If you hold an outdoor scavenger hunt in the deep cold of a Minnesota winter, they will come.
Between mid-December and the end of January, our GooseChase scavenger hunt drew 80-plus enthusiastic teams of friends and families to embark on “missions” to reach pre-identified locations throughout the metro area’s large regional parks system.
The clues, found on a mobile phone app, guided the teams through the GooseChase. Participants could respond by a photo of the location, a written message, or on a location-based form.
Anthony Goettl embarked on the challenge with his wife and two young children, starting at Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Dakota County. Over their itinerary, they took on St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park in Washington County, Scott County’s Cedar Lake Farm Regional Park, and Hidden Falls Regional Park in Saint Paul.
“We can’t wait for another one!” he said. “It’s a great way for families to get out and explore nature, the surrounding communities, and not spend a ton of money. Our five-year-old learned a lot about the age of trees and other nature facts the parks had to offer. The learning was priceless!”
Met Council partners with parks agencies to plan the event
During the pandemic, parks staff throughout the region have been looking for fun ideas for how to get people outdoors safely. Then along came the GooseChase app.
“This challenge provided a great platform for getting families and friends outdoors safely,” said Emmett Mullin, manager of the Met Council’s regional parks staff. “We can’t wait to organize the next round of adventures, to encourage people to get outdoors, especially as the weather becomes more inviting.”
Our parks staff saw GooseChase as an opportunity to expand awareness of the regional parks system, while still observing COVID guidelines. “We thought it would be a good time of the year to launch the event, when people may have some time to spare,” said Ellie Hohulin, a parks ambassador.
We invited outreach staff of the agencies that oversee the regional parks in the Twin Cities area to assist with planning the event. Planning involved selecting parks to serve as venues, identifying locations within them for the missions, and crafting the location descriptions.
Explorations inspire plans for future visits
The first team started the first day of the “hunt” in December and completed their challenges on New Year’s Day. The most popular times for searching were weekends in late December and early January.
Participants were excited to share their experiences and found places in the parks that were new to them, saying they wanted to come back when warm weather returns.
“I had so much fun doing the challenges,” said Jenn Singer, a Minnesota travel blogger. Her itinerary included Baylor Regional Park in Carver County, Theodore Wirth Regional Park in Minneapolis, and Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park in Anoka County. “I saw so many things hiding in the area that I didn’t even know were there,” she said. “I have plans to go back to a few of the places, but next time, I’m going to take my time soak it all in.”
Children enchanted with sculptures, farm
Kimberly Nelson teamed up with her husband and two children, her brother’s family with their three-year old, and her parents. The group split up and covered different parks. “I decided to participate because it looked like a super-fun way to get outside and do things I wouldn’t ordinarily think of,” she said.
With her children, two and four, Nelson visited 17 regional parks over six days, starting with regional parks in the Anoka-Champlin area and moving on to others that included Baylor Regional Park in Carver County, Phalen Regional Park in Saint Paul, Long Lake Regional Park in New Brighton. At Silverwood Park in Saint Anthony, she said, “My daughter couldn’t stop talking about walking across the ice to the island and seeing the sculptures, which she called ‘white dandelions.’
“My son is two and loved the Gale Woods Farm,” she said. “It’s at the top of our list to revisit. Thank you for getting us outside! We truly loved it!”
Looking for a challenge outdoors to relieve “COVID boredom,” Marilyn Hoffies teamed up with a family member, dividing their search into quadrants covering all the parks in the hunt. The two spent about 30 hours total in their search, trying to cover a quadrant in each outing.
“We loved the A-frame shelter at Lebanon Hills,” Hoffies said. “Although we both had been to the park several times, we never knew it existed!” Asked if she would do a similar hunt again, she responded with a resounding “Yes!”
Future scavenger hunts in the works
Parks staff have an eye to future scavenger hunts. One is in the works to coordinate with the “30 Days of Biking” events in April, and another during the summer.