and Treasure Hunts at Walt Disney World
by Jennifer Watson, Author of PassPorter Travel Guides
Walt Disney World is rich with delightful details -- it's one of the reasons why many of us like it so much. It's fun to stumble across these details while touring, but it's even more fun to discover them intentionally. How do you do this? Challenge yourself or your family with a scavenger or treasure hunt!
For those of you new to hunts, let's explain how they work. Traditionally, a scavenger hunt requires that you gather as many of the listed items as possible. A treasure hunt, on the other hand, requires that you find and solve clues that lead to the goal. Hunts can be done alone, or as a competition between two or more people or teams. We've seen hunts last anywhere from half an hour to an entire day!
At Walt Disney World, most hunts involve finding answers to questions, rather than collecting objects. The first hunt we created at Disney was for a group of 30. Their goal was to find answers to 20 questions about Mickey's Toontown Fair. We split the group into teams of four, gave them each the list of questions, and wished them luck. One hour later they were back at the starting point with the list of answers in their hands!
You can also "scavenge" a bit at Walt Disney World as well. Two years ago we participated in the RADP Scavenger Hunt hosted by our friends Jeff, Jen, and Peter. This all-day scavenger hunt required you gather answers to questions, but also asked you to pick up various items, such as guidemaps, pamphlets, FASTPASSes, certificates, etc.
So how do you participate in a hunt? Your first challenge is to either find one that already exists, or create one yourself. We discuss our tips for each of these tasks below:
100 Magic Kingdom Memories Challenge - This is a free, seasonal hunt for annual passholders, available from the Town Square Exposition Hall in the Magic Kingdom. If you're an annual passholder, you can show your pass to a cast member at the Expo Hall to get a sheet of 100 questions. We anticipate it will disappear at the end of the 100 Years of Magic Celebration. Not a passholder? You can't win the free litho by answering all the questions, but you can see the questions and play on your own. The folks at RealDisney.com have all 100 questions up at their site -- you'll find them at RealDisney.com. We did this hunt in September and had a blast! We found all of the answers in about five hours.
Group Scavenger Hunts - Several Disney fan groups -- notably RADP (rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup) and our own PassPorter community -- host hunts for anyone who wants to participate. Our most recent PassPorter/RADP hunt was for Walt's Birthday last December -- we plan to host another hunt at our next Gathering. If you attend the RADP Meets, the Annual RADP Scavenger Hunt is open to everyone! This is an all-day hunt and a wonderful challenge. We were on the winning team for the first hunt in 2000, and on the organizing team in 2001. (Alas, we couldn't participate in 2002 due to other commitments.) Teams of 3-4 are required. Get more information and register at http://www.tiggerfan.net/jeffc/scavenger2002.htm
Family Magic Tour - This is technically a "guided tour" (see page 242 of PassPorter 2002) but it has elements of a treasure hunt within it. The two-hour tour takes you on an interactive adventure through the Magic Kingdom to solve a mystery in the company of a Disney villain (such as Captain Hook or Maleficent). The tour, which is held at 10:00 am daily, is open to all ages for $25/person. You can reserve spots by calling 407-WDW-TOUR or by stopping at City Hall at the Magic Kingdom. We haven't had the opportunity to try this tour ourselves, but it sounds like a fun and easy way to have a little treasure hunt on your vacation.
Older Scavenger Hunts - By this we mean scavenger hunts done by others in the past. While some of the questions and answers may have changed with the rise and fall of attractions, much of the hunt will still be playable. The RADP folks have had their questions online in the past, though we haven't been able to locate the last two year's hunt questions yet. We've put all the hunts that we've designed online for you, however! You'll find them listed on the right. We also found two great-looking hunts at DIS -- one is for "Walt Disney: One Man's Dream" attraction and the other is a four-park combination scavenger/treasure hunt. You'll find both at http://www.wdwinfo.com/games.htm
Getting the Questions - It's hard to create a hunt if you don't know what to put in it. Most of us don't have every bit of the parks commited to memory, after all, and we want to find new things rather than well-known trivia that someone can answer from memory. We created each of our hunts by visiting the parks beforehand, usually on an earlier trip. We created our last hunt the day before the hunt itself. If you don't have the luxury of visiting the parks before your hunt, try using pre-existing questions (discussed earlier) or try some of our other tips.
The On-The-Fly Hunt - This is one of our favorite ways to spend an afternoon at Disney. We go to a park with lots of details, such as Epcot, and split up. Our task is to find three questions in each of six World Showcase pavilions (18 questions in all) -- I take one half of World Showcase, Dave takes the other. We meet in the middle, exchange our questions, and the hunt begins! I answer his questions, he answers mine. They're comparable because we discussed what sorts of questions we'd be looking for in advance. We then meet again in the middle at a pre-set time to tally up our answers and see who won! This type of hunt would work for two or more people or teams.
The Can-You-Find-It Hunt - If you don't have the time to visit a park before you create your hunt, or even to make one up as you go, try making of list of items you'd *expect* to find at Disney and see how many you can find. We tried this during our 2001 Gathering last December -- we had a "DecoTour" of the resort hotels and looked for common Christmas items, such as a gingerbread house, candy cane, or rocking horse. It was easy to create and play -- all ages felt comfortable with it!
The Photo Hunt - If you've got Polaroid/digital cameras (or camcorders), try a hunt for specific places in a park or a hotel. We created a photo hunt in 2000 where teams had to go around the Seven Seas Lagoon (Magic Kingdom, Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian), finding locations and snapping group shots at each one. If you know the park well you could make a list of places without too much effort. Otherwise, just combine this idea with the Can-You-Find-It Hunt, and have folks get photos with things they're likely to find, such as with a cast member, at a water fountain, on a train, or by a statue. You can add in a bit of fun by requiring that the participants pose a certain way in each picture. This hunt makes for great photo souvenirs, too!
The Traditional Hunt - Here's how we go about making a hunts for a group of people. First, we plan when and where it will be, so we can scout out questions beforehand. For example, for a December 2003 hunt we'd probably work on the hunt in September 2003. We set aside an afternoon to scour the location we've chosen for likely questions and answers. We split up and write down everything we can think of, and even take pictures of some items we may find hard to recall later. When we return from our trip, we look at all our notes and compile a list of questions from the best ideas. Then we print out the questions to hand out at our hunt -- the answers we list on another sheet so we can score the answers. We usually try to have a theme for our hunt, and an appropriate prize or two.
What makes a good hunt? We believe a good hunt presents a challenge without being frustrating, leaves time for fun and companionship, and shows the participants things they may never have noticed before. Everyone has to enjoy themselves, even if there can only be one "winner." We don't like to make contestants stand online or ride an attraction, as that can take a lot of time or force them to take a ride they'd rather not experience. And we always consider how the hunt may effect other guests and Disney cast members--we don't want to cause a disturbance. Time and walking distances are also a factor. For all but the most exhausting hunts, we suggest you limit your hunt to one or two small areas of a park, rather than the entire park. Not only is it easier on the contestants, but it's much easier for the "huntmaster" to oversee the fun.
One final tip: Consider the complexity of your hunt. It's difficult to judge in advance how easy or difficult to make your hunt. Take a good look at your audience and determine what they'd be most comfortable with -- an easy, fun diversion or a sadistic, difficult challenge. Most beginners prefer to just have a good time, and may not want to be too competitive.
Our Own PassPorter Hunts:
Walt's Legacy Hunt
Photo Hunt on the Seven Seas
If you do organize a hunt and want to
share it with our readers, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
and we'd be delighted to put it online (and try it out ourselves!).