What is an Escape Room?

A Guide to What the Heck Escape Rooms Actually Are, for First Timers

Whether you escape or not, you always get to take a picture (#freeadvertising)!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

My goal for this travel blog is to help people (like me!) who are absolutely terrified of doing new things when they have no idea what to expect, to know what to expect so they don’t have to be absolutely terrified of doing it.

While this particular activity may not require boarding an airplane or learning how to ask for the bathroom in a new language, it is something that is completely confusing if you haven’t done it before. And since there are still a lot of people who haven’t done it (but you really should!), I figured it was time to explain it.

  • (Plus! Escape rooms are great things to try out on vacation and support local businesses!)

Even during quarantine, you can support local escape rooms!

What is an Escape Room?

While I can’t tell you all the ins and outs of every escape room (then they would be no fun!), I can explain the basic idea.

You’re in a room… and you have to escape.

No, no! Just kidding (sort of)!

The Theme/Story

All escape rooms have some sort of “theme,” and most of them have a short background story. You can usually find this story, or at least part of it, in the room description on their website.

Before you begin, your “host” will explain the “story” of the room to you, and what your ultimate goal is. Sometimes it’s to find an object. Sometimes it’s to get a code to unlock the door.

For instance, I once did an escape room where our goal was to find the seven wonders of the world (mini versions, that is). Once we found all seven, we won! But other times your goal is literally to find the key to let yourself out of the room.

Once you’ve been told the story (and what objects NOT to try to move), your time is set, and you are left alone in the room to start figuring it out.

How to Get Started

And… if you’re like me, you’re just staring at the door behind them wondering where in the world you’re supposed to start!

I’m not going to tell you what to do (that would be cheating!!), but I can give you a clue. Once you’ve done a few escape rooms, you start learning to know what to look for.

If you’re standing in the room, staring mindlessly into space while the intimidating clock slowly counts down, here’s where you start: look for something out of place. Then, once you find your first clue, things just keep rolling from there.

You’ll find clues that will lead you to your next clue, and so on. Sort of like a scavenger hunt.

You Can Get Hints

If you get stuck along the way, the host is always watching you (not embarrassing at all…) and will give you hints.

Some rooms that are more difficult will offer unlimited hints. Most rooms usually have a three hint limit.

However, the host may offer up hints on their own, without you having to ask. These do not count against your limit.

Escape Room Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Do You Have in an Escape Room?

Most escape rooms give you 1 hour to escape.

It may only take you 30 or 40 minutes, if you figure out the clues quickly enough. For Jason and I, on average, we usually take close to the full hour.

It’s always fun to see what the best time is and try to beat it!

Are You Actually Locked In?

Most escape rooms really do lock the door, so you are “locked” in the room. Some escape rooms won’t lock the door; they just expect you to have the basic knowledge not to open it before you’ve figured out the game.

BUT, they always have an “escape” word, or a way for you to get out, if you need to. You will not be locked inside a room without your consent if you need to get out.

How Many People Do You Need for an Escape Room?

The number of people required for an escape room will vary depending on the difficulty level of the room. This could be anywhere from about 2-10 players.

Jason and I usually do escape rooms on our own. But there are some that we can’t do because they require more than 2 people. The ideal number of players is around 3-5. That way you have several brains and several people to do all the different tasks, but not too many that some people get left out.

Do Escape Rooms Require Physical Activity?

For most escape rooms, no, there will not be much physical activity, other than simply walking around the room.

The escape rooms that really require any activity are the ones in the mall, which… if you read the next title, I don’t consider to be “real” escape rooms. But some of these rooms do require physical activity, and they will make sure you’re aware of that before trying them out.

Are the Escape Rooms at the Mall “Real” Escape Rooms?

No (in my opinion)!

And why not?

The escape rooms we did at the mall were flashy, high tech, and simple. They are great for families with small children, and they can be fun.

But a true escape room is less high tech, and more intricate. There will be legitimate puzzles to solves and locks to open. The ones at the mall were less about solving clues, and more about pushing the right button when it lights up.

Where Can You Find the "Best" Escape Room?!

(in my opinion!)

The best escape room we have been to BY FAR is Upside Down Escape Games near Boston.

Now, I should be perfectly honest in telling you that this particular escape room happens to be owned by my cousin…

BUT, that really has nothing to do with our (Jason’s & my) opinion. It seriously was so much fun, and SO much more detailed and in depth than any other escape room we’ve done. And since it’s not too far from Boston, it makes a great activity to do on a trip to the area.

Plus (since my cousin is OBSESSED), he can certainly tell you where other great escape rooms are!

The bathroom sign at Upside Down Escapes. It’s a weird place…

Upside Down Escape Games is close to Boston! Be sure to stop by if you’re ever in the area.

Want to visit your first escape room? Save this pin for a quick refresher course: