Being a huge fan of scavenger hunts and interactive theater, I was thrilled to discover Shanghai San Francisco, a “walking adventure tour” when Stuart and I were in the city last weekend. It turned out to be such a fun way of spending a Saturday afternoon – but then, cavorting with shady characters has always been my thing.
The premise of Shanghai San Francisco, a “walking adventure tour” is that the participants (us) are part of a traveling, interactive play in which we are members of a good-guy spy organization called the Committee of Vigilance. Our mission: to recover one of our agents who is being held hostage by the rival organization, the Bowery Hounds. In order to find the moll, you must rendezvous at various boîtes and restaurants in North Beach and China Town, where you obtain clues from tipped-in bartenders and actors who give such a convincing performance that your notion of reality is completely turned upside down.
The adventure begins even before the tour starts. Participants are directed to meet up under a signpost at Coit Tower. But prior to this, you are contacted on your cell phone by a serious and somewhat ominous-sounding man, who gives you your first set of instructions.
The tour itself takes roughly 2 1/2 hours, goes at a leisurely pace, and has you stopping at various bars or restaurants for a rest, quick nip and exchange of classified information that will propel you to the next meeting place. But you have to be very careful, as members of the Bowery Gang are all around you, waiting to stop you and intercept the information at any opportunity.
The actors you come across in your travels are totally captivating and never break character as they build upon the drama, disclose information and weave their back-story. They are brilliant at improvisation, adding layers of plot twists and story details to keep it interesting and challenging, and easily responding to even the most inane questions posed by participants eager to call the actors’ bluff and glean more information.
We found getting Shanghai’d to be huge fun, though a little bit disconcerting as you become suspicious of everyone around you (even your husband). I learned that I would make a lousy spy. I have no aptitude for remembering key details and seek to make even the most evil infiltrator feel welcome. My husband, on the other hand, had a clear (and present) knack for espionage and is probably trading state secrets as we speak.
Visit Shanghai San Francisco for more information. Highly recommended!