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A Geocaching Party for College Kids or Teens
With more than a million geocaches stashed around the world, is it any wonder so many are hidden on college campuses? College kids, teens and 20somethings are huge fans of geocaching. Here's how to turn that enthusiasm into a great outing - or memorable birthday party for an 18-year-old ... or 20-year-old ... or heck, 45-year-old.
In a nutshell, geocaching is a high tech, outdoor treasure hunt that uses GPS coordinates to locate hidden caches or "treasure" boxes. The coordinates,... descriptions and clues for 1.265 million of those caches are listed on the official geocaching website. Membership is free and any member can download the cache information and go treasure hunting, armed with nothing more esoteric than an iPhone or other GPS-equipped smart phone, and decent walking shoes.
But GPS coordinates only get you to the general area. You still have to find the cache - and it's the cleverness of both hiding place and clue that make this so much fun. It also makes it a perfect outdoor adventure for a group of teens, college kids or 20somethings. Here's how to turn the activity into a party...
But first, if you need a quick primer on what geocaching is, its college connection and the fun phone apps that help you hide-and-seek, here's a guide to geocaching.Continue to 2 of 3 below.
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Plan a Geocaching Party for College Kids and Teens
Whether it's your teen's 18th birthday party, or you're providing culinary and planning support for your college kid's or 20-something's geocaching party (or planning a shindig of your own), there are two ways to host one of these. You'll be sending the crew out on a GPS treasure hunt that ends at an elaborate birthday picnic site or favorite pub or diner. So you can either use pre-existing caches and add coordinates for one more - the post-geocaching party venue - or... hide your own caches and track the GPS coordinates.
- Pre-existing Caches: Using caches from the geocaching website are an easy option, especially when they form a natural grouping - like some of the campus caches. They're relatively close together and often thematic, which is always fun. A quick check online to make sure those caches have been visited in recent weeks, and therefore still exist, will help ensure success. (Younger kids and newbies of any age will have a lower threshold for frustration, if they have trouble finding caches. College kids and 20somethings are not only less likely to get frustrated, they're probably better at finding this stuff!)
- DIY Caches: Hide your own caches, and you'll know exactly where they are. Better yet, you can pack the cache boxes with birthday-specific props. (More ideas on that in a moment.) Pack three (or more) cache boxes, and find a matching number of sneaky locations, a quarter mile or more apart, on public land or your property. Caveat: mysterious boxes hidden in public places can be mistaken for security threats or, well, bombs. So hide your boxes at the last possible moment and mark them on the outside as a "Geocaching Birthday Box" or something similarly reassuring, with a note asking passersby to leave it in place. (P.S. Don't register one-time-only caches on the geocaching website. It's not only against the site's rules, it's frustrating for fellow geocachers. Plus, you run the risk of avid geocachers, who are not in your group, getting to the private caches first.)
- Picnic Central: Choose a final destination - a great picnic site, burger joint, gastropub, or home. Capture the GPS coordinates for this and any DIY cache sites with your iPhone by going to the exact location. Open the maps application and drop a pin to mark it. Click the little blue arrow next to the address pop-up, then click "share location" to e-mail the coordinates to yourself. Voila.
Then...Continue to 3 of 3 below.
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Geocaching Party Invitations and Food
You've got your party plan, your cache locations and your birthday boy or girl. Now it's time to send out invites - evites or paper - and plan the surprises, including a great picnic menu.
Evites are an easy way to send invitations, but if you're looking for a fun and surprising paper version, this DIY pop-up invite is just the ticket. Instead of using polka-dot paper for the cover, as pictured in the example, use road or topographic maps. The invitation should tell guests to... expect an outdoor, geocaching adventure, and tell them to wear layers and good walking shoes.
Guests should assemble at a central gathering place, so they can get the lowdown on what the day holds, and download their GPS coordinates. Depending on the size of the group, you may want to split into groups, which can race to complete the challenges before gathering at the final set of coordinates for a picnic.
Caches of any sort are fun, but if you go the DIY cache route, you can stash party supplies in the boxes - fluorescent feather boas, party hats, noisemakers or, if you're doing this at dusk or nightfall, flashlights, glow sticks, necklaces and bracelets. By the time your partygoers arrive at the final party coordinates, it will be quite obvious who has or has not found all the caches!
An outdoor treasure hunt is cool, but arriving at mysterious coordinates to discover an elaborate picnic already set up is sheer magic. Choose a meadow or glade that can be approached from a trail, to maximize the partygoers' experience - but that also has easy roadside access, so you can load in equipment discreetly. You'll need a buffet table and drinks station, blankets for lounging, and refreshments. Anything you pack in must be packed out too, and anything glass or breakable is a bad idea.
Choose a color scheme - the colors from a plaid blanket, perhaps, or blue enamel camping ware - to guide your decorations. Add lanterns and candles - the battery-powered kind. Pick a simple menu, such as baguettes filled with salami and arugula or tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella; bountiful salads; brownies, blondies and birthday cupcakes. Do a swanky variation on lemonade, an Italian soda bar - fizzy water and fruit syrups - or hot cocoa station. And don't forget to bring trash bags for hauling out debris.