published Thursday, March 7th, 2013

On the prowl: Citywide scavenger hunt debuts next week in Chattanooga

Downtown Chattanooga
Downtown Chattanooga
Photo by Dan Henry.
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    Chattanooga Zoo
    Photo by Staff File Photo.
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    Tennessee Aquarium
    Photo by Staff File Photo.
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    Chattanooga Choo Choo
    Photo by John Rawlston.
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    Creative Discovery Museum
    Photo by John Rawlston.
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    Hunter Museum
    Photo by Staff File Photo.
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    Ruby Falls' Ruby Red event includes a romantic lantern tour through the caverns.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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    Southern Bell riverboat
    Photo by Staff File Photo.
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    Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
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Do you know where to find a sculptural tribute to Chattanooga?

How about the location where Civil War soldiers claimed they could see seven states?

Or the place where a free-standing dome was once one of the tallest in the world?

These are a few of the many questions/clues posed to youngsters who will participate in the inaugural Spring Break Safari scavenger hunt, set for March 15 through April 15 and sponsored by The Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Prizes aren't huge, but each participant who completes the hunt at each location gets something. Among the prizes are a locomotive sticker at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, a banana treat at Chattanooga Zoo, a dinosaur figurine at the Creative Discovery Museum, a mini watercolor set at Hunter Museum of American Art and, at Rock City, participants will receive an autographed photograph of Rocky, the venue's official mascot.

Candace Davis, marketing and public relations manager with the bureau, says the scavenger hunt is a hands-on, family-oriented activity she hopes will encourage area residents and visitors to have fun while exploring Chattanooga.

Davis says 10 local attractions and three districts -- downtown, Northshore and Southside

-- are participating in the hunt, with each offering small prizes to youngsters who complete the challenge. At most sites, there will be a hunt inside and outside the establishment.

"We don't want to require people to have to buy admission to the attractions that charge (places like the Chattanooga Choo Choo and Ruby Falls are free), so most have a free scavenger hunt outside and, once you pay to go inside, another hunt," Davis says.

A guidebook detailing the clues is available at each site or it can be downloaded at chattanoogafun.com.

Davis says she got the idea for the citywide scavenger hunt when she and her daughter were visiting Disney World in Orlando several years ago.

"While visiting the different countries (portrayed) at Epcot, you use your cellphone to answer clues given in the scavenger hunt guide," she says. "Based on radio waves, the phone helped to find the answers. In the area of Germany, for example, you hold up your cell phone at a cuckoo clock, based on the clue, and it triggers a little bird to come out. It got the kids engaged."

While the local scavenger hunt isn't as technically sophisticated as the one at Epcot, it's still challenging and fun, Davis says.

"It was an easy sell to the area attractions," she says. "They said they'd do whatever they could do to help, and then they made it happen. I had ideas of what I wanted for the hunt, but they all came up with their own clues. It was a lot of work."

Marisa Ogles, director of marketing and communications at the Chattanooga Zoo, says its staff is enthusiastically participating in the Spring Break Safari.

"We loved the idea of the scavenger hunt and thought it was a great way to showcase Chattanooga's many wonderful attractions," Ogles says.

"I believe this is a novel way to introduce new residents and visitors to the zoo but also re-introduce visitors and members," she says. "A lot of items on the scavenger hunt are not necessarily the first thing you notice when coming to the zoo and the scavenger hunt requires that you look a little closer, thereby seeing things you might not have otherwise seen."

A highlight of the scavenger hunt at the zoo will be when children, who have discovered each of the clues, will have to "act like a monkey" to receive their prize.

"The 'monkey' idea came out of a group planning effort with zoo staff," Ogles says. "We felt this particular part of the hunt would be enjoyable not only for the participants but for the observers as well."

Scavenger hunt participants can access the chattanoogafun.com website and automatically pull up the scavenger hunt details, Davis says. "Most everyone today has a cell phone and will be able to access the guide at our website and use it instead of a printed guide. However, I love the printed guide because it offers a better visual."

Davis says the participant will, for example, click on the name of a participating attraction such as the Chattanooga Zoo for a list of the clues.

Katrina Craven, director of public relations and communications at Hunter Museum of American Art, says the hunt is "a great way for families to learn a little more about the Hunter Museum and have fun while doing it."

The inaugural scavenger hunt is geared toward pre-teens and younger, Davis says, because "doing an easier level was the best way to start."

"I'd like to offer harder levels next year to help draw in teenagers to participate," she says. "We try to target teenagers, too, because Chattanooga is known has a family destination. But when you have a 4-year-old and a 16-year-old in the same family, you need to offer activities for all ages to make it a better family experience."

Davis also plans to add more locations next year and hopes to offer more substantial prizes.

"But you have to start somewhere, and I think we've done a good job for our first-time event," she says. "You can easily spend a day doing the scavenger hunt, and I think families will enjoy it."

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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