There's no escaping the popularity of escape rooms, or the wide range of choices to challenge, thrill, or chill participants. Here are some of the most popular attractions 2018 had to offer.
60Out Escape Rooms have a variety of locations in the Los Angeles, Calif. area, from a chilling Amityville haunted house experience in the heart of downtown to West Hollywood's more whimsical, magic infused Alice in Wonderland, a unique 60- minute adventure designed to keep Alice safe from the busily decapitating queen. At the same location, just in time for Halloween, Dracula has made a horror-filled appearance. The newest attraction is the Hyde Circus, which requires visitors to serve as detectives to discover why a once popular circus is failing in a more family friendly, ages 12 and up experience.
In Las Vegas, Nev., the Official SAW Escape Room runs over an hour, and promises to terrify with an immersive experience that mirrors that of the Saw film franchise. The escape room comes from Jason Egan, the creator of The Fright Dome, which is created as a haunted house annually at Circus Circus hotel on the Strip. SAW offers a progressive, multi-room game set in a meat-packing plant for a full factory worth of tortured chills.
The city is also home to The Basement, with an eerie cannibalistic theme that is directed at those 18 and up, and The Study, which continues the theme, but moves guests into a “second chapter” set in the serial killer's study rather than his basement. Dark, exciting, and definitely “R-rated.” The attraction has a second location in Los Angeles.
On the east coast, Boston's Boxaroo is all about adventure rather than sending you quaking in fear, with two magic-themed escape experiences. There's a secret to be uncovered in the mystical Magician's Study; in the Conundrum Museum, a mystery must be solved by participants/detectives. The escapes are considered puzzle rooms; while mysterious happenings abound they're more thrilling than chilling.
At Strange Bird Immersive in Houston, Texas, guests are entering an award winning attraction, a Houdini Séance Room titled The Man from Beyond. Currently moving to a larger theater location, the 90 minute production gives players a full cast for an intense theatrical experience as well as magic, a ghostly apparition, and a puzzle to solve, of course. With responsive light and sound, as well as detailed sets, the overall experience is dubbed “cinematic.”
New Orleans, La., has a multi-attraction experience in Clue Carre, including the French Quarter House of Curiosities Room, and the Vampire Room, the Haunted Swamp Room, and the Voodoo Room, all of which make good use of New Orleans-based settings and themes. Trading on ghosts, legends, and fantastic architecture, Clue Carre is a perfect fit for the city itself.
For an unusual setting, it might be hard to top the escape room at the renowned Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pa. Located inside the museum named for Ben Franklin, the science museum offers two escape attractions: a deserted island and a space ship. Called whimsical and fun by the museum, neither of these adventures are designed to strike terror in the heart of guests; rather, they're high-tech cool, and feature a bevy of pop-culture references to charm participants.
The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, Calif., also hosts an escape room, which incorporates the location and its architecture. The Great Houdini Escape Room calls itself the world's first “escape room” – ostensibly built 100 years ago by Harry Houdini during San Francisco's Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. The experience lasts 80 minutes. From the same producers, Palace Games, other escape rooms are available; each require a set number of participants to play.
Created by the Netherworld haunted house crew, the Netherworld escape rooms located in Atlanta, Ga. run the gamut of escape experiences from the creepy Haunted to the equally dark vampire Nosferatu, to an unnerving backwoods-cabin experience, Sasquatch. Visiting the House of Creeps Monster Museum, also on site, is an add-on experience to extend the fun.
Seemingly a natural home for an elaborate escape room, Ripley's Relic, located in New York City's Times Square Ripley's Believe It or Not! location is brief, but powerful. Unlike most escape experiences that offer a 60-minute or more adventure, at Ripley's, the game is just 15 minutes long. Produced by skilled escape experience purveyor Skip Dylen, this is a family experience, billed as being fun for ages 5 and up. Using high tech and film-like set design, there's a live guide to lead families and friends through the fun, leaving plenty of time to check out a Broadway matinee.
But don't leave the mid-west behind. Chicago is home to a top escape contender with The Escape Game Chicago, where a bevy of skilled in-house designers have shaped rooms with plenty of detail to go with the puzzle-solving thrills. Mission: Mars offers a unique futuristic experience without locked doors, but approaching cosmic radiation and a damaged space ship to repair; Special Ops is a spy thriller come to life; and Gold Rush makes players try to beat the mob in finding hidden treasure.
In Seattle, haunted house craftsmen have turned their attention to four escape games, The Georgetown Morgue, The Bank Job, and Cell Block 12. Coming soon is the brand new Abducted, in which the challenge is to escape from a demented kidnapper.
While the sea and sun may be more on many people's minds, Breakout Waikiki offers a different diversion in Honolulu. Six live-action escape rooms each with a 60-minute time limit, give guests the choice of a mind control setting in Patient 57;
Mission Manoa, a thriller; and riffing on a Lost TV series theme (the show was filmed in Hawaii), there's The Hatch, a bunker from which they may or may not be an escape.
From heists to serial killers, elaborate escape experiences are creating a strong new wave of amusement attractions.