If you have Instagram or Facebook, you’ve probably seen some of your friends posting pictures of their victory or defeat in an escape room. You may have heard lots of talk about them….but have you had the chance to try one out? We wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so on our recent family vacation we had our first Escape Room experience.
What is an Escape Room?
Escape rooms are a fun group activity where you have a time limit (usually 45 minutes to an hour) to solve the puzzles and riddles to “escape” from the room you are in. There is usually a “mystery” you are trying to solve or a “disaster” you are trying to avoid (of course there is no actual danger). It is an immersive environment where you must quickly solve the puzzles to open the locks and accomplish your mission!
Choosing An Escape Room
Our family was looking for an escape room that was
* Family friendly
* Easy to get to
* Had good reviews
* Had a room that was challenging & fun without any scary, creepy, “dark” undertones.
The location we found that seemed to meet those criteria was called Lockdown Ottawa. They are a family friendly facility (kids 6+ can join in with the group) and they have competitive pricing at $20 per person. (The price range we found in Ottawa was $20-35 per person per room).
They were conveniently located just 2 blocks from St. Laurent Mall (an area we regularly visit while in Ottawa – bonus points for not having to drive in downtown traffic and pay for parking!) The reviews online were great and we found that two out of the three rooms that they offered appeared to be “non creepy”. They offer convenient online booking and were great in responding by email when we had questions. (We told them what we were looking for and they recommended a room for us.)
Booking an Escape Room
Most escape room locations that we found offer online booking which makes it easy to see what times they have available and schedule in your family/group. I love that bookings can be made in advance so there is no waiting around and you can still schedule other activities for the day or evening. I would say to give yourself an hour and 15 minutes or so for being at the location, including the checking in, introductory stuff, and the 45 minutes for the room, and photos after.
When we arrived at Lockdown Ottawa we found it without any problems. We had done some shopping at the St. Laurent Mall and it literally is just a 2 minute drive away. We were very happy to have free onsite parking available. (Yay for saving money!) The building had good signage and entrance was clearly marked. After going upstairs, friendly staff greeted us and we took our seats in a small waiting area.
On the coffee table of the waiting room is a variety of brain teasers and puzzles to get you warmed up and to make any wait time pass quickly. We arrived early so had some time to enjoy the puzzles. Snacks were available to purchase as indicated by a sign, but we were too excited to eat!
On the wall there was also information indicating the success rate of each room. So, for example, the room we were going into had a “Escape Success Rate” of 44%. That means that 56% of groups don’t escape that room. We had our work cut out for us! Challenge Accepted 🙂
Those Before Us
While we waited, we observed two groups leaving after their escape room experience. One group came out laughing and joking and saying how awesome the experience was. Although they didn’t make it out of the room, you couldn’t tell by their faces as they were all smiles and laughter as they took their group photo and held up the “Failed” sign. We took it as a good sign to see such happy people despite “losing”.
The other group we heard before we saw them. It was a sudden outburst of cheers and shouting down the hall, followed by the group running out and repeatedly exclaiming how much fun they had and some high fives to celebrate their victory. With playful props they posed proudly with their “escaped” props and as they left the building you could hear them talking about how they wanted to do this again.
We couldn’t wait to get started!
Introduction to the Room
Right on schedule, a friendly staff member brought our group behind the curtain where we watched a very brief video explaining the room “rules” and safety features. Although the information itself wasn’t exciting, they added some really cute photos to make it playful and fun. It then had a short video introducing the concept of the room and what our “Mission” was.
Our mission for the next 45 minutes was to find the DJ’s best record for the dance party of the year. In order to keep the party going you had to solve all the puzzles to find the missing hit song.
After the video was completed, a very enthusiastic staff member danced her way into the room, leading us to the “party” where we would start our adventure.
Solving the Puzzles
With no instructions on where to start we were at first a little confused about what to do when the door shut behind us. We began exploring the room and looking for clues to what we should begin with. It was hard to determine at first what was for decoration and what was important information for helping us solve this puzzle. We soon began piecing it together, though, and one by one we found the clues and the codes that opened the locks.
Thinking we were doing so well on our time, we didn’t bother to use the walkie talkie provided to ask for an allowed HINT when we later got stumped. We saw a couple of locks left and plenty of time on the countdown clock so we took our time exploring possibilities for the answer. What we didn’t know, as an Escape Room Newbie, was that once we opened one of those locks, it actually revealed several more puzzles we had yet to solve! We weren’t getting off that easy!
Before we knew it, 45 minutes of locks, logic, and laughter had flown by! Our time was over with just one puzzle left to solve! (FAIL!)
The friendly staff member who came into the room to let us know our time was up, was very accommodating and allowed us to take a couple of minutes to finish the last puzzle while she began resetting the room. So although we didn’t make it in the allotted time, we were still able to enjoy a victory dance as we solved the last code!
After The Escape
One of the things I loved about the experience was the conversations it stimulated long after our escape room was done. We chatted all night about the puzzles in the room and which were our favourites. It had been so engaging and exciting we had lots to talk about! In fact, we decided as a group that we would have to fit in just one more escape room before we flew back to Iqaluit. Yes, we were hooked!
We now understand why escape rooms are gaining in popularity and popping up across the country! They are engaging, fun and full of surprises & unexpected turns. While it defenitly takes some extra effort to find “non creepy” ones, we were thrilled to know they DO exist and can be so much fun! They offer enjoyment well beyond the time in the room by means of the stimulating conversations and the great memories they inspire! We can’t wait to try another one!
If you are in Ottawa and want to have your own escape room experience, check out LockdownOttawa at 1080 Ogilvie Road and see if you have what it takes to escape!
Disclosure: We received a complimentary experience at Lockdown Ottawa in exchange for an honest review of our experience there. All thoughts and opinions expressed are our own.