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Spice Up Your Summer With a Grown-Up Scavenger Hunt

Are you itching to host a summer party, but you’re bored of the traditional BBQ? We’ve got a sure-fire way to thrill your fun-loving friends and spice up your next summertime soiree. Host a grown-up scavenger hunt!

Be advised though, this is no ordinary hunt. The traditional scavenger hunt involves teams running around and gathering items on a list. Whoever gathers the most items at the end of the hunt wins. Our opinion? Not bad, but not nearly exciting enough. Here’s a recipe for a smarter, wackier scavenger hunt to engage your brain and get you moving:

1) Decide on a Hunt Format – Depending on how much effort you want to put into it, here are heaps of different ways to put together a scavenger hunt. Here is one method using Twitter:

Each team chooses a Twitter account to work from. The hunt host sends clues to each team by direct message. These clues send hunters to locations throughout the city. Once hunters get to their destination, they have to tweet a photo of themselves performing the task or collecting the item that’s required by the clue.

Once hunters tweet the photo, the host knows they’ve completed their task and direct messages them the next clue. And so on and so on until they hit all the locations and complete all the tasks.

Note: If you don’t want to use Twitter, you can make it low-tech by putting all the clues in numbered envelopes for participants to open one by one as they work through the hunt. (Opening extra clue envelopes = time penalties.) This mode works splendidly too!

2) Decide on Mode of Transport, Hunt Boundaries and Time-Frame – First, decide on whether you want to allow cars to be involved in your Hunt. Cars allow you to cover more ground in a shorter period of time and give you more leeway in terms of the different places you can send your participants to. However, foot-powered hunts can be great too, and a great workout!

Next, decide on the street boundaries, which you will give to your hunters. This way, you won’t have well-meaning hunters heading to the next town because they got a clue wrong. Lastly, decide how long your hunt will last for (3-5 hours is usually a good timeframe).

3) Decide on the End-Goal – Scavenger hunts are always better if there’s a puzzle at the end. One fun method is a rebus. Hunters have to gather pieces of paper with pictures on them in every location. Once teams have collected all the clues, they have to assemble the pictures in the right order to form a secret phrase. (eg. Someone holding a UK flag + a knee + a bunch of long, sharpened sticks + a pile of pebbles = Britney Spears rocks – ha!).

Costumes make hunts even MORE fun! Photo by Richard Masoner
Costumes make hunts even MORE fun! Photo by Richard Masoner

4) Decide on the Hunt StopsThis is where things get really fun. Send your hunters to interesting spots, places that they may have never been before. You are only limited by your creativity! Here are some examples:

  • The clue is a Dewey decimal number and cryptic directions to a local library. Once there, Hunters find the book the number corresponds to, with another clue planted inside.
  • Hunters get a clue that leads them to a local newspaper. After scanning the paper, there’s another clue embedded in the want ads.
  • Hunters are led to a street with many bike racks. After searching for a while, they spot a combination-lockbox hanging on one of the racks. They need to figure out the combination with the help of their clue to get at the item inside.
  • A clue leads hunters to a seemingly ordinary street corner. Upon closer inspection though, Hunters notice that a clue has been embedded in a menu placed in a restaurant window. (These are all real clues from a Scavenger Hunt we were in! In this case, the host knew the restaurant owners and persuaded them to alter their menu for the day.)

Some of the best stops are ones where hunters get to do something: A doughnut tasting at a local bakery, or taking part in a “laugh yoga” class. (These are all from real hunts too.) You’ll be surprised how many places will be willing to take part in your hunt – it’s good publicity and it’s fun! If you are asking a restaurant or shop owner to take part, stick to independent spots, they are more likely to say yes.

And if you’re reticent to involve local businesses in your hunt, you can do it without that element. Instead of collecting physical clues to the final puzzle, perhaps the end goal is simply to get photos in each location (eg. The date on a statue in a local park, a restaurant menu, a particular type of flower, etc.)

5) Create Your CluesThis can be tricky. What you think is easy as pie might seem incredibly obscure to someone else. In order to ensure your clues aren’t way too hard or ridiculously simple, enlist a friend or family member who isn’t taking part in the hunt and let them vet your clues.

6) Important: Stagger the Teams!You don’t want every team heading to the same spot at once – it makes it much too easy for one team to simply follow another and ride on their coattails. Each team should have to hit the locations in a different order. Obviously, teams are bound to encounter each other now and again, which is fine – it provides opportunity for (good-natured) trash talk!

Photo Scavenger Hunt photo by Melissa Hillier
Photo Scavenger Hunt photo by Melissa Hillier

7) The Junior Version! – To help with childcare for participants with kids, enlist a couple of trustworthy friends or family members to run a junior scavenger hunt while the grown-up hunt is on. (It should, of course, be much shorter, maybe half an hour for very young children). This hunt takes place inside your house. There are still hidden clues, but they are easier. And the final prize should probably be something tasty to eat (We find a bag of gourmet jelly beans always do the trick). And while the parents are still hunting, put on a fun family flick and dole out plenty of popcorn.

8) Host a Party Afterwards – Your hunters will be tuckered out after their adventure, so end your hunt with a bowl of our Sea Salt Crinkle Cut Wedges with our Artichoke & asiago dip! This also gives hunters a chance to chat and compare notes and share stories of their adventures. To keep the competition friendly, hunt prizes should be as silly and fun as the hunt was.

Tell us about your experiences with Scavenger Hunts – do you have any tips to add?