Wednesday, November 19, 2008 by Dave Blum

In my last entry, I suggested that a great hunt location is:
1) Relatively flat in terrain
2) Large enough to get lost in
3) Packed with historic signage and public art

I would also add that the hunt area should ideally possess the indefinable quality of “atmosphere”.  While walking through the area, you should feel that you’re in a special, timeless place with decades of stories to tell.

So what are some of my favorite locations for treasure hunts and scavenger hunts?  The predictable ones:

1) New Orleans French Quarter:  The Quarter satisfies all the criteria above.  It’s small and self-contained.  You can get lost in the maze of streets.  And the atmosphere is brilliant.  Nearly every turn brings you to an interesting plaque or a statue.  A great hunt location all around, like stepping back in time.

2) San Francisco North Beach/Chinatown:  This classic hunt location offers a rabbit warren of small streets and alleys.  There are ample signs and statues to encounter.  And the atmosphere makes you feel like you’re alternately in Europe and then in the backstreets of Shanghai.  It is a bit hilly, though, but you can mostly work around that.

3) Paris Louvre:  Perhaps the greatest art museum in the world, the Louvre is just a fabulous treasure hunt area.  It’s not “flat” exactly, but you can use elevators to get most everywhere.  The building is a complete labyrinth; you can go a whole week without seeing another team.  And well, there’s no end to fascinating clue locations.  What I love about the Louvre is the sense of discovery you get while en route from clue location to clue location.  “Oh, look, there’s the Venus De Milo.”  “Hey, is that a Michelangelo?”

And perhaps less predictable:

1) Downtown Orlando:  When I was scouting Orlando for a non-theme-park location, I stumbled across the wonderful downtown area.  Atmosphere it does not have.  But the downtown district is perfect in size and better yet, it offers an *amazing* amount of public art–probably the most statues and murals I’ve seen anywhere.

2) Denver LoDo:  Short for Lower Downtown, LoDo is a former warehouse district with a blue-collar, red-brick atmosphere.  Many of the old buildings still have the original advertisements painted on the walls, giving the area a 1940’s-50’s bygone-era atmosphere.  Moreover, the city planners in Denver clearly prized the area’s history; nearly every block has a historical plaque.  A nice, flat 6X6-block treasure hunt area.

3) Charleston, South Carolina:  Walking a hunt in Charleston is like exploring a lost American colony.   It’s got New Orleans’ atmosphere, without the French feeling (or omnipresent bars).  It’s walkable, and George Washington slept everywhere in Charleston, or so it seems.

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