How to Hunt


Copyright Jayson Wechter, San Francisco Treasure Hunts, used with permission

The Oakland Treasure Hunt is a unique urban sleuthing adventure played on the streets of downtown & uptown Oakland, developed in partnership with Jayson Wechter/SF Treasure Hunts. Treasure hunting teams have three hours to solve clues leading to unique locations including obscure landmarks, forgotten architectural delights, and vestiges of Oakland’s colorful past.

The clues, or puzzles, are designed to test various skills: map reading, knowledge of popular culture, current events, science, or literature; crossword puzzle solving; cracking simple codes, etc. Everyone on a team gets to contribute and must agree on what they think is the correct solution to each clue.

Each clue leads to a specific site, where teams search for a secret item, which proves they correctly solved that clue. Teams that solve the most clues in the shortest time receive prizes and bragging rights for the rest of the year.

Here’s a sample clue:

This 100-year-old building was once the tallest in Oakland. Its street address is “1” and its highest-ranking employee runs a race that doesn’t involve distance. It’s marked as “Number 28” near its front steps, where you’ll learn that it’s a fifth.

Its nickname was once a type of culinary confection. What was that nickname?

Solution: Oakland’s City Hall, completed in 1914 is 335 feet tall and was once the tallest building in Oakland. Its address is 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. A green enamel plaque to the right of its entry marks it as Oakland Landmark No. 28 and describes its history: it was Oakland’s fifth City Hall and was nicknamed “Mayor Mott’s wedding cake” because of its three-tiered design resembled a wedding cake.

Correct Answer: Mayor Mott’s Wedding Cake

The Oakland Treasure Hunt and all its clues are created by Jayson Wechter, founder of San Francisco Treasure Hunts. Wechter worked for many years as a private investigator unraveling real-life mysteries and aims to give treasure hunters the experience of being a sleuth for a day, leading to the joyful “Ah ha!” moment that comes from solving a mystery or puzzle.

Proceeds from The Oakland Treasure Hunt benefit Game Theory Academy, an Oakland-based education nonprofit.

FAQs (Copyright Jayson Wechter/SF Treasure Hunts)

Q. Do I need to be familiar with Oakland to play?

A. No. Common sense, and the ability to work effectively as a team are more important. Clues often involve references to popular culture, the arts, science or history, and most of them can be solved through intelligent use of the map and street index that you will receive. Familiarity with Oakland geography or history is not required.

Q. I’m not very competitive. Will I still enjoy the hunt?

A. Every team should set a pace they feel comfortable with. Some folks stop for refreshments. Others play for a couple of hours, then go and enjoy a leisurely dinner. It’s up to you.

Q. Does a team have to solve all the clues to win?

A. No. If no one solves all the clues, then the first team turning in a scoresheet with the most correct answers wins. In some hunts, teams have won having solved only thirteen or fourteen clues.

Q. Is the hunt suitable for children?

A. Very much so, but only you can decide whether your youngsters will tolerate the noise and crowds present throughout much of the hunt. Kids have great fun, and are excellent at finding the tokens hidden at many of the sites; they often think to look places where adults would not.

Q. Can I use a cellular phone, laptop computer, and other gadgets?

A. Yes.

Q. What should I bring?

A. Comfortable footwear and perhaps layered clothes, and maybe something to eat and drink during the hunt. For possible help in solving clues, bring a smartphone or tablet. Strongly recommended: a clipboard or piece of foamcore for your answer sheets (9-1/2”x11”).

Please help us streamline the registration process by printing, reading, and completing a liability waiver ahead of time! By bringing your completed waiver, you’ll help keep registration lines short.


How it Works

Each team receives a map. Each treasure hunt participant will receive an answer sheet and a set of clues. Each clue leads to a specific location within the borders marked on the map, where you must find a piece of information that answers a question posed in the clue. You’ll write the answers on your team’s Answer Sheet, which you must submit to the start location. All submissions must be entered before the time deadline to be eligible for prizes! The teams with the highest number of correct answers in the least amount of time will win.

The treasure hunt is an exercise in urban awareness that tests your observational skills and makes you see and appreciate nuanced features of your environment that you normally overlook. To solve the clues, you may need to look up and down and notice things like old signs, historical plaques, public art and other obscure features of the urban landscape. The things you are seeking are usually in plain sight if you look carefully and search systematically.

The treasure hunt rules are designed to make this a fair and fun experience for everyone involved.

  • You must travel by foot. You cannot use cars, taxis, buses, bicycles, or any other wheeled transport.
  • Your team must stay together. This means that your entire team must be at the same clue site at the same time, and must stay within sight and earshot of one another (generally no more than forty feet between you).
  • Half of your team cannot be around a corner, or down the block, and one or two members cannot sprint ahead of the others. You cannot communicate with teammates using cell phones unless you have become unintentionally separated. This also means that you cannot arrange to have someone at another location doing research for you.
  • You can use resources that exist independently of the treasure hunt, such as libraries, bookstores, and the internet, but you cannot arrange ahead of time to have someone provide information to your team, because they would be functioning as a team member who was not physically present. If someone on your team becomes separated, has to leave early or to stop for health or personal reasons, they can rejoin you later, but they cannot participate in the hunt by searching for clues while they are separated from the rest of your team.
  • Your entire team must be present when you turn in your Answer Sheet. The only exception is if someone leaves early.
  • You cannot move, destroy, or interfere with the answers at the clue locations.
  • You cannot guess or fill in something on the Answer Sheet without having visited the site. The point is to solve the clue and find the information. You must actually to go the site to receive credit for having solved the clue.


A handout with the clue locations will be distributed at the conclusion of the hunt. Puzzle Master Jayson Wechter will explain the clues and announce the winners. The clue solutions and team scores will also be posted on the website ( after the event.