I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but a resolution I quietly made for myself this year was to get out and participate in more unusual experiences, if only to give my overextended brain more fodder for my forty-thousand creative commitments. If I don’t work to create room in my calendar for experiences where I’m just an audience member, there’s no way I’ll be able to continue walking that tightrope between creatively unfulfilled and burnt out.
When such an experience appeared in Baltimore, an easy drive from my home base of Washington, D.C., I pushed myself to make it happen. I booked a ticket for a Time Travel Tour at the Peale Center which from a quick read, seemed to be an escape room-esque experience. In part, that’s what initially grabbed my attention as I wish I could do more escape rooms. It’s hard to get friends’ calendars to sync up (and I hate doing escape rooms with strangers). Here, I once again failed to bully my friends into joining me on a potentially weird journey, but it turns out that the Time Travel Tour was totally fine to do among people I didn’t know.
I went into the Time Travel Tour fairly ignorant, not knowing much about the Peale family, just a vague recollection of them having something to do with early-American portraiture. I was greeted at the door by the creator and performer, David London, who was already in character. I try to be a good sport for these things but I was nervous about how much I’d be a part of the performance.
My worry was unfounded. What followed was a charming, fun, and dare I say, educational journey through, well, time. You’re led through the history of the building and the Peale family, playing the role of a novice time traveler. As London takes you through the lives of Charles Wilson Peale and his son Rembrandt in particular, you solve a few puzzles and activate some augmented reality displays along the way.
A giant time machine that you activate with your puzzle-solving starts the journey, leading to another room packed with curios collected and displayed in the Peale’s early natural history museum. I immediately identified the creator of Time Travel Tours as a kindred spirit, as the time machine and various set pieces adorning the initial space were clearly built by something who too finds joy in raiding salvage for odd mechanical devices.
Time Travel Tours isn’t going to satisfy a hardcore puzzle enthusiast and for that I’m actually glad. The puzzles were easygoing and London kept things moving whenever we bogged down, maintaining the forward motion necessary for an interesting tour.
Time Travel Tours is a brilliant program for a small site of historical significance. If this was a traditional museum experience, even with a spectacular docent leading the way, I would have seen all there was to see within a few minutes and certainly would have had far less fun doing it. I’m glad I took the time to make the 200-year journey.
Time Travel Tours embark until March 3, 2019. For more information visit http://time-travel.tours/ or call 1-866-TME-TRVL.
Quick shout-out to No Proscenium whose widening coverage of immersive events around the world tipped me off to Time Travel Tours!