The description of “American Adventure,” the temporary exhibit at The Durham Museum,” reads like it would go over the heads of most kids: “Minotaur Mazes’ ‘American Adventure’ takes visitors on an immersive, educational roleplay adventure that asks people to conquer one great challenge: survive the year as one of the original
I tried out this maze with my two kids, ages 6 an 8, and here’s how what we thought of the experience. If you want to visit “American Adventure,” the exhibit runs through July 29, 2018. Be sure to check out the rest of the museum while there! Here’s my guide to taking children to The Durham Museum. Disclosure: I was provided complimentary passes to experience the exhibit so I could write about it.
What to expect during “American Adventure”
Like a typical maze, there is only one way to enter. At the entrance, we each received our unique identity of one the Jamestown colonists. These were real colonists (all men) and at the end of the maze, we could check if they survived that first year or not.
Each colonist has a life chart, and as we move through the maze, we each track a series of life choices on an it. You can earn (or lose) points for health, wealth, food and morale at each turn of the maze. Watch out for the Wheel of Misfortune!
The goal is to make it past more than two-dozen tests spread out over four seasons. Tests range from trying to rope a sturgeon and guessing whether or not you can eat an animal, to more historically significant questions, like if you’re a gentleman, do you really help with manual labor or not. Keep all four life chart categories above the life line and you “survive.” Choose poorly and you have to exit the maze.
What kids think of “American Adventure”
There are plenty of things for my kids to like about the exhibit, “American Adventure,” and a few things that they didn’t. The physical challenges, pretending to climb was high up there and getting a Food point just for scraping a turtle shell were fun things for them.
What’s difficult, especially for my 6-year-old, was that most challenges required some reading. If your child isn’t patient, you may have to skip reading most of the things and go right to the challenge. It misses the educational component of the exhibit, but keeps the fun going for the kid.
Also note that the younger the kid, the more help they’ll need tracking their life chart.
If your kids are competitive, they may also get frustrated with how easy it is to fail at “American Adventure.” The odds of survival are stacked against you. One accidental snakebite or bad food choice, and you’re dead.
Tips for “American Adventure”
– Visit during non-peak hours. This is a popular exhibit and since it’s a maze, you may have groups in front of you or behind you. If you don’t feel like rushing through your reading, I recommend going during the week instead of on the weekend.
– Go to the bathroom before starting the maze. Self-explanatory, especially if you’re visiting with kids.
– See the rest of the exhibit. It’s tempting to finish the maze, get your “I survived” sticker, and then head out. However, there’s more to “American Adventure” than the maze. There are displays of items found at the original James Fort of Historic Jamestown as well as original documents. There’s also a building activity table and a fun photo opp.
– Plan about an hour for the exhibit. You can rush through it quicker, sure, but if you’re there to learn about about what it took to start a colony in the New World, read some of the displays. Also, realize if your colonist dies early and you have to exit the maze, you can start all over again.
– Learn more. There are three lectures scheduled tied to the exhibit: “Surviving Jamestown: The Harrowing First Years of a Founding American Community,” April 17 at 6:30 p.m.; “The Shipwreck That Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways and the Fate of America,” May 8 at 6:30 p.m. (book-signing to follow); and “Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma,” July 24 at 6:30 p.m. (book-signing to follow). Registration is required. Regular museum admission applies; free for members.
If you go
Where: The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.
When: Now through July 29, 2018
Cost: Included with museum admission
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