It's urban scavenger hunt time!!
July 12, 2008 11:41 PM   Subscribe

Bored on a lazy Sunday afternoon? How about helping me come up with ideas/suggestions on how I should plan an urban scavenger hunt?

We're planning an urban scavenger hunt for a major city and was looking for some ideas/tips on what we should do. I've searched a bit online looking for help with planning, but have been coming up a bit short. It'll be for teams of 2-4ppl, and 10-20 teams.

The group will be mostly in the 20s and 30s age groups so it doesn't need to be aimed at younger crowds. I have found a lot of family/children ones though.

There will be the standard clues of finding historical places and taking photos of this or that, but I want this to be fun, crazy and maybe a little over the top! Ideas can include things that need to be accomplished. Or done with proof. We're open to all ideas, as this is not for an organized group. We're just looking for a fun adventure.

So has anybody done a really fun one? Have any crazy ideas? Are there any guidelines? Some book of rules that is published somewhere?

Not looking for city specific ideas, we have that covered. But for those curious, it will be held in Helsinki, Finland. A smaller city, that has great public transportation.

Any and all ideas/thoughts welcome!

posted by wile e to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Having your participants equipped with instant cameras (in the States, we call them Polaroids...don't know if they still exist anymore) means you can check progress as soon as they return to base, without having to wait for developing or a computer hookup.

It's also nice to put people into teams with people they might not know as well so it turns into a friend-building thing too.
posted by mdonley at 12:03 AM on July 13, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks mdonley-

As of right now we're planning on relying on digital cameras and a projector as of right now, but will look to see if polaroids are widely available here.

And the team building idea is a good one, perhaps we'll make the teams after the people have gathered, instead of letting people build their own groups.

And BTW, I'm a New Yorker living in Finland, in case that makes a difference. :)
posted by wile e at 2:03 AM on July 13, 2008

Response by poster: Oh and this is not a profit making thing, it's among a social group of ours. Just a fun thing to do with friends.
posted by wile e at 2:15 AM on July 13, 2008

Best answer: I organized a small-scale one a couple years back for Chicago, and one thing that was really enjoyed were task items. For instance, there's a circle of 12 blocks here set up like a clock without hands (it's probably an actual thing but I don't know what it is) and they had to link arms and be the hands of the clock for the time that they found the clue. There was various climbing of public statues/structures on there, too, which added an exciting element of "not allowed to do that" to the hunt. We also had a perspective picture in there (this sort of thing). And then, I had people go into a yuppie grocery store and find the most expensive thing they wouldn't eat. And there was also a strip of art galleries along the way, and one of the tasks was to get the group to find a particular painting in a particular window, and then pose themselves in the scene.

Another thing I did along a different vein was to pick a long and uncommon word, and then have the groups spell the word one letter at a time by photographing signs and ads and graffiti and logos that prominently featured one of the letters. I kind of copied that idea from a website I can't for the life of me remember right now, but someone out in tubes-land had taken pictures of a bunch of single letters like that and spelled words with them. I think. If anyone knows what that was, it's driving me nuts now; please let me know.

Basically, try to pick items that people will not only have to find, but also actively do. And things that use the whole group instead of just one or two people. City scavenger hunts are fun.
posted by phunniemee at 4:39 AM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just asked a really similar question the other day! Cool. It's like double the answers.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:03 AM on July 13, 2008

Hire Watson.
posted by caddis at 6:33 AM on July 13, 2008

I had SUCH a fun time doing this in San Francisco a few years back. There were a couple of things that made it especially fun. First, the clues were in poem form (only 4 lines). While you don't have to do that, it added the factor of making us try to figure it out. We had to pull store clerks and other random people aside and say, "Is there really someone called the bush... man... on Pier 39?" which made people give us funny looks but started some fun conversations :)

The organizers centered the clues on four or five areas around the city -- Fisherman's Wharf (with the caveat that yes, this is one of the most touristy areas you will ever encounter), Golden gate Park, Union Square, the Mission, etc. That helped us not go on a TOTAL wild goose chase, and it also let us pick and choose. With a bunch of widely-spaced clues in each area, there was no way we'd make all four of those areas in a day, so we started at Union Square (close to the hotel), walked a lot, and then cable-carred it up to Pier 39. Along the way, of course, we did a little shopping and had lots of fun.

Good luck!
posted by Madamina at 7:34 AM on July 13, 2008

Best answer: One gimmick for making sure clues are opened in a certain order is to put them inside balloons, that have to appear unpopped in prior pictures. I guess technically you could untie the knot, but who does that? It's supposed to be fun.

Another idea, used the last time I did this kind of thing in NYC, was to have a fairly sizeable, fragile/destructible object that has to be unbroken in the pictures as well. Ours was a watermelon.
posted by recoveringsophist at 7:58 AM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I helped put together a scavenger hunt that took place this weekend in San Francisco. Here's the full list of rules and items from that scavenger hunt. This was for a friend's going away party which is why you see a lot of items incorporating "Mary."

1) I recommend teams of 4 or 5. Make the teams ahead of time with people who don't know each other and use a mix of men and women. But don't hand out the team assignments until just before you're ready to start.
2) Keep most of the items in a few close areas. We've noticed that putting items all over town causes people to drive and it's just not as fun as running around or taking public transportation together.
3) Give each team a mascot like a small stuffed animal, small foreign flag, garden gnome, etc. Make a rule that the mascot has to be in every photo.
4) For certain items, add that the entire team has to be in the photo. This forces the team to interact with strangers.
5) Add items that involve strangers doing fun things - give and/or get a piggyback ride, give someone on the team a kiss, video recording singing the national anthem. Also strangers in uncommon professions and weird traits - policeman, telephone repairman, person with mismatched socks, wearing colors of national flag.
6) Add items that can be collected for free from particular spots - menus, matchbooks, business cards, napkins, pamphlets, samples.
7) A point system allows you to give more points to more outrageous activities. While our list used a 25/50/100/250/1000/5000 point system, I don't think it worked well. Instead make most of them 1 point each with the occasional 2- or 3-pointer and one or two 4-pointers. This gives every team a striking chance of winning.
8) End the event somewhere you can view the photos and everyone can mingle and talk about the scavenger hunt. Ideally something like a BBQ at someone's yard. To ease the burden of providing food and drinks, add a unique mandatory item to each team's list of something they can buy and bring at the end - beer, cake, salad, snacks.
posted by junesix at 11:32 AM on July 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

We did something like this where one clue led you to find another clue. You had to puzzle out a little rhyme to find the next clue. One clue ended up being on a sticker stuck to the bottom of a jar of anchovies on the shelf in the supermarket.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:01 PM on July 13, 2008

Please ask them that, if they are asking strangers for things, to get one item from them and move on.

We have had childrens' groups ring our doorbells on scavenger hunts several times. After we give them a rubber band, they ask for a can of soup, and then something else on their list. It gets really old, really fast.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:17 PM on July 13, 2008

Best answer: I run an annual hunt for my friends and have the same problem every year. Here is a partial list of items from past years. (sorry i don't have this posted somewhere online to link to). These are all photo items. Some of the items refer to my scoring scheme. You will see some recurring themes from different years.

A wedding party in a park
A statue of a woman (NOT Mary)
Someone (non Team Member) wearing a parka
A Betty Boop tattoo
A mullet (+50 if team member is touching the mullet)
Identical twins
Team Member in a drive-thru window (+100 if in uniform)
An ambulance
A sign with grammatical or spelling errors
Team member on a ride in front of K-Mart
Team member kissing a department store mannequin on the lips
An “old-lady-bending-over-in-the-garden” lawn ornament.
Pink flamingo lawn ornament
Gazing ball lawn ornament
Team member in Victoria's Secret store
A train's caboose (must be a real train, must be a real caboose)
Team member swimming
Team member in a hammock
A parking meter with 37 minutes remaining
Team member in a tree
Triplets (real, human, and living)
Team member petting a live cow (x4 if milking the cow instead)
Team member riding in a shopping cart
Metal monkey-bars on an asphalt playground
Live chipmunk
Lawn windmill
Entire team playing twister
Team member playing Frogger arcade console (stand-up or cocktail)
[whatever large public clock is famous in your locality] at [some specific time during your hunt]
Team member at location shown in an attached (vaguely identifying) photo
A team member in the back of a police car
A team member hugging a donut shop employee
Team member bench pressing free weights in a public gym
Team member pumping gas for a stranger
Team member taking a swing in a batting cage
Team member under the covers of a bed in a department store
Team member playing a piano
Team member in an port-a-potty
Team member in a storefront window imitating a mannequin
Team member sitting in cracker barrel rocking chairs
Team member mowing a stranger’s lawn
Team member cutting non team member's hair at a salon
Team member wearing a monocle
Team member holding a live snake
Team member wearing the costume of a comic superhero
Team member wearing hospital scrubs (including mask and surgical gloves) while shopping at a grocery store
Team member taking a garter off a female non-team member
Team member working as a Wal-Mart greeter (must have blue vest on)
Team member getting a backrub from a non team member (must be laying face down, topless)
3 Team members as part of a 6 person human pyramid
Team member carrying a stranger's groceries to their car
Team member cuddling a teddy bear
Team member posing with waitresses at Hooters
Team member wearing a tuxedo
Duct tape over a stranger's mouth
Welcome to city of _____ signs
Entire team in full Kiss makeup
Team member on a go kart
Team member using mass/public transportation (Photo and ticket/transfer stub needed)
Two photos, each showing the same two team members. They must completely exchange clothing between the two shots. (At least the visible clothing.)
Team member playing full drum set.
Get into the Olympic spirit! Team member performing the Iron Cross on the gymnastic rings.
A skateboarder (non-team member) pulling off an ollie
A traffic circle
A brew kettle from a brewery tour
Submit up to 5 photos of rhymes for the word "bird".
Entire team on the steps of the state capitol
Pair of shoes hanging from overhead cables (please don't put them there yourself)
A Karmann Ghia
A purple fire hydrant
Team member on a moving walkway
Team member floating on a body of water on an inner tube.
An ice cream truck
Team member riding a live horse
A live octopus
Team member buried in sand up to their neck.
Team member in a glass elevator
Team member and non-team member both on the "up" end of the same see-saw
Team member using a Van der Graaf generator to make their hair stand on end.
Team member posing with a wedding party (x2 if kissing the bride or groom)
Non team member giving team member a piggyback ride
Entire team wearing just togas.
A raised drawbridge
Team member on a tilt-a-whirl
Team member riding a tricycle
License plate from Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii, or Virgin Islands
Team member and non-team member both inside the loop of a hula hoop (at the waist)
A pachinko machine
Team member on a roof
Reproduce "American Gothic" using team members as models
A live frog or toad
A railroad crossing barricade in the down position
A waterfall at least 10' tall
Animal-shaped topiary
Varieties of official state DOT automobile license plates (points per unique design)
Team member in the mouth of a natural cave
A US Postal Service employee (in uniform)
A construction crane lifting an I-Beam
Team member playing an accordian
Team member wearing at least 15 items of flair, in a restaurant where this would be appropriate.
Non-team member wearing a top hat
A bale of hay
A Torus on a Taurus
Mary Kay pink car
Team member on a tanning bed
Three non-team members with braces on their teeth in the same photo
Team member visiting a resident of a nursing home.
Entire team engaged in a tug-of-war (using rope) with an equal number of non-team-members.
Team member on a roller-coaster
Team member cheering with group of at least 3 uniformed cheerleaders
Team member shining non-team member's shoes
Team member giving Home Depot employee a bear hug.
Someone on a unicycle
Mini-Golf hole with a dinosaur
Pictures of things that rhyme with SCHOOL
Non-team member in clown makeup
Team member submerged in water
posted by JJtheJetPlane at 2:56 PM on July 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

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