You know those people who are always doing really fun things, and you wonder why you’re sitting home on your couch?

My cousin Peter and his wife Kortney are those people.

Last January, a few weeks before Star was born, they came out to visit us in North Carolina (they’re on a mission to visit every state capitol and so they stayed with us while they hit Raleigh, Columbia, and Richmond), and at some point, they mentioned escape rooms.

I’d never even heard of these, but as they described it, I thought, “This is something I want to try.”

A few weeks ago, Phoenix Escape Room offered to let us try it out, and more than a year after I first hear about it, we finally got to experience it ourselves.

If you aren’t familiar with escape rooms, the basic idea is that a group of you, usually between 4 and 8 people, are locked in a room and you have sixty minutes to solve a bunch of clues and puzzles in order to escape – the door usually has a key or a code that you have to find in order to get out.

When we went to Phoenix Escape Room, they told us that legally they aren’t allowed to lock people in a room, so the door we entered remained unlocked, but the door we were trying to get OUT of was locked. (I’ve heard some people say that this sounds like their worst nightmare due to claustrophobia, and I’m fairly claustrophobic myself, but this didn’t bother me a bit. The rooms were small but not TINY, and you always know you could just walk out the unlocked door if you wanted to).

The Phoenix Escape Room location we went to had two room options, and, due to timing, we picked the harder one. It had a 14% success rate, and the fastest time ever was 55 minutes.

We’d planned to go with another couple, but as the day got closer and I kept remembering the 14% success rate and the fact that there was room for another couple in our group, I thought maybe we should improve our odds by inviting one more couple.

The day before, I texted some friends of our who had done several of these before, and they agreed to join us. I figured our odds of succeeding had just gone up at least a little.

The room we picked was called CASHOUT and the basic premise is that you have a friend who has been kidnapped and the only way to save them is to break into a Las Vegas casino vault and steal a bunch of diamonds.

Have you tried out an escape room? It's such a fun date or group outing!

Whenever I’d seen someone do an escape room before, I’d imagined a basically empty room (I think I was imaging a bank vault or something?), but that wasn’t true at all.

There were lots of props in the room, with clues and objects hidden all around them, under them, inside them, and behind them. In this one, because it was Vegas/casino themed, there was a blackjack table (or . . . maybe it was a poker table? I’m a very bad Las Vegan), a slot machine, a bar, and a bunch of other large and small items of decor.

We were escorted into the room, the television on the wall had a huge timer set to 60 minutes, and then the door shut, the timer started, and it was go time.

Immediately, we started searching through everything trying to find clues. The clues aren’t necessarily in order, so you may have clues you just set aside until you find more information that helps you solve them.

There were locked briefcases we needed codes for, multiple padlocks, phone numbers, morse code, puzzle pieces, and more puzzles that had to be solved. Some were pretty straight-forward and others took a lot of consulting among ourselves (this particular one also had periodic hints given via the television screen).

Sometimes we’d split into smaller groups to work on a particular problem or try a code on a lock and sometimes we’d all gather around to try and figure out a clue.

The hour raced by and with four minutes to spare, we unlocked the final door.

The manager told us we were the first group to successfully escape a room that day (of course, the group before us was comprised entirely of 13 and 14 year-olds, so maybe I shouldn’t be too impressed with us), and we posed with some braggy signs.

Have you tried out an escape room? It's such a fun date or group outing!

I’ve been thinking about the various puzzles and clues all week and now I’m dying to go back and do another one. Phoenix Escape Room has five different games in two locations, so we’ve got plenty of material (they also have locations in Denver, Bend, Frisco, and Bakersfield).

Have you done one of these before? It’s such a different and unique activity – I’m wondering if I can convince my family to do one at our family reunion this fall. . . .

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  • Reply Amy April 29, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    We've done one before here in Salt Lake, and it was pretty much just as you described. I was very skeptical at first, but I ended up really liking it. The one we went to changes out their rooms every few months…is that how the Phoenix one is too?

    P.S. I LOVE your new blog design!!

  • Reply Grace Haynes April 29, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Sounds fun!! Btw, the new design on your blog is wonderful. I especially love the little detail of the cactus on top of the last book.

  • Reply Rachel April 29, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    We did this in Old Town Scottsdale with my in-laws. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law were really helpful, but my mother-in-law and father-in-law were basically useless. My MIL actually BROKE one of the props when she tried to open it by force instead of using the appropriate clues. and the moderator had to come in and scold us. We still didn't finish in time 🙁 I would totally do it again, but this time only with my own generation. Sorry but 60 year olds just aren't as sharp as they used to be.

  • Reply Feisty Harriet April 29, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    A) cute new (? ish?) header!! That tiny cactus is

    B) I mean, I saw Ocean's 11…and 12…and 13. Knocking over a casino cant be THAT hard, right? I mean, a little George Clooney, a little Brad Pitt, a few comical sidekicks, and BOOM! Casino vault in getaway vehicle! 😉


    • Reply Feisty Harriet April 29, 2016 at 2:58 pm

      …my emoji did not come through…that tiny cactus is *insert thumbs up emoji here*


  • Reply Paige Flamm April 29, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    I LOVE your new layout! So cute! Also, this escape room sounds like so much fun, and I really want to try one in Atlanta now! This is right up Derek's alley.

  • Reply Aria Vidulich April 30, 2016 at 1:10 am

    This sounds like way more fun than what I imagined an escape room was like! I'm not claustrophobic but being locked in a room and having to escape by force or climbing out a window sounded pretty terrible to me. The real version solving puzzles sounds far less terrifying. Now I want to find one in Florida to try it out.
    Also your new site design looks great!

  • Reply Brooke @ Silver Lining April 30, 2016 at 10:59 pm


  • Reply Kate Gosling May 1, 2016 at 3:34 am

    I agree….darling new design and the cactus is the cherry on top. Perfect!

  • Reply Colleen Coleman May 1, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    This is like mr. Lemoncillos library. Love this idea and the book is good too

  • Reply Thais May 1, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    This may be due to the fact that I recently saw a Castle episode where they were stuck in a room and had to figure out the clues before they all died…. so this escape room sounds terrifying lol

    Also… new layout is very cute, but I'm having a hard time scrolling trough the page. It strolls in chunks instead of the smooth scroll. Any issues from your designer person?

    • Reply Janssen May 1, 2016 at 6:58 pm

      That's so weird! What browser are you using? I tested in a few on my end and am not seeing that issue. How frustrating!

    • Reply Thais May 1, 2016 at 7:36 pm

      I'm using Chrome on a macbook

  • Reply Elaine May 2, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Compliments on your new design except for the tiny Ariel font in the post itself.

  • Reply Anne May 4, 2016 at 1:33 am

    We went to Escape Adventure in Mesa by Superstition Springs Mall (it's behind Poppy's, close to Winco). Our favorite couple friend invited us after they'd been on a date night. It was a ton of fun! I was thinking it would be scary or claustrophobic too but it wasn't at all. They have similar success rates and we were of course proud as punch when we escaped with just a couple minutes to spare. It was such a fun date night because we all worked together and had different opportunities to visit with each other and engage in something active, as opposed to a movie or sitting at a restaurant.

  • Reply Renee May 16, 2016 at 6:38 am

    I told my husband I wanted to do this next time we went home to Las Vegas because I knew they had one. Had no idea we had one right here in Phoenix! We will have to do this for our next date night.

  • Reply Renee May 16, 2016 at 6:38 am

    I told my husband I wanted to do this next time we went home to Las Vegas because I knew they had one. Had no idea we had one right here in Phoenix! We will have to do this for our next date night.

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