Chicago families can spend a day as super-sleuths at The Art Institute

Sherlock Holmes, famous for sleuthing mysteries with his pal Dr. Watson, might be surprised to discover that Watson has a few adventures up his own sleeve. Bret Watson, that is, founder and president of Watson Adventures, a company that develops and organizes large public scavenger hunts in more than a half-dozen major cities across the U.S.

In the early 1990s, Watson was visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art and took note of humorous details in some of the artwork. He thought it would be fun to invent scavenger hunts for his friends as a whimsical way to enjoy museums and other public places. As word spread, he began to get requests for hunts from corporate groups, and in 1999, a business was launched.

Participants are required to decipher funny yet challenging clues which rely more on logic than knowledge. According to Watson, all you need is a sharp mind and a good pair of shoes—you will do a lot of walking.

Kids can take a crack at sleuthing on June 14, when “The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt” takes place at the Art Institute for ages 10 and up. It’s designed for kids and adults to do together, and all children must be accompanied by an adult. Museum admission is included in the price of the hunt.

Most of the public hunts, however, are geared toward adults and held at the Art Institute, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Lincoln Park, and the Loop. A Watson Adventure is perfect for a date night or girls’/guys’ night out.

It’s fast-paced, fun and packed with interesting trivia of all kinds. There is also an element of heart-pounding competition as teams race against each other to make it back in the allotted time with the most correct answers. Hunts typically take place on weekends and teams consist of up to six people. Games last two hours with 30 minutes of that time used for set up and post hunt scoring.

Advance online purchase is required for all public hunts. The website offers a complete schedule and pricing information.

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