Tuesday, April 28, 2009 by Dave Blum

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to create one of my scavenger hunts at the Grand Del Mar Resort, just north of San Diego.  Now, the Grand Del Mar is a *beautiful* property, with two pools, a golf course, a world-class gourmet restaurant, you name it: everything you’d want for a luxurious stay in a secluded setting.  But it’s got a problem when it comes to treasure hunt clues:  the Del Mar just doesn’t have a lot of suitable locations for a scavenger hunt list.

So, what do I mean when I say”suitable”?  Well, in our business team building exercises, each clue takes the form of a puzzle or code that leads to a specific mystery location.  The way a participant validates that he’s visited the correct location is by answering a specific question, generally taken from signage at that location.  So for example, let’s say you’re in Denver and your corporate scavenger hunt clue solves to “Go to the corner of Market and 16th and look for a sweet building.  According to the plaque, what was the name of this sweet structure?”  Off you go to the required corner, looking for a historical plaque.  The signage you find there indicates your answer is the Sugar Building; you write down “sugar” and you’re finished with the clue.  Get it?

Signs and plaques are the stock and trade of treasure hunt creators, whether you’re gathering scavenger hunt ideas for a group of friends or constructing an office team building activity for a corporate client.  So what do you do, then, when faced with a treasure hunt location (like a resort) that has no plaques or signage of any kind?  In a word, you improvise.

Almost anything with words is fair game.  At the Del Mar, for example, you find a number of paintings around the property depicting famous golf courses.  As each one is labeled (August, St. Andrews, etc.), you can use the names as the answer to your clue questions.  Much  of the signage is in both English, for the sighted, and in Braille, for the sight impaired; you can use this.  Ordinary objects are fair game as well — as long as they have numbers and letters stencilled onto them; I’m talking about fire hydrants, lamp posts, utility boxes, whatever.   And if worst comes to worst, you can always create your own signage.  One of my favorite tricks is using small, sticky adhesive letters.  Let’s say you write a clue leading to the tennis courts.  All you need to do is put the sticky letters “LOB” on the water fountain and voila, you’ve got the raw materials for the clue: “Head over to the tennis courts and have a drink.  What kind of stroke to you find there?”

When it comes to scavenger hunt ideas, let the location AND your creativity be your guide.  I’m actually looking forward to writing the Del Mar hunt–it’s going to take all my ingenuity. 🙂