Obviously I like a good puzzle. I’ve done a few escape rooms (including one I haven’t written about here), and the most monstrous and brain-tangling of all scavenger hunts in DC. My friends know that I’m competitive, and that I like to challenge my brain. So for Christmas, our friends A & D gave us a gift certificate to a company called Watson Adventures which runs public, private and corporate scavenger hunts in major cities across the country in various museums and public spaces. And oh, our friends had already signed up for a hunt already, would we like to join them? Yes. Yes we would.
*Note here – the gift certificate redemption system is flawed. I was warned by A in advance that I would probably need to email customer service, and I think customer service knows it’s a problem too. They were able to put in our gift certificate credit very easily, so it wasn’t that much of an issue – just a little bit of email tag.
We showed up at the National Museum of American History a little early to get in line and go through security early enough so that we wouldn’t have to worry about the line delaying our start time for the hunt. And because I’m painfully punctual when I am able, we were there 15 minutes early. This gave us time to put our coats in a locker, use the bathroom, get a drink of water, stretch our limbs and sign the waiver that indemnified Watson Adventures against us suing them if we did something stupid over the course of the hunt. We eventually came up with a team name (“The Bull Moose-stache Party” – since D has a pretty sweet looking ‘stache, and it was history themed), and prepared ourselves.
At the time the hunt started, we gathered around the leader and were told the story of the murder which had recently happened in this very museum. We were told to look for the main witness along our path, and to use the test we had just been given to help solve the mystery. Groups were given different starting points staggered throughout the museum, each team member received the clue/question list, and one answer sheet per team. We had two hours. And then we scattered.
I will say that we did visit a lot of exhibits that I haven’t been in before – or some that have been recently renovated and are different. But when you’re on a mission to find answers, it’s easy to be looking for a specific item, and not focus on the exhibits themselves. This is not the hunt to do in an effort to really see the museum – it’s better for those who are familiar with the surroundings and focused on the game instead of seeing all the interesting bits. That is to say – I wouldn’t do one of these hunts in a museum or place I was visiting for the first time. We finished about 30 minutes before the scheduled end time, and so made our way to the small cafe on the first floor where we’d started. The Boy and I split a piece of sweet potato pecan pie from the LeRoy Neiman Jazz Cafe that was surprisingly good, despite being cold from the case.
And then it was time to return to the beginning. We handed in our answer sheet and all hunt materials (so that they don’t end up posted on the internet by spoil-sport bloggers – notice how I’m keeping my “content of the hunt” portion vague?), and waited while the results were tallied. There’s no extra points for finishing early (so that they don’t accidentally encourage people to race through the museum and knock down other visitors), but those who were late suffered a penalty. There were 20 questions total (I think?), and the final “Who did it” and “How” were each worth three points. A perfect score was 26, and four teams achieved that while we were there. A final tie-breaker gave a point in history that we all had to try and guess closest to…
…and our team won. The tie-breaker question was right in our wheelhouse. And that’s right – they hand out medals. Which is even better than just being declared the winners – having your photo taken wearing a medal and then getting to take it home and feel like you accomplished something is super cool.
So – to sum up: we had a lot of fun. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, it could have been harder and I would have been totally ok with that. And I definitely wouldn’t do it in a place that I was visiting for the first time because then you would hardly get a chance to explore that new museum or location. But if you are close to one of their locations (Boston, Chicago, L.A., New York, Philly, San Francisco or DC), it’s definitely a fun outing, and worth your time.