The room dims and the lock clicks shut. There’s a moment of silence. Now what?
Escape rooms have come a popular activity for families, youth groups, and even business colleagues. It’s a simple concept: allow yourself to be locked in a themed room, and solve the riddles inside to undo the locks.
Can you make it out?
Could I make it out? As I was locked into this room with my husband and 5 children, 13 and under (only 3 of whom were mine), this was a pertinent and poignant question.
We were visiting The Escape Hour, one of the escape room attractions in Calgary that have become increasingly popular. We had 60 minutes to solve the riddles, break the codes, and unlock the locks that would set us free. I have to admit that I was skeptical as to the actual “fun” side of this activity. I pay someone to lock me in a room, just so I can solve problems? Um, no thank you.
But, as usual, having kids causes you to do things you never would have thought. My son was turning 11, and wanted nothing more than to visit an escape room. So, we found a Groupon deal, grabbed a couple of his buddies, and booked a time to visit the Lost Jewel of Zanzibar at The Escape Hour. And that’s how I found myself locked in a room with my husband and 5 kids.
The room was pleasingly themed in a storybook African adventure kind of style. I won’t give away any of the secrets, but I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the theme and the chance to “escape” to a new adventure. (You know, not the ones that involve the mystery smells coming from the backpack and whose turn it is to wash the dishes.)
Right away, the kids fanned out over the room, opening drawers, looking under things, and peeking behind pictures. It soon became apparent that we would get further if we worked together. Thank you, life lesson! It was also good to note that an employee of The Escape Hour was watching our progress and could hear us, and he would type a message that would be displayed on a screen in the room, if we needed help.
So, we started (trying) to be methodical, and we proceeded to have a ton of fun! The excitement the kids had when we solved a riddle was contagious. I have to admit, we did need a few hints – or maybe more than a few. Although trying our best, soon the clock read 30 minutes, and then 20. We were making progress, but then we had less than 10 minutes left. With a flurry of activity – okay, plus another eleventh hour hint – we solved the last riddle and burst out the door with only 2 minutes to spare!
There was much rejoicing and exultation. You might have thought we really did find the lost jewel of Zanzibar! And the kids were pretty proud when they got to dress up and pose for a picture with a sign that proclaimed, “We did it!”
5 Tips to Escaping:
- Look everywhere for clues – inside drawers, behind pictures, up or down – anything could help. The type of pictures on the wall might be a clue, page 42 of a book might solve a mystery, or even the music playing could help you escape.
- You won’t need to perform acrobatics or heroics to escape. Our guide showed us the broken leg of a chair – contrary to what the person who broke it thought, nothing was hidden in a hollow leg. It should be obvious what NOT to do. (Our escape room had little signs on things that shouldn’t be touched or moved.)
- Pay attention; the details matter. What is out of place? What strikes you as odd? What triggers that almost unconscious thought in your brain? What tools in the room should you use?
- Work together! A half-thought you have might combine with a half-thought someone else has, and the riddle might be solved!
- It’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun. If you just can’t figure something out, ask for a hint. It might be the nudge you need to go the rest of the way on your own. And don’t worry about feeling stuck or claustrophobic – you’ll be too busy to even think of it!
Escape Room Attractions in Calgary:
There are several escape room locations in Calgary, and if your kids are a bit older, they really are a fun family activity!
Please note: not all rooms will be suitable for all ages.
The Escape Hour:
The Escape Hour was 4 themed rooms: The Lost Jewel of Zanzibar, The Curse of the Evil Genie, Prohibition – The Lucky Duck, and Cypherspace. The rooms have varying levels of difficulty. The room we experienced was The Lost Jewel of Zanzibar, the – ahem – easiest one.
Address: 3016 19 St NE #200, Calgary, AB
Confined Escape Room:
The Confined Escape Room also has 4 rooms: Frankenstein – A Steam Punk Adventure, Escape Trump’s Tower, Cabin Fever, and Alice in 3D. You are locked in the Frankenstein room for 70 minutes, instead of the usual 60, and it does come with a disclaimer.
Cost: $25/person; $35/person for the Frankenstein room
Address: Bay L, 2020 32 Ave NE, Calgary, AB
The Locked Room:
The Locked Room actually has 3 location throughout the city, all with different themed rooms. The NE location has Mutiny on the High Seas, The Wine Cellar, Game Over, and Dead Meat. There is also a premium room at this location: Hangar 403. The Southland location has Lair of the Minotaur, Hipster Hangover, The Great Train Heist, and Sinister Study. Finally, the SE location has Forbidden Temple, Prison Break, The Heist, and Captivity.
Cost: $24.95/person except for Hangar 403, which is $31.95/person
Address: NE: Bay #15 2015 32 Ave NE, Calgary, AB
Southland: 9937 Fairmount Dr SE, Calgary, AB
SE: 5330 72 Ave SE #191, Calgary, AB
Phone: NE: 403-455-0545
Escape Master currently has The Disappearance of Dr. J, Fairy Tale Kingdom, William Castle, and Heroes Anonymous. Notably, Fairy Tale Kingdom, good for 4-6 players, is great for kids.
Cost: 20% off on $24.95/person
Address: Suite 200 222 16 AVE NE, Calgary, AB
Located in a heritage building in downtown Calgary, A/maze Calgary currently has an escape room called Cabaret Voltaire: Recover the Stolen Art.
Address: 206 11th Ave SE, Calgary, AB
Breakout Calgary currently has 3 escape rooms on the go. Darkest Manor, The Vortex, and Final Request. Their website weaves a story that will pique your interest for each room.
Address: 810 Centre St NE, Calgary, AB
Escape 2gether is offering you 4 rooms, which are Red Cabin, Escape the Camp 22 Prison, The Red Magician, and Psychiatric Hospital. Psychiatric Hospital is new, and understandably rated hard!
Cost: $25/person, but book from Sunday to Thursday with the website code, and get 25% off
Address: Unit C6, 416 Meridian Rd SE, Calgary AB
Escape Capers offers Mythical Creatures, Maxim’s Dinner Party, Dick Dickerson: Private Eye, and The Chamber of Mysterati. Interestingly, Escape Capers offers 2 levels of difficulty for each room, so beginners and pros can enjoy any theme.
Cost: $28/person; Dick Dickerson – $32/person for 70 minutes; Mythical Creatures – $32/person for 65 minutes
Address: 4235 16 St SE, Calgary, AB
Trapped currently offers 4 regular escape rooms: Ancient Pyramid, Medieval Prison, Contaminated Hospital, and Death Note. There is also another room, Chaos Effect, which is 70 minutes and for Level 2 members only. (Trapped offers a membership program where you receive a discount on your visit and collect points with every visit. Members reach Level 2 when they have more than 1200 points.)
Cost: $28/person; $25/person if booked online
Address: 1139 Kensington Rd NW, Calgary, AB
Although we do our best to provide you with accurate information, all event details are subject to change. Please contact the facility to avoid disappointment.