Illustration: Lindsey Jin

“Lunch provided if successful.”

That was all the justification I needed to spend an entire Thursday morning wandering around downtown Toronto in the freezing cold. Perhaps I should seriously reconsider my priorities.

On the day of Winterfest, we stepped off the subway into the grand concourse of Union Station, and the game was afoot. A quick skim through the instruction package revealed a series of clues involving downtown buildings and artwork, supplemented by short “Did you know?” fact blurbs. Today, we were own tour guides.

Given the daunting task of navigating our own city, we turned to the professional in our group—Google Maps. It was only after swiping along Front Street in search of a golden moose to no avail, did we finally put away our phones to do the hunt the old-fashioned way.

In all fairness, the clues led to some pretty interesting places: a memorial to commemorate fallen construction workers, abstract art tucked away between skyscrapers, and two boulders transported from Western Canada. We counted flagpoles, gathered historic dates on plaques, and matched photos to statues scattered around downtown. For any Blue Jays fans out there, the team joined the American League in 1976—just in case anyone questions your die-hard fan status.

(Speaking of things learned, Starbuck’s True North Blend has a nice hint of cocoa which is great for thawing your senses after 3 hours in the cold, but I digress.)

Starting at Union Station, we walked along Front Street, passed by the Rogers Centre, made our way down Spadina Avenue and then towards the Roundhouse, ending our journey in front of Ripley’s Aquarium. The hunt was generally fairly well laid-out, with each clue being no more than 200 meters from the previous. If you strayed from the intended path however, you could find yourself desperately searching for a non-existent sculpture on the wrong side of the road.

On the last page of the instructions was a puzzle which referenced the numbers gathered during our hunt. After some arithmetic, we arrived at a 4-digit code which was supposed to be submitted on the UrbanQuest website. Before we could do that, our accompanying teacher, Ms. Woods, suggested that we head indoors for lunch first at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

Of course, we never entered the code after that.