I don’t normally do Groupons. I realize they help save money, but unlike my dear mother, I’ve never been a coupon cutter. Mom saved glass soda bottles and exchanged them for money at the grocery store. Plus, she was an avid Green Stamp aficionado. (I’m aware of how much that reference dates me—so, basically, if you didn’t grow up in the ’70s, you’ll need to Google “Green Stamps.”)
Granted, I did download the Groupon app soon after it was introduced, mostly out of curiosity, but I kept getting bombarded with notifications on my phone. There were offers for chiropractic services, oil changes, dog grooming. My back doesn’t hurt, I have a mechanic I trust, and I don’t have a dog. So, I deleted the app and went on with my life, continuing to pay full price for everything.
But then a Groupon-loving friend emailed me and gave me a reason to revisit the app: a scavenger hunt!
I absolutely adore scavenger hunts. Why? Because I’m excellent at finding things. Whether it’s my husband’s lost car keys or a long-ago arrest record for a girlfriend’s potential first date from a guy she met online, I WILL find things. As a kid, when we went on scavenger hunts, I always won—and because I excel at them, I miss them.
So, I re-downloaded Groupon and waded through the offers for yoga pants, acupuncture services and discounts at bowling alleys to find the Groupon for Big City Hunt. It turned out to be a self-guided scavenger hunt that players participate in by using their smartphones, and it was a pretty savvy concept. Big City Hunts has location-specific hunts for a wide range of cities—from downtown Adelaide, South Australia, to Zatop, Olso. Lucky for me, I wouldn’t have to travel to the other side of the world, as the developers feature hunts in both Naples and Fort Myers. I chose downtown Fort Myers because so many of the online reviewers raved about how a Big City Hunt was a fun and educational way to learn about a city—so, even though I grew up in this area, I wondered if this scavenger hunt might teach me something new about one of my favorite neighborhoods.
No scavenger hunt would be exciting without a team, so I gathered four friends—Sadie and Jason, who are local radio personalities on 93X and WINK FM; Terry, a production manager for The Laboratory Theater of Florida; and Karen, who owns the local gym Custom Fitness. We met downtown on a sunny Sunday and decided this adventurous project would be our Sunday Fun-day.
But, first we’d need hydration. We started at a River District watering hole, where Sadie enjoyed bottomless mimosas, Jason sipped a dirty martini, Karen enjoyed a vodka and soda, Terry had a beer, and I downed a refreshing margarita—because, after all, what’s a Sunday Fun-day without some spirited beverages?
With Big City Hunts, you don’t download the hunt to your phone until you’re ready to start—obviously, it wouldn’t be much of an adventure if you knew where you were going before you began. When I entered that we had a team of five, everyone was assigned a “role” by the app—a photographer, a navigator, an architect, etc., and as the hunt went on, everyone got various “assignments” to take photos or videos, so everyone got to participate.
Happily buzzed, I started to download the first clue when Karen decided to buy our merry band shots of lemon-flavored vodka. Our Sunday was getting more and more fun by the moment. We raised our glasses and read the first clue.
“Stroll a short way east until you get to Dean Park…” Wait. What? Dean Park is a full mile from where we were in the middle of downtown. We all looked at each other and shook our heads—and then we started to laugh—no way after cocktails and shots were we schlepping ourselves all the way to Dean Park. We all agreed that, only for this clue, we would be forced to fudge a little. The game wanted info that can be found on a plaque in Dean Park—and, yep, we Googled that one. But, it also made me wonder if the creators of the game had ever actually been to Fort Myers… I mean, a mile to Dean Park and back can take quite a while, and the hunt was only supposed to last two hours. Nevertheless, we continued. The next five or six clues were a bit closer—there was one at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center; another was about the brick streets downtown; and then the hunt took us into Centennial Park. We were having a fabulous time—but as the game went on, a few of our team members got a little pokey and it was a little bit like herding cats.
We answered a few questions in the park about various monuments and public art, and then the hunt asked us to meander to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, which is yet another mile to the west. This adventure was getting daunting—and one of our lady team members was wearing wedge sandals, not exactly the most comfortable walking shoes. I hate admitting that we resorted to Google once again. I mean, we’re adventurous, but it was nearly 90 degrees out.
Still, we finished the hunt and got only one question wrong, and despite a couple of shortcuts, we were feeling pretty accomplished and proud of ourselves.
Naturally, we celebrated by bellying up to the bar and continuing our Sunday Fun-day.
By the way, the Groupon app is still on my phone—I mean, after all, if I ever find myself in Adelaide, South Australia, Big City Hunt would be a good way to see and learn about the town. But, next time I’ll wear sneakers and hydrate with bottled water.