National Scavenger Hunt Day – May 24, 2020

Sun May 24

May 24 is National Scavenger Hunt Day, marking the annual celebration of hunting for a list of items, or solving a series of clues to “win” the game. Whether you’re planning a scavenger hunt for random items with your friends across a new town you just moved to, or a scavenger hunt for your kids in your backyard, both the planner and the players are likely to have a great time. Did you know scavenger hunts can be educational?

History of National Scavenger Hunt Day

Though no one knows the true origin of the first scavenger hunts, which evolved from folk games, Elsa Maxwell has been credited with the creation and popularization of the scavenger hunt in the 1930’s. Elsa Maxwell, an American author, gossip columnist, actress, songwriter, screenwriter, and radio personality who was dubbed “hostess with the mostest”, had an affinity for throwing luxurious and entertaining parties for celebrities, political figures, and New York’s elite. She often organized scavenger hunts for the guests, that involved roaming around town, seeking objects from a list. Players were not allowed to buy the objects, but rather, beg, barter, or work for them. Sometimes, the scavenger hunts included riddles, or ‘clues’, on each item, increasing the game’s difficulty. The team with the most items, or the first to complete the list, won. 

It’s a popular game today, especially for children, around holidays like Easter, Christmas, Halloween, or birthday parties. Adults could set up an elaborate maze of clues and items for their children to find, that would keep their children busy for hours. At some Universities, fraternities or sororities may even include a scavenger hunt as a series of challenges for their potential new members, or ‘pledges’. The games are a great way to encourage healthy competition, discover new places, promote exercise, and stoke the imagination of all parties involved. Scavenger games could entertain adults and children alike. The games are entertaining to whoever can open their minds, and tap into their childlike sense of play and wonder.

National Scavenger Hunt Day timeline

2016

Pokemon Go had it’s go

An augmented reality version of Pokemon that focused on collecting characters was released, and sent hundreds of scavengers around the world in search of Pokemon everywhere – some may even argue it made walking around outside cool again.

2000

Scavenger-hunt craze film

“My Man Godfrey”, produced by Gregory La Cava and Charles R. Rogers, satirized the scavenger hunt obsession among New York’s elite class.

1930’s

Scavenger hunts gain popularity at parties.

Thanks to Elsa Maxwell, scavenger hunts were a party favorite.

1700s

Easter egg hunts began

The idea to hunt for hidden eggs came from the Pennsylvania Dutch, and their belief in a rabbit that lays eggs (Called Oschter Haws, or Osterhase).

National Scavenger Hunt Day FAQs

What are good scavenger hunt ideas?

Some popular ideas are doing scavenger challenges, photo or video montages around the city you live in, creating a list of things for kids to find around the house (using colors or descriptive words), a nature scavenger hunt, a virtual scavenger hunt, and hunts that have themes, such as Christmas, Easter, or Halloween themes.

How do you make a scavenger hunt?

Start with a vision or idea, and an end goal. Write down the clues or riddles you plan on using for people to arrive at the end goal, with as many fun challenges as possible in between. By yourself or with non-participant assistance, hide your clues in spots that are relatively unseen to the naked eye. Gather a group of participants, hand them the first clue and watch them solve your puzzle.

What is the point of a scavenger hunt?

Other than being educational, the ‘point’ of a scavenger hunt is objective to the creator of that particular hunt, and the players participating. Whether the hunt is for finding easter eggs, or simply exploring, the main point of a scavenger hunt is to have fun!

HOW TO CELEBRATE NATIONAL SCAVENGER HUNT DAY:

  1. Organize a scavenger hunt at your next party

    An idea for an adult scavenger hunt could combine a “Murder Mystery” theme, and finding clues around a house to eventually stumble upon the fake murder weapon. The person who hides the clues plays the narrator for the entirety of the game. Cocktails optional.

  2. Scavenge your city.

    There are friendly, competitive scavenger hunt tours that are available in some cities, that include a guide, and interesting facts about your city you may never have known before. This is also an excellent date night idea!

  3. Hunt for treasure.

    Though a treasure hunt isn’t necessarily the same as a scavenger hunt, go for a walk around the park with a loved one and find “treasure” that you haven’t noticed before, like dandelions, or a ladybug. Don’t dig any holes on public property, just take a walk and appreciate small things, as you go.

5 FACTS ABOUT SCAVENGER HUNTS

  1. Corporations use scavenger hunts for publicity.

    In 2009, Levi’s buried $100,000 “somewhere in America”, and presented a scavenger hunt titled their “Go Forth” campaign, which spanned six weeks, and objects were hidden in 13 places around the country, which included challenges to be completed.

  2. The largest known media scavenger hunt

    Guinness World Records acknowledges that the largest media scavenger hunt is the “Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen”, or “GISHWHES”, which was carried out by 14,580 participants and organised by American Misha Collins, in 2011.

  3. The name ‘Scavenger Hunt’ imitates animal scavengers

    Although most scavenger hunts don’t involve dead animals, the name makes sense because of the adrenaline rush it brings to be a scavenger, trying to beat out your competition.

  4. One of the longest running scavenger hunts.

    Every May since 1987, teams representing each of the University of Chicago’s dorms scatter across the city and beyond in an attempt to gather as many items as they can on each year’s list, which first has to be found.

  5. There’s still hidden treasure to be found

    In 2010, billionaire Forrest Fenn, buried a treasure chest full of treasure, somewhere between Sante Fe, New Mexico, and the Canadian border – he published a poem hinting at the treasure’s whereabouts, and though tens of thousands of people have tried to find the treasure, it has yet to be discovered.

WHY WE LOVE SCAVENGER HUNTS:

  1. Scavenger hunts utilize creative thinking.

    Thinking of themes, objects, and locations that will challenge the players of the game can be an enjoyable game in itself. Whether you’re asking a bunch of teenagers to take photos of themselves with different items in different places, or arranging a themed pirate party for a bunch of six-year olds, you’re in for a good time and ideally, spend time crafting challenging hints, and or rhyming clues.

  2. Scavenger hunts encourage team-bonding.

    Children and adults enjoy feeling part of a group, or a team. Even if your team loses, it’s a primal instinct of ours to feel like we ‘belong to a tribe’, so to speak. Scavenger hunts could be just what you need to bring people together, and form a sense of unity between friends, new or old.

  3. Scavenger hunts are educational for kids.

    Scavenger hunts allow kids to practice real world problem-solving in a fun environment. Children must learn not only to solve riddles to find the next object and win, they also need to develop a team player mentality and collaboration skills to succeed in the challenges, and win the game.

National Scavenger Hunt Day dates

YearDateDay
2020May 24Sunday
2021May 24Monday
2022May 24Tuesday
2023May 24Wednesday
2024May 24Friday