Urban Adventure Quest was born out of boredom. Big Bear Lake resident Christie Walker Bos travels for her job as an editor, so she inevitably finds herself looking for entertainment during downtime.
Traditional tours were out of the question. “I don’t like just being talked to,” Walker Bos says. She gets antsy. It was during one of her work trips while sharing her thoughts with her family that that they were struck with the idea that became a full-fledged side business: urban scavenger hunts.
Upon arriving back home in October 2009, Walker Bos and her husband, Robbie Bos, enlisted Robbie’s sister Tami Walker, a bookkeeper, to launch the new business: Urban Adventure Quest.
The two families financed the project themselves, hoping it pays off in retirement. Luckily it’s fun, so that drives them. “It was a big leap of faith,” Christie says.
Additional inspiration came from Christie and Robbie’s obsession with the reality TV game show “The Amazing Race.” “We thought it would be great to be on the show, but we can’t exactly take time off to do something like that,” Christie says. “And I’m sure it’s not that easy to get chosen.”
The couple created a game that anyone can play and adapt to the desired difficulty level. The tour takes people to points of interest where they can either pause the game and spend time visiting or return later.
The scavenger hunt walking tours are web-based, accessible on smart phones like iPhones and BlackBerrys. Through puzzles and hints, players use brainpower to find vantage points on tours in cities such as Las Vegas, New York City, Atlanta, Honolulu, Catalina Island, Los Angeles and more.
Along the way participants learn interesting facts and see off-the-beaten path landmarks and sites along with the expected. “We provide the history,” Christie says. “By the time you’re done with one of our tours, you will know that city plus some fun facts. It’s educational.”
There are also random lesser known sites, like the Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Station in New York City. There are no signs, it’s just a place where two walkways intersect with vaulted roofs that form a shallow dome.
When standing in the corner murmuring, a person standing at the other corner of the Whispering Gallery 40 feet away hears you loud and clear. It’s a popular spot for wedding proposals, so you may even get added entertainment.
Those who choose to compete as teams on the Urban Adventure Quest can look to their rank, score and time, making the game competitive. If hints are taken, points are docked from the final score. The tours are becoming popular with companies for team-building exercises during conferences and out-of-town retreats or meetings.
New cities added depend on where Christie, Robbie or Tami travel. They do the footwork while in town, and then enlist friends, family and acquaintances to try out the tours for quality assurance. Christie does the research and writing, and Robbie does a lot of the hands-on information gathering and graphic design. Then the couple walks the tour together to perfect the puzzles.
Launching the site was no small task. Christie and Robbie wanted to have many cities done and tested before offering the service, so they invested more than a year to prepare. Before it even went online, they sent testers out with clues in sealed envelopes. The participants would call from each stop to check in and work out any kinks. Each city was tested at least three times.
The website went live April 19. “We never felt like our idea was not going to work,” Robbie says. “But with the amount of hours we put into it, we felt like it was never going to launch.” They’re off and running.
“Now the hard part is marketing,” Christie says. They are taking on the challenge, one city concierge, visitors’ bureau and travel guide at a time.
The fee-based game is priced at $49 per tour per group. Big Bear Valley residents receive a discount for Urban Adventure Quest. Visit www.urbanadventure-quest.com and enter the code BBL15 for a 15 percent discount.
Contact reporter Arrissia Owen at 909-866-3456, ext. 142 or by email at email@example.com.