[party] how to throw a scavenger hunt at the pike place market

I was recently recruited to help plan a birthday party for one of my favorite 13-year old girls. We bounced around a million ideas over dinner a few weeks ago and ultimately landed on doing a scavenger hunt through the Pike Place Market!

I’m no stranger to planning scavenger hunts – I once planned an epic nonprofit scavenger hunt featuring 2 routes, 10 different organizations and 15 teams of executives who ran around Capitol Hill and First Hill collecting facts about each organization, buying toys, books and art supplies for the clients of Childhaven. This, though on a much smaller scale (13 participants), took a bit of legwork but was completely worth it because we had a really excellent day. Here’s how I did it:

My partner-in-crime Amanda and I did two trips through the Market to collect information and brainstorm clues. The first time around we ended up staying at happy hour too long (at Chan) and by the time we were ready to develop clues, the entire place was shut down – things close at or before 6pm down there. So we relied on our general knowledge of the vendors and layout of the market and then solidified everything on our second trip a few days before.

The List

20130623_115041 (1)

We wanted to get the teams to interact with vendors, sample some of the awesome food and also hopefully uncover some of the quirky elements of the building and shops, so to that end we utilized my knowledge of all the food samples throughout the market as well as made them try oysters, find jicama (hilarious because none of them knew how to pronounce it), visit the magic shop to get their fortunes told and buy a flower and give it to a stranger – one team gave it to a police officer! Made his day. 

We had 20 clues and gave the teams 1.5 hours to complete as many as they could. We also tried to keep it contained – the market kind of sprawls and so we thought it would be good to take advantage of the vertical layers, rather than sending them all the way up and down the length of the market and into Post Alley and all that. This way, there was more of a chance of running into them as they solved the clues and we didn’t have to worry (as much) that they’d get lost.

Starting Line

We decided that our meeting place would be at Rachel the Pig underneath the main iconic Pike Place Market sign (perfect for photos).


The birthday girl had divided the group into four different teams (three teams of 3 and one team of 4) and so when they arrived, we gave each team a ziploc bag with the following items:

  • the list
  • $20
  • sunstaches (for some flair)
  • a disposable camera
  • a sharpie

Though most of the girls had cell phones and cameras, I thought it would be fun to have the disposable cameras available for more silly shots and to also be able to get them printed and made into an album. There’s something to be said for using film for photos, you know? We’ll see once we get them developed…

The Rules

I had some pretty basic ground rules:

  • Teams had to stick together at all times
  • Be respectful to all vendors, tourists and customers
  • All team members must be in every picture
  • Stay within the clearly defined boundaries of the market.
  • All teams needed to skip to the final clue and find the finish line by 1:30pm, regardless of if they’d completed everything.

The Finish Line


We found an atrium behind DeLaurenti which is open to the public and we grabbed a corner and set up shop. The final clue was to find the giant octopus (might have been a squid) suspended from the ceiling and we were located right beneath it!



I picked up an assortment of prizes from Target. They have that awesome $1-$3 section at the front of each store and so I went to town and got mini pedicure sets, Slinkys, fun pens, sticky frogs and mini-food erasers and bubble necklaces. Every girl was given a bubble necklace when they got to the finish line, and even though I’d said it was competitive, every team got a prize pack for them to divide among themselves.

Party Supplies20130623_122225

Target has an fantastic collection of party supplies under the “Spritz” line, and it’s all really affordable. I got the “Happy Birthday” sign, balloons, noiseless blower things, a table cloth and paper straws and a few little favors for less than $20.



A couple of the clues involved eating something (like an oyster!) from the Market and all the teams had to return with a bag of donuts from Daily Dozen Doughnuts, but we also had cantaloupe, mangoes, Pirate’s Booty and veggie chips to go along with the cupcakes that we went and picked up from Cupcake Royale while the girls were off on the hunt. Blood orange and lemon San Pelligrinos to drink of course!

Social Media

At the last minute I also started using a party-specific #hashtag on Instagram and Twitter so that we could capture all their photos in one place. This was only moderately successful because I found out that parents are super smart and have given all their kids phones without data plans, so they had to wait to upload their pictures when they got home.

I don’t get invited to (or asked to plan) very many teenager’s parties, but I think this was a really fun and unique one – not to mention a great way to spend an afternoon in Seattle and a fun way to experience the city!


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Daina says:

    So excited to stumble upon your party idea here! We are doing a Family Day to explore the Market and want to incorporate your model. Do you have any tips for those in our group who are Celiac? We can’t set up a table with those kinds of goodies, and it would be great to know in advance some of the vendors to put on the list who are Celiac (gluten-free) friendly. Thank you!!!

  2. Shanna Perkins says:

    I loved your ideas! I’m trying to find stuff for our swim team to do for team building when we drive to Seattle this summer. As I’m not familiar with Seattle as I am Portland, what fabulous ideas an a great way to interact with the vendors. Great planning.

  3. Nikkole Bell says:

    Sarah – -I’m so impressed — would you be able to share your scavenger list?

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