy troupe Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. Get ready to do your best silly walk as you follow your guide across the street. This is great fun for you as a Time Travel Trail Adventure participant, but also for those unassuming locals and tourists around you. You can bet that there will be a great reaction to the silly walk you do. You might want to get this on video!
Glen Shackleton, founder of Haunted Walks Inc., said in an interview with Ottawa Tourism that what is unique about the Time Travel Trail tour is its “wacky and interactive sense of humour.” He noted the tour was created from a desire to bring something brand new to Ottawa. “We really liked the kind of wacky sense of humour in things like Doctor Who and we liked the steam punk style,” Shackleton said. “And sort of much in the same way when we started the Haunted Walk, we kind of brought what I guess would be a niche area of interest to the public.”
Shackleton said that one of the best parts of the tour is that participants don’t really know what will happen next and they are directly involved in the action. He added that as everyone is called upon to participate, the tour is a lot of fun. “A lot of the humour in this tour comes from the audience, from the participation of the people on the tour,” he said. “They can surprise us every time when they’re on the tour too, just by taking things in a really funny direction that we didn’t expect.”
The Haunted Walk of Ottawa describes this tour as a “90-minute, wacky interactive adventure through time.” Shackleton said that basically, it allows participants to learn about Ottawa’s history in a fun and interactive way; with a time travelling tour guide. He added that the challenge for this new tour so far has been describing it to the public. “It’s a little bit harder to describe than a usual tour,” he said. “It’s really something that people just have to get out and try. So I encourage them to do that.”
Shackleton said that this summer is the first full season the Time Travel Trail is being offered and that it’s been doing well, even exceeding initial expectations. “It’s been very popular and we have to bear in mind that it’s only in its first year, as opposed to the Haunted Walk that’s in its twentieth year,” he said.
He added that the tour’s been a hit with teens – about 13 and 14-year-olds – as well as adults. “I think the adults are the ones that kind of cut loose and have the most fun on this tour,” he said, adding he was “pleasantly surprised” school groups of seven and eighth graders really enjoyed it. “It’s a chance for everybody to be kind of a kid,” he said.
Shackleton noted that much like the Haunted Walk of Ottawa, which has evolved into three popular tours (the Original Haunted Walk, Ghosts and the Gallows and the Crime and Punishment Jail Tour), the Time Travel Trail Adventure’s popularity will only grow as people become more familiar with it.
He said that when he launched the Haunted Walk 20 years ago, people weren’t quite familiar with ghost tours or even walking tours. “So this feels very familiar to me,” Shackleton said. “It’s just going to be a matter of time and of people actually trying it out for themselves and seeing how great it is.”
In total, the Haunted Walk of Ottawa employs about 40 tour guides, many of which are local professional actors, which means that you’re sure to be entertained during your tour.
Shackleton noted that when hiring a tour guide, the Haunted Walk ensures that he or she works well with others and has a good sense of humour. For the Time Travel Trail, he said a tour guide’s improvisation skills are important. “They’re not all local actors, but it certainly helps with this tour because a lot of the tour is not necessarily the content,” Shackleton said. “It’s the interaction with the crowd and having fun with the group.”
The Haunted Walk’s tours, including the Time Travel Trail Adventure, are available on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the summer months and on weekends during the colder weather months; November to April. Tour prices range from $13 CDN per child to $20 CDN per adult. To learn more about time travelling in Ottawa, visit timetraveltrail.com.