Not a fan of brainteasers? Don't like numbers? Puzzles make you crazy, and not in a good way? If so, then the last thing you would have wanted to do on your Sunday afternoon was participate in Post Hunt 2009, the Washington Post's annual scavenger hunt. As it were, I have a DC friend who enjoys these kinds of mind melding activities as much as I do, and we did spend our afternoon hunting with The Washington Post. We weren't the only ones.
Last year's inaugural event attracted around 5,000 people, despite a steady rain. Participants are given a hunt-themed edition of the Washington Post Magazine, an opening clue at the hunt's starting point, and three hours so solve five different puzzles placed at points within a section of the city. Solve all five, put their answers together to solve the final clue given to the crowd later in the day, and you could win as much as $2,000. This year's turnout looked to be equally large, and although our little team didn't win, we did have some fun trying.
Turns out, a scavenger hunt is an efficient way to learn about a neighborhood. Most of our hunting took place in a part of the city neither of us spends a lot of time in, so between number crunching and message decoding, we had countless "ah-ha!" moments of spotting restaurants and shops we'd heard about but never seen. We also discovered new sights, shops and destinations that looked interesting enough to merit a return visit one of these days.
Do city-wide scavenger hunts take place all over the world? They'd definitely be a great way for visitors to get to know neighborhoods in London, Rome or Tokyo. Not only would you be running around familiarizing yourself with the streets, sights and landmarks of a foreign city, but you'd also get to interact with locals in a totally unconventional way. Bonus: they'd have cameras and maps just like you! You wouldn't even stand that much as a tourist. Of course, you'd have to know the language used for the hunt, but if you did this would be a great alternative to the usual touristy activities.
If you know of any great city scavenger hunts, or have participated in one yourself, tell us about it!