Escape Rooms (sometimes also known as “room escapes”) are interactive puzzle games that became popular in Asia and Eastern Europe before popping up across the United States. Teams enter a room and search for clues and useful objects, solve puzzles and riddles, and ultimately figure out how to back out of the room. Rooms come in a variety of themes, from sci-fi adventures to horror scenarios and some incorporate technology for magical effects, while others have actors that help guide the story along. Most games give players an hour to complete the challenges, and some have rooms that can be played back-to-back. It’s an excellent way to use your brain, work as a team and challenge your senses. Most rooms cost about $30-40 for a ticket, depending on the number of players. Los Angeles has over 60 individual rooms from numerous companies for puzzlers—here are 15 favorites.
Evil Genius is a must-play for escape room enthusiasts. One of the few escape rooms to seamlessly offer a back-to-back room experience, Evil Genius has a strong narrative that informs both rooms. Teams begin as friends of a detective who has recently died under suspicious circumstances. The detective has left a series of clues in his apartment that will lead players to the truth, which involves, yes, an evil mastermind. Upon completion, players can immediately tackle the next game, which takes place in an art gallery full of secrets. Innovative clues and exciting technology offer an exciting game that’s challenging, immersive and a lot of fun.
One of the earliest escape rooms to open in Los Angeles, Escape Room LA consistently offers challenging rooms and well-executed puzzles. Given the size of their rooms, number of puzzles and overall difficulty, Escape Room LA is one of a handful of rooms suitable for large groups. Purchase individual tickets to play with strangers or book an entire room to play with friends. Themes include a detective’s office, an underground cavern, a haunted theater and a medieval alchemist’s lair. Escape Room LA also offers easier versions of the rooms suitable for groups of children, by request.
The Basement is a horror-themed escape room that revolves around cannibalistic serial killer Edward Tandy, who has kidnapped several people and locked them in the basement of the home he shares with his elderly mother. Tandy allows his victims the chance to escape via a series of complicated clues and puzzles scattered throughout his lair. However, if guests cannot escape within one hour, a poisonous gas floods the room and renders them unconscious for Tandy to eat later. (Don’t worry, it’s all pretend!) The room has a fair amount of jump scares and guests might soon learn they’re not alone in there. The Basement also has two additional rooms that progress the Tandy story. The Boiler is a small, four-person room with walls that close in on the guests as their time runs out, and The Study takes place on the first floor of Tandy’s home. The Study has several clever uses of technology that add to both the puzzles and the eerie milieu of the room. The Basement is located in the Valley, in Sylmar.
Enigma Escape Rooms, located a few blocks east of the Sunset Strip, offers several rooms including The Will, Secret Temple, Apartment 205, Crime Scene, and The Seance. Secret Temple has a fun virtual reality puzzle, while Crime Scene requires guests to not only escape, but also solve a murder that occurred in an old theater. Rooms are suitable for either two to six or two to eight people, depending on the room.
60Out, formerly known as Escape Key, has several rooms, each one incorporating gadgets and technology to make a truly magical and memorable experience. Rooms are spread out over four locations. Players escape a cursed ship, embark on a mission to steal a bill from a rival senator, cure a deadly virus and rob a casino. In their Hangover room, players “awaken” from a night of drinking unable to remember where they hid their boss’s money, while Zen Room players must flee a bizarre world where everything is stark white.
Maze Rooms opened their first room, The Castle, in 2014. Now, they have over a dozen unique rooms in locations spread across the city, with more on the way. Rooms vary in difficulty, and most incorporate gadgets and tech. They even have one room that is entirely in virtual reality. Favorites include the train-themed One Way Ticket, the enchanting Magic Kingdom, the sci-fi Lunar Station, and the 60s-era Secret Mission.
Escapedom in Westwood has two rooms, both of which are significantly challenging while still suitable for escape room neophytes. The Lair asks players to track down a wanted drug lord, The Dollmaker. The Den of the Occult requires players to find a mystical object that has fallen into the wrong hands. To add to the immersion, players are required to make code names prior to the game and will be rewarded if they can remember to call their teammates by said code names.
Escape Hotel's 'The Circus'
| Courtesy of Escape Hotel
Escape Hotel is the largest escape room in L.A., located right on Hollywood Boulevard. Guests step off the Walk of Fame into an old, ghostly hotel where ghoulish concierges and bell hops will check in their party and lead them to their room. Eight escape rooms, each hidden behind hotel doors, offer themes including Witchcraft, Zombie, Daycare and Agent. The lobby also contains a small cafe.
Room Escape Live, known elsewhere as Fox in a Box, is located close enough to Engima that escape room enthusiasts could make a day of it. Solid puzzles, some of them quite challenging, can be found in rooms including Cold War Bunker, Prison Break, Tesla’s Lab, Central Bank and Zombie Lab. It’s not enough to just escape some of the rooms; for instance, players won’t win the bunker without disarming a weapon or the lab without mixing the antidote to the zombie virus.
Located conveniently near the Expo Line, Countdown offers three fun adventures. The Krampus Killer plunges players into the world of the Austrian folklore character Krampus, a companion of St. Nick who punishes the bad children come Christmas. Tiki Palace takes place at a tropical resort, but relaxing beach vibes are hindered by a volcano that’s about to erupt. The Pandorus Mission drops players on an alien spaceship. Games are challenging enough to please an escape room enthusiast, but not so difficult that a beginner would feel totally lost.
It’s the year 2078 and global warming has destroyed the Earth. Only 10% of the population remains, and they live in underground bunkers hiding from cannibalistic scavengers known as the Vandals. The first mission requires players to escape the Vandals by fleeing from one bunker to another, but they must find a map first or face getting lost in the wasteland. The second chapter requires players to search a Vandals outpost for objects necessary for survival above ground. The first chapter of The Bunker Experience crosses an escape room with a haunt, so those who are easily frightened may want to bring a buddy!
Exit Game pumps its room full of technology, asking players to dodge lasers and solve complicated puzzles to secure their escape. It’s also a room that’s great for large groups or team-building exercises among colleagues. Rooms include The A.I., sci-fi adventure The Lab, The Villain’s Lair, the School of Sorcery, and the James Bond-inspired An Hour to Kill.
In Get the F Out‘s The Virus, players are a team of scientists who must formulate an antidote to a deadly virus inside a high-tech lab. However, the lab itself is programmed to contain the virus. Its walls move closer and closer together, threatening to crush the team if they fail to produce an antidote in an hour or less. The walls actually do move, adding to the fun of this adrenaline-charged mission. Lots of tech and over 22 puzzles make Get the F Out uniquely challenging. The company behind Get the F Out also runs urban scavenger hunt Fantastic Race, and occasionally hosts interactive escape room experiences at locals bars.
PanIQ Room has locations all over the country. Their Los Angeles location has two rooms, The Bunker and The Insane Asylum. Both are suitable for beginners, with plenty of fun puzzles and secrets to figure out. Parents can also introduce their children to escape games via MagIQ Room, which is suitable for children six and up. (Younger children may still solve puzzles at MagIQ, if they have learned to read and count.)
Arqade is a virtual reality show room, cafe and event space in downtown Los Angeles. They have one escape room called The Alchemist’s Lab. Players work for the Scotland Yard in the 19th century and must dig through an alchemist’s lab to figure out what sinister things he’s been planning. An optional challenge presents itself in the alchemist’s locked chest, which may contain treasures. Arqade plans to open additional spaces around L.A. in the near future, which will also contain escape rooms and VR.