The San Francisco Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt

The 2022 Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt has been cancelled. Please check back for our next event.

Partial proceeds will benefit The San Francisco Circus Center.

  • Form or join a team 
    • Solo players or small groups can match up to create a team
  • Players are provided with a detailed map of the treasure hunt boundaries and a set of clues
  • Teams race across the city to decipher intellectual puzzles amid the spectacle of the Chinese New Year Parade 
  • Teams that solve the most clues in the shortest period of time (or until the end time) win prizes

Solving Clues

  • No need to be a San Francisco historian to compete; skills required include the ability to collaboratively solve puzzles with your team and have fun
  • Optional but encouraged supplies: bright flashlight, clipboard, writing utensils, and weather-appropriate clothing
  • The treasure hunt takes place entirely outdoors, on foot, and rain or shine!  

Choose Level

We encourage all varieties of players to join in the hunt. In recognition of our differing abilities, we have four competition levels and award prizes for winning teams in each. Select any one of the ranks below to learn more.

  • Beginner’s Hunt
  • Regular Hunt
  • Thinks-Faster-Than-Walks Hunt
  • Master’s Hunt

Learn more about the levels here!

Keep Your Eyes Open!

Clues lead players to a location where they must seek out a piece of information from their environment – like the wording in a street sign or plaque, symbol in a piece of artwork, or features of an architectural design.

Teamwork is Key!

Solving the clues relies on the collective skills and brainpower of a unified team and not any single player. 

Think Outside the Box!

Clues involve wordplay, puzzles, trivia, anagrams, map reading, and other fun challenges.

Have a Fresh Perspective!

Even players who have crossed the city’s streets dozens of times find something new to look at. Consider yourself an urban explorer!

For a full understanding of the treasure hunt rules, click here.

About The San Francisco Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt

The Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt is San Francisco’s longest-running urban adventure game — a treasure hunt for information, in which teams collaboratively solve clues leading to off-the-beaten-track locations connected with local history, art, and culture.
Since 1989, it has raised tens of thousands of dollars for local non-profit agencies including Riley Center for Battered Women, Bay Area Women’s & Children’s Center, Hamilton Family Services (now Hamilton Families), and the San Francisco Circus Center.

Explore San Francisco during its most festive celebration

The Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt is a game of urban exploration and discovery in Chinatown, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, and the Financial District, which uses the Chinese New Year Parade as a backdrop. Teams compete to solve clues leading to obscure landmarks, forgotten architectural delights, secret views, and vestiges of San Francisco’s colorful past (and present). Teams solving the most clues in the shortest time receive prizes and bragging rights.

About

How Does It Work?

Each clue leads to a unique location where players must find and use a piece of information to answer a question. The information could be wording on an historical plaque, a detail in a mural or public artwork, a unique architectural feature or a distinctive business sign, often something you might never notice if you weren’t looking for it.

The treasure hunt is an exercise in visual awareness that hones your observation skills and heightens awareness of the urban environment. Participants often discover memorable sights they’d passed by hundreds of times and overlooked. They travel over streets trod by 1849 gold-seekers, 1870s silver barons, 1920s crime writers, and 1950s beat poets.




Solving Clues

Clues involve wordplay, puzzles, trivia, anagrams, map reading, and other fun challenges. They’re designed to be too difficult for one person but solvable by a team using their collective skills and brainpower, so working together is key to succeeding!



Choose From 4 Different Difficulty Levels

There are four divisions in the treasure hunt, offering clues suitable for all skill levels, from beginners to experts. The hunt is designed to be enjoyable by all ages and ability levels, by long-time San Francisco residents and new arrivals. You can participate at your own pace, racing from clue to clue or walking leisurely and stopping for snacks, drinks, or espresso.



Form or Join a Team

Players can come with a team already organized or can join like-minded hunters at the event. The treasure hunt is a great way to make new friends.​​




Location

The treasure hunt will start and end in the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center gym, located at 555 Chestnut Street (between Mason and Powell Streets) in San Francisco.



Prizes

Prizes are awarded to the winning teams in each of four divisions (Beginner’s, Regular/Intermediate, Master’s, and Thinks Faster Than Runs) and to the teams with the best names and costumes.

Competition Levels

There are 4 different levels you can compete in, each offering an increasing level of difficulty. Teams winning first place in one category must subsequently play in the next highest category the following year.

Clues at this level are specifically designed for folks who are joining the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt for the first time or are less familiar with the city. The treasure hunt may be a little bit easier, but is just as much fun!

Best for teams with: 

  • First-time competitors
  • New residents or visitors to San Francisco

Clues are more challenging than the Beginner’s Hunt level.

Best for teams with:

  • Participants who have played at the Beginner’s Level for one or more years
  • A majority of players who solved all of the clues in the Beginner’s Hunt in a previous year

This competition level is specifically designed for people whose minds work faster than they can walk or run. Teams work fewer clues from the Regular Hunt in a smaller and flatter playing area.  

Teams can participate if:

  • Half their members are age 55 or older; or
  • The average ages of team members is 55 or older; or
  • One or more team members has a mobility limitation (for example, a person with a sprained ankle or in the eighth month of pregnancy) 

This elite playing field is reserved for teams who have scored among the top-three winners in the Regular Hunt in a previous year. The puzzles are more difficult and the taste of victory is sweeter. 

Levels

Rules

Rules for the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt ensure the experience is fun and fair for every participant. Any team violating the rules will be disqualified. 

#1 You must travel on foot

Teams cannot make use of ride-shares, buses, taxies, scooters, bicycles, or any other form of enhanced transport for the duration of the treasure hunt.


#2 Team members cannot split up

All team members must be at the same clue site at the same time time within sight and earshot of one another (generally within twenty to forty feet). Examples that break this rule:

  • One or more team members running more than half a block ahead of others to get to the clue site more quickly
  • One or more team members at a different clue site communicating via phone with other team members
  • Someone at another location doing research for you

*Note: Any team member who becomes lost, has to leave early, or stops for health or personal reasons can rejoin the team later, but may not work on clues while separated from the rest of the team. 


#3 Do not guess clue answers

All team members must visit a clue site to correctly solve the puzzle or the team will not receive credit for the solution.  


#4 Do not use prohibited resources

Teams can make inquiries of pedestrians on the street and use bookstores, libraries, or the internet for assistance when solving the clues. An example of a prohibited resource includes arranging to have a person at home (not present for the treasure hunt) research and provide solutions.  


#5 Leave clue sites unchanged

Do not tamper with, damage, or interfere with the answers at clue locations, or block other teams’ access to them. 


#6 All team members must be present when submitting answer sheets

The only exception is for participants who leave early for health or personal reasons.  

Solutions & Scores

Clue solutions are posted here after the treasure hunt ends. Your logins are in your clue packets. You should have the correct password for your hunt; the usernames will appear in the login popup when you go to the page. Click the links for access (NB: these are NOT THE USERNAMES):

2020 Solutions

Covid has prevented us from having our beloved event for the last couple of years, we’re looking forward to bringing you the next CNYTH in 2023.

Contests

Team Names

Costumes

Check out some of the creative costumes by contestants from previous hunts!

Volunteer

Lend a Hand and Have More Fun

Volunteers greatly support the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt. And volunteers do not forfeit the ability to participate in the treasure hunt! Prior experience with the hunt is helpful but not essential to volunteer. Time responsibilities are about 2-3 hours preceding the start of the event.

Most responsibilities are on the day of the event and include:

  • Site set up (hang signs, lift and haul boxes of supplies, arrange tables and chairs, set up walkways, staff the registration tables)
  • Distribute treasure hunt supplies to teams
  • Collect raffle entries
  • Organize teams for the solo participants
  • Site clean up after the completion of the treasure hunt

To thank you for your efforts, we supply a light lunch and waive the registration fee if you choose to join the treasure hunt. (Please make arrangements with any non-volunteer team members in advance.)

To volunteer for the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt, please fill out the form on this page. Please include your phone number or email address where we can reach you.

Got Questions About the Treasure Hunt?

2022 is the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac calendar.

The Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center gym is located at 555 Chestnut St. between Mason and Powell Streets.

Taking public transit is an excellent idea. The following Muni lines stop nearby: 8 (1½ blocks); 30 (1½ blocks); F historic streetcar (4½ blocks); 41 & 45 (4½ blocks).  

If you must drive, the closest parking garage is on Vallejo St. between Stockton and Powell, but it’s likely to fill up early because of the parade.   

2:00 pm: Doors open

2:45 pm: We will start announcements and award prizes in the team name and costume contests.

3:00 pm: Hunt begins

7:30 pm: Hunt Ends

If you return after 7:30 pm, we'll accept your answer sheet, but you won't be eligible to win. 

The winners will be announced as soon as scores are tallied after 7:30 pm. The clue locations and solutions will be posted on this website that evening. Team standings will be posted on the website several days later.

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.

Comfortable footwear (there's a lot of walking involved); a flashlight (the brighter the better); a pen or pencil; a smartphone or tablet for help in solving clues; something to eat and drink during the hunt.

Strongly recommended: A clipboard for your answer sheets (9-1/2”x11”)

Yes. The hunt is designed to be enjoyable no matter how competitive you are. You can participate at your own pace, racing from clue to clue or walking leisurely and stopping for snacks, drinks or espresso. Play for a couple of hours, then go and enjoy a leisurely dinner. It’s up to you.

Tickets

The Hunt often sells out. You can avoid disappointment by buying your ticket early.

Yes, if there are tickets available

Your ticket for the Beginner’s, Regular, Thinks Faster Than Runs, or Master’s hunt reserves you a spot in that hunt, and a clue packet. It’s like having a guaranteed seat for a performance.

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.

Teams & Divisions

The Treasure Hunt’s experienced and expert Team Formation Consultants will be on-station to help singletons and duos to form, or join, larger teams to maximize both fun and potential hunting success. Practically, that means there is a special area set aside at the meeting site for folks who want to link up with others to form teams. It will be marked with signs - FORM TEAMS HERE. It’s a great way to meet new people. We will try to facilitate everyone joining a team, and matching up people who have similar approaches to doing the hunt, from highly competitive to interested and laid-back.

You can purchase tickets for your friends, to guarantee them a place in the hunt. If they decide not to attend, you can sell the tickets to someone else on the day of the hunt. If they wait until the day of the hunt, tickets may not be available. They can check this website to check on ticket availability for the day of the hunt.

Beginner’s Hunt

The Beginner’s Hunt is best for first-time treasure hunters. It features less difficult clues leading to different locations than Regular and Master’s hunters. If you have won the Beginner’s Hunt, you must advance up to the Regular Hunt. If you solved all the clues in the Beginner’s Hunt, we urge you to register for the Regular Hunt.

 

Regular Hunt 

The Regular (intermediate difficulty) Hunt is good if you have done the Beginner’s Hunt before, are more familiar with the hunt area, or want a bit more of a challenge. Regular Hunt clues are somewhat more challenging than those in the Beginner’s Hunt. If you have won the Regular Hunt, you must advance up to the Master's Division.

 

Thinks Faster Than Runs Hunt

The Thinks Faster Than Runs Hunt features Regular (intermediate difficulty) Hunt clues, but teams in this category will be competing against one another in a smaller and flatter playing area rather than against all the Regular Hunt teams and will have fewer clues to solve. Separate prizes will be awarded to the top teams in this category.

 

Master’s Hunt

Master’s Hunt clues are more obscure and challenging, and require familiarity with the playing area. However, there is less competition in this category, which usually draws only a dozen teams.

No. If no one solves all the clues, then the first team turning in an answer sheet with the most correct answers wins.

It depends on their age and temperament. Only you can decide whether your youngsters will enjoy moving through some noisy and crowded areas.

Rules Clarification

Four to nine players per team is the accepted range. Four to six is probably best. The larger the team, the more difficult it is to stay together. You must be within sight and earshot of your teammates at all times. This means that you cannot be spread out over a distance of more than thirty or forty feet.

That is a violation of the rules. It also diminishes the fun of the hunt for the rest of the team. Everyone wants a chance to see specific objects or landmarks the clue referred to, and to search for the information required to answer the question posed in the clue. When one or two players run ahead and find this before the others arrive, it cheats folks of this sense of satisfaction. The "treasure" in this hunt is finding the unusual locations the clues lead to.

You can use resources which exist independently of the treasure hunt, such as bookstores, libraries, the internet, etc. You cannot arrange to have someone assist your team (by doing research, for instance) who is not physically present, because they would be functioning as a member of your team, and the team must stay together.

Yes, you can use them to help with solving clues, but you cannot obtain the answer to the question posed in the clue without visiting the clue location. Some clues may require internet access to look up a business name.

That's fine. Once they leave, they cannot continue to assist you by working on clues or visiting clue sites.

They can rejoin your team later, but they cannot play on their own.

If you want to participate in the Team Name contests, you must submit your Team Names by 4:00 p.m. on February 3, 2020. Team names are submitted when you buy tickets on Eventbrite. If more than one team submits the same winning team name, the first one submitted will win. 

Prizes & Scores

The first place teams in each division receive a bottle of champagne, a large box of gourmet chocolates and an award certificate. In the Beginner's, Regular and Master's Hunts, the second, and third place teams receive a bottle of champagne and a box of gourmet chocolates and an award certificate, and the fourth and fifth place teams each receive a bottle of champagne and an award certificate.  See the Contests page for more information about awards for the cleverest team names and best costumes. We also award door prizes before the hunt begins.

Probably not. The winners will be announced as soon as possible after the 7:30pm deadline, once the answer sheets are tabulated (no recounts or resorting to the judiciary!). Scores will also be posted on this website, on the Contest Results pages.

For further questions, please email us at questions@sftreasurehunts.com

The 2022 Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt has been cancelled. Please check back for our next event.

Partial proceeds will benefit The San Francisco Circus Center.

  • Form or join a team 
    • Solo players or small groups can match up to create a team
  • Players are provided with a detailed map of the treasure hunt boundaries and a set of clues
  • Teams race across the city to decipher intellectual puzzles amid the spectacle of the Chinese New Year Parade 
  • Teams that solve the most clues in the shortest period of time (or until the end time) win prizes

Solving Clues

  • No need to be a San Francisco historian to compete; skills required include the ability to collaboratively solve puzzles with your team and have fun
  • Optional but encouraged supplies: bright flashlight, clipboard, writing utensils, and weather-appropriate clothing
  • The treasure hunt takes place entirely outdoors, on foot, and rain or shine!  

Choose Level

We encourage all varieties of players to join in the hunt. In recognition of our differing abilities, we have four competition levels and award prizes for winning teams in each. Select any one of the ranks below to learn more.

  • Beginner’s Hunt
  • Regular Hunt
  • Thinks-Faster-Than-Walks Hunt
  • Master’s Hunt

Learn more about the levels here!

Keep Your Eyes Open!

Clues lead players to a location where they must seek out a piece of information from their environment – like the wording in a street sign or plaque, symbol in a piece of artwork, or features of an architectural design.

Teamwork is Key!

Solving the clues relies on the collective skills and brainpower of a unified team and not any single player. 

Think Outside the Box!

Clues involve wordplay, puzzles, trivia, anagrams, map reading, and other fun challenges.

Have a Fresh Perspective!

Even players who have crossed the city’s streets dozens of times find something new to look at. Consider yourself an urban explorer!

For a full understanding of the treasure hunt rules, click here.

About The San Francisco Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt

The Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt is San Francisco’s longest-running urban adventure game — a treasure hunt for information, in which teams collaboratively solve clues leading to off-the-beaten-track locations connected with local history, art, and culture.
Since 1989, it has raised tens of thousands of dollars for local non-profit agencies including Riley Center for Battered Women, Bay Area Women’s & Children’s Center, Hamilton Family Services (now Hamilton Families), and the San Francisco Circus Center.

Explore San Francisco during its most festive celebration

The Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt is a game of urban exploration and discovery in Chinatown, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, and the Financial District, which uses the Chinese New Year Parade as a backdrop. Teams compete to solve clues leading to obscure landmarks, forgotten architectural delights, secret views, and vestiges of San Francisco’s colorful past (and present). Teams solving the most clues in the shortest time receive prizes and bragging rights.

About

How Does It Work?

Each clue leads to a unique location where players must find and use a piece of information to answer a question. The information could be wording on an historical plaque, a detail in a mural or public artwork, a unique architectural feature or a distinctive business sign, often something you might never notice if you weren’t looking for it.

The treasure hunt is an exercise in visual awareness that hones your observation skills and heightens awareness of the urban environment. Participants often discover memorable sights they’d passed by hundreds of times and overlooked. They travel over streets trod by 1849 gold-seekers, 1870s silver barons, 1920s crime writers, and 1950s beat poets.




Solving Clues

Clues involve wordplay, puzzles, trivia, anagrams, map reading, and other fun challenges. They’re designed to be too difficult for one person but solvable by a team using their collective skills and brainpower, so working together is key to succeeding!



Choose From 4 Different Difficulty Levels

There are four divisions in the treasure hunt, offering clues suitable for all skill levels, from beginners to experts. The hunt is designed to be enjoyable by all ages and ability levels, by long-time San Francisco residents and new arrivals. You can participate at your own pace, racing from clue to clue or walking leisurely and stopping for snacks, drinks, or espresso.



Form or Join a Team

Players can come with a team already organized or can join like-minded hunters at the event. The treasure hunt is a great way to make new friends.​​




Location

The treasure hunt will start and end in the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center gym, located at 555 Chestnut Street (between Mason and Powell Streets) in San Francisco.



Prizes

Prizes are awarded to the winning teams in each of four divisions (Beginner’s, Regular/Intermediate, Master’s, and Thinks Faster Than Runs) and to the teams with the best names and costumes.

Competition Levels

There are 4 different levels you can compete in, each offering an increasing level of difficulty. Teams winning first place in one category must subsequently play in the next highest category the following year.

Clues at this level are specifically designed for folks who are joining the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt for the first time or are less familiar with the city. The treasure hunt may be a little bit easier, but is just as much fun!

Best for teams with: 

  • First-time competitors
  • New residents or visitors to San Francisco

Clues are more challenging than the Beginner’s Hunt level.

Best for teams with:

  • Participants who have played at the Beginner’s Level for one or more years
  • A majority of players who solved all of the clues in the Beginner’s Hunt in a previous year

This competition level is specifically designed for people whose minds work faster than they can walk or run. Teams work fewer clues from the Regular Hunt in a smaller and flatter playing area.  

Teams can participate if:

  • Half their members are age 55 or older; or
  • The average ages of team members is 55 or older; or
  • One or more team members has a mobility limitation (for example, a person with a sprained ankle or in the eighth month of pregnancy) 

This elite playing field is reserved for teams who have scored among the top-three winners in the Regular Hunt in a previous year. The puzzles are more difficult and the taste of victory is sweeter. 

Levels

Rules

Rules for the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt ensure the experience is fun and fair for every participant. Any team violating the rules will be disqualified. 

#1 You must travel on foot

Teams cannot make use of ride-shares, buses, taxies, scooters, bicycles, or any other form of enhanced transport for the duration of the treasure hunt.


#2 Team members cannot split up

All team members must be at the same clue site at the same time time within sight and earshot of one another (generally within twenty to forty feet). Examples that break this rule:

  • One or more team members running more than half a block ahead of others to get to the clue site more quickly
  • One or more team members at a different clue site communicating via phone with other team members
  • Someone at another location doing research for you

*Note: Any team member who becomes lost, has to leave early, or stops for health or personal reasons can rejoin the team later, but may not work on clues while separated from the rest of the team. 


#3 Do not guess clue answers

All team members must visit a clue site to correctly solve the puzzle or the team will not receive credit for the solution.  


#4 Do not use prohibited resources

Teams can make inquiries of pedestrians on the street and use bookstores, libraries, or the internet for assistance when solving the clues. An example of a prohibited resource includes arranging to have a person at home (not present for the treasure hunt) research and provide solutions.  


#5 Leave clue sites unchanged

Do not tamper with, damage, or interfere with the answers at clue locations, or block other teams’ access to them. 


#6 All team members must be present when submitting answer sheets

The only exception is for participants who leave early for health or personal reasons.  

Solutions & Scores

Clue solutions are posted here after the treasure hunt ends. Your logins are in your clue packets. You should have the correct password for your hunt; the usernames will appear in the login popup when you go to the page. Click the links for access (NB: these are NOT THE USERNAMES):

2020 Solutions

Covid has prevented us from having our beloved event for the last couple of years, we’re looking forward to bringing you the next CNYTH in 2023.

Volunteer

Lend a Hand and Have More Fun

Volunteers greatly support the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt. And volunteers do not forfeit the ability to participate in the treasure hunt! Prior experience with the hunt is helpful but not essential to volunteer. Time responsibilities are about 2-3 hours preceding the start of the event.

Most responsibilities are on the day of the event and include:

  • Site set up (hang signs, lift and haul boxes of supplies, arrange tables and chairs, set up walkways, staff the registration tables)
  • Distribute treasure hunt supplies to teams
  • Collect raffle entries
  • Organize teams for the solo participants
  • Site clean up after the completion of the treasure hunt

To thank you for your efforts, we supply a light lunch and waive the registration fee if you choose to join the treasure hunt. (Please make arrangements with any non-volunteer team members in advance.)

To volunteer for the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt, please fill out the form on this page. Please include your phone number or email address where we can reach you.

Got Questions About the Treasure Hunt?

2022 is the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac calendar.

The Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center gym is located at 555 Chestnut St. between Mason and Powell Streets.

Taking public transit is an excellent idea. The following Muni lines stop nearby: 8 (1½ blocks); 30 (1½ blocks); F historic streetcar (4½ blocks); 41 & 45 (4½ blocks).  

If you must drive, the closest parking garage is on Vallejo St. between Stockton and Powell, but it’s likely to fill up early because of the parade.   

2:00 pm: Doors open

2:45 pm: We will start announcements and award prizes in the team name and costume contests.

3:00 pm: Hunt begins

7:30 pm: Hunt Ends

If you return after 7:30 pm, we'll accept your answer sheet, but you won't be eligible to win. 

The winners will be announced as soon as scores are tallied after 7:30 pm. The clue locations and solutions will be posted on this website that evening. Team standings will be posted on the website several days later.

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.

Comfortable footwear (there's a lot of walking involved); a flashlight (the brighter the better); a pen or pencil; a smartphone or tablet for help in solving clues; something to eat and drink during the hunt.

Strongly recommended: A clipboard for your answer sheets (9-1/2”x11”)

Yes. The hunt is designed to be enjoyable no matter how competitive you are. You can participate at your own pace, racing from clue to clue or walking leisurely and stopping for snacks, drinks or espresso. Play for a couple of hours, then go and enjoy a leisurely dinner. It’s up to you.

Tickets

The Hunt often sells out. You can avoid disappointment by buying your ticket early.

Yes, if there are tickets available

Your ticket for the Beginner’s, Regular, Thinks Faster Than Runs, or Master’s hunt reserves you a spot in that hunt, and a clue packet. It’s like having a guaranteed seat for a performance.

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.

Teams & Divisions

The Treasure Hunt’s experienced and expert Team Formation Consultants will be on-station to help singletons and duos to form, or join, larger teams to maximize both fun and potential hunting success. Practically, that means there is a special area set aside at the meeting site for folks who want to link up with others to form teams. It will be marked with signs - FORM TEAMS HERE. It’s a great way to meet new people. We will try to facilitate everyone joining a team, and matching up people who have similar approaches to doing the hunt, from highly competitive to interested and laid-back.

You can purchase tickets for your friends, to guarantee them a place in the hunt. If they decide not to attend, you can sell the tickets to someone else on the day of the hunt. If they wait until the day of the hunt, tickets may not be available. They can check this website to check on ticket availability for the day of the hunt.

Beginner’s Hunt

The Beginner’s Hunt is best for first-time treasure hunters. It features less difficult clues leading to different locations than Regular and Master’s hunters. If you have won the Beginner’s Hunt, you must advance up to the Regular Hunt. If you solved all the clues in the Beginner’s Hunt, we urge you to register for the Regular Hunt.

 

Regular Hunt 

The Regular (intermediate difficulty) Hunt is good if you have done the Beginner’s Hunt before, are more familiar with the hunt area, or want a bit more of a challenge. Regular Hunt clues are somewhat more challenging than those in the Beginner’s Hunt. If you have won the Regular Hunt, you must advance up to the Master's Division.

 

Thinks Faster Than Runs Hunt

The Thinks Faster Than Runs Hunt features Regular (intermediate difficulty) Hunt clues, but teams in this category will be competing against one another in a smaller and flatter playing area rather than against all the Regular Hunt teams and will have fewer clues to solve. Separate prizes will be awarded to the top teams in this category.

 

Master’s Hunt

Master’s Hunt clues are more obscure and challenging, and require familiarity with the playing area. However, there is less competition in this category, which usually draws only a dozen teams.

No. If no one solves all the clues, then the first team turning in an answer sheet with the most correct answers wins.

It depends on their age and temperament. Only you can decide whether your youngsters will enjoy moving through some noisy and crowded areas.

Rules Clarification

Four to nine players per team is the accepted range. Four to six is probably best. The larger the team, the more difficult it is to stay together. You must be within sight and earshot of your teammates at all times. This means that you cannot be spread out over a distance of more than thirty or forty feet.

That is a violation of the rules. It also diminishes the fun of the hunt for the rest of the team. Everyone wants a chance to see specific objects or landmarks the clue referred to, and to search for the information required to answer the question posed in the clue. When one or two players run ahead and find this before the others arrive, it cheats folks of this sense of satisfaction. The "treasure" in this hunt is finding the unusual locations the clues lead to.

You can use resources which exist independently of the treasure hunt, such as bookstores, libraries, the internet, etc. You cannot arrange to have someone assist your team (by doing research, for instance) who is not physically present, because they would be functioning as a member of your team, and the team must stay together.

Yes, you can use them to help with solving clues, but you cannot obtain the answer to the question posed in the clue without visiting the clue location. Some clues may require internet access to look up a business name.

That's fine. Once they leave, they cannot continue to assist you by working on clues or visiting clue sites.

They can rejoin your team later, but they cannot play on their own.

If you want to participate in the Team Name contests, you must submit your Team Names by 4:00 p.m. on February 3, 2020. Team names are submitted when you buy tickets on Eventbrite. If more than one team submits the same winning team name, the first one submitted will win. 

Prizes & Scores

The first place teams in each division receive a bottle of champagne, a large box of gourmet chocolates and an award certificate. In the Beginner's, Regular and Master's Hunts, the second, and third place teams receive a bottle of champagne and a box of gourmet chocolates and an award certificate, and the fourth and fifth place teams each receive a bottle of champagne and an award certificate.  See the Contests page for more information about awards for the cleverest team names and best costumes. We also award door prizes before the hunt begins.

Probably not. The winners will be announced as soon as possible after the 7:30pm deadline, once the answer sheets are tabulated (no recounts or resorting to the judiciary!). Scores will also be posted on this website, on the Contest Results pages.

For further questions, please email us at questions@sftreasurehunts.com

The 2022 Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt has been cancelled. Please check back for our next event.

Partial proceeds will benefit The San Francisco Circus Center.

  • Form or join a team 
    • Solo players or small groups can match up to create a team
  • Players are provided with a detailed map of the treasure hunt boundaries and a set of clues
  • Teams race across the city to decipher intellectual puzzles amid the spectacle of the Chinese New Year Parade 
  • Teams that solve the most clues in the shortest period of time (or until the end time) win prizes

Solving Clues

  • No need to be a San Francisco historian to compete; skills required include the ability to collaboratively solve puzzles with your team and have fun
  • Optional but encouraged supplies: bright flashlight, clipboard, writing utensils, and weather-appropriate clothing
  • The treasure hunt takes place entirely outdoors, on foot, and rain or shine!  

Choose Level

We encourage all varieties of players to join in the hunt. In recognition of our differing abilities, we have four competition levels and award prizes for winning teams in each. Select any one of the ranks below to learn more.

  • Beginner’s Hunt
  • Regular Hunt
  • Thinks-Faster-Than-Walks Hunt
  • Master’s Hunt

Learn more about the levels here!

Keep Your Eyes Open!

Clues lead players to a location where they must seek out a piece of information from their environment – like the wording in a street sign or plaque, symbol in a piece of artwork, or features of an architectural design.

Teamwork is Key!

Solving the clues relies on the collective skills and brainpower of a unified team and not any single player. 

Think Outside the Box!

Clues involve wordplay, puzzles, trivia, anagrams, map reading, and other fun challenges.

Have a Fresh Perspective!

Even players who have crossed the city’s streets dozens of times find something new to look at. Consider yourself an urban explorer!

For a full understanding of the treasure hunt rules, click here.

About The San Francisco Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt

The Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt is San Francisco’s longest-running urban adventure game — a treasure hunt for information, in which teams collaboratively solve clues leading to off-the-beaten-track locations connected with local history, art, and culture.
Since 1989, it has raised tens of thousands of dollars for local non-profit agencies including Riley Center for Battered Women, Bay Area Women’s & Children’s Center, Hamilton Family Services (now Hamilton Families), and the San Francisco Circus Center.

Explore San Francisco during its most festive celebration

The Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt is a game of urban exploration and discovery in Chinatown, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, and the Financial District, which uses the Chinese New Year Parade as a backdrop. Teams compete to solve clues leading to obscure landmarks, forgotten architectural delights, secret views, and vestiges of San Francisco’s colorful past (and present). Teams solving the most clues in the shortest time receive prizes and bragging rights.

About

How Does It Work?

Each clue leads to a unique location where players must find and use a piece of information to answer a question. The information could be wording on an historical plaque, a detail in a mural or public artwork, a unique architectural feature or a distinctive business sign, often something you might never notice if you weren’t looking for it.

The treasure hunt is an exercise in visual awareness that hones your observation skills and heightens awareness of the urban environment. Participants often discover memorable sights they’d passed by hundreds of times and overlooked. They travel over streets trod by 1849 gold-seekers, 1870s silver barons, 1920s crime writers, and 1950s beat poets.




Solving Clues

Clues involve wordplay, puzzles, trivia, anagrams, map reading, and other fun challenges. They’re designed to be too difficult for one person but solvable by a team using their collective skills and brainpower, so working together is key to succeeding!



Choose From 4 Different Difficulty Levels

There are four divisions in the treasure hunt, offering clues suitable for all skill levels, from beginners to experts. The hunt is designed to be enjoyable by all ages and ability levels, by long-time San Francisco residents and new arrivals. You can participate at your own pace, racing from clue to clue or walking leisurely and stopping for snacks, drinks, or espresso.



Form or Join a Team

Players can come with a team already organized or can join like-minded hunters at the event. The treasure hunt is a great way to make new friends.​​




Location

The treasure hunt will start and end in the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center gym, located at 555 Chestnut Street (between Mason and Powell Streets) in San Francisco.



Prizes

Prizes are awarded to the winning teams in each of four divisions (Beginner’s, Regular/Intermediate, Master’s, and Thinks Faster Than Runs) and to the teams with the best names and costumes.

Competition Levels

There are 4 different levels you can compete in, each offering an increasing level of difficulty. Teams winning first place in one category must subsequently play in the next highest category the following year.

Clues at this level are specifically designed for folks who are joining the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt for the first time or are less familiar with the city. The treasure hunt may be a little bit easier, but is just as much fun!

Best for teams with: 

  • First-time competitors
  • New residents or visitors to San Francisco

Clues are more challenging than the Beginner’s Hunt level.

Best for teams with:

  • Participants who have played at the Beginner’s Level for one or more years
  • A majority of players who solved all of the clues in the Beginner’s Hunt in a previous year

This competition level is specifically designed for people whose minds work faster than they can walk or run. Teams work fewer clues from the Regular Hunt in a smaller and flatter playing area.  

Teams can participate if:

  • Half their members are age 55 or older; or
  • The average ages of team members is 55 or older; or
  • One or more team members has a mobility limitation (for example, a person with a sprained ankle or in the eighth month of pregnancy) 

This elite playing field is reserved for teams who have scored among the top-three winners in the Regular Hunt in a previous year. The puzzles are more difficult and the taste of victory is sweeter. 

Levels

Rules

Rules for the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt ensure the experience is fun and fair for every participant. Any team violating the rules will be disqualified. 

#1 You must travel on foot

Teams cannot make use of ride-shares, buses, taxies, scooters, bicycles, or any other form of enhanced transport for the duration of the treasure hunt.


#2 Team members cannot split up

All team members must be at the same clue site at the same time time within sight and earshot of one another (generally within twenty to forty feet). Examples that break this rule:

  • One or more team members running more than half a block ahead of others to get to the clue site more quickly
  • One or more team members at a different clue site communicating via phone with other team members
  • Someone at another location doing research for you

*Note: Any team member who becomes lost, has to leave early, or stops for health or personal reasons can rejoin the team later, but may not work on clues while separated from the rest of the team. 


#3 Do not guess clue answers

All team members must visit a clue site to correctly solve the puzzle or the team will not receive credit for the solution.  


#4 Do not use prohibited resources

Teams can make inquiries of pedestrians on the street and use bookstores, libraries, or the internet for assistance when solving the clues. An example of a prohibited resource includes arranging to have a person at home (not present for the treasure hunt) research and provide solutions.  


#5 Leave clue sites unchanged

Do not tamper with, damage, or interfere with the answers at clue locations, or block other teams’ access to them. 


#6 All team members must be present when submitting answer sheets

The only exception is for participants who leave early for health or personal reasons.  

Solutions & Scores

Clue solutions are posted here after the treasure hunt ends. Your logins are in your clue packets. You should have the correct password for your hunt; the usernames will appear in the login popup when you go to the page. Click the links for access (NB: these are NOT THE USERNAMES):

2020 Solutions

Covid has prevented us from having our beloved event for the last couple of years, we’re looking forward to bringing you the next CNYTH in 2023.

Volunteer

Lend a Hand and Have More Fun

Volunteers greatly support the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt. And volunteers do not forfeit the ability to participate in the treasure hunt! Prior experience with the hunt is helpful but not essential to volunteer. Time responsibilities are about 2-3 hours preceding the start of the event.

Most responsibilities are on the day of the event and include:

  • Site set up (hang signs, lift and haul boxes of supplies, arrange tables and chairs, set up walkways, staff the registration tables)
  • Distribute treasure hunt supplies to teams
  • Collect raffle entries
  • Organize teams for the solo participants
  • Site clean up after the completion of the treasure hunt

To thank you for your efforts, we supply a light lunch and waive the registration fee if you choose to join the treasure hunt. (Please make arrangements with any non-volunteer team members in advance.)

To volunteer for the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt, please fill out the form on this page. Please include your phone number or email address where we can reach you.

Got Questions About the Treasure Hunt?

2022 is the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac calendar.

The Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center gym is located at 555 Chestnut St. between Mason and Powell Streets.

Taking public transit is an excellent idea. The following Muni lines stop nearby: 8 (1½ blocks); 30 (1½ blocks); F historic streetcar (4½ blocks); 41 & 45 (4½ blocks).  

If you must drive, the closest parking garage is on Vallejo St. between Stockton and Powell, but it’s likely to fill up early because of the parade.   

2:00 pm: Doors open

2:45 pm: We will start announcements and award prizes in the team name and costume contests.

3:00 pm: Hunt begins

7:30 pm: Hunt Ends

If you return after 7:30 pm, we'll accept your answer sheet, but you won't be eligible to win. 

The winners will be announced as soon as scores are tallied after 7:30 pm. The clue locations and solutions will be posted on this website that evening. Team standings will be posted on the website several days later.

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.

Comfortable footwear (there's a lot of walking involved); a flashlight (the brighter the better); a pen or pencil; a smartphone or tablet for help in solving clues; something to eat and drink during the hunt.

Strongly recommended: A clipboard for your answer sheets (9-1/2”x11”)

Yes. The hunt is designed to be enjoyable no matter how competitive you are. You can participate at your own pace, racing from clue to clue or walking leisurely and stopping for snacks, drinks or espresso. Play for a couple of hours, then go and enjoy a leisurely dinner. It’s up to you.

Tickets

The Hunt often sells out. You can avoid disappointment by buying your ticket early.

Yes, if there are tickets available

Your ticket for the Beginner’s, Regular, Thinks Faster Than Runs, or Master’s hunt reserves you a spot in that hunt, and a clue packet. It’s like having a guaranteed seat for a performance.

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.

Teams & Divisions

The Treasure Hunt’s experienced and expert Team Formation Consultants will be on-station to help singletons and duos to form, or join, larger teams to maximize both fun and potential hunting success. Practically, that means there is a special area set aside at the meeting site for folks who want to link up with others to form teams. It will be marked with signs - FORM TEAMS HERE. It’s a great way to meet new people. We will try to facilitate everyone joining a team, and matching up people who have similar approaches to doing the hunt, from highly competitive to interested and laid-back.

You can purchase tickets for your friends, to guarantee them a place in the hunt. If they decide not to attend, you can sell the tickets to someone else on the day of the hunt. If they wait until the day of the hunt, tickets may not be available. They can check this website to check on ticket availability for the day of the hunt.

Beginner’s Hunt

The Beginner’s Hunt is best for first-time treasure hunters. It features less difficult clues leading to different locations than Regular and Master’s hunters. If you have won the Beginner’s Hunt, you must advance up to the Regular Hunt. If you solved all the clues in the Beginner’s Hunt, we urge you to register for the Regular Hunt.

 

Regular Hunt 

The Regular (intermediate difficulty) Hunt is good if you have done the Beginner’s Hunt before, are more familiar with the hunt area, or want a bit more of a challenge. Regular Hunt clues are somewhat more challenging than those in the Beginner’s Hunt. If you have won the Regular Hunt, you must advance up to the Master's Division.

 

Thinks Faster Than Runs Hunt

The Thinks Faster Than Runs Hunt features Regular (intermediate difficulty) Hunt clues, but teams in this category will be competing against one another in a smaller and flatter playing area rather than against all the Regular Hunt teams and will have fewer clues to solve. Separate prizes will be awarded to the top teams in this category.

 

Master’s Hunt

Master’s Hunt clues are more obscure and challenging, and require familiarity with the playing area. However, there is less competition in this category, which usually draws only a dozen teams.

No. If no one solves all the clues, then the first team turning in an answer sheet with the most correct answers wins.

It depends on their age and temperament. Only you can decide whether your youngsters will enjoy moving through some noisy and crowded areas.

Rules Clarification

Four to nine players per team is the accepted range. Four to six is probably best. The larger the team, the more difficult it is to stay together. You must be within sight and earshot of your teammates at all times. This means that you cannot be spread out over a distance of more than thirty or forty feet.

That is a violation of the rules. It also diminishes the fun of the hunt for the rest of the team. Everyone wants a chance to see specific objects or landmarks the clue referred to, and to search for the information required to answer the question posed in the clue. When one or two players run ahead and find this before the others arrive, it cheats folks of this sense of satisfaction. The "treasure" in this hunt is finding the unusual locations the clues lead to.

You can use resources which exist independently of the treasure hunt, such as bookstores, libraries, the internet, etc. You cannot arrange to have someone assist your team (by doing research, for instance) who is not physically present, because they would be functioning as a member of your team, and the team must stay together.

Yes, you can use them to help with solving clues, but you cannot obtain the answer to the question posed in the clue without visiting the clue location. Some clues may require internet access to look up a business name.

That's fine. Once they leave, they cannot continue to assist you by working on clues or visiting clue sites.

They can rejoin your team later, but they cannot play on their own.

If you want to participate in the Team Name contests, you must submit your Team Names by 4:00 p.m. on February 3, 2020. Team names are submitted when you buy tickets on Eventbrite. If more than one team submits the same winning team name, the first one submitted will win. 

Prizes & Scores

The first place teams in each division receive a bottle of champagne, a large box of gourmet chocolates and an award certificate. In the Beginner's, Regular and Master's Hunts, the second, and third place teams receive a bottle of champagne and a box of gourmet chocolates and an award certificate, and the fourth and fifth place teams each receive a bottle of champagne and an award certificate.  See the Contests page for more information about awards for the cleverest team names and best costumes. We also award door prizes before the hunt begins.

Probably not. The winners will be announced as soon as possible after the 7:30pm deadline, once the answer sheets are tabulated (no recounts or resorting to the judiciary!). Scores will also be posted on this website, on the Contest Results pages.

For further questions, please email us at questions@sftreasurehunts.com

Book an Event

Our treasure hunts are custom made to fit every team’s size, schedule, and objective. Familiarity with San Francisco’s streets and history are not necessary. Instead, participants will be challenged to work as a team to solve puzzles, read maps, and research trivia on popular culture, current events, literature, and history to succeed.