Thursday, May 25, 2017

Now that you've heard of Live Escape Rooms, go do one.

It's still surprising to me that there are people who haven't heard of Live Escape Rooms. I know they are sweeping the planet, available in most cities.

So far we've done these...

Istanbul (I&M, with friends): MazeUp - Ottoman (2016)
London (all of us, 2 teams): HintHunt - Zen Room ^
Paris (I&M): HintHunt - JM's office
Amman (5 of us plus an extra, 2 teams): Escape the Room - Secret Storeroom
Amman (Ian, team building): Escape the Room - Detective Office
Berlin (I&M): House of Tales - Kowloon (adult) (May 2017)
Prague (all of us, 2 teams): Mind Maze - Alchemist's Chamber
Belfast (all of us): Escap3d - Heroin Den
Frankfurt (all of us): Escape Events - BioHazard
Frankfurt (all of us): Secret Escape - The Secret of the Dolls (added June 2017)
Dublin (all of us): Adventure Rooms Dublin - Classic Black Queen (added July 2017)
Dublin (all of us, 2 teams): Escape Dublin - EMCU Trials (added July 2017)
Copenhagen (I&M): TimeQuest - Prison Break (Oct 2017)
Copenhagen (I&M): TimeQuest - The White Room (Oct 2017) ^
Trier (I&M and boys): It's a Trap - Mechanic Shop (Nov 2017) *
Trier (I&M and boys): It's a Trap - Photography Lab (Nov 2017) *
London (all of us, 2 teams): ClueQuest - Plan 52 (Mar 2018)
London (I&M and girls): ClueQuest - Operation Blacksheep (Mar 2018)
London (I&M and girls): ClueQuest - Revenge of the Sheep (Mar 2018) ^
Budapest (I & N): E-Exit - 1984 (Aug 2018)
Copenhagen (I & N): Escape Room by Midgaard: Sherlock (Oct 2018)
Malmo (I & N): The Alley: The Control Room (Oct 2018)
Wraclow (I&M): Let Me Out: Wonderland (Nov 2018)
Wraclow (I&M): Exit19: Identity (Nov 2018)
Wraclow (I&M): Let Me Out: Hexit (Nov 2018) (In a deviation from the norm, we will comment on this room: we do NOT recommend Hexit.  Every room has its challenges, but this one is designed FOR PROGRAMMERS.  And perhaps people who take programming as a serious hobby who can manage binary, hexadecimal, python, a weird form of computer Sudoku, a data/program flowchart, a server room with all sorts of stuff we couldn't figure out....)
Geneva (the fam): Lost'n'Scape, teams split between Alcatraz and Van Gogh, one group escaped (Becca, Amanda, Nicholas and me) and the other didn't (Ian, Katherine, Jonathon) (Dec 2018)
Geneva (the fam): TripTrap - Brotherhood of Stone (identical rooms, 3 in one room (M, K, J) beat the 4 in the other (I, B, N, A)) (Dec 2018)
Copenhagen (I&M): ClockedIn:  Vlad D Hanson's Cocktail Party (March 2019) *
Malmo (I&M): The Alley Escape Room: The Last Hand (March 2019) ^^
Krakow (I, M, J and friends): Combinator ExitGame: Pirate Room (April 2019)
Krakow (I, M, J and friends): Combinator ExitGame: Krakow Beast (April 2019) ^
London (M, J): Escapeland: Right to the Throne (Sept 2019)
London (M, J): Escapeland: DaVinci's Exploration (Sept 2019)
Colchester, UK (I, M, J): Escape: 221B Baker Street (Feb 2020)

DC (Ian, team building): Insomnia Escape Room - Alchemist
Orlando (all of us): The Escape Game - Prison Break (2016)
Orlando (all of us):  The Escape Game - Heist (2016)
Savannah, GA: Encryption - Shanghai Savannah (April 2019) - be aware, this place will group you with strangers unless you book a private room
Jacksonville, NC: Cracked It! - Defcon 1 Red Alert  (April 2019) - be aware, this place will group you with strangers unless you book a private room
Fairfax Station, VA (Ian and J for 4 rooms, I, M, J for Mansion Murder): all 5 rooms - Escapology (June 2019)
Virginia Beach, VA (I, M, J): Breakout Games - Island Escape (June 2019) *
Surf City/Topsail Beach, NC (the whole fam!): Topsail Escape Room - Movie Theater (June 2019) *
Herndon, VA (I, M, J):  Escape Room Herndon/RavenChase Adventures - 8-Bit Escape - this place will book you with strangers unless you have 50%+ in your group for the room, then you can request for them to block the rest of the room without charge (June 2019) ^
Atlanta, GA (R, N, J, M and a friend): Room Escape Atlanta - The Rescue (Sept 2019)
Atlanta, GA (R, N, J, M and a friend): Ultimate Escape Game Atlanta - Enigma (Sept 2019)
Fayetteville, NC (I, M, N): Escapology - MayDay (Nov 2019)
Atlanta, GA (I, M, R): Breakout Games - Operation: Casino (Nov 2019) *
Arlington, VA (M and Kids): Escape Room Arlington/Ravenchase - Supervillains (Dec 2019)
Arlington, VA (M, I, K, N, and Erich): Escape Room Arlington/Ravenchase - Glitch (Feb 2020)
Fairfax Station, VA: Escapology - The Code (J, K, Erich) and Cuban Crisis (I, M, R) (July 2020)
Fairfax Station, VA (I, M, J, R): Escapology - Narco (July 2020) *
Arlington, VA (I, M, J, R): RavenChase - Mind Trap (Aug 2020)
Arlington, VA (I,M, J): RavenChase - Secret in the Attic (Aug 2020)
Raleigh, NC (I, M, N, and Matt): The Tower Escapes - The Castle of Loches (April 2021)
Lake Tahoe, NV (I, M): Puzzle Room Tahoe - Below Ground (May 2021)
Lake Tahoe, NV (I, M): Puzzle Room Tahoe - Lost Cabin (May 2021)
Lake Tahoe, NV (I, M): Puzzle Room Tahoe - Valley of the Kings (May 2021)
Reno, NV (I, M): Break Through Reno - The Centurion Heist (May 2021)

^ A Favorite
* Not Recommended

The general idea is the same for all escape rooms. You are "locked" in a room, given 60 minutes to unravel the clues and puzzles, and escape. Some rooms are decidedly easier than others, most rooms need 3-4 brains to get out in time. If you have a 2-person team it's easy to miss simple things, especially if the room(s) is particularly dark.  If there are more than 4 players you run the risk of tripping over each other as spaces also tend to be small, especially if you have multiple rooms to work through.

You'll also have an eye-in-the-sky in the form of an employee who tosses you clues if you're plain stuck. That help can come in different ways.

The best rooms are non-linear, meaning that everyone on your team has a puzzle to focus on and enough items in the room to investigate.  We enjoy rooms with hidden doors, use of tech, and clever puzzles. Our favorite was probably HintHunt in London, and least was Escap3d in Belfast (though Belfast still gets talked about, not necessarily for good reasons).

Obviously, all this is very general, for good reason. Never give away any information as it ruins it for others.  Really best to go in blind and just enjoy your time. We encourage you to give them a go, and let us know which ones you recommend.

Find one near you. Just search Escape Room Near Me.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A quick anniversary trip to Berlin

Happy 21 years to us :)

Ian and I hopped up to Berlin for a couple days.  While it's driveable in 5 hours, when you only have a couple days it is easier to fly. Thursday evening we wandered around to Checkpoint Charlie and had dinner at the Seaside.  We recommend the Seaside as you choose your fish from the ice counter and pick your sides (my spargal risotto was beyond tasty), and it was all fantastic.  We had great weather on Thursday, so while we were indoors all the glass doors were open to the street.

Friday morning we made our way across the street to the Einstein Kaffee for breakfast.  Ian and the gentleman behind the counter struck up a conversation in Arabic - way cool.  We went there for breakfast the next morning too.

The day was stunning, warm with clear blue skies.

Checkpoint Charlie

We had a plan for Friday.  First, the DDR Museum, an interactive look into life in East Berlin.  I'm used to my museums American-sized... huge and too much to do in a trip.  European museum are like their fast food... small portions in small packaging. But the DDR is a hands-on museum, so to read and do all it offers still takes 2-3 hours. The only drawback, and I don't think it's avoidable, is it's the perfect place for a school group.  You're not going to lose your students in a German museum, but they do take up ALL the physical space, and the noise they make takes up all the audio space. Since they also had a scavenger hunt sheet to fill in, they also took up all the moving around space. Ian and I just sighed.  The museum is well done and well worth a visit. Try to time it without the school group. Good luck.

After an early afternoon break at the hotel we found our way to the Liquidrom.  We don't usually pack swimsuits but with the potential of the Liquidrom, we tossed them in. After living near the Dead Sea (a decidedly interesting but gross place to hang out), we looked forward to floating again in salt water. We spent 2 hours and the first 30 minutes we had the salt pool all to ourselves, floating in bathwater, watching the colored lights, and listening to the classical music under water. Swimsuits required in the salt pool, but optional in the rest of the facility. We had a quick snack and sat by the outdoor pool for a bit before enjoying one of the saunas and the steam room. Germans are very free at their spas, saunas, steam rooms, parks, swimming pools... The saunas were towels only.  The steam room was no fabrics. NO fabrics. Farewell towel. Farewell swimsuit. It's the most German thing we've done.  For 5 minutes. Steam rooms are really hot and uncomfortable. Back to the salt pool for more total relaxation. It was a delightful time, so glad we went.

Back for a little break and it was dinner time.  On the next block was the Rausch Schokoladenhaus - Cafe & Restaurant - everything is touched with chocolate. The bread was infused with cocoa nibs.  The pasta had chocolate shavings. The meat was sprinkled with cocoa and chili. The cafe is over the chocolate shop, and the dessert options looked beyond delicious. The molten chocolate cake definitely was. Of course we recommend it. Go early, it closes at 7.

Saturday we weren't heading home until the later afternoon, so over dinner we checked Trip Advisor for its recommendations.  We knew we'd walk down to the Brandenburg Gate at some point, but before that we figured.. what about an Escape Rooms.  I figure I'll write a separate blog post about Escape Rooms (it's such a surprise still when people don't know what they are).  There are a number of options in Berlin, but one a few blocks away won due to proximity. On Trip Advisor it's called Team Escapes and said it was open until 9:30.  We stopped in to ask about a reservation.  They've changed their name to House of Tales, and have 4 rooms. Check out their website to see their offerings, but we were encouraged to take on Kowloon - Walled City. We weren't fully aware, but as it turns out, Kowloon was their hardest room and claimed to handle 6 people (up to 12 if you have enough for 2 teams).  We needed one more person to get out in time, someone to double- and triple-check puzzles and catch on to things a little quicker, but 6 people would have been tripping over each other so don't do that.  But fair warning, Kowloon is for 18yo and up. Seriously. It is extremely mature. Adults only. No, srsly.

We had a ton of fun but didn't make it out in time, so that was disappointing. They did let us finish. The only recommendation I'd have is to have a visible timer, or a reminder that the phone they hand you can be used as a clock. The first time we had a warning was with 10 minutes left.

Across the street from the escape room was the Trabant Car Museum. We were a little confused why there was a museum dedicated to the crappy Easter German car produced that was made of largely recycled plastic waste. I guess I answered my own question right there.

We made our way to the Bradenburg Gate and planned to walk through the Tiergarten but the entire area was closed off for a race. It was then we realized the true attraction of the Trabant... the Trabi-Safari. Trabants were making there way through the streets of Berlin, mixed in with the Segway tours, the Hop On Hop Off buses, the bicycles, the Hot Rods... It looks like it'd be a great way to see Berlin.  Who wouldn't want to ride around in a cardboard and plastic deathtrap?

So happy 21st Anniversary to my sweetie.  Thank you for the trip to Berlin.  Time with you is always fun and I love to laugh with you and see the world with you. This journey is amazing and I'm so glad I get to do it with you walking next to me.