There are 40 minutes left on the clock. You’ve looked under chairs, flipped through books, checked every drawer and carefully stockpiled clues in a central location. Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, your friend notices that there are tiny words printed in the eyes of the Elvis poster on the wall. He can’t quite read it. Wait–maybe that magnifying glass you found in the hollowed out book will help. Sound like fun? It is! If you love playing games, solving puzzles, deciphering codes and gathering clues then you should check out an escape room.
What is an escape room?
Escape rooms are a relatively new concept in entertainment here in the United States; however, they’ve been popular on other continents for approximately a decade. This immersive and interactive gaming experience is really taking off, in fact, escape rooms are popping up all over the country.
Here’s how it works:
Teams of people are locked into a room for a set period of time, usually 60 minutes. Before entering the room there’s a brief orientation. The orientation provides teams with loose guidelines as far as what they can and cannot do while in the room. Teams are not given any direction as to where or how to start once the countdown begins. Once the door is closed, teams are left to their own devices and must discover clues and puzzles hidden in the space to escape.
One last thing–no glowing screens here! While in the escape room, teams won’t have access to their smartphones; most escape rooms lock up valuables before starting the countdown clock. All the problem solving is done with your brain. Refreshing, huh?
DIStracted Tip: Afraid you won’t escape? Escape room operators monitor teams via cameras and provide a limited (or in some cases, unlimited) number of clues to teams that are stumped. Teams should have a plan before starting the experience. Make sure everyone agrees on when and why a clue is requested.
You’ll need a babysitter if you plan to experience an escape room with your significant other. Some welcome players that are high school age, however, be sure to check with the escape room for their specific policies.
Do I have to be a gamer to enjoy an escape room?
Escape rooms are a great alternative to the traditional table top or video game but you don’t have to be a Settlers of Catan goddess to rock an escape room. In my experience, everyone brings something to the table. One player may love logic puzzles, another may have an eye for detail, while yet another isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty (literally) to dig around for a clue.
Tips for newbies
First time escapees should keep the following in mind:
- Communicate. Tell your teammates if you’ve already examined a prop. Looking at the same tea set four times doesn’t get you any closer to escaping!
- Be thorough. Things aren’t what they seem. Innocent props may hold the key to solving a puzzle.
- Divide and conquer. If you stick together and examine everything as a group you’re wasting valuable time. Players should each claim a section of the room and explore every nook and cranny. Report back to your teammates and have a central place to stockpile clues.
- Know your team. Take advantage of each players’ strength. If you happen across a math problem, make sure that the math whiz has a hand in solving it. The faster you solve a puzzle, the more likely you are to escape.
- Have a plan. At what point will you ask for a clue?
Escape rooms aren’t cheap, in fact, the average cost is approximately $30 per person. The good news is that most escape rooms offer discounts via Groupon or Living Social. If you’re not sure whether the experience is for you, I’d suggest checking out an escape room offering a discount.
DIStracted Tip: Don’t forget to read up on reviews. Visit the business’s Facebook page and check out their Yelp, TripAdvisor or Google reviews.
Due to the nature of the experience, few, if any, escape rooms operate on a walk-in basis. In fact, all the escape rooms I’ve done require advanced reservations. Once you’ve zeroed in on an experience, you’ll hop on their website, select a desired date and time and purchase entry for your group.
Finally, depending on the policy of the particular escape room, it is possible for other individuals or groups to book the same time slot. For example, if the room accommodates up to eight people and you have a group of three, a group of strangers may be able to fill the remaining five slots.
Escape rooms are a great alternative to dinner-and-a-movie but they’re also a unique activity for families with older kids. Check one out this winter!