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belle's birthday scavenger hunt

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The big question: How to plan a New York City birthday party that’s down-home, different, and fun? Answer: SCAVENGER HUNT.  It was was my husband’s great idea to celebrate Belle’s 10th birthday with a neighborhood scavenger hunt, and so, we hit the streets. John charted a course that took the girls around New York’s Lower East Side while calling their attention to several of the things that make this old New York neighborhood so very special.

Belle invited all of the girls in her class and John divided them into 3 teams (each with it’s own grown-up chaperone), John gave the team captains 10 envelopes, each containing the address of a different destination and a clue for what they’d be seeking out there. The route (10 destinations in all) highlighted the flavor and history of the 'hood, and really tested the girls on their map reading skills (some girls landed on that tried and true New York method of finding your destination – asking someone for directions - ingenuity comes in all forms.) Our meeting point was The Pickle Guys on Essex Street. We engergized with Kosher Dills and began our hunt.

The teams scattered in their color-coded team bandanas, clues and maps in hand: Our first destination: Essex Street Market, an indoor market built in the ‘30s, the girls scurried around looking for a farm animal on a wall (found at Jeffrey’s Meat Market, the oldest family owned butcher in the city).

And then it was off to Economy Candy where they had to “find the title of a game we all play.”  Despite all the distractions of one of the best retro candy stores ever, the girls quickly spotted and photographed their item

and were then able to purchase $5 worth of candy. The sugar rush definitely derailed some of them. (The chaperones all noticed that this was where temperaments met math skills - some calculated their purchases to the cent, others were happy to choose just one awesome piece of candy, and others negotiated for a pay raise.) Other stops included, the Sunshine Cinema and My Plastic Heart, a gallery of collectable Japanese toys where the girls were allowed to make another $5.00 purchase, (Birthday Party Plus: The kids bought their own goody bags). Next it was on to the world famous Katz’s Deli, one of Belle’s favorite restaurants Their task: Count the salamis in the window (127) and then calculate how many sandwiches could be made out of all these salamis (127 x 20 slices per salami). The kids all began to figure this out in their heads (the good news – TERC Math seems to work). A guy from Katz’s came outside to talk to the girls and point out the decades-old Katz’s motto: “Send a salami to your boy in the Army!” The scavenger hunt continued as dusk hit the city streets. All three groups converged at Schiller’s for dinner and cake (love their unbelievable Sticky Toffee Pudding). Belle couldn’t have been happier with her party and her friends, as they left, all said “this was the best birthday party EVER.” It was indeed a cross-cultural inter-disciplinary blast. And so, Belle’s party was a huge success. And for me, not having to plan a birthday party was unbelievably luxurious. Some husbands score big with jewelry or surprise trips. Mine planned our daughter’s birthday. It was even better than a bracelet. Happy Birthday Belle. If you'd like to go on your own Urban Scavenger Hunt email us for the destinations, their history, items, and a map - makes a great walking tour!

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