Kristin Castle, center, checks in participants in last year's Venice… (Out of the Box Events )
The Valentine's Day shopping list can get a little predictable: Every year seems to involve a dozen red roses, a box of chocolates and a candlelit dinner. While these standbys can be romantic and loving, sometimes looking beyond the greeting-card cliches can leave a greater impression.
On Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday, Out of the Box Events brings a different kind of romantic pursuit to the streets of Venice with a scavenger hunt that will have couples fanning across the beach community in search of prizes. Across the three days, there are nine time slots to choose from, and each hunt lasts roughly two hours. Each slot is limited to 40 participants to minimize traffic congestion, because hunters are expected to ride their bikes. Now in its fifth year, the Venice Valentine's Hunt is the only scavenger hunt focused on Valentine's Day and Venice, explained Kristin Castle, president and founder of Out of the Box Events.
Unlike most scavenger hunts, participants in the Venice Valentine's Hunt are looking not for things but for answers to trivia questions about Venice that Castle and her team have translated into puzzles and riddles.
"We try to include as much variety of things to search for as possible," Castle said. "The clues could lead you to a movie scene location, some artwork or a tiny misplaced sign."
Joy Allen, chief operating officer of Out of the Box Events, explained that over the years, many hunt participants (and Venice residents) have expressed surprise at learning something new about their city. "It makes you look at the neighborhood differently," she said.
"We want people getting out in their communities and digging into the good stuff around them."
The hunt starts and ends next to Perry's Bikes in Venice, allowing those participants without bikes the opportunity to rent.
Prizes for first, second and third place include gift certificates from the Sidewalk Cafe and Baja Cantina as well as gold, silver and bronze medals.
"We want to give people a new route into romance," Allen said. "We want to give our hunters a chance to relate to each other. We want them out in the world, talking and playing together.
"And if you're single, you can bring a friend as your partner. Friend love deserves a celebration too."
Debi Palestina, a winner from last year's Venice Valentine's Hunt, said that for her and her boyfriend, "there were a few things that made it irresistible: We love nothing more than riding bikes together, we are both very active with a healthy streak of competitiveness, we love to explore, and he lives in Venice."
Palestina continued, "It was the perfect combination of activities, all rolled into a romance-filled few hours. We chalk up the victory to working well together and mainly to being very, very fast."
Grateful for the continuing success of Out of the Box Events, Castle has decided to give back locally this year, donating $1 from every ticket sold to the Boys and Girls Club of Venice. Castle explained that every year she hopes to improve the hunt to keep it fresh for returning participants, constantly adding new clues and riddles.
"Our main goal is for each participant to have fun and a positive experience. If they walk away learning something about the area or each other, or even get engaged -- that happened once! -- it is a bonus," Castle said.
Venice Valentine's Hunt
When: 11 a.m., noon, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. Saturday-
Sunday; 3 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Perry's Bikes, 3100 Ocean Front Walk, Venice
Price: $25 per person
Info: www.outofthebox events.com, (323) 799-1374