No-spend fun: DIY Mall Scavenger Hunt


In a world of nothing-to-do and no-money-to-spend, seven teenagers will take on an afternoon of cost-free fun at the local mall.

Picture this: It’s a drab, dreary Sunday afternoon in January, a few weeks after Christmas. Winter break for high schoolers is long gone, and winter break for college students has reached its final days. Today is the last you will have with your friends before you all return to school, not to reunite until May. By this time, you’ve had nearly a month together, so you’ve exhausted all your small town’s typical means of entertainment (not to mention your poor-student budgets): diner runs, movies, and, yeah, Pokemon Go hunting. There’s only so many things a group of 9 friends can do together. So here you are, last day together, desperate for something cheap, fun and accommodating of a large friend group.

Enter Daisy and I: Activity Enthusiasts. We’re the two in our crowd who are least content to just hang out. We like to do things. And Daisy had been hooked on the idea of a scavenger hunt since I’d visited her at her college. When I arrived, I had to call her and describe my surroundings so she could figure out where the heck on campus I was. Ever since, she talked about doing some sort of scavenger hunt. It just so happened that I once did a mall photo scavenger hunt at a friend’s birthday party when I was about 12, and it had been surprisingly and extraordinarily fun. You have a list of photos you have to take throughout the mall, and you compete within a time limit against another team to see who can get the most photos on the list.

Free, fun, and good for a group: It fit our criteria. So, after posing the idea to our friends and getting a not-totally-awful-but-still-skeptical response, we hit the internet, searching for lists to give us ideas. We ended up combining items from a few lists, adding and eliminating as things applied to our local mall. This is the list we ended up with:

Mall Scavenger Hunt List

Some of the lists we found on line had different point values for more difficult photos (Like getting a group of strangers to spell out YMCA), but we decided to forgo this system in favor of simplicity.

We decided on an hour time limit and a place to meet up, and a couple of ground rules (everyone on the team sticks together, no running) divided into teams (boys vs girls!) and went for it.

So picture a bunch of pseudo-adult-teenager-people speed-walking excitedly around a small-town shopping mall on a Sunday afternoon. We looked somewhat ridiculous. But let me tell you: It was just as much fun as it had been when I was 12.

Here are some highlights:

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The Takeaway:

For just a little bit of planning and no cost, a mall scavenger hunt is a surprisingly fun way to spend an afternoon. Please, though, don’t let your fun ruin anyone else’s. Follow these tips to ensure that you don’t.



Don’t do it during peak shopping times. It will be less fun for you because you have avoid getting in the way of actual shoppers, and it will make the job of mall employees much more unpleasant. No one wants to tell a bunch of teenagers to behave.

Don’t run. And if you do, don’t do it blatantly. Mall security will stop you.

Don’t make anyone uncomfortable. This should go without saying, but if you think your bothering an employee, or if someone seems wary about helping you with a photo like you asked, drop it. Thank them or apologize and leave them alone.


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