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Mall Scavenger Hunt Ideas

Updated on February 22, 2016
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FunScavengerHunts is here to try ind bring people together with scavenger hunts and photo scavenger hunts.

Aren’t malls fantastic? No matter what you’re after, you can almost always find it in your local mall. Craving a tasty bite to eat? Hit up the food court. Desperate for a new bestseller to tear through while you tan on the beach? Check out a book store. Looking for some sweet new tunes or a movie to watch with your friends? Browse through one of the countless different media-centric stores. The mass appeal of shopping malls is good for more than just impulse buying, however, as you can use the diverse goods there for other purposes, such as scavenger hunts. If that’s your goal then look no further for some good mall scavenger hunt ideas!

The two just go perfectly together, don’t they? Malls and scavenger hunts are quite the pair. But when you do your mall scavenger hunt, how are you going to set things up? What will you do? Start by…

Picking a Scavenger Hunt Type

Before you can really get started you have to know what type of scavenger hunt you’re going to do. There are two main variations that you should consider:

  1. Retrieval Hunts – These are the classic scavenger hunts that many of us grew up with. You get a list of things to collect, you find the things, and you bring them back to a predetermined destination.
  2. Picture Hunts – This is a more modern invention. Now that everyone has smart phones with built in cameras, it has become common for scavenger hunts to require nothing more than a picture of the objectives. You don’t need to bring anything to the end game aside from the photographic proof of your accomplishments.

Of course, there are ups and downs to both, as they lend themselves to different mall scavenger hunt ideas. Retrieval hunts can create a tenser scavenger situation, as people collect something that there are not many multiples of and scarcity sets in. It forces people to try and prioritize what items they think will be snagged up soonest. This kind of scarcity doesn’t exist in picture hunts because each person can photograph themselves with the same copy of an object and no one has to take it with them.

But there is the fact that in a mall a retrieval hunt generally means spending money on whatever it is you are collecting. You can’t just walk into a store and take things out for free, after all. The owners will likely not buy that you are going to bring them back after your scavenger hunt is over. So anything that you are designating to be collected from a store will cost money, and that means that your players will need to budget what they’re spending during the hunt.

This can create an interesting dynamic in and of itself where more expensive items are worth more points in the hunt. But this can also isolate people who do not have much money to spend on a game like that. Think hard about who you’re playing with and try not to set things up so that players will have to pay a lot of money to stand a chance of winning.

On the picture hunt side of things, you can make use of photographs to do interesting things that physical items don’t lend themselves to. For instance: you can make your objectives actions instead of items. So, rather than saying “Find a beach ball and a fuzzy hat,” you can say “High-five a stranger and do a handstand!” The proof of their actions comes in the photographs.

The downside to this, however, is that more complex actions cannot be self-photographed. This means that you have to divide people up into teams of two – if not three – players. If you’re working with a small group this might not be possible, so take a headcount before moving forward.


Use the Mall Scavenger Hunt to Get to Know Each Other

One of the best things about being in a place with an interest for everyone is learning those interests. If you’re with a new group of people and you’re looking to bond then you can crowd source the objective list. Have each person contribute a few items to it that are related to their hobbies and interests. Shuffle the order of the list and make sure that no one knows who wrote which list items.

At the end of the hunt, once everyone has collected their items (or photographed them), go through the list item by item and have everyone guess who suggested the item and what hobby it relates to. This can be a fun and unique way to learn about what your group does in their spare time. Someone might have you seek out a fishing rod while another has you seek out a horror movie, and you’ll have no idea who suggested what until the very end!

Use the Scavenger Hunt to Do Holiday Shopping

If you’re still in need of mall scavenger hunt ideas then you might want to consider using the opportunity to have a huge gift exchange amongst the participants of the hunt. You can follow a similar list making process to the above scenario, but instead of picking an interest or a hobby item, each person can pick one or two cheap gifts that they’d like to receive. These items would be given to another person who in turn would have made their own short list to be given to another player. Think of it kind of like having a Secret Santa, but with a scavenger hunting twist!

Make the Collected Objects the Prize

If you end up doing a retrieval hunt then consider having a group wide agreement that the winner will receive everything purchased for the hunt. This adds an extra edge to the competition as you suddenly have the chance to earn a lot of free loot!

Whatever the idea you choose, you’re sure to have fun! Just remember not to take things too seriously. It is just a game, after all!


Planning an All Day Mall Scavenger Hunt?

Everyone loves a good trip to the mall! You go out, grab a bite to eat, and browse your favorite stores. You forget your worries as you comb through the new releases in a book store. You feel elation as you find a cool new band's debut album in the record store. You feel excited when you spy the latest horror movie that's released on DVD in a multimedia store. And you get your competitive fix when you grab the most recent release in your favorite series of shooters at the local video game store. But this all takes an hour or two at best! What if you'd like to take your family to the mall and spend the entire day together? If that is indeed your wish then you may just benefit from embarking on an all day mall scavenger hunt.

Of course, to do so you'll need a few scavenger hunt clues, but the mall will make that easy. Just pick something from a few of the stores and build up some clues from there. Scavenger hunt ideas are borderline effortless when you're using the mall as your backdrop. So that part of the planning – the riddles, clues, ideas, and other sort of objective indicators – will not be of any real difficulty.

Now, what will be your main concern will be stretching the scavenger hunt into an all day affair without making it feel overly drawn out or unpleasant. That will be the true challenge when planning an all day scavenger hunt.

Using Difficulty to Your Advantage

One of the most obvious ways you can draw a scavenger hunt out is by upping the difficulty of the clues. You can make a simple riddle slightly more complex (or vague), or you can go for a completely abstract approach. The only issue with this plan is that younger children will get quickly frustrated with your tactics and – if they lack older siblings to help them out – may want to quit before the end of the scavenger hunt.

Seeing as the objective is to bring your family closer through fun activities and not to leave them angry and tired, spend some time considering just how much difficulty you can reasonably get away with. And if you overestimate your children you need to be prepared to help them out without completely ruining the riddles. So just be sure you've given all of that some thought before you go this route.


Doubling Back: Time Wasting with Added Health Benefits

If you want an excellent way to extend your mall scavenger hunt by a few hours then you can purposely create the scavenger hunt list so that it forces the participants to double back over where they've already been. So, for instance, if two stores are right next to each other, and you have clues relating back to both, place them with a different clue in between so that the players will need to venture to the other side of the mall before they go to the store next to the one in which they started.

This practice of doubling them back to right next to their starting point after having sent them far away will assuredly extend the time that it takes for them to complete the scavenger hunt. And if you fear they will simply skip clues and do everything that one area has to offer then you can simply make each clue build upon the last. You can do this easily by making one of the words in the following clue the item they found in the preceding clue. Or – if you want to do it in an even simpler manner – you can withhold further clues until they've found what they're currently working on. Do whatever you think will be best for your particular group.

In addition to the lengthier scavenger hunt that this tactic will inevitably lead to, you also gain an added health benefit. More walking means more calories burnt, which in turn can help with weight loss and general well being. This can help teach your children a nice lesson about the importance of exercise when done correctly. At the very least, you will be giving them a nice day of physical activity, and even if it doesn't become part of their regular lifestyle you have given them some benefit. It certainly won't hurt your family for everyone to spend a day on their feet.

Instead of Hunting Objects, Hunt Activities

If you're really trying to make the scavenger hunt last the entire day then don't just have the players seek out objects that they can purchase and move on from. Have them either seek out an activity and complete it, or have the objects they gain be put to a greater use.

For example: if one of the clues leads your players to a toy store in order for them to buy a Styrofoam sword then you could have a requirement on the list that they engage in a brief sword fight with said swords. Or if one of the clues leads your players to a novelty shop so that they can procure a fake mustache then require them to take the time to find a mirror and apply it properly to their face.

Of course, there must be an air of common sense around these activities. Don't request your children to do anything that will get your family kicked out of the mall. Don't aggravate store owners or fellow customers with your actions. Your quest to make the scavenger hunt last the entire day won't end well if you are removed from the location in which the hunt must take place.

Sometimes you just need to get everyone out of the house for the day. Maybe you just want to get the air, or you're restless, or you want everyone to get some decent exercise. Whatever the case may be, if you're hoping to kill some time, an all day scavenger hunt is the way to go, and the mall is a great place for it.


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