A couple of us were reminiscing about our childhood and playing scavenger hunts and how they helped build great friendships. Fast forward to adulthood and corporate life, we find that scavenger hunts are great as team-building activities too. So, we decided to make a list of scavenger hunt ideas and quiz each other at every given opportunity.
American columnist Elsa Maxwell has been credited for popularizing scavenger hunts in the USA way back in the 1930s. The game became so popular that now May 24 is celebrated as the National Scavenger Hunt Day.
Unlike Escape Rooms, you can organize a scavenger hunt to build healthy competition amongst your teammates. They are great for people of all ages and give you a great adrenaline rush that a good challenge and puzzle always do - the recent Pokémon Go is a classic example.
So, put on your thinking hats, and digging boots – let us delve into the world of creating your own scavenger hunt.
1 What is a Scavenger Hunt?
A scavenger hunt is a game in which the host prepares a list describing specific items, which then the participants have to search and gather. It usually consists of small teams, but individual members can also participate. The descriptions are usually in the form of riddles or puzzles and the players have to decipher the item or the place where it is ‘hidden’.
It has also evolved to include scavenging for/with different activities, and thanks to the pandemic, virtual scavenger hunts have also become popular. The winner of a scavenger hunt is usually the first person or team to collect the most/all the items on the list.
2 How to organize a Scavenger Hunt for your team?
- Select your locations
Any place and every place is a great scavenger hunt idea. Be it indoors or outdoors, just study the place beforehand so that you can draft accurate clues esp for outdoor locations.
- Plan the map
One clue has to lead to the other – so make sure you also consider the route you want the players to take.
- Prepare your clues
Anything can be a clue – a puzzle, riddle, poem. Or you can even hide the clue in plain sight just to confuse the players. Take help from a trustworthy person and get creative.
- Bury/hide your clues
If you are doing this outdoors, make sure the places you have chosen are not easily accessible by strays or nosy humans – anyone that can sabotage the scavenging. Hide your clues securely along the path you have chosen.
- Set the rules, send the invites
Chart out your rules for the game – it can be the actual rules, or some wacky ones like “the stranger with whom you will have to take a selfie should not be smiling”. Create an invite apt for your theme and send it to your team.
Whether you and your team prefer an indoor or outdoor scavenger hunt, here are some great ideas for both.
3 Indoor Scavenger Hunt Ideas
Indoor scavenger hunt ideas are great to enliven an otherwise boring day within four walls. It would not take a lot of your time, can also be a short team-building activity within the office premises.
3.1 Photo and Video Scavenger Hunt Ideas
This idea is as simple as it sounds – give the participants clues on items present around the house and the first one to take a snap or video of it takes the lead. You can even frame riddles as a way for the players to guess the item before they can go rushing off to snap it – you can do this for more obvious clues like an entire room, kitchen, etc
- A pillow with a hint of brown. Not a print, but a well-hidden coffee stain
- Exactly half squeezed toothpaste. Do not leave this in the bathroom.
- Pair of shoes each hidden in different parts of the house
- A specific newspaper clipping
- Dog food hidden in a cat food can. Or vice versa. Players have to find the odd one out from a bunch of identical cans.
- A doorbell that’s not at the front of the house
- The backyard – Give clues describing the backyard and make sure no one has seen it before. If they have, make changes to it and base your clue on the changes.
- A remote control. Switch the TV remote with the music system remote. Or remove the batteries to the remote and they have to find the batteries and take a video of them connecting it and powering on the TV with it.
- A specific key amongst a few identical ones, or among a large bunch of keys.
- Lint from the washing machine. Our suggestion – Do not clear the lint for a couple of loads of laundry before the D-day.
3.2 Themed Scavenger Hunt Ideas
Everything is fun with a theme. Set a theme to your scavenger hunt with something that is relevant to the occasion -
1. Work-themed scavenger hunt ideas
This is especially great if you are holding the scavenger hunt in your office premises
- Snap a selfie near the water cooler or coffee machine that’s on a different floor
- Find two people who are on a call during their break and take a selfie with them
- Go to the newest employee and have a conversation with them, at the end of which they will hand over the clue.
2. Celebration-themed scavenger hunt ideas
Combine any celebratory event and a team outing and organize this two-in-one fun activity
- Scatter birthday party-related items around the house (concealed well, of course), and you will have a party only when all the items are found
- “Hide” a teammate’s family member, or even better, their valentine, somewhere in the building, and give clues for the other partner to find them out.
3. Festival-themed scavenger hunt ideas
For those weekend getaways before holidays
- Combine scavenger hunt with secret Santa, inspire the players to find out who their Santa is
- Hide mini stockings in most unobvious places – like inside the false ceiling, in between the paper cups in the water cooler storage, etc.
- Hide your clues inside one candy and hide a ghost chili pepper in the rest. Give a basket of these to each player or team – a spicy trick or treat scavenger hunt
- De-carve the turkey. Hide parts of a turkey puzzle around and the players need to scavenge them and put together a complete picture of the bird.
4. Digital scavenger hunt ideas
For the gadget, social media, and internet aficionados
- Re-enact a specific viral Tiktoc along with your teammate(s)
- Find a funny meme that describes you and share it. Fastest will get the lead
- Sign up with an organizer like GooseChase and play the scavenger hunt game online
- The good ol’ virtual scavenger hunt – for those times when you want a team outing virtually.
5. Reverse scavenger hunt ideas
Let the game lead the players to the puzzle
- Scatter or hide pieces of a jigsaw puzzle around the house, players will have to retrieve each piece and complete the jigsaw.
- Puzzle-ception. Chart out small riddles to find out the missing or all the pieces to a 3-D puzzle. Players have to find them all, put them together, and complete the 3-D puzzle.
4 Outdoor Scavenger Hunt ideas
Outdoor scavenger hunt ideas are perfect for those team outings over the weekend, or you wish to organize an elaborate employee engagement activity. In these cases, your scavenger hunt can be one of the activities too by decreasing the number of items to be found.
4.1 What do you put on an outdoor scavenger hunt?
The idea here is to utilize as much of the outdoors as possible. You can bring items of your own and place it around the neighborhood, or even the city. You can also “use” people in this - by adding a simple activity involving a stranger or have a neighbor take over the responsibility of a clue. With the outdoors, you can put on any kind or number of items - the sky is the limit.
4.2 Photo and Video Scavenger Hunt Ideas
Maybe not as easy as the indoor one, but definitely just as fun. Send your team on a heart-racing scavenger hunt around the block, or maybe even the city – Hey, you’re the host, it's your choice! *evil grin*
- Go to the other end of the block and take a photo with something that rhymes with “dog”.
- Share a selfie with a street performer on a specific street.
- Recreate your favourite vacation photo in a similar location within the city
- Find any famous person’s statue and imitate the posture, take a photo.
- Get into a mall, imitate random people walking around (without their knowledge), and have your partner capture a video
- Take a groupfie with random people on the street with everyone making a different emoji face.
- Stand by a busy crossroad, pretend you are a reporter and interview someone on the street. Brownie points for creativity on the topic of “interview”
- Have kids explain what they think being an adult means – record it as a video.
- Imitate a famous vlogger in front of the oldest building in the vicinity.
- Find a silly local sign and take a selfie with it.
4.3 Neighborhood Scavenger hunt ideas
This is really challenging if every player is new to the neighborhood. Just make sure they are indeed in the neighborhood beforehand.
- Find the carwash with a specific name, go through the car wash and find the clue at the end.
- Find the neighbor's house with a squeaky gate.
- The garden gnome that is the odd one out
- Find a neighbor wearing the same color tee as you and take a selfie with them. Brownie points if completely identical.
- Find a specific kind of abnormality on the sidewalk for the next clue. The abnormality can be anything from an Africa-shaped crack to an image of IT stuck on the sidewalk.
- Go to the nearest park, take pictures of three different animals found there.
4.4 Easter-themed Scavenger Hunt Ideas
- A true-blue Easter egg hunt. Add a clue card along with the egg that will guide the player to the next location. Mix it up a bit, and give clues such that it might mean two locations. Hide an egg in one location and a scathingly funny remark on the other
4.5 Geocaching – GPS-themed Scavenger Hunt Ideas
Geocaching is a GPS-based sort of scavenger hunt organized at a large level wherein participants have to follow coordinates across the world using a GPS device to seek a container with a logbook. The participant enters their name in the logbook and leaves the clue as they found it.
- You need not send your team across the world, but maybe within the city, and have the players leave their log entries with their name and time stamp. Points can be awarded on a first come first served basis
- You can also twist it up and give plain GPS-related clues – go to these coordinates, take 10 steps to the left, walk up to the doorman there to get your next clue
- Find the nearest Mexican restaurant and check-in on social media along with the photo of your teammate.
4.6 Team building Scavenger Hunt Ideas
- Go to your CEO, have a 2-minute conversation with them. (Make sure that the boss is on board beforehand)
- Show a random act of kindness to a stranger together
- Find out how many fire extinguishers are there in your office building
- Go to your cafeteria and take a goofy selfie with the vendors there
- Walk up to a colleague having lunch, and describe what they are having, MasterChef style, on video.
5.1 How do you organize a scavenger hunt for adults?
- Select the locations for your clues
- Plan the order of clue retrieval. You can also add in some faux clues to throw them off the track but make sure you tell the players beforehand about the presence of dummy clues.
- Prepare your clues accordingly – be it the actual clues, riddles to the clues, etc.
- Hide your clues. If involving other people make sure you speak to them beforehand and get permission.
- Arrive on the D-day and start the game!
5.2 How many items should be on a scavenger hunt?
The average number of items on a scavenger hunt is about 10-15. It can, however, vary with the time duration and complexity of the puzzles. For simple puzzles and an indoor scavenger hunt, you can even go up to 20-25 items to be scavenged within an hour. A city-wide GPS-based day-long outdoor scavenger hunt can have about 5-7.
5.3 What are some good scavenger hunt clues?
Most scavenger hunt clues are riddles that will either reveal the “treasure”, the next clue, or the location of the clue. You can write your own riddles for the objects or people or places you have chosen as clues. You can also use the clue generator like Treasure Run and let the AI do the work for you.
5.4 What are some examples of different types of scavenger hunts?
- Photo and Video scavenger hunts
- Virtual scavenger hunts
- Digital and Internet-based scavenger hunts
- Workplace scavenger hunt
- School or college campus scavenger hunt
- Neighbourhood, malls, parks, and other places-based scavenger hunts
- Holiday-themed scavenger hunts
- Celebration themed scavenger hunts
- Movies and fiction based scavenger hunts