Live escape room adventures have become popular activities for friends, corporate outings, and families too.
An escape room is a game where a group of people are closed in a room and need to solve a series of puzzles and ciphers within a set time limit (typically 60 minutes) in order to get out. Each room has a theme and a story to go with it that is integral to the experience. Themes can range from historical adventure, to theatrical, to horror, to who knows what else.
World of Escapes, a website that maintains a directory of live escape rooms all over the world, lists over 4,500 in the United States alone, and their list is not complete as you will see. One of the escape rooms not listed (yet) is the Escape Room Center in Bridgewater, New Jersey. We just hosted my 11-year-old daughter’s birthday party there, and the young ladies had a blast.
My only prior experience with a live escape room was during a family visit in Maine, at The Escape Room in Portland. For that adventure, we had a mix of ages and backgrounds playing. We succeeded at solving the Western-themed puzzle with about 15 minutes to spare. My kids, ages 13 and 10 at the time, really enjoyed it. More to the point, they were active participants in solving the room, and every bit as effective as any of the adults.
This gave me some confidence to try a live escape room for my daughter’s birthday. I was a little worried that a group of 10 and 11-year-old girls might suffer from the lack of diversified experience on the team. This turned out to be a valid concern, but not one that deterred from their enjoyment of the adventure much.
The adventure was called The Lost Jewel of Zanzibar, and took place in Africa in 1930. Our team had to track down clues left by an explorer for the British Museum and find the missing jewel. Heading into the room, I planned not to help the girls unless they really needed it, and I told them so. I wanted this to be their adventure, and for them to lead and organize it. We had 60 minutes, and although our heroines were making progress, about 30 minutes in I decided I had better start pulling my weight.
Although the girls had done a good job uncovering many of the clues and unlocking some of the puzzles, they sometimes lacked critical focus. For example, one hint revealed that a locked cabinet could only be unlocked once a series of other puzzles were solved. The girls had to be reminded on a few occasions not to waste time trying to open that cabinet lock before solving the earlier challenges. This was not really surprising for kids their age.
In the end, we ran out of time, and a message appeared on the monitor explaining that the local warlord had arrived, which was bad news for our party. We probably needed another 15 minutes to get through that room.
The important thing is, the kids had fun. There was some angst towards the end that we didn’t win, but every single girl said afterward that they enjoyed the experience, and would try it again. So I’m calling it a big win.
I’d strongly recommend this activity for mixed groups of ages and experiences. Depending on the room, kids 10 or older should do fine with some support from older participants. As I learned, even a group of younger kids with good attitudes will enjoy the adventure. Check with your live escape room company before booking to be sure there are no age restrictions, and that the subject matter is suitable for your kids.