The room dims and the lock clicks shut. There’s a moment of silence. Now what?
Escape rooms have become 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 in this room with my husband and 3 children, this was a pertinent and poignant question.
I’m not sure if it’s an over-active imagination, a penchant for stories, or simply a layer of childishness I never outgrew, but immersing yourself in a story is delightful entertainment. As such, I love visiting the Disney parks, but one must be practical some of the time. It can be difficult to find family fun that everyone enjoys, but we paid a visit to the Escape Hour as a 2019 back-to-school celebration, and everyone loved it! We were whisked away to the world of the Arabian Nights, and everyone was engaged and excited about our experience.
This was only our second experience in a locked room. The first time, I was skeptical. Lock myself in a room with children and work to get out? I was unclear how this was entertainment. We had a good time, however, and I was curious to try again.
This time, we chose the Curse of the Evil Genie from the 4 rooms available at the Escape Hour. The room was pleasingly themed and rated harder than the first room we had tried, giving me some doubt that we would succeed. The kids confidently spread out in the room and began the task of noticing, deducing, and attempting to solve the puzzle. My kids were between the ages of 10 and 14 and it was interesting to watch them solve the puzzles and work together. I don’t want to give away any secrets, but each of them had an inspiration about a clue that no one else had yet thought about, definitely assisting in our escape. The excitement the kids had when we solved a riddle was contagious.
It was also good to note that an employee of The Escape Hour was watching our progress and would type a message that would be displayed on a screen in the room if we needed help. (There are three levels of “help” you can access. We chose Normal and definitely appreciated the hints we received!) I have to admit, we did need a few hints. Time flies in an escape room and soon the clock read 30 minutes, and then 20. We were so close, but then we had only a few 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 excitement and chattering as we escaped. You might have thought we really did escape the Evil Genie! 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!”
Not knowing what to expect when you first try an escape room is part of the fun. But this time, having some idea of how these rooms could work gave us more confidence and, I think, enhanced our enjoyment. Sixty minutes of forgetting the problems of the real-world and losing ourselves in a story made the best escape.
5 Tips for 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 will 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: many of these rooms will not be suitable for children. You will also need to check ahead as COVID restrictions can change things very quickly, but several locations also offer virtual escape rooms.
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. Expect new rooms to come soon.
Address: 3016 19 St NE #200, Calgary, AB
Located in a heritage building in downtown Calgary, A/maze Calgary currently has escape rooms called Cabaret Voltaire, Max Baker VS the Game, and Tesla’s Study.
Address: 206 11th Ave SE, Calgary, AB
Arcadia Adventures Escape Room:
Arcadia Adventures Escape Room is Calgary’s premier escape room experience. Immerse yourselves in these escape rooms as your team works to unlock the clues and get out before time runs out. These real-life Calgary escape rooms are an excellent way to have fun, solve puzzles, and improve your team-building skills.
Cognito Escape Games (temporarily closed):
Cognito Escape Games has 3 rooms: Unmasked, Sorcerer’s Academy, and Bloody Mary. At the time of writing, they were temporarily closed, due to COVID-19.
Confined Escape Room:
The Confined Escape Room 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.
Escape 2gether is offering you 4 rooms, which are Red Cabin, Escape the Camp 22 Prison, Trapped in Time, and Psychiatric Hospital.
Address: Unit C6, 416 Meridian Rd SE, Calgary, AB
Escape60 prides itself on using modern technology for the best experiences and offers Harry Potter-themed escapes. They have a variety of different options, including adults only, but several would appeal to older kids and are available for kids 9 and up.
Address: 1638 10 Ave. SW, Calgary, AB
Escape Ops brings escape room experiences that everyone from beginners to veterans will enjoy, including Calgary’s only 2-player escape room, Dynamic Duo. Their rooms also include Hyperspace and Shrine.
Address: 3-700 33 St. NE, Calgary, AB
Esxoss Manway brings a new standard for escape rooms, with cutting-edge AI technology and immersive themes; you might even find laser traps! Find rooms called Dreamweaver, Bedlam, and Escape the High Castle. While the themes are created to build suspense and feel immersive, rest assured that every set is safe even for young teens.
Address: 209, 5720 Macleod Trail SW, Calgary, AB
Exit Calgary often has special deals to check out and themed rooms called Tokyo Rush, Ancient Egypt, Buccaneer Bay, Serial Escape, and X-17 Space Carrier.
Address: 60, 880 16 Ave. SW, Calgary, AB
Level 1 Escape:
Level 1 Escape as a wide range of rooms with challenging puzzles and more mature themes.
Address: 517 16 Ave. NE, Calgary, AB
The Locked Room:
The Locked Room actually has 3 locations throughout the city, all with different themed rooms. The NE location has Mutiny on the High Seas, Quest for Excalibur, Game Over, and The Quizzler’s Revenge. The Southland location has Lair of the Minotaur, Mission: Antarctica, The Great Train Heist, and The Price is Life. Finally, the SE location has Forbidden Temple, Prison Break, The Heist, and Captivity. (During the COVID crisis, be sure to check out the online escape rooms from The Locked Room.)
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
Retro Oasis Escape Room and Arcade (Okotoks)
Get your game on at the family entertainment destination in Okotoks. They have a vintage arcade and two interactive and immersive escape rooms, suitable for smaller groups. (At the time of writing, January 2023, the escape rooms had not opened.)
Address: 100 Stockton Ave, Unit 150, Okotoks, AB
Trapped currently offers a number of escape rooms, like Contaminated Hospital, Death Note, Jack the Ripper, Room 057, and Aunt Elisa’s Inheritance. Their rooms are rated PG or 14A.
Address: 1139 Kensington Rd NW, Calgary, AB
The author would like to thank the Escape Hour for hosting our interactive experience. All opinions expressed are her own.