I love a good scavenger hunt. What better way to get to know a place than to scour it from top to bottom, searching for fun trivia and hidden secrets? That’s why I was quick to open and read this post from the Virginia tourism agency when it popped up in my Twitter feed. The post described a self-guided, kid-friendly scavenger hunt down in Wytheville, a town in southwest Virginia. As I continued reading, I discovered that the post was inspired by a new children’s chapter book called Virginia is for Adventurers, by Tara Z. Fisher. My curiosity was definitely piqued, so I ordered a copy to read with Daughter #1.
The book is about a young girl named Meg who participates in a statewide scavenger hunt with her family and friends. Together, Meg’s little entourage travels throughout Virginia over the course of ten days, visiting natural wonders, historic sites, and lots of Love signs in every region of the state. All of the places the characters visit actually exist, and each chapter includes photos and interesting facts. I was struck by how well the book would correspond with the fourth grade Virginia Studies curriculum. My daughter and I got a kick out of seeing places we’ve visited pop up on different pages, and we also learned about new destinations to add to our bucket list. She was particularly intrigued by Meg´s hometown of Wytheville, and regularly asks me when we can take a trip there.
One of the best things about the book is that the author is really making it come alive. Throughout the summer of 2022, Tara Fisher is hosting mini-scavenger hunts in different towns all over the state. Today, we took a little day trip to Orange, Virginia to participate in one such adventure.
It was fitting that the scavenger hunt started at the James Madison Museum, since he was one of two presidents who have called the greater Orange area home (the other one was Zachary Taylor). At the museum, the author herself presented us with a clue sheet, and then we were off!
We found the answers to the first two clues inside the museum itself, which displayed artifacts that belonged to Madison and Virginia’s other presidents, as well as additional agricultural and historical exhibits. The next three clues could be found at different establishments within the town of Orange. At each location, there was a question to answer and a spot on the clue sheet to receive a stamp. I loved that local community members were involved in providing stamps or sharing bits of history about the town.
Once we had solved all five clues, it was time to head back to the museum and turn in our clue sheet. There, Daughter # 1 was rewarded with a Mystery Box. Mystery Boxes have a special significance early in the novel, and during the live scavenger hunts they are filled with prizes relating to that day’s location. Since I had chatted a bit with the author ahead of time via social media and mentioned that Daughter #1 was now obsessed with Wytheville, Ms. Fisher actually brought her a special Mystery Box containing items from that very town. How sweet and thoughtful was that? My kiddo was over the moon with her prizes!
After receiving her box, Daughter #1 got the chance to take a picture with Tara Fisher and have her sign our copy of the novel. She also asked a question about a couple of the characters, and later told me she was really happy that she did, because the author cleared up something that she had been wondering.
After saying farewell, we made one last, seemingly necessary stop. Since the characters in Virginia is for Adventurers travel to many LOVEworks signs, and since anyone who has read this blog post knows I’m a huge fan of these statewide art installations, we naturally paid a quick visit to Orange’s LOVEwork. This one highlights what the region is known for: Madison’s role in crafting the Constitution, Civil War-related history, local vineyards, and horse culture.
Are you sorry you missed out on today’s scavenger hunt? Fear not! There are still two more weekends of scavenger hunts located in the Southeast, Eastern Shore, and Northern Neck regions of Virginia. In addition to exploring unique corners of the state and winning exciting Mystery Boxes, all participants who turn in their clue sheets will be entered to win a grand prize of $250, plus a $2,500 donation to the winner’s school. You can read more details here. It is worth finding out more information if only to appreciate the incredible amount of time, energy, and thought that went into these events.
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