Hyperlocal Travel: Snapshots of Waterloo Region

NOTE: The organizer, Fields Trips cancelled any spring bookings for SNAPSHOTS of Waterloo Region due to the stay-at-home orders in Ontario but expects to offer dates in the future when permitted. 

I thought we were headed out for a nice, casual Sunday afternoon drive, until my spouse and driving partner for the road rally/scavenger-hunt we were on said we were spending too much time stuck at each traffic light. He also noticed that the red pickup truck four vehicles back seemed to be gaining on us as we headed north on Blair Rd., past Langdon Hall and toward Homer Watson Blvd. 

Even though the organizers of the three-hour event assured everyone that it was not a race, we were starting to feel some adrenaline kick in and, dare I say, a little bit of competition. We didn’t want to lose valuable points unnecessarily. 

On a sunny March day, we signed up to join Snapshots of Waterloo Region Road Rally Scavenger Hunt, a road trip through Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Woolwich Township — described as part-scavenger hunt, Amazing-Race, road-rally, history-lesson and puzzle.

Each vehicle of participants (households or bubbles only) were given a series of road directions and clues leading to stops along a route exploring Waterloo Region’s “industry to innovation” story. Each stop added to the story and history of our community through arts, culture, agriculture, technology, innovation, architecture and more. 

Points were awarded (now you see why we got competitive) for snapping photos of certain waypoints and locations, recording answers to questions and your vehicle’s start and end times. 

Along the way, you could learn the significance behind each stop. At the end of the event, each vehicle received a Waterloo Region jigsaw puzzle with recognizable, hyperlocal landmarks. 

SNAPSHOTS Road Rally Scavenger Hunt was designed and hosted by Kelly Fields of Kitchener. She owns and operates Fields Trips, a travel and motorcoach sightseeing company. In a typical year, she would operate and host an average of 95 unique trips, including overnight tours ranging from two to 25 nights, day trips, wedding charters and corporate groups.

Kelly Fields standing outside of van. CHRISTINE DAINARD PHOTO

After an entire year of cancelling trip after trip, Fields decided to create a local event that would give people a reason to get out of the house, explore local destinations and learn something new about the region. 

I’m pretty familiar with most corners of our region, but even I found some streets and locations that I didn’t know about before, such as filming locations for The Queen’s Gambit in Galt, some rural roads outside of St. Jacobs and quirky details about King St. in Preston. 

There’s always more to learn, including the fact that my spouse sometimes watches rally car races on YouTube. How did I not know this before? I guess that’s why he got so irritated when a car signalled left in front of us, and it was too late to get around them. We lost some precious seconds at that intersection. 

If you feel a sense of FOMO, don’t fear. The event is running again on April 17 and 18 if you want to try it out yourself. Visit fieldstrips.ca to register for these dates (max 8-10 vehicles to participate) or you can select your own date for a self-directed day trip and Fields will deliver the clues and puzzle to the starting location in Cambridge.

The cost is $69 per vehicle. You can make the trip with just a driver and navigator but I suggest a team of four people: one driver, one navigator, one person to read the background details on each location and one person in charge of snacks — it’s a lot of work to be on a road rally! 

Going at your own pace would make a perfect day trip or activity for visiting guests.