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Q: For luciaphile-ga only - Wife's 50th Birthday Party - Scavanger Hunts ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: For luciaphile-ga only - Wife's 50th Birthday Party - Scavanger Hunts
Category: Relationships and Society > Romance
Asked by: infohelp-ga
List Price: $75.00
Posted: 19 Jan 2003 22:57 PST
Expires: 18 Feb 2003 22:57 PST
Question ID: 145804
luciaphile-ga - you've demonstrated expertise in the Scavanger Hunt
area. Although I think I'll go with Serenata's suggestion of using a
Celebration Consultant, I'd love more information on how these things
are done including a straw man/outline with recommended clues and clue
locations in Denver, CO and surrounding areas, based on what you think
the Hunt should be. I especially like austin_trill-ga resent comment
involving the kids/friends.

The time frame shoudl be from 10 AM - 5PM? (depending on follow-up
activities, the end hour may need to be modified)

Asume we'll have limos and/or bus/van to handle transportation to
where people need to go to find the next clue.

My gut, at this moment, tell's me the invite list will be selective
(aka no more than 20 couples/four limos or bus/van - smaller if the
dinner/event involves a private jet). I'm not decided if we should
have a select group helping J. find the clues with kids/friends
actually being the clues and then joining in on the hunt after they've
been "found" or go the
teams route. Let me know your thoughts.

Let me know what additional clarifcation you need to asnwer this
question as if it were your  birthday party taking place :-)


Request for Question Clarification by luciaphile-ga on 20 Jan 2003 08:11 PST
Hi InfoHelp-ga,

Thanks so much for throwing this question my way. 

I think you're absolutely right a celebration consultant is probably
the way to go, both because of the scale and special nature of the
event. The logistics get involved: creating the clues, the route,
setting up things with third parties, planting the clues, etc. A
planner would be able to handle all that for you. Plus, if a
consultant devises the clues, you can enjoy a more active part in the

Now. A couple of my own questions for you so I can give you a better
answer: How many children and can you give me an approximate idea of
their ages? And we're looking at approximately 40 adults as well,
correct? Does your wife have interests that could be incorporated into
the hunt? (e.g. an interest in history--clues that would then play off
of that).


Clarification of Question by infohelp-ga on 20 Jan 2003 11:03 PST
OK, I think best to only have my kids involved. That means 2 girls (9
& 12) However, as the Hunt will be one of the surprises I'm not quite
sure how to arrange to have them wisked of to be clues without raising
suspision. No matter, not at that level of detail yet.

Yes, for adults, assume 40. However, for those who might be clues, J
has some very good friends who live out of town/country and depending
on their availability I'm going to looking their being "surprise"
clues/party attendees. This may involve 2 individuals, 1 couple &
possibly some extended family members she's not expecting. An
interesting thought on this venue - if some of here good friends from
oversees can't make it over, one or more of the clues might involve a
video linkup with that friend(s) to wish happy b-day and provide the
next clue.

As for J's interests, she loves adventure, activities, is very
athletic. On the other hand, has been obsessing about turning 50 -
although you'd never know it looking at her. She doesn't even look 40!
Thinking out lour, I'm wondering if a little tounge and cheek might be
in order - something along the line of clues that harpoon the act of
aging while requiring lot's of youthful activity to get/figure out the
next clue.

BTW, I'm getting ready to leave for a week of family vacation so I'll
be a bit out of pocket but will be checking email morning/evenings.
Thx and looking forward to your answer.

Subject: Re: For luciaphile-ga only - Wife's 50th Birthday Party - Scavanger Hunts
Answered By: luciaphile-ga on 24 Jan 2003 20:37 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi InfoHelp-ga, 

Thanks for your question. 

The hunts I planned, as I said in my first comment on your main
question, were a lot smaller in terms of attendees (approximately 15
people) and considerably smaller in budget, but the principles behind
constructing a hunt for you are going to be the same. I’ll begin by
giving you a very basic outline of my experiences:

Participants are prepped on the rules. If there is more than one team,
they are either randomly divided into teams or are told which team
they should be on. They are given their first clue and then begin.
Some hunts will have the teams pursue the same route (e.g. much in the
way they do on “The Amazing Race” TV show). Others have them take two
different routes to the same destination. The clues can either be
sequential (Clue #1 leads to Clue #2—without Clue #1, there is no Clue
#2) or amassed together in order to solve a puzzle/determine a
destination. Along the way, clues can be accompanied by prizes for the
team (e.g. a plate of cookies placed in a bus locker) or for a
particular individual (e.g. a rose for the guest of honor). If you
have teams, there’s a prize for reaching the final destination first.
If you don’t have teams, well, there can still be a prize and there’s
also the satisfaction of reaching the end—and sometimes that’s all
that’s required. These things are a lot of fun and often the
enthusiasm builds as the hunt progresses.


I strongly suggest you pre-select your teams for many of the same
reasons you might decide who sits at what table at a wedding. Also,
you want to make sure one team isn’t top heavy with the
problem-solvers/puzzle fiends. You want this to be fair and you want
this to be fun for all.

In terms of routes, my own personal experience has been that different
teams/different routes is a better way to go. However, that also
requires that separate sets of clues and set-up work be done so that
adds significantly to the amount of time and effort involved. I’ve
never done a hunt with the people being clues, but I think that’s a
super idea—timing will be critical though (a physical object will stay
in place unless removed, what happens if your person/clue takes a
restroom break and isn’t there? Or has to wait for a lengthy period of
time? Thankfully, in this age of cell phones, however, that should be
of minimal trouble)

Morale. You’re looking at an all-day event. The idea of providing
comfortable transportation will solve a lot of problems, but I would
suggest planning for refreshments along the way—the reward of food
with clues goes a long way to keeping your teams invested in the hunt.


In terms of your prospective guests, I would also suggest that you
pick a couple of people in advance, one for each team, who will be
given a duplicate set of clues and be apprised of the
answers/procedure and serve as sort of a team facilitator. Clues may
go missing (e.g. someone walks off with them/a gust of wind blows one
away, etc.) or they may be too difficult for a team.

Since you are looking at a comparatively large number of participants
I would recommend dividing your guests into at least two teams
(possibly three, although I think two teams is the way to go) with the
idea that a select number of the guests will be used as “clues”

The reason I suggest two teams is the size of the party. Everywhere
you place a clue, you have to realize that you have the entire team of
approximately 40+ people trailing along. Say one of the clues takes
the party into a store, that’s 40+ people in the store. Added to
which, keeping everyone involved to an enjoyable level, moving at the
same speed, etc. well, it gets very difficult.

You mentioned the difficulty of using your kids as clues without
raising suspicions. A thought I had on this was that you do tell your
wife you’re planning a party for her, but with the idea that since
it’s a party for the grown-ups, you’ve arranged to have someone
baby-sit the kids. Just a thought :)

Back to the preparations. If you have two teams, my suggestion is that
the team led by your wife be peppered with clues more personal to her,
with perhaps some that are generic enough to be solved by other team
members. The other team’s clues could be solely generic or since it’s
in honor of your wife, maybe some of the clues require the team
members to know something about her (e.g. where she went to high
school, a favorite restaurant). You might have some of the clues be at
the same locations (clearly marked for Team A or Team B).

In terms of advance notice, one thing to consider informing the
participants of—dress. Even with transportation, guests will probably
be more comfortable in more practical clothing, especially if you have
clues requiring them to do physical things (e.g. poking around statues
in the park).


Brudenell-ga and the others had some great ideas regarding clue
placements and personalization. Begin by sitting down and
brainstorming. What locations, places, stores, etc. are special to
your wife? Are there places that she patronizes regularly or likes to
go to? How can you personalize the experience? If you think it would
help, maybe swear some of her friends to secrecy and quiz them (maybe
they’d be interested in being the helpers for the hunt itself).

Historical monuments and sculptures have always worked well for the
hunts we’ve done. As long as they’re physically accessible (something
to scope out *ahead* of time), these can be interesting and fun
locations. One of our hunts led a team to a sculpture court in front
of a municipal building; a closer reading of the clue, led them to a
particular statue.

In poking around various web sites on Denver I’ve come up with some
possible locations.

Civic Center Park (looks like it has a good number of cool places to
place clues)

Denver’s City Park

Denver’s Union Station. This sounds rather interesting. Historic train
station. Free admission.

Union Station

This may be a bit too rugged for what you’ve got in mind, but it
sounds interesting: a scenic mountain ridge 12 miles west of Denver.
Free admission and a National Natural Landmark

Dinosaur Ridge

Denver Public Library (hide a clue in a book or in the library

Larimer Square

Washington Park

This may be a bit too rugged for what you’ve got in mind, but it
sounds interesting: a scenic mountain ridge 12 miles west of Denver.
Free admission and a national
Dinosaur Ridge

Cheesman Park (hide a clue in the Pavilion possibly)

Take advantage of public spaces. Or places people might know, but not
be entirely familiar with. These tend to work well. There’s room for a
large group of people. Everyone gets out and about, but I think the
private spaces are just as fun.

I haven’t selected any retail spaces. There, I think you’ll have a
better idea of what will work, that is, favorite shopping places of
your wife’s as well as other specific locations.

Usually this is how it works: the clue gets the team to a store or a
restaurant. In the clue is also a phrase, usually something
nonsensical but distinctive (e.g. “The fat man walks alone” or “I’m
here from the fair.” In return, you get the next clue and possibly an
extra item/prize/gift. As an alternative to having the team(s) say a
particular phrase, perhaps they have to go to a pre-designated person
and answer questions to receive the next clue. For example, the record
store—they need to answer a couple of music trivia questions about
Turner or some other favorite artist correctly. In return, J gets the
CD and they get the clue.

I’m going to throw out some ideas here, but since you know your wife
and I don’t, these are may or may not work. A clue could lead her to a
florist’s. The clue requires her to say something specific to the
clerk and in return she receives the next clue and a bouquet of her
favorite flowers. You could do something similar with a jeweler’s. A
gift could be a certificate for a day at a spa or something that she
would enjoy. She goes to a record store and receives an album/CD of a
favorite performer (perhaps something of Tina Turner’s?) You said
she’s athletic. Maybe a clue might require her to perform a particular
activity at the gym she patronizes in order for her to receive the
next clue. The gifts don’t necessarily have to be elaborate, but it’s
a nice way of building enthusiasm and doing something really special
for your wife at the same time.

Hide a clue in a fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant. The team says
the magic phrase and receives a bag of these. In one of the cookies,
is that next clue.

The video idea is great. An alternative could be the audio tape that
Brudenell-ga suggested (I love the Mission Impossible idea myself.
Wish I’d thought of that). Maybe for one of the people clues, she is
led to a place that is special to them (e.g. a favorite place that
your daughters like to go).

I’m going to reiterate the importance of keeping your team(s) happy
and enthused. In my personal experience, food and prizes are a really
good way to ensure this. You might consider that about midway through
the hunt, a clue takes the team(s) to a restaurant or location where a
meal is available to them. If you want to keep the momentum going,
then have certain strategically placed clues take them to places where
they get snacks. A couple of clues that might take the team(s) into a
store might result in the whole team receiving small prizes.

As far as the number of clues, you’ll need to take into consideration
factors such as distance, weather, and the puzzle-solving ability of
the participants. How long will it take them to get from clue to clue,
even in a limo? If certain locations are unpleasant in May, opt not to
use them (for example, in a hunt I organized, we hid a clue in a
lighthouse on my city’s waterfront. A few days later, an unexpected
cold snap set in and the poor team nearly froze to death looking for
the clue). You want your team to be challenged, but not frustrated. If
on the other hand, you’ve got a ton of puzzle fiends, then consider
raising the bar.

Once you’ve determined your locations and if they’re going to involve
other people (either as clues or to help in getting the clues),
composing the clues is the next step.

I’ve always done rhyming clues. They weren’t elaborate, 4 to 6 lines,
doggerel rhyme in nature. The goal is always to get your team(s) from
one location to the next and keep them apprised of any special
instructions they made need (“the open sesame” phrase or locker
combinations or whatever’s required). There are lots of different
options though. You can get more complex with word puzzles and so on.
Just remember that if the clues are more complicated, you’ll need
fewer of them. You might also try to incorporate orienteering skills
into the clue.

You’ll need to approach or have someone else approach whatever
individuals and retail establishments you plan to use. In my
experience, I’ve never had a problem with this. Most people are
friendly and willing to help. It’s a fun, interesting kind of activity
and if you’re buying something (especially if you’re buying
something), they’re glad to play along.

Clues will need to be planted. If they’re affixed in public spaces,
you’ll want to make sure they’re secure and not too obvious (nothing
like a total stranger walking off with your clue).


After your guests are in place, you’ll need to begin by dividing up
your teams and explaining the rules of the game. A thought I had was
that you could start with a light brunch of sorts and do this during
or after the brunch.

The team(s) are presented with the first clue and begin. 

Your coordinators/facilitators will be key here. They can smooth over
problems (lost clues or a team gets stumped) and keep everyone on
track as needed. They can also possibly keep in touch with the other
team coordinator and keep each other apprised of their team’s

Have fun. 


Well, that rather depends on your plans for where you’re taking your
wife. It would be nice to end with a wrap up party or meal for the
guest with maybe a prize for whichever team came in first, or favors
for all participants.


This site offers excerpts from a book on the subject, but they may be
helpful (I don’t necessarily agree with everything that the author
suggests, but he highlights a lot of things that you need to keep in

Treasure and Scavenger Hunts

There are a good number of organizations that sell hunts of various
kinds or help plan these things. In light of the fact, however, that
Serenata-ga is handling that part of your question, I’ll leave that

Search strategy
Google search:
Denver attractions
Denver “city search”
Denver monuments
“treasure hunts” planning
“scavenger hunts” planning

I hope this answers your question. If you need clarification, just ask
and I’ll do my best to assist you. Best of luck to you and your wife.


Request for Answer Clarification by infohelp-ga on 25 Jan 2003 00:02 PST

Just got back from an extordinary family ski vacation (our kids are
awesome!). I've only done a quick review of your answer but wanted to
get a quick response off:

I'll review in more detail, but on first review - great answer!

An RFAC that comes to mind: although 40+ friends may be involved,
based on your answer and my now improved understanding of what these
Treasure Hunts are all about, would it work, logistically speaking, to
create mini member "teams" (10 people per team), focused on woking
together to get the next clue/answer to J. In other words, the "teams"
work independantly but also collectively, driven by collective team
spirit, (we'll need comm. equip.), helping J get where she needs to go
with the least stress and mosst fun possible.  We could off course
have rewards at the end for those teams most effective at helping J
reach the final answer. Thoughts/Questions?

Clarification of Answer by luciaphile-ga on 25 Jan 2003 13:10 PST
Hi InfoHelp-ga,

That's an interesting spin actually. 10 is a pretty good number to
work with as a team. Easier in terms of movement, but also enough to
get a good group dynamic going. I still strongly suggest that you have
a coordinator per team. If I understand your premise correctly, then I
think this could work. Cell phones would probably be sufficient.

What if you designed it so that while the clues have their separate
components (i.e. gets the team to X to get the next clue), but that
there is one big puzzle that you need all the clues to solve? Maybe
like a letter on each clue that together forms a message to J?

You could have a mix of stuff. Maybe Team 2 finds a clue and has to
contact J via cell phone to figure out where they have to go next or
where she has to go. Or J's team finds a clue that sends Team 4 off to

I think it could work. What you'll need to do initially is start with
some ideas. Treat it like brainstorming with the notion that it's
entirely possible, some of what you come up with may not work.
Evaluate also who you're planning on inviting and see if you can come
up with some ways to work off of those people (clues that have meaning
to them because of their friendship with your wife, e.g. a school
friend will have that shared experience).

There are a lot of ways you could go with this.

infohelp-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Great answer, I especially like your final commments on how to work
teams as a collective, all working to help J reach her final answer.

Subject: Re: For luciaphile-ga only - Wife's 50th Birthday Party - Scavanger Hunts
From: austin_trill-ga on 20 Jan 2003 16:49 PST
I'd say to have her go with a team, but you might give the team leader
a few more clues so that her team has a little head start. 
Alternatively, you could leave a separate secret note for each team
and they can have a decoder (either a cryptogram key or a colored
piece of plastic and special colors on the notes).
Subject: Re: For luciaphile-ga only - Wife's 50th Birthday Party - Scavanger Hunts
From: brudenell-ga on 02 Feb 2003 12:07 PST
Hello Infohelp-ga

I have left a new comment at: Wife's 50th Birthday - Extrordinay Ideas
for something really memorable. You and your girls may enjoy another
avenue to make your wife's birthday even more memorable.

Have fun


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