The Amazing Race Birthday

So in mid-November, my older sister had a….ahem…milestone birthday. My younger sister, Emily, and I kicked around some ideas one evening on how to celebrate Jen’s birthday. What could we do to honor – oh – you know – decades of her fabulous life…but that wouldn’t break the bank…would involve all ages of everyone in our family…..and also wouldn’t cost us any money?

Our team badge courtesy of Emily

Oh…and that she would enjoy and want to do to celebrate her birthday?

Well..involving all ages rules out lots of things….namely drinking heavily.

So what to do? Oh what to do?

Jen loves games….brilliantly noted Emily…but we weren’t going to organize a family board game night. That didn’t seem overly exciting.

In a stroke of sheer genius, which I RARELY give to others on my blog, Emily mentioned how much Jen loves The Amazing Race. She does have an unfulfilled goal of becoming a reality TV star…..

And bam came the  idea…let’s create a scavenger hunt around Jen’s life themed around The Amazing Race…break our family up into teams and run them around the National Mall on a Saturday in November. Brains and physical prowess would matter just like in the show. Surely Michelle Obama would be so proud of us for incorporating physical activity.

WE were so pleased with ourselves.  I mean – is it not a great idea?

But then we had to execute it. We had to think through how long everyone would tolerate a game, how difficult (or not) to make the questions and how many different museums we could reasonably send everyone too. And could we get away with sending them to see a dinosaur in the Museum of Natural History to mock Jen’s age….you know….send them looking for a relic?

Are you laughing? Cause we thought that was a hilarious idea.


Sample of our clues and team badges

So one day we sat down and brainstormed the questions and how to break it up – how to create puzzles around the theme of Jen’s life but tip them off just enough on which Museum to head too….and how to break up handing out the clues.  We came up with four questions and Emily and her husband, Austin, split up and went to every other location to hand out the next clue. We broke our family up into four teams and arranged for everyone to meet at the carousel on the National Mall at 3:30pm. We made dinner reservations for 6pm and our hope was to finish with some ice skating at the sculpture garden before dinner.

That didn’t quite happen but it was a great idea, wasn’t it?

By now you know I love a good theme and well, it surely won’t surprise you that is a shared trait in my family- so Emily in all her Etsy genius – went online and found Amazing Race packets and customized our team tags and each clue to match the game. Do you love her careful attention to detail our what? On a sunny, beautiful Saturday in November, she gathered us all around her, broke us up into our

You can see the competition was fierce.

teams, handed out our team tags, explained the rules…meanwhile we all sharpened our elbows and hurled insults at opposing team members, and off we went with our first clue….literally RUNNING down the national mall…headed to the Museum of American History.

Considering I helped think of the game questions….you would think I would have been smart enough to show up in workout gear and sneakers? But no, I stupidly opted for fashion.


Running to the History Museum from the carousel when you have opposing teams to beat and you’re in boots and pushing a stroller is actually a workout. And let me tell you, it’s also super fun to race your family.

Unfortunately we all came to a screeching halt with the line to get into the museum..something we didn’t account for when creating the game and frankly – something that worked to the advantage of the slower other teams. Much anti fungal like a bad cab driver in a developing country sabotages faster teams in the actual Amazing Race.


Then we all split up inside the museum in our effort to throw the other teams off and to actually find the right exhibit. This slowed down me, Mr. WM and the youngest WM’ette considerably. I noticed my Aunt and Uncle were proving to be fierce competitors at this moment as they clearly tried to dodge us, decoy and in the end, knew how best to get to the Julia Child cooking exhibit.

Then it was off to the second destination….the Air & Space Museum….we on the purple team deliberately chose to hug the sidewalk and not cut diagonally across the mall until the bitter an effort to encourage our opposing teams to slow down and think we, too, were slowing down….so we could only speed up at the last few minutes. It was insanely fun watching the other teams move quickly and listen to them laughing and trying to cut each other off, I’ll be honest. Mr. WM made a fake move in to trip my Uncle inside the Air & Space Museum.


WE are intense.

Oh and have I mentioned, strollers and purses REALLY slow you down.

Once we completed our second clue (which was Astronaut ice cream in the Air & Space Museum), we had to figure out the third destination, which was the Gallery of Art but due to the construction on the mall, we couldn’t go straight across – so naturally we went to the right because the other team went to the left. We later learned that the other team, which included my eldest, my mother, the guest of honor and my Aunt, encouraged the oldest WM’ette to break traffic laws and hug the side of the road – instead of adding more time to find a sidewalk – just to beat us.


IT was so fun.

Finding Austin inside the Gallery of Art was like the Thomas Crown Affair – as he quietly sat inside the Impressionist Gallery and we all darted like fools through the west wing trying to find him – he silently just handed over the next clue- and we half expected the gates to come dropping down on the room and a painting to disappear off the walls.


In case you were wondering, the kids were IN LOVE with the game and absolutely loved racing around as much as we did.

The fourth and final clue brought us to the Sculpture Garden around 5:15ish. So even with all the running and let me tell you – we RAN until the bitter end (you would have thought someone was going to win money) and we LAUGHED until the bitter end – it still took us almost two hours start to finish.

I am sharing this day with you because it was one of total fun shared by our entire family, it was something everyone of all ages participated in and honestly – it should totally be repeated. And it was basically free. I kept thinking that it would be a great older kids birthday party – like 9 or 10 or 11 year olds – if you kept them in the same museum and had them move around to different parts. We managed to build in education along with true competition and fun – I definitely plan to repeat it for my girls when they get a little older – but they loved it just the way we did it a few weeks ago.

Some of the road warriors at the end of Jen’s Amazing Race

In the end, we didn’t pull off the ice skating but we did have some delicious birthday cupcakes in the sculpture garden while we watched others ice skate.

For other fun ideas, including a coming post on a superhero birthday party for 4-year-olds, be sure to “Like” the Wired Momma Facebook page. And if you are on the hunt for holiday gifts, don’t forget about my fabulous holiday gift guide.

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