Looking for a new travel dimension? We heard about a local Renaissance Faire from a Groupon and decided to give it a whirl. $20 family pass, 30 minute drive – what could there be to loose? We saw singing, juggling, jousting, a working blacksmith, a pickle vendor with a little cart, dragons galore,
and a soda pub – buy one cool blue bottle of cream soda and get refills all day for a buck – sarsaparilla, root beer …. I don’t imagine we’ll be buying corsets, fairy costumes, or pirate paraphernalia anytime soon (not sure what those things have to do with the Renaissance though they were all present at the Faire), but we had a great time and were inspired to think about other possible options for traveling in time instead of space. We’ll start cheap and easy and then wander further away ….
If there is a renaissance faire somewhere nearby, why not make a renaissance week out of it? The renaissance (“re-birth”) spanned the 14th to 17thcenturies – plenty of exiting education possibilities … plus Italy, which is always a treat. Start with some non-fiction books from your local library on the Renaissance itself and also on Leonardo DaVinci, Florence Italy, and, perhaps, the scientific method. Here’s a great list of medieval and Renaissance books – both fiction and non-fiction – if your local library can’t help.
During the week, you could try cooking big turkey legs and serve them on a huge platter with grapes and frosty mugs of old-fashioned soda pop. Or you could venture into some more authentic medieval recipes such as Cormarye (roast pork) and pottage of turnips. Watch movies such as Camelot (film of the musical), Prince of Foxes (Orson Wells, 1949), or Don Giovanni (Film of Mozart’s opera, 1979). And, of course, paint, sketch, and sculpt all week. Perhaps adding a real drawing class or simply buying a few supplies such as a wooden model of a human and a sketch book. Visit a park and paint or sketch. Create a gallery! Make scientific observations and sketches inspired by what you are reading.
For bedtime stories to read aloud (or for older kids to read alone), try The Smile by Donna Jo Nappoli (about grades 6-10) or The Flying Bed by Nancy Willard and John Thompson (about grades 2-4). Monday with a Mad Genius is the Magic Treehouse version of time travel to Renaissance Italy.
How can you find some live history near you? Check out the Society for Creative Anachronism. They are dedicated to recreating the world of pre-17th Century Europe and they host wars , conferences and other events. Many groups are dedicated to recreating the times of the civil war. For example, the American Civil War Museum hosts living encampments of the Gettysburg War all over the country. Wikipedia has a pretty extensive and international list of historical reenactment groups.
You might also look for living museums near you or near your next vacation destination such as Old Sturbridge Village outside of Boston (New England life between 1790 and 1840) or Old World Wisconsin (Wisconsin, similar era). On the East Coast these tend to focus on topics such as Pilgrim life or the Civil War. On the West Coast, you can find museums or towns dedicated to Native American culture and history, Lewis and Clark, early Oregon Trail days, or old west early life. Check out ghost towns too! Search for living history museum or open air museum or check this list of international open air museums. One of our family dreams is to get back to The Danish Land of Legends Museum where you can apply to live for a week (as a family, three generations preferred!) in the Stone Age, the Iron Age, or the Viking Age.
There are also small towns famous for maintaining a slice of history such as Tombstone, AZ (site of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral) or Colonial Williamsburg outside of Washington DC. These can be a weekend get-away for a vacation destination. And, of course, all of Europe can help your family explore other eras and epochs. However you decide to explore the possibilities of time travel, do consider that fun, educational, family travel can sometimes have an unexpected dimension!