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For the last couple of Decembers my sister Lori and I have made our way to Orlando for the annual RADP meet. For those not familiar with this event, RADP stands for rec.arts.disney.parks. It is the main internet newsgroup for discussion of Walt Disney World.
Every year we have a big meet in Orlando, this year we had around 400 people show up for the Fifth Annual Meet (aka RADP-V). One of the events we participated in this year was the First Annual Scavenger Hunt. Before I tell our story I thought I'd offer a basic overview of the event.
The Basics of the Event
It began at 7:30 am on Sunday December 10th at the gates of Animal Kingdom. At that time the organizers of the event (Jeff, Peter and Ken) distributed the question books. Each book had a series of questions covering most of Walt Disney World.
The areas covered were as follows, with one to three pages worth of questions on each area:
Also included was the Transportation and Ticket Center. The rules provided that when going between locations, the team had to be together as a unit. You could, however split up within a location. In other words if you were at the Magic Kingdom, you could split up to answer the questions, but you could not have one team member at MK and one team member at the TTC. If you broke the rules you got a warning the first time, the second violation meant a 100 point penalty, the third violation resulted in being disqualified.
The rules also provided that you must use Disney Transport only (busses, monorails and boats). This was done for both safety reasons and in the interest of being fair to those without cars. This rule made it pretty much impossible to even get to all 15 Disney resorts plus the four parks in the 10-11 hour time limit, but this allowed for strategy to play a role. The harder the resort is to get to, the more points it was be worth. (In other words, the All Star Resorts was worth more points then the monorail resorts). I think this was a very good rule because the last thing we needed was to have people driving dangerously on the roads just to win a contest.
We wrote our answers must be written in the official book. We also were required to return with a number of free and legally obtained items, such as park maps, fastpasses, etc. Some of these are available in unlimited quantities others were hard to get. The harder an item was to get the more it was worth.
For example you got a small number of points for a park map in English, but more for foreign language maps because they were in smaller quantities. Some items required you to see a show, for example you got a lot of points if you got a certificate saying you participated in the Doug Live show at MGM Studios.The contest ended at exactly 6pm at the Outer Rim Lounge at the Contemporary, meaning that we had roughly 10 1/2 hours to cover the entire WDW complex. The results were tallied that evening and prizes were distributed.
1st Prize- All expenses paid Dinner at a WDW restaurant of the teams choice (excluding Victoria and Alberts)
2nd Prize- 1 Free round of mini golf for the entire team
3rd Prize- WDW Guest of Honor Pin's for the entire team.
We didn't expect to win, but were certainly going to work for that goal. There were only 8 teams total in the event, so we figured our odds were good. However we went into the day with the idea being we would fight to win but that our main goal was to have a lot of fun.
Our Experience with The Hunt
We were staying at the Caribbean Beach resort, so we needed to be up early in order to catch a bus to Animal Kingdom. The rules did allow the team to drive one car to AK, but one of our team members was staying off site, so he needed to drive in. This meant the rest of us had to do the bus. Our team was called The Feisty Foursome, in honor of Donald Duck. Team members were my sister Lori, our friend Judimouse from Arizona, our new friend Russell from Virginia and, of course, yours truly.
Judi, Lori and I were all at CBR so we planned to ride in together. We got up around 6am in order to catch an early AK bus. We staggered down to the bus stop around 7 and waited for the bus. While we waited we went over our plan. Judi is one of the most organized people I've ever met and so she had made photocopies of all the park and hotel maps in advance, allowing us to plan ahead. After a short wait, the AK bus arrived and we were off.
We arrived at AK around 7:20, met our teammate Russell and walked up to the large group of fellow scavenger hunters.. We were easy to spot as all of the teams wore white t-shirts proclaiming our participation in the hunt. After a nice snack from Krispy Kreme we were handed our packets and started planning. One thing the hunt organizers made clear was that we would not be able to answer all of the questions, that it was impossible to do so. A quick review of the questions confirmed this fact, as it must have taken months for them to put together all of these questions.
The first decision we had to make was whether or not to wait a while for the AK gate to open. We decided not to wait and instead caught a bus to the Disney Institute. On the way we began to review the questions and quickly learned how sadistic the question makers were. For example, one of the MK questions was: "What does the plate on the ground in front of the Crystal Palace say ?". The answer happens to be "electric", but you can get an idea of how obscure some of the questions were.
We made our way to the front desk of the Institute and began our search. Luckily it was early in the day and the cast members weren't too busy. One of the questions we needed to answer involved the last row number in the Performance Center. Since the cast member didn't know, she took us over and opened the place up to check. I somehow doubt they kept that up all day, but it was really nice for her to do that. We spent about 20 minutes at the Institute, and as a side comment it looks like a very nice place to stay, I might just look into it the next time I come to WDW. One question we never did answer was "What is more fun than fishing to a worm". I expect it had something to do with the spa/recreation facilities, but we didn't have time to look.
After we finished at the Institute we headed over to MGM Studios. Since the park is pretty big we decided to split up and began searching different sections of the park. Among the more obscure questions here were: "What does IBSAD stand for" and "Where are the camel saddles being shipped". We found the IBSAD answer in a window along Sunset Boulevard (International Brotherhood of Second Assistant Directors) and we found the camel saddle answer near Echo Lake (one of the crates near the boat is camel saddles being shipped to Lawrence of Arabia).
Our first goal was the end of Sunset Blvd where we got fastpasses for the rides (Tower of Terror and RockNRoller Coaster). RnR was shut down but we ran into a cast member who was a gold mine of information. I think that was one of the best parts of the hunt. I'd figured after a while the CM's would start to get annoyed with people asking a bunch of questions, but they actually seemed to have more fun with the contest than we did. Every time we stopped to ask questions, we would be quickly surrounded by eager Cm's ready to help. It almost became a game for them as they each tried to top the other with knowledge of the parks.
After taking a few minutes out to ride ToT we split up and began to investigate the rest of the park. It took a while to get many of the answers, and it was sometimes annoying that we couldn't remember the right answers. For example one of the questions involved how many elephants were used to spray riders on Kali River Rapids at AK. We had all ridden the ride and knew it was either two or four elephants, but we could remember for sure.
We ended up finding most of the answers to the questions at MGM, the only ones we didn't answer were those that required us to watch a show. We did manage to pick a few answers out of the cast members, but we didn't get everything. We also had a few setbacks as we got separated from each other. I think a good idea for future hunts is to have all team members carry cell phones or walkie talkies (WDW is somewhat of a cell phone black hole) so that people can keep in touch.
After leaving MGM we decided it was time to stop for a break so we caught a bus back to our hotel where we had some lunch and went over the list of questions. The rules didn't say we couldn't use a guide book to answer questions, so I stopped at the room and got our copy of Birnbaums. While we ate we ran through a few of the questions, although I have to say that not very many of the answers were in the guide.
We then caught a bus to Epcot. As we rode over to Epcot we had another fun experience as people on the boat began asking us what we were doing. When we told them they began to ask if they could help and we were able to gather a few possible answers from our fellow WDW visitors. This also kept up all day, whether on bus, monorail or boat we couldn't help but to be offered help from complete strangers. I think they thought it was fun to participate a little.
Another thing that the questions did was show me just how tiring the hunt is. At the start of the day we would respond to the questions with a detailed explanation of what we were doing, how it came about, why we were doing it, etc. By the end of the day we were down to just saying 'we are on a scavenger hunt and are very tired from the day'. I would say this is one thing to consider before joining the hunt again. It took us several days to fully recover from the hunt, I'd conservatively guess we walked 20 miles in one day and unless you are used to that kind of exercise your body will punish you for it. I suppose I might have been more sensitive since I was fighting a cold, but it's still a very energy draining event.
Anyway, we soon arrived at Epcot, we headed in the park and once again split up. Judi and Russell headed to Future World while Lori and I tackled World Showcase.
Lori and I first stopped by Canada, where we needed to know what the temperature was during the Canada movie. We walked up to a CM and practically before we could ask the question she gave us the answer. I guess she'd had someone come by earlier and she recognized our shirts. We worked our way through the rest of the showcase, and for the most part were able to get our answers quickly. The one spot that messed us up a bit was the American Adventure. We needed to have answers from the show and we couldn't find a cast member to help us, so we had to sit through the show, which took us 35 minutes.
We met Judi and Russell at the International Gateway and headed out to the Epcot hotels. Here was where we had to be very very careful. The rules stated that we could split up inside a hotel, but Yacht and Beach are technically separate hotels, so we had to be careful not to slip. We'd planned to meet at the front of Stormalong Bay (the water park/pool that the hotels share). I arrived first and had to be careful not to move to the wrong side of the pool or I'd be at the wrong hotel. We worked our way through the three hotels.
By this time we were really getting fatigued. I realize for most people it's hard to imagine getting hot in the middle of December, but believe me it can be done. The temperature was in the low 80's with some pretty strong humidity. Combine that with a day of running around with few rest stops and you can guess the rest.
When we left the Boardwalk hotel we planned to take advantage of a little known secret. Although it's not advertised in the guide maps, there is a bus from Boardwalk to Coronado Springs. We planned to catch that bus and then move on to the All Star Resorts and Animal Kingdom. Unfortunately, we just missed the CS bus (in fact it pulled away as we ran up frantically waving for it to stop.).
This meant a change in plans so we took a bus to Animal Kingdom instead and decided to get a few answers. Lori and Judi headed into Dinoland while Russell and I moved into Africa and Asia. Among the obscure questions we had to answer here were "Where in AK are computer lessons offered" (a sign on one of the Africa buildings) and "What is the chemical formula for mustard ?" (we never did answer this one, though I'm told it's on one of the pipes in the dinosaur ride).
Leaving AK we made our way over to the All Star resorts. As we arrived here we ran into another minor roadblock. I understood (correctly I think) that the busses ran to all three All Star resorts. In other words if you rode a bus from MK to the first AS resort, you could then board the same bus later on and ride to the second AS resort, and so on. This turned out to be true but a bus driver said it wasn't true so we ended up doing a lot of walking.
The questions here were, in my opinion, among the hardest to answer. For the most part the questions at the other hotels dealt with things you could easily find, such as the name of a sundry shop or the number of fans in the hotel lobby, etc. It required some legwork to get the answers but you could find them. By contrast, many of the All Star questions dealt with signs or decor in various parts of the hotel. You would have to search all over the hotel property to find the answers, which made it very hard to get the answers.
We were now running up on a deadline so we headed over to the Magic Kingdom. Once again we split up and moved our way around the park. Lori and I took the left side of the park while Russell and Judi covered the right hand side. Another fun thing that began to happen as the day went along is the whole event seemed to become somewhat famous. A number of times I heard park guests say to each other "Get out of the way, there are Scavenger Hunt people coming". I think our team did a pretty good job of keeping things civil (we didn't knock anyone down) but at the same time we didn't slow down for anyone.
We headed out of the park to catch the monorail and began to gather some more answers from the hotels, although we were pretty short on time. Luckily some of our fellow riders were staying at the hotels on the monorail and were able to answer a few questions for us.
We ended the day at the Contemporary. We ran all over the hotel picking up answers while Judi sat near the Outer Rim Lounge to organize our packet. We had a big pile of maps and other souvenirs along with a huge booklet of questions. Just before 6pm we arrived at the drop off point and turned in our packet. We didn't have time to wait for the judging because we were doing an Illuminations Cruise that night, so we headed back to our hotel.
In the end we didn't place in the top three, but I think we did pretty well. The top team got about 1900 points and we managed to get close to 1400, so that's pretty decent. There was a little grumbling from some participants that the winning team included two people who write a WDW guidebook. I kind of understand the protests and maybe next year they should have a professional and amateur category. On the other hand, most of the participants know enough about WDW to write a book, so it may even out.
My final comments would be that if anyone has a chance to do this in the future (I suspect it will be an annual event) that they should seriously consider it. I was tired and hot after the hunt, it probably made the rest of my trip a bit less enjoyable because I was very tired for a few days. Some other team members ended up with blisters and a few got sick. Yet I don't think I've ever had so much fun at WDW. It makes you feel like you are really participating in a special event, and gives you a whole new view on the park. For the rest of the trip I was seeing every detail that I'd missed before.
All things considered, a top notch event.
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