Last week, two of my favorite things combined to create the greatest experience ever—Colonial Williamsburg and gaming! When the new app Pokémon GO rolled out, it didn’t take long for the craze to hit the Historic Area. Believe me, if you had ever told me CW would become famous for its Pokémon, I probably would have suggested you tour the Public Hospital. But I am here to tell you that it is true. And let me tell you, if Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry had known how many Evees were roaming around the Raleigh Tavern, they would have never gotten anything done!
As I am sure you have gathered from my previous posts, exploring CW is basically how I spend all my time. I love the history that makes this place special. I also love all of the wonderful new programs and activities that are happening around town. Technology has become a huge asset to exploring our colonial capital. Ideally, you would all come and spend all of your free time here like I do, but the (sad) reality is that’s just not possible. I live here and even I can’t make it to all of the programs! At least not in person….
Let me explain. A couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t join Martha Washington for her new program at the Art Museums (which you should definitely go and see), but I got to watch the Facebook livestream from the other side of town. Alternatively, my niece just finished her freshman year of college and got a job here for the summer working in family programming. She did her first Wythe house introduction recently and technology made it possible for her parents to watch it in New Jersey via my phone (she was fabulous, of course).
My point is that sometimes, the best way to navigate the 18th century is with 21st-century technology!
Before I continue, full disclosure: I am a member of the original Pokémon generation. I didn’t play (I’m more of a board game person), but my brother did and I spent loads of time finding the cards he was looking for. Now, my two oldest kids have also really gotten into Pokémon. Senet spent a significant part of first grade this year trading cards with his friends and Alex is really into the Pokémon graphic novels. It’s been kind of fun to see them enjoying the same things we did when we were little. In fact, it’s kind of like how I feel about Colonial Williamsburg! I loved it when I was little and now we can enjoy it together.
I recognize some of you might think this is absolutely ridiculous. You’re probably envisioning kids walking around staring at their phones like zombies. Living in the Historic Area, as I have mentioned in my previous posts, provides a special insight into Colonial Williamsburg. And let me tell you—what I have seen in the past few days will give you a different perspective.
When we first downloaded the game, the kids and I walked out the door and had literally no idea what we were doing (the tutorial wasn’t terribly helpful). Within two minutes of stepping on to DoG Street, we ran into another player. That person recognized our confusion and immediately gave us an overview. We got the hang of it in time to catch a bunch of Pokémon on Palace Green and by the Colonial Gardens.
Later, we went to the St. George Tucker House because it is a “gym” to try and figure out this battling thing. Again, we were admittedly clueless to the process. But it wasn’t long before Senet found a couple who were also there battling and asked for help and they showed us how it was done. Before we knew it, four other people had come up to give us pointers. We walked away laughing about how no one thought to use the cannon in the grass behind us for battle yet. You see? This game is bringing people together, who would otherwise be total strangers, to interact and explore Colonial Williamsburg!
Our adventure wasn’t over. Later that night, something incredible happened. We were sitting out on our front porch like we so often do. It’s not unusual to see ghost tours go by or wave to our friends in the Fife and Drum Corps as they march past. We’ll even chat with other guests out enjoying their evening strolls. It can be a bit busy but still generally much slower during the day. Usually…
This night, there were hundreds and hundreds of people out! I’d say there may have even been more than there had been during the day. And everyone was laughing and walking up to each other to share all the cool things they had found. These were people who may have not otherwise have been out exploring CW. They were coming over and asking if we knew which way Bassett Hall was or how to get to the Cabinetmaker. We would ask what teams everyone was on and high-five the people that were on the same teams as us. We sent a few people down to Chowning’s for dinner (you never know who can show up during your meal in a tavern!) and gave them tips on where to park for when they came back the next day. It was a whole new kind of interpretation…
It will never stop being fun to find new ways to explore this place. So, come hang out with us and hunt Pokémon! The Raleigh Tavern bakery is a Pokémon gym. Tell me, what could possibly be better than battling with your best Pokémon while enjoying some freshly baked gingerbread? I would also like to take a moment and brag that I have three PokeStops that I can use from my living room… The Kimball Theatre in Merchants Square, the Governor’s Palace, and Capitol are also gyms. In fact, the gentleman who plays James Madison told me that he found some cool Pokemon down by the canal at the Palace. Right after that, he discovered I was on a different team and called me a traitor. Now, we aren’t speaking. Much like actual James Madison, that guy is sooooooo dramatic…
Now, the downside is that some folks get a bit too into it, so we ask that when you are hunting Pokémon around the Historic Area, please be also be careful. The brick sidewalks can be a bit uneven, there are horse carriages everywhere, and the awesome interpreters want to see your lovely faces and say hello. They won’t mind if you swing by the Armoury to catch a Poliwag as long as you don’t forget that they are there to do trade and they are, no doubt, interpreting it brilliantly, so stop and enjoy! And you can still get a great screenshot with General Washington in the background without standing in his way.
Another lesson? Let’s just say… watch where you step.
Now—be safe, have fun, and get ’em all!
If you catch anything cool, let me know in the comments, so we can go check it out too. And don’t forget to tag Colonial Williamsburg in your pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Use #CWPokemonGo and my friends on the social media team may share your finds!
GUEST BLOGGER: KATHERINE MORRIS AINSLIE
Katherine is the Externship Program Coordinator for the William & Mary Law School. She has four children – Alexandra (12), Senet (6), Thaine (5), and Flynn (2). Katherine and her significant other, Alex Morse, are avid board gamers and boast an impressive and ever-growing collection of games. Beyond having their weekly board game parties, Katherine loves hosting visitors and throwing big parties including their famous annual Kentucky Derby party. She also enjoys British costume dramas, obnoxiously bright colors and patterns, cooking, & consuming large quantities of Aromas coffee.