It isn’t easy finding an activity that appeals to all three of my teenage kids, but I had a feeling that a room escape challenge was going to be one of them. I’d heard about Houdini’s Room Escape in suburban Cincinnati from a friend who thought it was the perfect outing for my brain-teaser-loving family.
Located in Montgomery, Ohio, Houdini’s Room Escape has been open since July 2015 and currently has three escape rooms, with plans to expand to six. After much research and trying escape rooms across the country, owner John Kennedy designed the rooms himself with help from his wife and kids. The room we chose is called The Tower and is designed after a Cincinnati icon—the Observation Deck of Carew Tower.
A guide led us to the room and explained the rules – which were amazingly brief. We had 60 minutes to escape and were allowed to ask for three clues. Just about anything in the room could be a clue to a series of puzzles that we had to solve in order to figure out the correct code that would unlock the door. (Don’t worry—we weren’t really locked in; there was a button to push in case anyone needed to leave to use the restroom.)
We had a group of six people: me, my husband, my three kids, and my daughter’s friend. The premise of the challenge was that we had been up to Carew Tower earlier in the day and accidentally left our Cincinnati Reds tickets up there. We went back up to look for them at the end of the day and accidentally got locked inside the gift shop with only one hour until the last elevator went down. Could we find our tickets and unlock the door in time?
Not having any experience with escape room challenges before, we wasted a fair amount of time in the beginning, trying to organize ourselves and figuring out the general strategies of solving the challenge. Eventually, we got the hang of it. We discovered codes that unlocked file cabinet drawers and lock boxes that contained keys and more clues.
A crucial moment was when we found the key that unlocked the door to the observation deck, where we found more clues and puzzles. Communicating with each other was vital to solving the puzzles.
The time quickly ticked down and we seemed to be stuck, and suddenly my daughter remembered that we were allowed to ask for three clues. Behind the scenes, there’s a game guide watching each room through cameras, tracking your progress. After a minute, our custom-designed clue appeared on the TV screen. I had begun to give up hope that we’d escape in time, but with a couple minutes remaining, we made an important discovery and solved the final puzzle. My daughter typed the code into the exit door panel and stopped the clock with only 29 seconds left!
We really enjoyed the experience and couldn’t stop talking about it afterward. With different people working on different puzzles, no one person had the complete picture of how we escaped. It really takes a team. We really look forward to going back again to try the other rooms.
Here are some basic facts to help you choose a room:
The Tower – Designed to look like the observation deck and gift shop of Carew Tower, a Cincinnati landmark; 70% escape rate; 8-10 people maximum.
The Lab – You are trapped in an infectious disease lab and need to find a cure to a deadly virus and escape the lab; 55% escape rate; 10-12 people maximum.
Houdini’s Game Room – Harry Houdini has invited you to his home and locked you in his parlour; 41% escape rate; 10-14 people maximum.
The Oval Office (opening soon) – You are locked inside a replica of the President’s Office.
Houdini’s Room Escape is a fantastic multi-generational activity. It is designed for ages 13 and up, but having a couple younger kids is ok. If you don’t have a group, don’t fret: the owner says that mixed stranger groups actually work very well together. It is also a fantastic team-building activity and open during the week for organizations and companies.
The cost for participation is $28 per person. Houdini’s Room Escape is open to the public on Thursday and Friday nights and all day on Saturday and Sunday.
Thank you to Houdini’s Room Escape for providing complimentary admission for my family so that I could research and write this article.