10 awe­some es­cape rooms in pop­u­lar va­ca­tion spots

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE - Larry Bleiberg Spe­cial to USA TO­DAY

Trav­el­ers are break­ing out of va­ca­tion ruts with vis­its to es­cape rooms. The in­ter­ac­tive group games that re­quire solv­ing puz­zles to find their way out of a locked area are pop­ping up in tourism des­ti­na­tions, in­clud­ing cruise ships.❚ “It’s a big thing for fam­i­lies and friends trav­el­ing to­gether,” says Rich Bianco of TransWorld, which runs trade shows for the es­cape room in­dus­try. He and col­league Ni­cole Gins­burg share some fa­vorite rooms for va­ca­tion­ers.

The Es­cape Game, Nashville, Ten­nessee

A pop­u­lar getaway for bach­e­lor and bach­e­lorette par­ties, Nashville is a nat­u­ral for es­cape rooms, and you’ll find sev­eral in a 5-mile ra­dius. Among the of­fer­ings, Gins­burg par­tic­u­larly likes this site’s Play­ground room, which is set in an el­e­men­tary school class­room. “It’s an ex­tremely fun, light and airy, bub­bly-style game,” she says. nashvilleescapegame.com

Ri­p­ley’s Relic in Ri­p­ley’s Be­lieve It or Not!, New York

This Times Square site fea­tures a room de­signed by one of the mas­ters of the genre, Gins­burg says. The 15-minute game, which in­cludes a live guide, is the work of Skip Dylen, who has cre­ated es­cape ex­pe­ri­ences for haunted houses, theme parks and comic cons. “He does re­ally in­no­va­tive things,” she says. rip­leysnewyork.com/rip­leysrelic/

Franklin In­sti­tute, Philadel­phia

A sci­ence mu­seum is a nat­u­ral fit for an es­cape room, Gins­burg says. “This gen­er­a­tion needs to touch and feel. They need to be im­mersed in an ex­pe­ri­ence.” The two games in the ven­er­a­ble mu­seum fea­ture a de­serted is­land and a space ship and are built with high-tech touches. fi.edu/es­ca­p­e­r­ooms

Break­out Waikiki, Honolulu

Still won­der­ing if an es­cape room is right for va­ca­tion? For­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and his fam­ily stopped by this room on Christ­mas Eve dur­ing their win­ter visit two years ago. The game is run by a Mis­souri com­pany, and ac­cord­ing to the Kansas City Star, the Oba­mas tried the Mis­sion Manoa Room, which fea­tures se­cret agents and ter­ror­ists. Daugh­ter Malia did much of the work, and the fam­ily made it out with just 12 sec­onds re­main­ing. Not bad con­sid­er­ing the room had just a 21 per­cent suc­cess rate. break­out­waikiki.com

5 Wits – Pa­triot Place, Foxborough, Mas­sachusetts

This minichain, with other lo­ca­tions in New York and along the East Coast, has set a high bar for the in­dus­try, cre­at­ing elab­o­rate es­cape rooms that look like movie sets, with plenty of tech­no­log­i­cal flash. “These guys are like Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios; it’s se­ri­ous entertainment,” Bianco says. “It’s way ad­vanced, an im­mer­sive en­vi­ron­ment.” 5-wits.com

The Base­ment, Las Ve­gas

There’s no short­age of dis­trac­tions in Sin City, but Gins­burg sug­gests leav­ing time for a stop at this room, which uses live ac­tors to make the es­cape chal­lenge all the more re­al­is­tic. “It’s a per­fect meld of game play,” she says. The Study room, set in the home of a can­ni­bal­is­tic se­rial killer, is her fa­vorite. There's also a lo­ca­tion in Los An­ge­les. es­ca­p­e­r­oomve­gas.com

Puz­zle Break: Es­cape the Ob­ser­va­to­rium, In­de­pen­dence of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas

Cruise ships are just the lat­est lo­ca­tions to em­brace es­cape rooms. Royal Caribbean In­ter­na­tional of­fers es­cape ex­pe­ri­ences on many of its ships, but this glitzy of­fer­ing, which re­quires play­ers to work to­gether to save the planet from an as­ter­oid strike, is par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy, Gins­burg says. “It’s a per­fect arena for an es­cape room.” roy­al­caribbean.com

Clue Carre, New Or­leans

The Cres­cent City seems de­signed for es­cape rooms, Bianco says. It at­tracts lots of groups look­ing for entertainment, and the area has a long history of mys­tery and in­trigue. “It’s a per­fect lo­ca­tion. Celebri­ties go to this one.” NBA star Stephen Curry of the Golden State War­riors is one of many who have vis­ited with friends and posted about the ex­pe­ri­ence on so­cial me­dia. The French Quar­ter House of Cu­riosi­ties room comes highly rec­om­mended. clue­carre.com

Cross­roads Es­cape Game, Ana­heim, Cal­i­for­nia

This game, lo­cated about 10 miles from Dis­ney­land, of­fers its own share of thrills, Gins­burg says. She rec­om­mends The Fun House room, which has sep­a­rate ver­sions for adults and groups with chil­dren. “This is a must-play. It’s a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence al­to­gether.” cross­road­sescapegames.com

Nether­world, At­lanta

While es­cape rooms games can last an hour or longer, this pop­u­lar At­lanta haunted house has changed things up by of­fer­ing an ex­press es­cape ex­pe­ri­ence that lasts just three min­utes called “The Man­gler’s Fear Ma­chine.” It also has sev­eral tra­di­tional hour-long es­cape games. “Some are scary, some are not,” Bianco says. “They’re amaz­ing at what they do.” es­capethenether­world.com

Es­cape rooms have found their way to sea, in­clud­ing the elab­o­rate Puz­zle Break: Es­cape the Ob­ser­va­to­rium, fea­tured on Royal Caribbean’s In­de­pen­dence of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas cruise ships. ROYAL CARIBBEAN IN­TER­NA­TIONAL

5 Wits – Pa­triot Place in Foxborough, Mass., has set a high bar for the in­dus­try. Its elab­o­rate rooms look like movie sets. 5-WITS.COM

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