Really, you could hold a scavenger hunt any old place. I've seen everything from massive, multi-state annual hunt coordinated by the University of Chicago, to a mom who created a nature hunt in her backyard to try and entertain the kids for a few minutes during the summer. There are online scavenger hunts. There are special event scavenger hunts. There are even televised scavenger hunts (raise your hand if you've ever screamed "YOU IDIOT!" at the television during an episode of The Amazing Race).
But of all the places you could hold a scavenger hunt, Grand Rapids has so much going for it I daresay it's perfect. Here's why:
Grand Rapids is smack-dab in the middle of a renaissance — our history of manufacturing and blue-collar work ethic have collided — in a good way — with a global resurgence in the arts which has turned local. Grand Rapidians are a hardy and hard-working people (you'd never survive the winters here otherwise), but with a midwestern hospitality you won't find in Detroit, Chicago or any other nearby big city. The culture in Grand Rapids is a diverse mix of "tribes" (though we still have a long way to go), which for me, translates into Grand Rapids being "the biggest little town" I've ever lived in. For long-time residents, this translates into showing up at almost any public event and seeing someone you know, or at least spotting them in the crowd (it's up to you if you want to make eye contact with your old boss).
It was actually weirdly disconcerting for me last week when my husband and I went to Jazz in the Park at Ah-Nab-Awen Park and didn't see anyone we knew. How is this possible? And I'm not even a GR native — I first moved here in 1998.
Did you know Grand Rapids had several brothels at one point? Or that Saint Cecilia's is reportedly haunted? Or that there was a major feud between two of the areas original founders, making the city boundary lines what they are today? Grand Rapids history is long and convoluted — it doesn't hurt that we have a U.S. president who called Grand Rapids home either. Having such a rich history is a gold mine for scavenger hunts, since learning about the hidden history of a place is not only fun and interesting, it can give you an edge when it comes to small talk at cocktail parties.
As if having a river flow through the city isn't amazing enough, parks like Rosa Parks Circle and Riverside Park provide wide-open spaces perfect for a scavenger hunt. And perhaps the most important feature, having a walkable downtown, means you have a wide variety of businesses that allow you to continuously add new challenges and opportunities for hunters to collect clues and items. You can run, you can walk, you can bike around this city with relative ease (in fact, the League of American Bicyclists named the city one of the most bicycle-friendly in the nation).
Some would say that the winter weather isn't as friendly as some our our southern counterparts (and as far as the other seasons — well, we all know summer and fall are both amazing in west Michigan), but I'd argue that winter actually makes the scavenger hunt a lot more fun. Stay tuned — GR Scavenger Hunt has some amazing activities planned for the fourth quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. You may ice skate and snowball fight your way to a grand champion coming wintertime!
Although the culture, history and landscape of Grand Rapids certainly add to its reputation, it's the people of Grand Rapids who make it really special. I'm constantly humbled and reminded of just how good people are during our hunts. From the public servants who stop to pose for a picture, to the bartenders who take the time to tell our hunters about their favorite beer, these are people who about their community.
To borrow a line from the movie Roxanne, "I'd rather be with the people of this town than the finest people in the world!"
I'm sure there are more reasons I'm missing — a case could be made for GR's outstanding public infrastructure, or our nation-leading zeal for beer (scavenger hunts don't really become real until someone drinks a beer afterwards).
Why do you think GR is the perfect place for a scavenger hunt? Leave a comment below.