How to Host a Scavenger Hunt Party

  • 01 of 02

    Host a Scavenger Hunt Party

    Children's scavenger hunt
    Pirate themed scavenger hunt. Hero Images / Getty Images

    Childhood scavenger hunts are undeniable fun. But a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt can make a wildly memorable party theme for any college kid or 20-something too, especially if you use Stanford’s freshman welcome week hunt – or CBS-TV’s “Amazing Race” – as inspiration.

    In this beloved college tradition, Stanford sends freshmen fanning out across San Francisco in teams, toting tote cameras (or camera phones) and a lengthy list of quirky, hilarious and occasionally edgy options to experience,...MORE capture and bring back, scavenger-hunt style. No one is ever eliminated, and though there are significant bragging rights to be earned by completing the most items on the list, the fun lies in the adventure and the journey. It’s a great way to explore a city and a perfect party idea for any town. (And it makes a great 18th birthday party idea too.)

    In addition to compiling the all-important list of hunt “items,” you’ll need to designate a starting and ending point, bearing in mind that returning hunters may straggle in over a period of hours, unless you give them a deadline - or better yet, a cake-time. So here are a few tips, a timeline and a list of sample scavenger hunt possibilities to get you started.

    The Party Timeline

    • Two weeks before: Send out invitations. Be sure to tell guests to wear comfortable shoes and to bring a jacket, sunscreen, and water. Each team will need a camera or cell phone with camera – which everyone carries anyway these days – to provide photographic evidence of task completion.

      Start compiling a scavenger hunt list with at least 20 items, but no more than 50, depending on how creative you want to be and how long the party. (Ideas on the next page!)
    • A week before: Make any necessary arrangements for specific challenges. Depending on the length of the party, you may want to provide sack lunches or have one of the challenges involve food. They could learn to toss a pizza, for example, at a pizzeria where you’ve made arrangements for lunch too. You won't need big prizes for the winners, but awarding big gaudy ribbons or goofy plastic trophies is always fun.
    • Party time: Divide the group into teams of four to six people, and explain the rules: Teams must stay together. Don’t do anything that breaks the law, destroys property or irritates other people. Safety comes first. Be courteous, especially when challenges involve bystanders. Be sure to specify the return time and make sure everyone has your cell phone number in case they run into trouble. Then give them their lists and pencils, and turn them loose.
    • The return: It’s fun to start downloading photos as soon as the first group returns, so guests can watch the slide show while they relax and enjoy a slice of cake and their "awards."
    Continue to 2 of 2 below.
  • 02 of 02

    Sample Scavenger Hunt Items for a Great Party

    Players clutch their apples and consult their cell phones for the next item during a Comic-Con scavenger hunt. Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Fox

    Throwing a party? Here are a dozen sample scavenger hunt items to get you started. Players do the task, snap a pic and bring back photographic evidence of task completion.

    • Do an interpretive dance in the lobby of the modern art museum.
    • Start a conga line in the subway station.​
    • Converse with tourists in their native language. (Zero points if the tourists are from England, Australia or another English-speaking country.)​
    • Find the XYZ Pizzeria. Convince the pizzaiolo to give you a pizza dough-tossing...MORE lesson. Then top your pizza, bake it and enjoy it before moving on to the next item.​​
    • Run a relay race through an intersection’s worth of crosswalks. Obey all traffic and walk-don’t-walk lights. Extra points if you can get bystanders to cheer.​​
    • Collect at least 10 signatures on a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide. Explain to passersby that this chemical, a major component in industrial solvents and coolants, is fatal if inhaled. (You don't need to tell them it's H2O.)​
    • Do an impromptu poetry reading in a bookstore. Extra points if bystanders finger-snap their appreciation.​
    • Perform a show tune on the steps of the opera house or symphony hall.
    • Pose with a statue.​
    • Get your face made up at Sephora or the Mac cosmetics counter of a department store. Extra points if you’re male.​​
    • Get a body part autographed by a police officer.​
    • Learn to do the cha-cha (or the ballroom dance of your choice) from a bystander.

    Need more ideas? Instead of specific places or activities, you can give your hunters the GPS coordinates and send them on a geocaching expedition where they'll have to figure out what to do when they arrive.