Puzzling Around Eugene

A mother of five finds adventure at Groupon

If you’re like me and you have the attention span of a puppy in a tennis ball factory, conventional board games may not be your thing. Sitting around the kitchen table with tiny capitalists wielding hotels on Boardwalk has never been my idea of family fun. Seriously, what is it with kids and Monopoly? 

I can barely sit still long enough to type this out let alone suffer a slow, convoluted Azul death. The tiles may be pretty, but I prefer the strategy of feeding five kids on a budget and making sure the redhead stays sunburn-free until those sweet sweet school bells ring out once again. 

Keeping the kids active and entertained outside the perimeter of our kitchen table is no small feat, especially in these indolent summer days. Enter Groupon, where I frequently go to check out local deals on family activities that won’t break the bank, like Puzzling Adventures. 

Half scavenger hunt, half self-guided city tour, Puzzling Adventures is an interactive bridge between the mental and physical; great for families and anyone looking to check out the sights and learn a little too. Right now, Groupon is offering a $15 adventure, normally a pricey $50 for a single city tour. You can also purchase a VIP, one-year subscription that enables you access to any city and state where Puzzling Adventure is offered. 

The game is simple: Using your phone, Puzzling Adventures guides you through the city of your choice — Eugene for us — answering questions and solving puzzles as you go. You can race against other teams or go at a turtle’s pace. Surprisingly, my brood of tiny capitalists preferred to mosey rather than compete to the death. 

First Stop: The Overpark parking garage in downtown Eugene, where we were given our first set of instructions right from Puzzling Adventures’ website — that is until the phone started using strange words like “ortheast” and “southwest.” Middle schooler to the rescue, as she pointed our way to the next puzzle. 

Off we were, our own summer camp of slovenly explorers, drawing the attention of passersby as the five-to-one ratio of children to lone, short adult usually does. Generally expecting the worst, as one does when going anywhere with children, I was surprised by their enthusiasm to complete each step. 

Tasks include counting benches and fish near the Eugene Saturday Market; searching for answers in a variety of downtown plaques that usually go unnoticed during the day-in and day-out; and taking in a brief history of Eugene, including more recent artful additions to the landscape like the pillars around Kesey Square and the newly mural-painted alleys. 

One puzzle asks us to translate Morse Code. Easy enough, right? Unfortunately, the website doesn’t configure the spacing in Morse Code correctly, so we came up with all sorts of wrong answers before finally conceding, a minor slash in our time score. 

In one magical moment, as our collective tummies growled in unison, the hunt led us straight to the familiar powdered and dipped aroma of Voodoo Doughnut. “Go ahead, take a break,” the phone instructed. Now, name me one board game that encourages snack breaks. 

Curious and inquisitive, the kids asked thoughtful questions through powdered lips about women’s suffrage and the dead and dying timber industry. Connections were made between the bronze storyteller and “that tie-dye bus” we sometimes see. They even worked together, a foreign concept for siblings. And even though they initially passed on competing, we (team name The Marcodoggos) ended up in third place from a list of nearly 100. 

So, if you’re like me and you’re tired of piling up wheat and ore while your second grader schools you in a game of Settlers, I recommend you try seeing a different view of Eugene, or any city of your choosing with Puzzling Adventures.

Explore Groupon deals at groupon.com and Puzzling Adventures excursions at  puzzlingadventures.com 

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