TV shows filmed at historic places across Canada
The film and television industry love using historic places as part of their sets for their cinematic creations because historic places tell stories, and they create a nostalgic backdrop for modern stories.
Next time you watch your favourite shows, you might just catch a glimpse of a quaint historic fishing village in Nova Scotia or spy a mid-19th century pioneer village nestled in Toronto, Ontario.
Whether you’re a Netflix-lover or heritage enthusiast, check out these five historic places to tour the sets of some history-making tv shows filmed across Canada.
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
The Old Town Lunenburg Historic District is one of the earliest and most intact British gridiron layout plans in Canada. It is best known for its rich architecture, ties to the Atlantic fisheries and shipbuilding industries, and for the way in which it beautifully integrates the town and seascape. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it became a designated historic site in 1991.
This quaint picturesque town in Nova Scotia served as the setting for the fictional town of Matheson, Massachusetts in the supernatural-fantasy Netflix TV show, Locke & Key. Today visitors to the town can enjoy many of the sites and landscapes featured in the show. The Salt Shaker Deli and Inn and Sweet Treasures Confectionery, a homemade ice cream shop, both appeared in the first episode, while the Lunenburg’s Zion Lutheran Church was the white church from episode 9. Ovens Natural Park in Feltzen South and the breathtaking trails along the cliffs, including the stairs that lead to the notorious sea caves, were featured throughout the first season.
Black Creek Pioneer Village, located in Toronto Ontario, is a re-created 1860s country village, home to over 40 historic buildings, 70 rare, heritage animals, and 10 gardens with flowers and plants grown from heirloom seeds. With over 50,000 artifacts, programming for all ages, and crafts & trades demonstrations, visitors to the site are encouraged to explore the past, reflect on the present, and consider history from multiple perspectives when they visit here.
The Canadian Netflix TV show, Anne with an E, based on the classic Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, was filmed, in part, at Black Creek Pioneer Village, which provided an idea backdrop for the fictional town of Avonlea. The series was also filmed at Castle Kilbride in Baden, Ontario and at Doon Pioneer Village in Kitchener, Ontario.
Fun fact: The crew of the TV show had to crush hundreds of red bricks and carry them with them wherever they shot in order to recreate the red roads of Peter Edward Island.
Fort York National Historic Site in downtown Toronto, Ontario is a popular place for tv shows and movies. This 43-acre site is a registered archaeological site, a Heritage Conservation District, and home to Canada’s largest collection of original buildings from the War of 1812. It also showcases Toronto’s topographic history, industrial development, and rail history. Throughout the summer, visitors can discover the live colour and pageantry of the Fort York Guard as well as a variety of programs and events.
The dystopian television series, The Handmaid’s Tale, based on Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, used the Visitor Centre for a number of episodes, and Titans, Season 3, a TV show featuring young superheroes from the DC Universe, also includes a scene under the Gardiner in the same location. Speaking of superheroes, the movie Shazam! filmed the famous bus scene at Fort York.
High River, Alberta
Museum of the Highwood, located in the former High River Canadian Pacific Railway station in Southern Alberta, shares the history of the Highwood Region through fascinating exhibits, archival/artifact collections, and educational programming. This iconic sandstone building provides visitors with both a glimpse into the past and an inspiration for the future of historic preservation.
For all the horse-lovers out there, the Canadian comedy-drama series, Heartland, was filmed in this area – in fact, the Heartland crew parked their trailers right behind the museum when filming. The museum itself has its own Heartland exhibit and visitors are encouraged to chat with the employees to get to know all the details surrounding the filming of the TV show as well as to receive tips on what else to do in the area.
Richmond, British Columbia
The Gulf of Georgia Cannery, located in the historic fishing village of Steveston, showcases the history of Canada’s West Coast fishing industry. Built in 1894, the Cannery was once the largest building of its kind and the leading producer of canned salmon in British Columbia. Now a Parks Canada site, visitors can learn about salmon canning, herring processing, commercial fishing, indigenous fishing, Japanese Canadian history, Chinese Canadian history, and sustainability through guided tours, programs, and exhibits.
The TV series, Once Upon a Time, a fantasy-adventure drama that brings fairy tale characters to life, was set in the town of Steveston where the Gulf of Georgia Cannery served as the Storybrooke cannery within the show. Today, visitors can stop by the Tourism Richmond Visitor Centre to pick up a walking map that follows the steps of the fairy tale characters, so they can have a magical experience exploring other places close to the cannery like the Steveston post office and visitor centre (the Storybrooke post office), the Cannery Café Seafood House (Granny’s Diner), Pajo’s Fish & Chips (Storybrooke Fish & Chips), and Nikaido (Standard Clocks).
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