Last summer, my kids and I spent a few days in Colonial Williamsburg during our 40-day road trip around the country. For those not familiar with Colonial Williamsburg, it is a section of Williamsburg, Virginia that has been preserved to create a setting from the Colonial era of United States history. Restaurants, shops, performances, and small attractions all immerse you and your family in 1700s era Virginia life. It is great fun, very educational, and worth a few days’ time.
When I was a teenager and young adult, I enjoyed some time in the historic part of town, eating at the taverns, shopping at the shops. But I had never paid the money to get to participate in the more interesting attractions. For this visit with my kids, though, I wanted to do it right, so I spent the incredibly reasonable price of about $85 for the three of us to access the Colonial attractions for three days.
For the first day of our visit, the kids and I walked around town to see all the different trades and learned how things like weaving, wig making, and silversmithing were done a few hundred years ago. The second day we learned about a special program that is a part of the Colonial Williamsburg experience, a modern twist on Revolutionary era espionage, called RevQuest: Sign of the Rhinoceros. The idea is to foil a secret plan and save the day using the modern technology of the text message.
We were equipped for the challenge with swanky RevQuest bandanas, which were really helpful in the summer weather. Though it was incredibly hot and humid (even the locals complained), we pushed through and solved the mystery, earning our Sign of the Rhinoceros coins in the end. The challenge involved deciphering clues, solving logic problems, and exploring the town. We also had to meet with people in back streets and sneak around without being suspected. Here is some more information about the challenge:
“RevQuest: Sign of the Rhinoceros” challenges players to explore secret hiding places, meet mysterious characters, unlock clues and decipher codes to solve a mystery through use of cell phone technology. Players attempt to complete spy missions in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area with the goal of averting a crisis that could change the entire course of the American Revolution. Using buildings, signage and costumed interpreters, Questors will search for clues in the Historic Area’s environment while texting in for messages from a mysterious character known only as “368”. Based on historical facts, the storyline educates visitors about the sacrifices and difficult decisions individuals must make for both America’s liberty and personal freedom. “RevQuest: Sign of the Rhinoceros” also teaches the vital role of active citizenship in both the 18th century and the 21st century.
This activity was fantastic to do with my kids because, while some of the puzzles required most of my brain power to solve (limited by the heat as it was), the kids could solve some of the easier challenges. There were also people wandering around the town that could give us hints as needed, which we did once or twice.
This version of RevQuest went on last summer, and it will return this spring from March 26 to April 22, 2012. If you miss it, though, don’t fret. There will be a new RevQuest chapter from June 18 to September 3, Labor Day, called RevQuest: The Lion and the Unicorn. I wish I could go back and participate! If you are heading to Williamsburg, Virginia any time soon, or can rearrange your schedule to include it into your spring or summer plans, I highly recommend at least two days in the area, or at least three if you want to include RevQuest.
Even if you can’t make it to Williamsburg when RevQuest is available, I encourage you to still go and participate in what amounts to a giant living history museum. It will interest anyone who wants to learn more about the Colonial period of American history, but is especially perfect for families. And don’t miss the Cheese Shop. It is perfect for lunch!