Caitlin Penzey-Moog

The Pursuit of Paradise

By - Oct 27th, 2010 04:00 am

Andrew Zimmern, courtesy of

Andrew Zimmern is no stranger to adventure. As the host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, he’s been to some of the world’s most exotic locales in search of local flavor and culture.

This month, Zimmern is bringing that audacious spirit to Milwaukee with a digital treasure hunt, using popular social networking sites to lead Milwaukeeans on a wild goose chase around our fair city. The grand prize:  a roundtrip vacation for two to Riviera Maya, Mexico.

The Pursuit of Paradise is open to everyone and anyone. Here’s how it works: First, you must download this word puzzle. Up to Oct. 30, participants can fill in letters by answering clues and following prompts on Facebook and Twitter and checking in at a Travel Leader’s office, either in person or on Foursquare.

Although the contest opened on Oct. 11, people who want to join in the fun can still participate at any time during the month — both sites offer past clues to help latecomers catch up.

“You can get involved and do this puzzle almost up until race day,” said Zimmern. “It’s more fun and you win more clues starting out earlier but the point is not to have a difficult puzzle, it’s to involve people in the race day.”

It all culminates this Saturday, aka “race day.” With most of the letters filled in at this point, the remaining clues will be posted on Facebook and Twitter that lead participants around downtown Milwaukee.

Players download a passport that gets stamped at each location. Once the passport is filled, the winner will bring it and the completed puzzle to the newly-remodeled Alterra cafe on Prospect. Zimmern himself will be there to congratulate the grand prize winner and also to dole out some fantastic secondary prizes.

“The whole point of the contest is to make it reasonably simple for people to collect their letters and solve the puzzle so we can get the most possible people in on race day, where they will spend an hour or two perambulating locations in the city,” says Zimmern.

Not bad for a grand prize, eh?

The Pursuit of Paradise also supports the charity Global Explorers, a nonprofit that opens the door to world travel for low-income students.

“Travel is a transformative experience,” said Zimmern. “It challenges you and grows awareness, but it is so expensive.”

In the end, the contest is all about fostering a sense of adventure. While the Mexican vacation is the ultimate prize, the point is to inspire passion for exploring not only the world, but also the greater Milwaukee area.

“There’s a hundred reasons why we’re doing this in Milwaukee,” said Zimmern. “The size and diversity of the city is perfect, and the different neighborhoods are perfect for what we’re doing. It’s just the ideal place for this.”

The first competition was held in Minneapolis, and Zimmern says he thinks this one will be even bigger and better. “I think we’ve hit on something people really adore,” he said.

Milwaukeeans can still participate in the Pursuit of Paradise until Saturday, October 30 — download the puzzle and find past clues here. The race begins on Saturday morning and will end at the Alterra Cafe on Prospect Avenue. For full details, including time, locations and contest rules, click here.

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