Childhood scavenger hunts were an endless source of fun. But a scavenger hunt can make a wildly memorable party theme for any age group, especially if you have New York City for inspiration. In this beloved game, groups of people fan out across the city with a camera and a lengthy list of quirky and hilarious tasks to accomplish, document, and bring back. 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.
A great way to explore a city is through its food. New York City is a melting pot of different ethnic dishes and has its own iconic dishes that are envied the world over, making it the perfect location for a food-focused scavenger hunt.
The most important part of the scavenger hunt is creating the list of hunt items. This list can range from snapping pictures of monuments and buildings to ordering from a certain coffee house to finding people who meet specific descriptions. For this hunt, have the hunters find the best iconic dishes of New York City. Some examples: a classic New York cheesecake, Manhattan clam chowder, bagels, pizza, bialys, Jewish rye bread, pastrami, and hot dogs. Instead of sending guests out to find their favorite versions, create activities that incorporate each dish of classic New York cuisine.
Some activities to consider:
- Take a pizza-making class
- Go on an eating tour of the West Side to taste delicious Jewish dishes
- Try the two of the six best bagels around
- Have a taste test of which coffee is better: Starbucks or the local café
- Ask five people on the street where they get their favorite pizza and go to at least one of the places.
In addition to creating the list of hunt items, you’ll also have to establish a start and end time for the scavenger hunt; otherwise hunters will straggle in over a period of hours.
Here's our timeline for putting on the perfect scavenger hunt.
Two weeks before:
Send out invitations. Be sure to tell guests to wear comfortable shoes and clothing and to bring sunscreen and water. You will need an RSVP on the invitation. Start compiling a list of tasks for the scavenger hunt — aim for at least 20 but no more than 50.
A week before:
Make any necessary arrangements for specific challenges.
Divide the group into teams of four to six people, and explain the rules.
- Teams must stay together.
- Each group will be given a map of the city, a public transportation map, and a camera to take pictures to provide photographic evidence of completion of the task.
- No taxis allowed. For transportation from one place to another you can walk, take the bus, or take the subway. Remember, part of this scavenger hunt is to help you learn the city better and you will never learn if you are relying on taxis to get you everywhere.
- Cellphones cannot be used to look up anything. All information should come from group members.
Also, be sure to specify the return time and make sure everyone has the organizer's cellphone number in case they run into trouble. Then, give them their lists and turn them loose.
It’s fun to start downloading photos as soon as the first group returns, so guests can watch the slideshow while they relax and enjoy a slice of cake and whatever treats you see fit. Be sure to have snacks and drinks for the tired hunters to enjoy while they unwind. After all that eating, your guests are going to need something to drink, so try whipping up a few iconic New York City drinks.