How to Stage a Clue-Based, Multi-Team Scavenger Hunt

By Christine Bartsch
Send groups out to explore the city as they photograph sites for a scavenger hunt.

Take hints from the 1970's cult-classic film “Scavenger Hunt” to turn the traditional birthday party game into a city-wide adventure as a team-building exercise for corporate events or an ice-breaker for incoming college freshmen. Teams of party-goers take to the streets as they work out riddles leading them to objects, monuments and local attractions to photograph for points to be tallied at an after-party where the teams with the most points, best photographs and most original riddle solution win the prize.

Create a list of clues for a wide range of objects, monuments and local attractions. For example, write “A royal seat at which millions have bowed before” for a toilet, or “a place where you can see a sack, a quarter and if you’re lucky, a hail Mary,” for the local football stadium.

Assign a point scale to the clues based on the difficulty of the riddle and the distance of the scavenger hunt location from the designated finish line at the after-party. For example, a photograph of a toilet would be worth 1 point, while the football stadium across town would be worth 25 points.

Divide players into teams of five so that all team members can fit into one vehicle. Ensure that each team has a designated driver who has immediate access to a safe, insured automobile. For events scavenger hunts serving as ice breakers, ensure that all students get paired with at least a few classmates they don’t already know well.

Give each team one digital camera, one guide book, one city map and several copies of the clue list. Assign one member of each team to be the designated driver who will serve as team leader and have the final say in which locations the team will go to.

Inform each team of the designated deadline time at which all teams must return to cross the finish line together at the after-party event location. Make sure all team leaders understand that the scavenger hunt is not a race to be won by speeding between locations or arriving at the after-party first, but is a competition to be won with creativity, teamwork and strategy.

Explain potential game-winning strategies to participants such as hitting only a handful of the highest point destinations or sticking to photographing as many of the small point objects as they can within the time limit.

Describe the subjective side of the point system that will award teams bonus points for the best photography work and for creative riddle solutions. For example, teams who run out of time to get to the football stadium might take a photograph of a silver quarter and a paper bag together in front of a Catholic church.

Ensure the return of all assigned digital cameras, guide books and city maps by having the judges score the photographs at the after-party immediately following the scavenger hunt. Serve finger foods and beverages for the guests to linger over while exchanging scavenger hunt war stories while the judges tally and deliberate.

Award grand prizes to teams in various categories such as the team with the most points, best photographs and most creative photographs. Give each participant a gift bag to take home to prevent any guest from heading home empty-handed and unhappy.

Things Needed

  • Copies of the clue list
  • Digital cameras
  • City guidebooks
  • City maps
  • Judges
  • Finger food and beverages
  • Grand prizes (such as gift certificates or bottles of wine)
  • Participant gift bags

Tip

Include double the amount of clues as could be completed within the designated time frame for the scavenger hunt to reduce the number of teams from showing up at the same locations at the same time, and to prevent teams from being tempted into reckless driving in an attempt to complete the entire list.

Defray the costs of providing gift bags for every invited guest by asking for donations from local tourist sights and local businesses that will be featured in the scavenger hunt, such as restaurant coupons or bumper stickers.

About the Author

A former art instructor, high school counselor and party planner, Christine Bartsch writes fashion, travel, interior design, education and entertainment content. Bartsch earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in communications/psychology/fine arts from Wisconsin Lutheran College and a creative writing Master of Fine Arts from Spalding University. She's written scripts for film/television productions and worked as the senior writer at a video game company.