Scavenger hunts appeal to the detective (pirate, puzzle-lover, problem-solver, etc.) in all of us. But let’s be honest: after you’ve had the classic rhyming-clue version five or six times running, it starts to lose some of its allure. Is it time to give up the reunion scavenger hunt? Never! It just needs a bit of a remodel.

Universal Reunion Scavenger Hunt Tips

Before we dig into the many possible themes for a scavenger hunt, let’s review some tips that can apply to any hunt.

First, do your homework. Think of the people that will participate in the hunt. Don’t be afraid to have hunts for entire families, just for kids and/or just for adults. Maybe you can have two hunts: one for kids, and one for adults. You know your group best, so decide what will be the most fun for those involved. However, if you’re doing a family hunt, take care to have activities that are fun for all ages, or have activities that can be divided up between age groups.

Next, determine the time frame and area for your scavenger hunt. If you only have an hour, you might want to keep it in a smaller area. If you have all afternoon or all day, you can cover much more ground. Be realistic; hurrying from point to point on a super tight schedule is only fun if you’re watching it on The Amazing Race.

A large scavenger hunt is made up of various stages. It’s a good idea to have a volunteer at each stage to see fair play and make sure the tasks are completed correctly. Again, the number of stages will depend on the time and area you have planned for your hunt. If you’re doing a small scavenger hunt, perhaps in one room or in one building, you only need a few volunteers to make sure things run smoothly. Some scavenger hunt ideas can be done virtually, with teams using their brains instead of their brawn to complete the challenges. In this case, you only need a “hunt master” to announce the challenges and a volunteer or two.

Now you can start building the framework of the hunt: the rules, the prize, the penalties, and the clues. Set some basic rules to keep everything fair and everyone safe. This could include limiting the size and makeup of groups (e.g. requiring a mix of kids and adults) and defining some safety rules (e.g. no driving over the speed limit). You should also set penalties (e.g. a 15-minute time penalty for people caught speeding) and enumerate all automatic disqualifications (for cheating, for skipping a task) in advance. Be sure to share these rules with participants before the start of the race; you may want to give each team a printed card with all the rules clearly listed.

Here’s the nice thing about scavenger hunt prizes: they’re not as important as the hunt itself. Most people join scavenger hunts because they enjoy them. Your prize doesn’t have to be big or expensive; bragging rights or exemption from clean-up duty might be enough for a family reunion. Otherwise, you can put together a relatively inexpensive gift bag, give a gift card or gift certificate, or do whatever your imagination dictates. You can award first, second, and third prizes, or give each participant a small gift — there really are no rules, except those dictated by your budget and group preferences.

Scavenger Hunt Clues

The clues you use for your hunt can take just about any form: pictures, puzzles, riddles, spoken directions, or plain old names. The two classic clue forms — rhymes and trivia — are perfectly acceptable, but you can also be a little more imaginative.

Once again, the key to choosing the right clue type is considering your participants. Don’t make clues too hard or too easy. Tailor them to the age group, interests, and skill levels of your participants. Also, don’t feel you have to stick with one type of clue — feel free to mix in any of these types:

  • Video clue: a short video of the next stage, or a video of a person talking about that stage.
  • Picture clue: a picture of the next stage or something associated with it (e.g. a picture of a saucepan for the kitchen). For added difficulty, make the picture an extreme close-up, or cut it into pieces for teams to assemble.
  • Picture Puzzle clue: As above, but with more pieces.
  • Math clue: Teams must solve a math problem to get the name of the next stage.
  • Number Puzzle clue: Teams must solve a number puzzle, such as a simple Sudoku, to get the get the name of the next stage.
  • Word Puzzle clue: Teams must solve a word puzzle (e.g. a word search, a crossword puzzle clue, a jumbled-letter clue) that contains clues about the next stage.
  • Activity clue: This is less of a “clue” than it is something to be completed before the team can move on. In this case, the volunteer would explain to each team what they need to do before going to the next stage. Examples of activity clues include listening to a story, singing a song, completing a simple craft, buying a candy bar, getting a passerby to take their picture, etc.).

Obviously, teams will need to have a verified record of all the clues and activities they complete. This could be photos taken on someone’s phone, physical items or tokens brought to the finish line, or a “passport” with a special mark from each stage volunteer (such as their initials or a certain sticker).

20 Variations on the Scavenger Hunt

There are endless ways to change up a scavenger hunt. We’ve gathered some of the best ideas below. Most will work for all age groups (with some adult supervision, of course). We’ve marked hunts suitable for a smaller indoor-outdoor area with a single asterisk (*). Hunts with a double asterisk (**) are ideal for one-room hunts. To make some hunts a bit harder, we’ve included suggestions on how to do them “With a Twist.”

  1. Alphabet Hunt.* Teams must find an item beginning with each letter of the alphabet and snap its photo. With a Twist: Team must find each item in alphabetical order.
  2. Nighttime Hunt.* Have teams identify and capture the sights and sounds of a country night. They can use mobile devices to record videos of people playing with glow sticks (provided by you), make audio recordings of nighttime noises like crickets and frogs, and take photos of lightning bugs and stars.
  3. Zoo Hunt. Teams solve clues that point to animals in a zoo. Photos of each animal must be shown at the finish line to complete the hunt.
  4. Nature Hunt. Teams have a list of things to spot or do on a guided nature walk or a hike. Some ideas might be to talk with a ranger about conservation, pick up a piece of litter, take a photo of the state tree or flower, or make a recording of a goose’s call. Note:  Do not ask groups to pick any living thing, such as a piece of moss or a leaf.  Photos and recordings only, please!
  5. Sports Hunt.** Teams answer trivia questions or find out facts about a favorite sport. If possible, have some memorabilia on hand for teams to take pictures of or use in an activity. With a Twist: Arrange a competition, with teams in a best-of-five or best-of-seven playoff format.
  6. Family/Group History Hunt. Teams visit people and places connected with family or group history — for example, hearing stories of the old days, revisiting the street where the grandparents lived, or finding the after-game hangout spot.
  7. Local History Hunt. Teams go on a “history trail” and visit local landmarks, historical sites, and other things.  Contact the local CVB for more about the area’s special history.
  8. Fitness Hunt.* Team members must complete various physical fitness challenges. These can be as simple as doing 10 jumping jacks or as complicated as completing a timed obstacle course. Photos or videos can be used a proof for each task. With a Twist:  Choose a theme, such as Winter Olympics or Baseball Camp.
  9. Movie Hunt.** Teams search the Internet and their own memories for movie quotes, casts, and trivia. With a Twist: For the final challenge, have teams act out a scene from a movie.
  10. Techno Hunt.** Teams hunt for tech items, from an old flip phone to the latest tablet or device. This doesn’t have to be digital: radios and tape recorders were high-tech once!  Use your imagination to come up with items.
  11. Library Hunt.** Teams must find and/or identify book quotations, characters, and authors.
  12. Grocery Hunt. Teams are given a budget (or some cash) and a list of items for a barbeque, chili cook-off, or some other meal. The first team to complete the list wins (and is exempt from cooking or clean-up duties).
  13. Supply Hunt. Similar to the Grocery Hunt, except that teams will have to purchase supplies for another activity.
  14. Mall Hunt. Groups must complete various challenges at the local mall. This could include a food challenge (eating a pretzel with seven kinds of dip, for example), a shopping challenge, a singing challenge, etc.
  15. Internet Travel Hunt.** Guests are given clues to various destinations, which they must research online within a specific time frame.
  16. Special Day Hunt. Consider this a regular scavenger hunt, with a theme that resonates with your group. This could be an anniversary of a wedding, a win, or a special event. It could be a holiday or a celebration of an important milestone. Give prizes to every team that finishes, with a special prize for the winners, and make sure all clues relate to the event or person you’re honoring.
  17. Magazine Hunt.** Guests hunt through magazines and newspapers for specific things, like a photo of a cat, the word “stupendous,” and a story about Italy. Whoever finishes first (or completes the most tasks in the allotted time) wins.
  18. Sound Hunt. Have guests record various sounds within a set amount of time, such as a laugh, a bird call, a train whistle, a car horn, etc.
  19. Green Hunt.* Have guests help with the cleanup and have fun! Give each one a list of recyclable items to collect.
  20. Story Hunt.** Have guests collect and record different types of stories from group storytellers, from other guests, and maybe from local historians or subject experts. For example, a family reunion hunt could find “how we came to this country,” “how grandma and grandpa met,” or “a funny memory about Uncle Eddie’s racing days.” A school reunion might include “the big win over our football rivals,” “something funny that happened in math class,” and “most embarrassing school band fail.”

Coming Soon: Your Best Reunion Scavenger Hunt Ever

In many ways, planning an awesome scavenger hunt is a lot like planning an awesome reunion: it takes hard work and planning to pull it off, but in the end, it’s not about the money you spend to make it happen. It’s about creating memories and having fun. When you think about your group and any died-in-the-wool scavenger hunters that may be attending, think about their interests and skills. You’ll be sure to hit on a scavenger hunt idea that will work for your crew. Your only problem will be that guests will have so much fun, they’ll want your scavenger hunts to become a permanent part of the reunion festivities!