The Northern Neck of Virginia has always been a hospitable place. It’s an “old place for tourism,” according to Lisa Hull, tourism coordinator for the Northern Neck Tourism Commission. To highlight that history, the commission has created a Northern Neck Area Scavenger Hunt that can be completed virtually or in-person as a road trip. The 18 sites included in the scavenger hunt tell the story of the region from its indigenous populations through the present, touching on Colonial taverns, the steamboat era and its isolation and preservation.
Alice French, director of education at Menokin, came up with the idea. She saw a similar scavenger hunt offered by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. But in the Northern Neck, she said, the event could take on the feel of a day trip and offer a real adventure for people with cabin fever.
The scavenger hunt will run from July 1 to Aug. 31. The on-the-road trip version asks participants to drive to each site to photograph a specific view or item. Photos must be posted to the museum’s social media with the hashtag #nnkroadtrip.
So, at her site Menokin, visitors can take a photo of a structure in honor of the enslaved people who lived there and share it online—on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram—with the hashtag to participate. And while the site overall is closed, they can still use the trails and the kayak launch there, she said.
Since Virginia enters Stage 3 of pandemic recovery this weekend, which also happens to be a holiday weekend, Hull said this is the perfect time to get out and tour the sites. Some of the sites are beginning to open. The Reedville Fisherman’s Museum, Stratford Hall, and Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern are all open this weekend. State parks, which are also highlighted, are also open.
But many people are still reticent to leave home. The scavenger hunt’s online version invites participants to find answers to specific trivia questions posed by each site. Participants can search the historic organizations’ websites to find the answers to complete the questionnaire, which is available at northernneck.org/nnkroadtrip.
Participating sites in the scavenger hunt include: Menokin, Steamboat Era Museum, Stratford Hall, Lancaster VA Historical Society, Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern, Historic Christ Church, The Saddlery/Town of Warsaw, Reedville Fishermen’s Museum, Armistead Tasker Johnson High School, Westmoreland County Museum, Dahlgren Heritage Museum, Richmond County Museum, Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast, George Washington Birthplace National Monument, Essex County Museum & Historical Society, Morattico Waterfront Museum, Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge–Wilna Unit and Holley Graded School.
Hull said not only is the scavenger hunt a great way to learn about the history of the region, it allows people to “explore the road less traveled, see the rural character of the peninsula and great beauty of the land represented in the sites. The region has always been connected by water, and that connection led to development in the 17th and 18th centuries.”
According to Hull, the first settlement in the region was only 41 years after Jamestown and that history is present at sites like the 1735 Price Church. That connection also led to links with major cities like Baltimore when steamboats dominated travel culture. But as roads became the most popular form of transportation, the area has been more recently isolated and focused on preservation.
Because of that, she said the sites in the Northern Neck are used to a collaborative approach to tourism.
“We rely on each other to create memorable experiences,” she said. It’s an experience, and a community, ready to receive guests and share their way of life on the water.