- Sophie &Friends
Recently I was contacted by the mom of 16-year-old twins. She wanted to do something special for her girls, who were really into the show “The Amazing Race.” For those of you unfamiliar with the show, 11 teams (consisting of two people each) are given clues to destinations around the world. At each destination they are given a challenge. The teams literally cross the world in their quest to be the first team to reach the final destination. When discussing our options, the mom and I decided that we wanted to keep the event contained, and also keep the girls out of cars (even though some of them did have licenses). We came up with Golden Gate Park as our “world” -- and although we would have liked to have done 16 challenges (one for each year), we limited ourselves to a 3-hour race and 13 challenges.
The basic premise of the race/party was to break the girls into five teams and then send them out into the park via pedi-cabs (those four-seater bikes that look like little surreys). They would be given various clues that would lead them through the park and through a series of challenges, culminating at the Golden Gate Bandstand where they would have to perform.
To make the race work smoothly I brought along four of my team members. Each would take a location for their own, then leapfrog to another destination once they were done. In this manner we were able to get to the locations, set up the challenges, and man the station when the girls arrived. There were some true life “Amazing Race moments,” like the team that lost their bag of supplies, the team that got lost, and the surly boat dock manager, all of which only added to the fun of the adventure, and leveled the playing field for everyone.
Here’s a breakdown of how the race ran:
Challenge 1: Decorate your pedi-cab
Each team was given a bag of supplies (streamers, balloons, ribbon, tape, etc.) which they had to use to decorate their pedi-cabs. The rule was they had to use every bit of decor. We didn’t tell them how, but they had to use everything! Once they had used the supplies, the bikes were judged. The team had to receive a score of at least 21 points out of a possible 30 points (guaranteeing they would actually think about their decorating as opposed to just taping the roll of streamers to the bike’s handlebars and calling it done). If they failed to get 21 points, they could either rework their bike decor or take a five minute penalty. Needless to say, each team surpassed our expectations and did an amazing job decorating their bikes. From here the teams were handed an envelope that led them to Stowe Lake.
Challenge 2: Paddle the lake
The teams were each given $20 to rent a paddle boat. The object was to paddle around the lake, observing their location as they went. Halfway around the lake there was an old bridge. To cross under the bridge, they had to answer three trivia questions about their surroundings and about the two birthday girls. Once they answered correctly, a basket was lowered down that held their next destination.
Challenge 3: The giant slide
The girls were directed to the giant slide at the children’s playground. Here, they had to make a phone video of their entire team sliding down the slide. If the video was deemed entertaining, they were given their next clue... if not, they had to keep trying!
Challenge 4: The great climb
In the middle of the playground is a 35-foot tall climbing structure. The ladies were instructed to climb to the top and retrieve their colored ribbon. Once done, they received their next clue. The real challenge here was keeping the other kids already on the playground from untying the ribbons!
Challenge 5: The big dig
The ladies were now guided to a large sandpit, where they had to dig up colored balls. The balls came in assorted colors and they had to find one of each color of the rainbow. It was interesting to see how many could find 6 of the 7 colors easily, it was always the last color that eluded them!
Challenge 6: The building challenge
The last challenge in the children’s playground was pretty daunting. The ladies had to construct a 3-foot tall sand castle by the water feature in the park. Each castle had to have at least 16 embellishments or design elements. Once the castle was deemed passable, they had to destroy the castle.
Challenge 7: The tennis court
Golden Gate Park has an extensive tennis court layout, with over 25 courts spread out over what must be at least a half acre of land. The challenge was to find five tennis balls. Each ball was marked with their color and had a letter written on it. Once they found all the balls, they had to arrange the balls to spell a word. Once they had that correct they could move on.
Challenge 8: Flower power
The ladies were then directed to the Conservatory of Flowers, a huge glass structure set back from the road. The girls had to sift through 25 pounds of rice to find 16 sunflower seeds. The biggest challenge was not spilling any rice on the ground!
Challenge 9: Dismantle the bike
After a tricky ride back to the bike rental kiosk, the ladies were told to dismantle all their decor and recycle it appropriately.
Challenge 10: The chopstick relay
Set up at the back gates to the Japanese Tea Garden, the gals had to use chopsticks to transfer sixteen gummy worms, one by one, from a platter to their team bowl, which was located in a small pagoda 25 feet away. Once the gummy worms were transferred, they had to bring the bowl back and eat all the worms.
Challenge 11: The statue scavenger hunt
Around the main concourse in Golden Gate Park are a series of statues. The girls were given a clue sheet, and had to locate different details about different statues spread throughout the space. Only one sheet was given out, so the groups had to stay together to locate and answer the questions. The answers were then checked by a monitor; if they got more than one answer wrong they had to either accept a five minute penalty, or go find the correct answers.
Challenge 12: Count the trees
Out of all the challenges, I thought this one was the trickiest, mainly because all of the trees look as if they are placed in rows -- but when you start counting them, you realize the rows start to splay out in different directions, without any rhyme, reason, or set number plan. I personally had to count them four times to before I got the correct number, and then had my team help me count it one more time to make sure I hadn’t miscounted.
Challenge 13: The final performance
This was the very last challenge, and the one where any team, regardless of their place in the lineup, could win. Each team was given a set of song lyrics, a box of costumes and props, and a boom box. Their challenge was to perform as a team. The team who garnered the most attention and applause would win the “detour” envelope: a certificate that allowed them to trade places with any team in the lineup (and thus guaranteeing their win).
By the end of the race the girls were exhausted, as was my team, but it was so much fun that no one minded. Awards were handed out (gift certificates for the winners, chocolate bars for everyone else), but no one seemed to mind if they had lost -- it was the adventure that had been the prize. The thing that struck me was that even though the event was planned out to the last detail, things still went wrong... just like in the real race. Teams that were in the lead at the beginning got held up on trivia questions or by unhelpful boat attendants, teams that were in last place slipped ahead when a misplaced cell phone caused a momentary panic and team-wide search... Things were unpredictable, which is exactly what makes it so much fun.
I highly recommend this kind of party for older kids, families, and organizations. It’s a great team building experience that really challenges its individuals. I only wish that like the actual Amazing Race I’d been able to have a film team following each team’s progress... that would have just been the icing on the cake!