Living close to New York City (NYC), I like to spend time there. Usually we will spend a couple of weekends a year in “the City” using points for hotel rooms, visiting old favorites and some new places along the way. In addition, I like to try to do day trips at least every six to eight weeks. Sometimes though, even when visiting places you go to often, it is good to branch out, and try to see things from a different perspective or in a different way. So, when my daughter and I decided to spend an afternoon in the City before she left for college, I looked around for something different for us to try.
It didn’t take long before I stumbled upon Stray Boots. These folks put together interactive scavenger hunts around different cities (e.g., NYC, Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston), and in our case, different neighborhoods within the City. We love scavenger hunts and we knew we wanted to head to Chinatown for dim sum, so it seemed logical to play the game in that neighborhood, especially since most of what we know there is our favorite dim sum place and the tchotchke stands along Canal street. Stray Boots has a Chinatown/Little Italy combo, which is about two thirds Chinatown, one third Little Italy. But they have plenty of other options too such as Soho, Greenwich Village, Times Square, Museum of Natural History, to name a few.
I signed up on their website and made my purchase using my credit card. The normal price for our “tour” was $20 per person but on sale for $12 per person. I got an added discount of 10% when I completed the demo. Once you buy a tour, you have one year to use it. After the purchase, they displayed an activation code as well as emailed it to me with instructions on where to activate it. In addition to the single neighborhood (i.e., zone) game they have multi-zone packages including a “Shop till you Drop” package, which includes 5th Avenue and Soho and an Intro to NY, which includes Times Square, Broadway and Greenwich Village.
You use your phone to get clues and only one phone operates at a time, so you are really on the honor system when you buy the tour as to telling them how many people will play. If you want more than one phone to receive clues at a time, you can contact Stray Boots to set that up. This option would be good for competing team play. You can also switch which phone to use in the midst of the game (e.g., if your phone runs low on battery, you can switch to another) but if you try using two at the same time, the game gets confused as to where to send the clues. We mistakenly did this.
Once we arrived in the city, we took the E train to Canal and walked down to Canal and Centre street where I was instructed to enter my activation code. I did this by texting the code to a 10-digit number. If you pay per text message on your mobile plan, you may want to consider changing your plan for your trip to unlimited or understand you’ll pay per text message sent and received as this is how Stray Boots delivers your scavenger hunt instructions, hints and clues (between 90 – 120 per game or zone). Another option, at least for iPhone users, would be to use an app such as TextNow, which gives you free, unlimited texting.
We received our first instruction and were off. The entire game consisted of 26 questions/tasks each worth a different point value. For example, our first question, for 10 points, was “At Canal & Centre St. find an American coffee shop in a building with fake traditional Chinese architecture. What color are the columns?” We had to text the answer to them and were told if we were correct or not. If our answer was not correct, the game would send us a hint. Or if at any point we were stumped, we could also ask for a hint. In addition to the questions that needed to be answered, we had photo-ops to complete too.
It was great fun as the game navigated us through some of the back ways of Chinatown, making us go into stores, bakeries, temples, and even a massage parlor (!) to get the answers to the questions. Once you start to play, you have 30 days in which to finish the game, so you can go as slow or as quick as you like. We stopped for the aforementioned dim sum about half-way through the game, as well as an espresso break at Ferrara’s; in all I think it took us just over three hours (including our breaks). All of the information seemed up to date, even knowing what was stored in some gray buckets outside a fish market or the cost of a lotus bun! They do provide a phone number you can contact if the information needs to be updated.
This is what was in the gray buckets (and they’re not pets!)
Once completed, we had five bonus questions to answer which really tested us on the knowledge learned while playing the game (e.g., what was the name of the area in the 19th century). Finally, we got our score.
We really had a good time doing this tour and are looking forward to our next afternoon in the city when we can pick a different neighborhood to explore!