Running for Dad of the Year after getting my kids to combine exercise, learning, and smiles
Several companies offer iPhone-based scavenger hunts now. We’ve tried a few hunts and found two companies that do a good job, both with similar approaches. These hunts last for an hour or two, cover a mile or two, and have roughly twenty clues. Each clue involves a question and you have three shots at a correct answer. Then you get directions to your next clue.
The scoring is based on a combination of correct answers and travel time between clues. They rank you against others who recently took the challenge, allowing you to compete virtually. However, you could also break into teams if there were enough of you and you wanted personal as well as virtual competition.
Portsmouth was an old haunt for some of us, but less so for me, and I learned about more than just the bustling waterfront.
An additional benefit is that you can pause the game after each challenge. When our hunger was getting the best of us in Salem, we paused the game, had a wonderful lunch at a local restaurant, then resumed playing. The same was true to check out a wonderful little store on Portsmouth’s main strip. This avoids the game from becoming a chore, letting you play at your own pace.
Not all cities have these scavenger hunts; these companies have found cities with history, variety, and a fairly self-contained route. However, all of the New England states have at least one place to offer. Some have mini-hunts as well, if you’re looking for a place or hunt that’s more abridged. Since these are national companies, it can be fun for vacations further afield, too: we played during a vacation in Nashville, which really allowed us to learn about an unfamiliar place.
These have also helped engage our whole family. With two teen-aged girls, “family friendly” is sometimes too young of a focus for them. They also have a high bar for entertainment. This lets them take a tour without being bored by the tour guide, creates a game-like approach, and they can lead the charge, with their iPhones being assets, since some clues are best googled. It's also an easy activity for a friend to join.
So, the next time you’re thinking about visiting a new city or an old haunt, or looking for something fun to do with friends or family, consider a scavenger hunt. It could just be the highlight of your trip!
Finding shortcuts to more fun stuff around New England
With summer vacations nearly past us, we will shortly return or focus to the hustle and bustle of school days and all of your coworkers back at the office. You may be dreading kids who range from bummed to melting down as they adjust to getting up earlier and having almost 200 days to count down before their next summer. Heck, you may be ready to melt down yourself at the thought of combining that with the sports and music lessons while cramming in your errands.
We’re not here to pig pile onto this pity party, though. We here at New England Good Life believe in finding the silver linings in such situations. So we looked around and found five apps for your phones that will offer inspiration for your upcoming fall and even winter weekends. These cover a range of topics and give you a chance for quick-hit inspiration. You can look for something while walking to that meeting you don’t want to go to (look out for the wall). Or sneak a quick peek during soccer practice (don’t forget to look up periodically). The bottom line is that these can help get you through the transition, while also being useful later on.
1. Vermont Brewery Challenge
Details: this app was developed by the Vermont Brewers Association. They’re renowned in the craft beer industry. There’s a bit of a game here, as you get your passport stamped by visiting the Vermont breweries. Now, you gotta understand, it’s almost impossible to keep up with all the innovation going on across the state’s breweries. So, sure, there might be a missing beer. Also, if you try to create a contest with friends forming teams to see who can visit the most then they’ve got a time limit before you can get a new stamp. That seems like a mighty good safeguard, even if you don’t like it.
All that being said, it’s a cool app. The map makes it easy to find new places. Another part captures your experience and favorites before you forget, and it’s sufficiently up-to-date that it’s still far easier than searching the thousands of page results you’ll get when searching the google machine. This is also more convenient than carrying around a brochure and getting frustrated when you don’t have a pen. If you’re a couple of hop heads looking for as much color in your beers as in the fall foliage, it’s a winner to download.
2. Farmers markets
Details: New England’s farmers markets dot the region, especially in summer and fall. But they do exist year round. This app allows you to find the ones closest to you. You can view it in either map or list versions. It can use your location to instantly focus on your area, but you can search elsewhere if you’ll be on a weekend away. This can also be a good way to quickly add some healthy food from local farms into the mix if you’re running errands and are magically ahead of schedule. (If so, buy a lottery ticket afterwards!)
The app also includes added details, such as what types of offerings are available at the market, season and hours, payment methods, and a website link. As with anything like this, it’s impossible to be 100% current but this will save so much researching that it makes it even easier to support local farms, businesses, and craftspeople while finding some great and unique things. On a side note, this is also a nationwide app, so if you’re in Oregon craving some good, local eggs, this is still going to help you out.
Details: with fall foliage not far away and the days growing shorter, the combination can inspire you to get out for some great late-season hikes. All Trails is a national app, so it can be useful up in northern New England or the Berkshires, with their amazing foliage. But it can also be helpful closer to home. It doesn’t have mapping functions to let you string together the trails you want and which way you want to go at each intersection. But with its really large volume of common routes, there are still a ton of choices. What’s particularly helpful is the information posted by other users. If you’re hiking up in the White Mountains, for example, seeing a post from a day or two ago that notes the water crossing is dangerous can be really helpful. (pack your water wings!) But even on simpler trails, they might note a modification that’s been made to the trail or something that will be useful to you. It also graphs the elevation change for you to see where the hard parts are, rather than a total ascent or descent.
Details: sure, summer’s over. But September will still bring some warm, sunny days that let you squeeze in a final beach day or two. On a serious note, we’ve seen such a huge uptick in shark sightings with several bites and even a fatality sadly added to the mix. For anyone worried about them, this offers a chance to see what’s been spotted in the area. It’s not an elaborate app but is an easy and near-instant safety check. The details it offers give you a little more context to evaluate as well, such as whether a shark sighting was confirmed. And on a lighter note, if there’s nothing around and you have a perverse sense of humor, you can have a little fun freaking out your kid: “OK, we’re here! Oh, let me check quickly… yep. Wow. Looks like there was a shark right around here yesterday. So don’t swim out too far. Let’s go, kids!”
This app was fun for our whole family. But it also pushed my daughter, who had discovered it. She was psyched when she got (safely) past 30 mph in one particularly steep spot. This subtly helped build her confidence which, in turn, built her technique. Luckily, it didn’t inspire her so much so that she wound up like Lane Meyers skiing on one ski (a la John Cusack in Better Off Dead).
While these won’t turn the clock back to summer, nor will they revolutionize your life, they may still lead to little discoveries or activities that help you adjust to fall with some enthusiasm. And if you have your own apps that are really helpful in maximizing your weekends, drop us a line and let us know!
Good adventures start as dreams. Enthusiasm turns them into great memories.
New England adventures can accommodate any season, any timeframe, any type of group, and any budget.