Discover the ‘hidden gems’ of Philly’s Fairmount Park via scavenger hunt

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The Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Public Programs Manager John Sigmund demonstrates the fun Philadelphians will have during the organization’s WinTOUR Scavenger Hunt. For six weeks, the public can download the free app and complete the hunt for prizes. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Public Programs Manager John Sigmund demonstrates the fun Philadelphians will have during the organization’s WinTOUR Scavenger Hunt. For six weeks, the public can download the free app and complete the hunt for prizes. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Spanning 2,050 acres, ​​Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park is filled with trails, meadows, historic landmarks, and public art. There’s much to discover in the city’s largest park, and a new interactive activity aims to lead the way.

It’s called the WinTOUR Scavenger Hunt.

“You can tour and explore the park in these cold months,” said John Sigmund, the public programs manager for Fairmount Park Conservancy, the nonprofit behind the project. “Bundle up, bring out some friends, and have a great time.”

The Fairmout Park Conservancy’s WinTOUR Scavenger Hunt highlights nature in Fairmount Park, like frisky squirrels along the Schuylkill River. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Sigmund is professionally and personally connected to the park. On top of working for the conservancy, he also lives in the park as a caretaker for one of its many historic mansions. He came up with the hunt as a way to get people outside during the wintertime and share the beauty of the park.

“This is all about getting out into the park and being in person,” said Sigmund. “It really teaches us to appreciate the hidden gems right here, in our backyard of Fairmount Park.”

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The Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Public Programs Manager John Sigmund created the organization’s WinTOUR Scavenger Hunt. For six weeks, the public can download the free app and complete the hunt for prizes. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

How to join the WinTOUR

Fairmount Park Conservancy has hosted other scavenger hunts throughout the years, but none like the WinTOUR Hunt.

A blue-winged teal catches some winter sun on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The scavenger hunt is a free, self-guided, six-week-long adventure.

Those interested in joining can sign up for the WinTOUR Hunt online and download the GooseChase app. Participants can play solo or sign up with a team. Then, over the course of six weeks, 10 missions will be released through the app. Each week, the scavenger hunt will focus on a different section of the park, from east to west, so that players can explore areas that may be unknown to them.

The first week of the hunt is based in the area near Kelly Drive and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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The Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Public Programs Manager John Sigmund said some of the WinTOUR Scavenger Hunt answers could be on informational signs in the park. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Participants can use the app to complete missions, upload photos, gain points, and even win prizes.

“Some are silly challenges and then others are meant to be more factual,” said Sigmund. “It’s a mixture of both education and entertainment.”

Regardless of difficulty level, all missions are intended to help participants discover the “many beautiful, amazing, exciting things hidden in plain sight right here in Fairmount Park,” says Sigmund.

One mission Sigmund is particularly excited about is finding the “squirrel on the burl.” A burl is a slightly mysterious woody knot that appears on the trunk of a tree. Teams who spot the hidden squirrel on the burl will win top points for that week.

The Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Public Programs Manager John Sigmund said one of his favorite things about the park is how the squirrels are not afraid of people. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Whether you participate for the entire hunt, or for just a week, Sigmund says the WinTOUR is on, no matter the forecast.

“The Nordic have the expression: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.’ If you just bundle up and get in the right mindset, you can have a lot of fun during the winter months,” he said.

A Northern cardinal hangs out on banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The WinTOUR Scavenger Hunt kicks off Saturday, Jan. 14, and runs through the end of February.

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