When my grandson, Elias Tupou, was about 8 years old, we visited the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. At the front desk he was given a scavenger hunt sheet. After he spent two hours touring and looking for the items on the sheet, I told him he didn’t have to find everything.
“I’m not leaving until I find everything on this paper,” he said with conviction. And he did. He checked off every item and collected a prize on the way out of the museum.
Something about the competitiveness of a scavenger hunt appeals to kids, and to many adults, also. The homemade hunts of yesteryear are being replaced by high-tech neighborhood hunts and street scrambles where you prove you were at a specific destination by taking photos with your smartphone. These types of competitions have taken off in popularity; even Disney is adding scavenger hunts throughout the Magic Kingdom. And this summer is a great time to do one. Here are are a range of upcoming hunts and tips on organizing your own. (Did we miss one; let us know in comments!)
Street Scrambles, April 26 through Dec. 13
“The main difference between a scavenger hunt and a Street Scramble is you get a map in the latter,” says Eric Bone, owner of Meridian Geographics, an organizer of Street Scrambles, eight urban exploration events that take place in neighborhoods around the Sound, from Queen Anne to Gig Harbor and from Fremont to Edmonds.
“So in the 30 minutes before the start you can plan your route to as many checkpoints as you can visit within your chosen time limit (90 minutes or three hours at most events)."
At a Scramble, your goal is to find as many checkpoints as you can within your chosen time limit, earning various points for each. You verify that you visited a checkpoint by answering a question about it (such as what a statue is holding). You can plan to visit as many of the checkpoints as you want in any order. Changing your plan midstream works, too.
Any age can participate, and you can bike, run or walk the course, push strollers or wheelchairs. Family teams pushing strollers may cover 3 miles or less in the 90-minute division, while speedy runners may cover 12 miles or more in the 3-hour division. That's what makes Street Scramble special: how far (and how fast!) you go is completely up to you.
Details: This year's first Street Scramble is Saturday, April 26 in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood, followed by a May 17 Scramble in Ballard (part of the Syttende Mai celebration) and May 24 in Gig Harbor. Typical registration fees are $14-$30 for ages 13-adult, $5 for children 6-12; kids under 6 are free.
Scavenger hunts around Seattle
Stray Boots scavenger hunts, Seattle
Stray Boots is a company that organizes "interactive app adventures" that you can do at your own pace, including four in Seattle (Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill and Seattle Art Museum). My teenage grandson and his friend tested the scavenger hunt at Pike Place Market. The teen reviewers said the Market tour would work well for tourists because it takes them to places they might not have discovered otherwise.
Details: You pay a set price ($5 for the Pike Place hunt) to download the scavenger hunt app to your smart phone, then complete it. Any age can participate.
Seattle Challenge, May 3
This 5K event is part of a series of similar urban adventures all over the world, described as the world's largest adventure race series. Patterned after the Amazing Race (a TV reality show where teams race to perform certain tasks at each destination) it aims to test your brains as well as your fitness. Winners vie for cash prizes and the top 50 teams qualify for the Challenge Championship held in Las Vegas. Any age can participate (strollers are welcome), but there must be at least one responsible adult over 18 on each team. There is even a prize for the top family finisher (a group that includes at least one child under the age of 13).
Details: The Seattle Challenge covers the same distance as a 5K. The cost to enter is $35-$55 per person depending on when you register. Kid ages 5 and under are free; ages 6 and older require registration.
Tacoma History Hike, June 22
Sponsored by the Washington State Historical Society, this scavenger hunt encourages participants to learn about and explore downtown Tacoma. The hike begins at the Washington State History Museum; you'll be armed with a list of questions, focused on landmarks and historical trivia, and a goal to collect as many answers as you can in the time allotted. The hike centers around a 1.5-mile radius in downtown Tacoma.
Details: Entry fees are $25 for an adult, $15 for a child (ages 6-12) or $40 for a family with at least one child 12 or under; kids ages 5 and under are free. Registration includes free entry to the museum on the day of the hike, and a T-shirt. Children in strollers and dogs allowed.
CitySolve Urban Race, Seattle, August 9
You’ll use smart phones, your noggin and help from strangers to solve clues in CitySolve’s Urban Race in Seattle on August 9. You can bring babes in strollers and kids under 8 years of age have free registration. Distance covered is between 4 and 8 miles, but you’re allowed to use public transportation.
Details: Entry fees run between $40-$65 per person depending on when you register.
Museum scavenger hunts
Several museums in Western Washington have scavenger hunts for kids. (Don't forget, most museums have free days!)
Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle (Ballard neighborhood). Hunts are available for all three floors of the museum.
Burke Museum, Seattle (University District). The museum has two hunts on its website that you can print and take with you, Pacific Voices and Life & Times Scavenger Hunts.
Washington State History Museum, Tacoma. Ask for the list of items at the front desk.
Roslyn Museum. Items in the scavenger hunt are pictured online.
Nutcracker Museum. If you happen to be in Leavenworth, the kids can do this fun hunt of age-appropriate nutcrackers for children 5 years and older to find.
Design your own scavenger hunt
It's easy (and free or cheap) to create your own to fit the age level of your child and his friends. First choose a location – it could be a museum, park or neighborhood. Then make a list of ten items located there for them to find.
- Make the items easy to spot, not hidden, so the kids won’t be frustrated.
- if you choose the local mall as your venue, items could include a photo of a team member on a kiddy ride, photo of one team member riding an escalator, a perfume sample, and a business card.
- Whatever you choose, be sure to give the kiddos a time limit. You can assign point values to each item, with the harder-to-get items worth more points.
- Whether or not you have a prize for the winner or the winning team, be sure to have a gathering afterward so the kids can talk about the hunt. Pizza, cake or snacks all work well.
- Don’t tell the kids that they are gaining self-confidence, problem-solving, decision making and cooperative learning skills during the hunting process.