MouseAdventure: Puzzling Our Way Through Walt Disney World

Lisa Fritscher April 28, 2014 No Comments

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Gate Crashers

Wearing official MouseAdventure lanyards, the Gate Crashers were ready for action.

If you have been to Disneyland or Walt Disney World in the spring or fall, you might have seen a horde of people in bright yellow lanyards dashing through the parks at top speed. Armed with clipboards, backpacks and every type of writing implement under the sun, they clearly appear to be on a mission. Divided into teams of two to four, MouseAdventure participants take on Disney in a whole new way.

MouseAdventure got its start at Disneyland in the late 1990s, when a group of long-time Disney fans and bloggers got together to design a scavenger hunt and puzzle game inside Disneyland park. Then called ADD-Quest, the name was changed to MouseAdventure in 2000, with games held in the spring and summer each year. In 2009, the wildly popular MouseAdventure expanded to include an annual fall game in Walt Disney World.

Dad and I got involved in 2012, with the World Explorers IV game held in the Magic Kingdom. We joined up with my best friend, Angela, to form the “Gate Crashers” team. We were feeling pretty smug going into our first game, citing ourselves as Disney experts. It didn’t take long to learn that the game would be more humbling than we could ever imagine.

 

Our 2012 Experience

Transportation and Ticket Center

MouseAdventure 2012 began bright and early at the Transportation and Ticket Center.

Angela and I are not morning people, and we hadn’t seen a park opening in years. But with the assistance of lots of coffee, we managed to make it to the Transportation and Ticket Center (the main parking and transportation hub for the Magic Kingdom) by our assigned sign-in time of 9:00 a.m. We had visited the MouseAdventure website in advance to get tips on what to bring. Loaded down with backpacks full of food (no time to stop and eat!), clipboards, and a laundry list of office supplies, we checked in and received our lanyards and a few game materials. We then learned that everything we were handed was only the beginning. We would have to make our way to the end of Main Street, U.S.A., inside the park, to receive our game packets.

After reciting the MouseAdventure pledge—“I promise to do my best, to be observant and attentive, to follow all the rules and play well with others, to be polite and assist those not of my team, to assume nothing, and to question everything, for the World must be explored!”—the 43 teams were released. After a boat ride to the park, we ran down to the check-in area. The game packet was immense! There were 15 quests, each with an endless list of tasks to complete. For example, the Vexillology (flag study) quest required us to go to Liberty Square, find the signs on the flagpoles that said which year each colony ratified the Constitution, and put them in order. Then we had to follow decoding instructions that required us to take, for example, the first letter of the name of the first ratifier, the second letter of the second ratifier, etc., and use those letters to decode a question: Liberty Tree Latin Name. The answer was on a sign at the tree near the flagpoles.

Fiendish Puzzle

To solve this fiendish puzzle, we had to identify the tiny portions of signs photographed throughout Fantasyland, use the letters on the signs to decode a question, and then draw a picture of the item that answered the question!

Adding an additional layer of challenge, some tasks were at locations staffed by MouseAdventure team members, and were only open during limited hours. In addition, we were not allowed to ask for or accept help from any Disney employee, nor were we allowed to use cell phones, guide books or any other outside aids. By the time the game ended at 6:30 p.m., we had solved 9 quests in their entirety, and gained partial credit on most of the others.

The results ceremony was held at the Boardwalk entertainment district at 10 p.m. Though we knew we hadn’t done that well, we couldn’t resist showing up. With 440 out of a possible 674, we were exhausted and just happy to not finish in last place. The winning team had 644 points, while the best new team had 604.

The day was challenging, frustrating and humbling, but we were hooked! Feeling that we now had a better understanding of the psychology of the game, we couldn’t wait to play again. At the results ceremony, the MouseAdventure team announced the plan for the following year: a two-day, four-park challenge that would take in most of the 43 square miles of the Walt Disney World Resort. We signed on immediately!

 

Two Days and Four Parks?

MouseAdventure 2013 was the ultimate challenge: Two days, four parks, 43 square miles of adventure!

Our 2013 Experience Day One
For 2013, we decided to rent a hotel room. Although we live only 30 minutes from Walt Disney World, the idea of driving back and forth under the pressure cooker scenario of an ongoing game did not sound fun. We spent the night before the event started at the Super 8 motel on Highway 192, just five minutes from Walt Disney World. For game night, we switched to the Best Western Lake Buena Vista, along Hotel Plaza Boulevard near Downtown Disney.

Heavy rains were predicted for the first day of the event, but MouseAdventurers never let the weather slow them down! We checked in at the designated meeting spot just outside Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 8 a.m., and the sky opened up while we were waiting for the game to begin! Fortunately, we were well prepared with ponchos, umbrellas, and plastic baggies for all the game materials.

We slogged through downpours and ankle-deep puddles to solve the morning’s quests, Dad holding an umbrella over the answer sheet as I solved a particularly tricky puzzle near the Lights, Motors, Action! stunt show theater. Four quests later, we turned in our answer sheets and were off to Animal Kingdom to complete four more. Thankfully, the rain let up shortly before we arrived at Animal Kingdom, but our clothes and shoes were soaked in spite of the ponchos and umbrellas. Nonetheless, we persevered and did reasonably well with the Animal Kingdom quests.

We departed from Animal Kingdom just before the 3 p.m. parade. Although it had already been a long day, it was not over yet! We were given a dinner break and instructions to meet the MouseAdventure team at Epcot that evening. We took advantage of the break to check into the Best Western and wolf down some fast food before heading back out.

That night at Epcot’s World Showcase was not among our proudest moments. Exhausted and still somewhat wet, we felt like we were behind the power curve all night. One of the cardinal rules of MouseAdventure is to read the clue, several times if necessary, until you are sure you understand exactly what is required. Our entire team had a bit of a meltdown at 8:50 p.m., ten minutes before the end of the game day, when we realized that two of the answers we needed were at a shop that we didn’t have time to get to and still get back to headquarters to turn in our answer sheets.

Before we left, each team was given a blank Vinylmation Mickey Mouse toy and instructions to decorate it however we liked, then bring it with us for the next day’s game. After consuming some much needed food, we were able to sit on our hotel balcony and get the Vinylmation decorated before collapsing into bed.

 

Eating a Cupcake

One of our challenges required us to get a photo of our entire team, including Vinylmation Mickey, eating a cupcake.

Our 2013 Experience Day Two
We awoke refreshed and ready for action, though our bodies were sore and achy. We made it to the Day Two starting line, the Tomorrowland Terrace restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, with seconds to spare before the 9 a.m. start time. The day’s instructions gave teams a choice: two quests were available in the Magic Kingdom, with an ending time of 11 a.m. However, we could forgo one or both in favor of getting a head start on the next task—a photo shoot around Walt Disney World hotels and non-park entertainment areas that would end at Epcot at 3 p.m. As instructed, we dropped off our Vinylmation Mickey with the MouseAdventure team before heading out to see what we could do with the Magic Kingdom quests.

We completed one of the two Magic Kingdom tasks and made a stab at the other before deducing that we would not likely complete it before the deadline. We headed back to Magic Kingdom headquarters to turn in our answer sheets, retrieve our Vinylmation Mickey, and receive our Photo Quest instructions. We were given a sheet with a list of 25 location clues (for example: “In a hammock” or “With a geyser while it’s erupting”) and another list of 9 easier clues, of which we could choose no more than 3 (“On a monorail” or “With the five-legged goat”). We had to take a photo of our entire team, including the Vinylmation Mickey, in as many of the designated locations as possible before time ran out.

Gate Crashers Crashing the Grand Floridian

The Gate Crashers crashed the Grand Floridian resort hotel for this Photo Quest challenge, which had us pose in front of the giant gingerbread house.

We did extremely well with the Photo Quest, and arrived at Epcot’s Future World with a few minutes to spare. That afternoon brought Epcot redemption to us, as we easily sailed through all three tasks. Angela accidentally gave an assist to several rival teams as we all searched frantically for a specific tiny photo tile among the hundreds mounted on Epcot’s Leave a Legacy walls. She spotted it first, and could not stop herself from crying out, “There it is!” Seven or eight teams were extremely happy with us that day!

As before, the results ceremony was held at the Boardwalk at 10 p.m. After an exhausting weekend, no one had much energy, but most of the teams held out to see how everyone did. With 562 out of 1,244 points, we were once again glad to not be last. The winning team received 1,124 points, while the best new team got 846 points. At the ceremony, teams who wore pedometers announced that we walked nearly 30 miles that weekend. Many of us were barely able to stand throughout the ceremony. Yet when the team announced that they were taking a break, and there would be no MouseAdventure in Walt Disney World for 2014, the wails of disappointment were unmistakable. No matter how tired we were, everyone wanted to do it all over again.

 

Tips for Parents

A Moment to Sit Down

The Photo Quest challenge took us all over the 43 square miles of the Walt Disney World resort. Posing on the monorail gave us a rare moment to sit down!

MouseAdventure is the ultimate challenge for Disney aficionados. Part scavenger hunt, part trivia game and part stamina test, MouseAdventure is frankly tough! You will be tested physically, psychologically and emotionally at every turn. Does this mean it isn’t right for kids? Not at all! The Disneyland games typically run both Basic and Advanced divisions, allowing each team to choose its preferred level of challenge. For some games, the Advanced division is limited to teams on which every member is at least 18 years old. If enough families with children sign up, a separate Family division will be created. The game remains the same, but scoring and ranking are only against those in your division.

The Walt Disney World events do not offer separate divisions, which might make it tougher for those with small children to rank highly, as you will compete against veteran teams with a great deal of park knowledge and stamina. Nonetheless, you and your kids can have a great time if you decide in advance to focus on having fun rather than the competitive aspect. Set your own challenge goals and play for the love of the game. Enjoy the chance to learn something new about the parks, use the puzzles to help your kids develop their critical thinking skills, and rest when you need to rest. Some of the top MouseAdventure teams of today feature teenagers who began playing as small kids in the Family division, and are now formidable veterans tearing up the Advanced division.

 

Practical Information

Blizzard Beach

Not exactly dressed for the Blizzard Beach water park, are we? Thankfully, we didn’t have to jump in a pool!

MouseAdventure games typically cost between $150 and $200 per team, depending on the length and complexity. A team consists of 2 to 4 players. Typically, children under age 5 can join in without being counted as team members, although this varies by event. Cell phones are NOT allowed, and all team members must remain in close proximity to each other. If one person needs a bathroom break, everyone must stop and wait—although this can be a great time to work on puzzles or trivia questions. Read each clue carefully, make sure you understand what is being asked, and decide which of your team members is best suited to that particular task.

If you and your family enjoy a challenge, why not sign up for the next MouseAdventure? Getting to know the parks in a whole new way is worth way more than the price of admission!

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avatarAbout the Author:

Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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