Idea No.


National Treasure Scavenger Hunt -11yr- Historical



September 2010


Christina in Ft. Stewart, GA USA

Special Mention

Scavenger Hunt Party

My son wanted to have a scavenger hunt birthday party this year, but he wanted it to be like the hunt that Nicholas cage goes on his movies, National Treasure.  So after watching the movies, we came up with this plan. 

For the invitations, I tea-stained stock paper to make it look like an old document.  Then I used a puzzle program from create a cryptogram on the tea-stained paper.  The cryptogram maker assigned a number to each letter in the alphabet, and the kids had to use that to solve the puzzle.  Once solved, the invitation said, September eleventh - a Saturday.  We'll celebrate XXX's 11th birthday.  There will be food and cake without a doubt It's sure to be a really huge blowout!  The adventure will begin right around five Come to HQ at ## XXX Drive.  In order to find the National Treasure We'll need teamwork and luck for good measure.  If you can come call with the phrase 'The secret lies with XXX's birthdays!"  RSVP to XXX at XXX by SEP XX. 

I rolled up the cryptogram and sealed it with a wax seal and tied a ribbon around it.  For decorations I kept it simple because most of the activity would occur outside the house.  I used helium balloons in and around the house.  We bought both of the National Treasure movies and had them playing as the kids arrived.  If you really wanted to get into the theme you could decorate the tables with laterns sand scrolls eyepieces etc.  We wanted the activity to be the main focus though.  After all of the kids arrived I explained the rules and divided the teams up.  We had 18 kids and divided them into 4 teams - red blue yellow and green.  Two teams had 4 kids and two teams had 5 kids.  We tried to divide the older and younger kids evenly to give everyone a fair chance. 

Each kid was given a bag to match his team color (red blue yellow & green).  In the bag was a pair of sunglasses (in the team color - to be a cool treasure hunter) a pencil to solve clues and a magnifying lens to help read the fine print.  The rules were simple:  they must solve the puzzle or clue to move to the next location to get the next clue.    I had set up seven clues to lead them to six different locations.  Every team would go to the same location but not in the same order so they could not just follow each other.  They could not mess with another team's clues.  Just like Ben Gates always found a free mason symbol when he was getting close to the next clue or treasure I created a symbol that represented my son's birthday (I used his initial and a picture of something he likes).  They knew they were in the right area if they saw this symbol.  At each location there was a folder in their team color and a treat bag in their team color with a treasure in it for them to share.

To start the great National Treasure scavenger hunt I gave each team a Pringles can that had been wrapped in brown paper.  On the outside was the birthday boy's symbol and the clue "The secret lies with grape juice."  Inside the can was a copy of the Declaration of Independence.  On the back of the document I used a mixture of baking soda and water to paint on the next clue.  The kids had to use the grape juice to reveal the message.  (The baking soda and grape juice react in an acid-base reaction.) 

The clue for all of them said "The secret lies with the pink birds."  The kids all knew that our neighbor around the corner had a flock of plastic pink flamingos in her yard and they took off running.  I should also mention that I did send an adult out with each group (with the answers to the puzzles and the order they should follow for each team) in case they had 1
trouble and also to take pictures.  At the flamingos each group grabbed their color folders and began to work on the next clue.  As I said early I gave all of the same clues but I mixed up the order that they had to go to each of them. 

This is the path that the red team followed:  from the flamingos they had to decode the Declaration of Independence.  I printed out a copy of the document in a standard format for each team.  The clue stated "The secret lies with the wheel that spins very fast but goes no where."  I gave them 12 number codes in this format: XX-XX-XX.  They had to count down lines words and letters on the document to get the 12 letters that spelled out "Merry Go Round."  So off they ran to the merry go round at our neighborhood playground.  Taped under the merry go round was the next clue.  It was a puzzle. 

The clue on the outside of the envelope stated "The secret lies at this house.  Knock three times and say'The number of this house is 1+7 but XXX is celebrating the big 11.'"  On the puzzle I had a glued a picture from my neighbor's house that clearly identified it as her house.  They had to put the puzzle together and figure out who's house it belonged to.  Once the group knocked and gave the secret phrase to her she gave them the next clue. 

For the next clue I used the National Treasure puzzles from the teaching aide at  There was a National Landmark crossword puzzle.  The kids had to complete the crossword puzzle first then use a "mask" to reveal the next clue.  The "mask" was another piece of paper with holes cut out of it that revealed only certain letters from the crossword puzzle.  They had to unscramble the words to finish the clue. 

The next clue read "The secret lies with the writing on the (brick) wall."  The word scramble spelled out the name of our subdivision and the kids ran to the brick wall at the beginning of our subdivision.  I used the same website for the next clue.  It was an activity about symbols on the back of the $1 bill.  (For the treat at this location I gave each kid a $1 bill so they could investigate it.)  The team had to come up with the answers to seven questions about the $1 bill back: 

1.  How many rows of stone make up the pyramid? 
2.  How many letters are in the motto above the pyramid? 
3.  How many stars are in the starburst above the eagle? 
4. How many leaves are on the olive branch in the eagle's right claw? 
5.  How many arrows are in the eagle's left claw? 
6.  How many stripes are on the eagle's shield? 
7. How many letters are in the motto on the banner in the eagle's beak? 

The answer to each of the above questions is 13 - for the 13 original colonies.  The clue for this one read "The secret lies in the black box that sits where the lucky number above meets the street named for 'a dense growth of trees.'"  This meant they had to go to my neighbor's black mailbox at #13 Forrest (a dense growth of trees).  At the mailbox they received the last clue.  It stated "The final secret lies buried on an island.  This island is not surrounded by water but by grass and instead of sand you will find wood chips.  It is under the constant surveillance by an ever-watching eye.  Bring back some treasure from your journeys.  Make sure that you leave some for the other treasure hunters so they don't gang up on you!"  Behind our house is an area with some trees that the kids play on and call it their island.

 We bought small drawstring bags at Michael's and filled it with Pay Day and $100000 Grand Candy Bars as well as Gold (chocolate) coins.  Then we buried the bags on the island.  We left the symbol on a tree and a small showel in the ground.  All four teams were successful and came back to my house after a little over an hour.  At my house they divided up their loot and put it in their goody bags. 

They had the Pay Day candy bars the $100000 Grand bars the gold coins ring pops fun dip Reese's pieces glow stick bracelets blow pops and the $1 bills - all of the treasures they had found at each location.  I also gave each of them a fun book about the states and presidents that I had found in the $1 bins at Target.  Once everyone was back we served dinner - hot dogs chicken sandwiches salad beans veggies chips and watermelon.  The kids ate and talked about their adventures.  We let the movie continue to play and they talked about how they were treasure hunters.  When everyone was finished we opened presents and then had an ice cream cake for dessert.  All in all the scavenger hunt was a huge success."

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