My family loves to watch “The Amazing Race.” It’s been a longtime dream of mine and my husband’s to compete in the race. Unfortunately, his career in the military has made that impossible. For this reason, we were really excited to discover Urban Adventure Quest, which advertises itself as “An Urban Scavenger Hunt, A Three-Hour Amazing Race, and An Interactive Adventure Tour.”
Urban Adventure Quest is available in 20 major cities in the United States (and one in British Columbia). Fortunately for us Washington, DC (which is near us) is one of the cities where Urban Adventure Quest is offered. I signed up for the quest on their website. Here’s the page for the Washington, DC quest:
While it may not look like a lot of information, there are some really important facts on this page that you’ll want to take note of before embarking on your own urban adventure quest.
- Starting Location – It’s going to be hard to play if you don’t know where to start. Luckily, we have been to DC several times and knew exactly where this was. If you are unfamiliar with your starting location, be sure to get directions before heading out on your quest.
- Ending Location – This is helpful in allowing you to decide where to park and also where to celebrate after completing the quest.
- Distance – In our quest, we knew we would be walking a total of 3.3 miles. This is worth noting if you have young children with you or group members who have trouble walking. Before you are frightened off, I would like to point out that I checked the distances of all the other quests and DC’s is by far the longest walking distance. Most are around 2 miles.
- Time – Ideally, you won’t be navigating the city in the dark so it is helpful to have an idea of how long the quest will take you to complete so that you can start early enough to finish before dark. Of course, if you live in the city or will be visiting for a while, you could take your time and do the quest over more than one day. We only had the day to spare though so knowing the expected duration helped us pack what we needed in advance and plan our meals around the quest. Most of the full-length quests average 2.5 to 3 hours.
- Additional Cost – Not knowing what the quest would entail, I wasn’t sure if we would need to purchase metro passes to ride the subway or pay for admission to the museums in order to fully participate in the quest. I was happy to see that no additional costs were associated with our quest. Only a few of the tours have additional fees, most of them indicated by the tour name (e.g. the Catalina Island w/ Bicycles quest incurs bicycle rental fees).
- Leader Board – I recommend checking out the leader board, even if you aren’t planning on competing for a top spot. This will give you an idea of how long other groups are taking to complete the challenge. I have to admit that I was a little worried when I saw that one team took over six hours to complete the DC quest, but the majority of teams appeared to complete the quest in under 3 1/2 hours.
After you sign up for the quest, you will receive a confirmation e-mail that will provide you with the instructions for how to begin the quest when you are ready and a list of necessary supplies. In our case, we needed to bring a fully charged smart phone, pencil, paper, calculator, sunscreen, and comfortable walking shoes. Since we knew we would be walking around for three hours (or more) we also brought along plenty of water and some money for
bribes snacks to keep the kids motivated.
Labor Day Weekend, our last summer vacation opportunity before the kids headed back to school, we made the short drive to DC to play the game. We arrived at the Smithsonian Metro Stop just after eating lunch on the mall (not a shopping mall, as my teenage daughter had hoped) at noon. Here’s my hubby and kids eager to get started:
Before I post any more pictures, I need to share one important fact with you. The temperature at the time of this picture was 90 degrees. It did NOT get cooler during our three-hour quest. This fact will be painfully apparent on my younger son’s face in some of the other photos. Please do not mistake his displeasure with the weather with his opinion of the quest. On the topic of weather, I should add that if you have some flexibility with your dates, aim for a fair weather day. We had no alternate dates available since we have work, school, sporting events, and church activities every day for the next several months (or so it seemed when I looked at the calendar to pick a day for our quest).
To start the quest, you have to log into the Urban Adventure Quest website on your smartphone. When you initiate the quest, you receive your first destination along with a question or riddle that you must answer. In case it’s not obvious, the only way to get the correct answer is to be at the destination so that you can find the answer. For those of you who live in the DC area, I will refrain from telling you where the quest takes you and what the questions are so that I don’t spoil the mystery of it for you. I will say though that the quest takes you to some of the city’s key landmarks (though not all the ones you’d assume) and will introduce you to many new features of some of the sites you think you know well.
One of the neatest features of the Urban Adventure Quest was the Urban Questology. During the quest, random facts would pop up about the sites and their history. This was a fun and sneaky way to educate our kids during the game.
At one point during the quest, we had to sit down and solve a secret code. This was my favorite part of the game. I love riddles, puzzles, and word games and this combined all of those things! Certain that my family was as excited as I was, I had them pose for the following picture while asking them “How much fun are we having now?”
My hubby was on board my excitement train at that point, but the rest of the kids were wondering when the quest would lead us to air conditioning. (I’m happy to report it was two clues later.)
If you are playing the quest competitively (i.e. trying to score well on the leaderboard), you will want to pay attention to how the game is scored. It is not based on how quickly you play the game. Instead, your score is based on answering the questions correctly. Each wrong guess will cost you 5 points. It will also cost you 5 points to use a hint. If you can’t guess the correct answer in 4 guesses, you score no points for that question but are given the next clue location.
This is the part of the game that frustrated me the most. I am competitive so I wanted to score well. Unfortunately, on one question we lost all our points despite having the correct answer because we listed the two-word answer in the wrong order (the clue did not specify that order mattered so we kept guessing thinking capitalization mattered or that we had spelled one of the words wrong). Also, at one of the locations we were supposed to locate a sign which we ultimately determined no longer existed and thus, had to find the answer by Googling the question which felt like cheating and also made us aware that other teams could easily cheat by Googling many of the questions. While some questions require you to be standing in an exact location to see the answer, several questions are facts about the location that can easily be found on the internet. This realization negated the leader board in my mind since I cynically assumed those teams with a perfect score had certainly cheated.
We completed the quest in just under three hours. Although I’m the competitive one in my family, my kids were the ones who were eager to find out how we ranked. I looked up the leader board and found that we were #13 with a score of 555. Of course, out of my entire family, only my six-year old daughter figured out the right way to hold her fingers to show “13.” The rest of us are proudly proclaiming “31.”
Unfortunately, Team Cilantro played sometime after us and also scored 555 points but in 2:43 so they stole 13th place from us and we are currently listed as 14th. If you pull up the leader board, you will see the Schmitt Rangers nudged out of our 13th place position, though still on the first page of results so we are still holding our heads high.
All in all, Urban Adventure Quest was a great family activity. It was an entire afternoon of together time and mild physical activity. We got to see DC in a new way and learn things about the city and history that we didn’t know. We would definitely try another one. We have our eye on New York since it’s only a few hours away and the kids haven’t been there yet. If you like scavenger hunts and want to try something different than the standard city tour, Urban Adventure Quest is a great choice.
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.