Imagine being locked in a small room with your family or friends, knowing you only have one hour to work as a team to figure out how to escape. That’s the premise behind escape rooms, one of the latest trends in family entertainment which have cropped up all over the country. The themes vary, ranging from detective style mysteries and spy missions, to high school detention classrooms and mental institutions. Most rooms are typically recommended for ages 10 and up, although some are geared towards older teens due to the nature of the room.
Without giving away any details of the room, you’ll find logic activities, puzzles,and codes to decipher. Rooms on average are about the size of a small bedroom, and are constantly monitored, with an emergency unlock button in case you need to leave. Players search for clues, and things are not always as they seem. Extra clues are available if you need them, but they still require some level of decoding. The clock starts ticking the moment you start, so you have to think fast.
My kids first had the opportunity to try the Axxiom Escape Rooms in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware last summer. Unfortunately, they were just about two minutes shy of escaping, but came out excited and looking forward to their next adventure. Over winter break, our entire family had the opportunity to visit Exit Plan - An Escape Room Adventure, in Leesburg, Virginia, and I have to say that it was quite fun! Since it wouldn’t be fair to divulge any of the secrets of the room and spoil your experience, I’ll just share 3 reasons why I think escape rooms are a perfect way to spend an afternoon or evening.
1. It’s the Ultimate in Family Bonding. You are locked together for an hour in a small room, and the only way out is for every member of your team to help out. Communication and cooperation between players is crucial. Most rooms have a maximum number of players, so just know that if you are in a group of 4 or smaller, it’s possible other players may be added to your group. We went in with 7, so it was just our family group. Group decisions had to be made and we often had two or three people working on something together, while others looked for additional clues.
2. Everyone Can Participate. Our family group ranged in age from 15 to 73, and each person was able to contribute something valuable during our 60 minutes. All escape room websites give a brief description of their rooms, and some provide more details and a rating system so you know ahead of time how difficult it will be to escape. The Exit Plan website lists this disclaimer on the room that we chose: “NOTE: You WILL be shackled and experience a brief period of total darkness in this room.” Although some of the older members of our party were a little uncomfortable not knowing what to expect, by the end of the hour, they were fully immersed in the game, eager to participate in the fun! Plus, having a big age range meant everyone had a different perspective, and one person often saw something that the other one didn’t.
3. It’s a Year Round Activity. Escape rooms are popping up in many tourist towns, places like Orlando, Los Angeles and New York City. It’s the perfect activity for a rainy day, a hot summer afternoon, or a freezing day in the middle of winter when no one wants to go outside. As I mentioned earlier, we visited one escape room over the summer while we were at the beach and another during winter break.
From Nashville to New York City, entire families and groups of friends are testing their skills to see if they can escape. Prices typically range from $20 to $30 per person, and you should make a reservation on-line ahead of time. Check out the reviews on Trip Advisor to find some of the top rooms in the country. I would definitely recommend both of the rooms that we tried. By the way, I have to admit that we came within minutes of escaping, but didn’t quite make it. There’s always next time. Do you have what it takes?