Scavenger hunts are no longer confined to playgrounds and neighborhoods: Stearns Wharf, the Arlington Theatre, and the old County Courthouse are just three of the Santa Barbara highlights to explore during a competitive downtown tour developed by Urban Adventure Quest.
Founded in 2011 by Christie Walker, husband Robbie Bos, and sister-in-law Tami Walker, Urban Adventure Quest facilitates sightseeing scavenger hunts in 39 cities across the United States via a series of smartphone-accessible clues and challenges. They were inspired by the hit reality show The Amazing Race and founded their Camarillo-based company to bring that same “excitement and adventure” to anyone with a smartphone. Upon downloading the app, players use their surroundings to work out each challenge, thereby exploring the character, attractions, and history of each city. Participants score points for correct answers and can compare themselves to other teams that have toured the same city.
Santa Barbara’s tour starts at Cabrillo Boulevard and Garden Street and then covers more than two miles of terrain over 17 challenges, passing iconic and historic points of interest like the Casa de la Guerra, the Courthouse, and Stearns Wharf. The tour is estimated to take two-and-a-half to three hours on foot — and that’s without taking breaks or stopping to explore further — and makes for an especially engaging hunt.
“You have some downtown cities that are too retail-oriented, and there’s not enough history that’s showing,” said Christie Walker. “Every city has history, but Santa Barbara displays their history. There was plenty of outdoor art and historical plaques and ways that we can tell the history through the tour. That’s one of the things we like to do in our research: We find out about the history of a city. And then we don’t want to just tell — we want to show what [the history] is and have people learn about it through playing the game.”
For $49, teams of two to five can take on a quest. Discounts are available for schools, nonprofits, active military, and veterans. Call (805) 603-5620 or see urbanadventurequest.com.