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A Scavenger Hunt throughout all of Los Angeles

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Scavenger contestants celebrate at the end of the day | Photo by Mark Dienger


Scavenger contestants celebrate at the end of the day | Photo by Mark Dienger
By Mark Dienger, Special to LAist

In the never-ending quest to find fun things to occupy my weekends, a friend turned us on to Race/LA They organize a number of events from urban scavenger hunts to a simulated leg of the "Amazing Race." Having personally participated in two Race/LA events (one CityRace and a special one-off event called "The Quest"), we found that both events failed to disappoint.

The CityRace is a three hour scavenger hunt based in historic areas of Los Angeles. Participants answer questions based on the theme of the event. The team with the highest score wins. The Quest was a special one off mystery event Race/LA held on March 21 and 22. Participants were only told to meet at a certain destination at the beginning of the race and await instructions.

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We sat down with John Hennessy, the mastermind behind Race/LA, for a little Q & A:

What inspired you to start Race/LA? Can you give us a little background on what it took to get the concept off the ground.

I’ve always been a huge ‘Amazing Race’ fan and considered applying for the show but realized I - and most people I know - can not take weeks or months off from their jobs to do something like that. I sort of thought, “I wish there was something like this you could do in a weekend,” and then the lightbulb went off and I thought, “hmmm..maybe there is...”

The first Race/LA in 2004 was really done just for fun, and I never thought it would turn into anything more than a one-time thing. But the LA Times got wind of it and did a great story. And the reactions I got from people who did it were so positive. Things just sort of took off drom there, so I thought, maybe I’ll try this again.

Because Race/LA is so complicated and time-consuming to produce, we can only do it once a year. And early on, people would be contacting me repeatedly, asking when the next race would be. So I got the idea for our CityRace Urban Adventure Hunts by wanting to do something new that was simpler, that we could do more often. By focusing on just one neighborhood and making the clues more “mental” rather than “physical,” CityRace requires much less staff and advance planning to set up, and those can be repeated more easily.

How much time is put into the preparation and research into each event?

Race/LA takes months - maybe 5-6 months. Finding locations, crossing locations off the list, cominig up with activites, figuring out time between different tasks, etc.

Each CityRace has been different - the ones I think will be easiest to do (Chinatown) turn out to be the more challenging ones. Usually 3 or 4 trips to the neighborhood of the hunt and lots of internet research along the way.

And then we need to do test runthroughs of both events to be sure clues make sense, estimate time various things will take, etc.

Of the two different types of events you organize (Race LA and the Cityrace), which event is the most successful? Which event are you most proud of?

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I’m proud of everything we’ve done. But Race/LA is by far the most complex event to put together. And if success is measured by response, it has always sold out within weeks (or less).

Do you ever participate in any scavenger hunt or races like the events your organize? If so, what was your favorite event?

This year there have been 2 different events I’ve really wanted to do but wasn’t able to because we had our own things going on! Lately my weekends are so busy either planning or running our own things I don’t have time. I’ve sent my assistants to check out a few things. Of course they always say ours are better :)

Do you have any plans to organize any new events? Is there anything special we can look forward too?

Yes, this fall will be our 5th anniversary so we’re planning a really special Race/LA. I’m still working on it so can’t give too many specific details, but it might be a combination of Race/LA and CityRace - all over LA County, of course, and/or it might also include some of our “greatest hits” from previous races.

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Upcoming Race/LA events

CityRace: Olvera Street, El Pueblo & Beyond: Birthplace of the City

Saturday, April 4 at 10:00 a.m.
Saturday, April 18 at 10:00 a.m.

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CityRace: The Great Chinatown Hunt

Sunday, April 5 at 11:00 a.m.

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Race/LA 5 year Anniversary

Saturday, October 17, 2009