New indoor entertainment center provides ‘escape’
By Phyl Newbeck
Need a fast way to get away? Tim Haddock, who earlier this month opened the doors to the state’s first “escape room” in Williston, thinks you might. Haddock, who’s from Fairfax, discovered escape rooms when he was traveling around the country and noticed how the new craze of entertainment centers was taking off.
Based on a video game genre, escape rooms started in Japan in 2006 and spread to California and then the rest of the United States around 2010. Haddock says there are more than 2,500 such rooms worldwide and added that with the opening of Escape Room 60 on June 19 at Maple Tree Place, Vermont will no longer be one of the few states without one. (Editor’s note: A Burlington escape room also opened its doors on June 18, called Esc4pe.)
Escape rooms are themed rooms with a task to be solved by groups of people who are given an hour to complete their mission. Tasks range from escaping kidnappers to finding a treasure or solving a mystery and the key is for the groups — which range from six to eight people — to work cooperatively. All in all, the activity takes 90 minutes, including a 15-minute introduction and a 15-minute celebration at the conclusion. Escape Room 60 opened with one room featuring a kidnapping scenario, and the company will add a pirate-themed room in July. A third room will be added as the business gains momentum, Haddock said.
To realize his vision for a Vermont escape room, Haddock partnered with Phillip and Sarah Snyder, an Enosburg couple. “My partners and I have done these whenever we’ve traveled,” he said. “It seemed like a natural fit.”
Haddock noted that a player doesn’t have to be a puzzle expert or have a high IQ to do well. “It’s more about communicating and collaborating,” he said. “Escape rooms are a team sport. It’s a fun thing to do with people of different ages.”
Haddock said Escape Room 60 was built with families in mind. Children must be six years or older to take part and those under 14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, but Haddock is hoping that teenagers will flock to the new facility. He said there aren’t many non-physical options for teenagers in the Burlington area and hopes that Escape Room 60 will provide them with a healthy indoor pastime.
“Not everyone wants to go zip-lining or belay off a cliff,” he said. “Some people want something more cerebral and less athletic.”
Unlike other indoor entertainment, like video arcades or sports simulators, there’s no trivia component or external knowledge needed to play in an escape room. Some puzzles are physical, some require decoding and others entail searching for clues. All the rooms are wheelchair accessible, Haddock said.
Escape rooms are not designed to frighten visitors and nobody is actually locked into a room, he said, noting that participants that may find they’re in an uncomfortable situation can leave at any time. A “gamemaster” monitors the activity via closed-circuit television and a computer system provides clues to the players if they request them.
“We’re not trying to stump anyone,” Haddock said. “Ideally, you want people to figure it out just before time runs out. You want everyone to get close and have a sense of accomplishment. The main goal is to have fun.”
Escape Room 60 is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays from 2 to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The cost is $25 per person, but those booking via the website in the month of June can find a coupon for 20 percent off.
Haddock recommends making reservations. Although groups smaller than six can take part, the activity is better suited for larger groups of people, he said.
While escape rooms are often used for birthday parties or corporate team-building, they can also be enjoyed by people who don’t know one another. In larger cities, they are often used as venues for singles mixers, he added.
Themes will be rotated out periodically so customers can come back for new experiences. “People don’t repeat the same room,” Haddock said. “It’s like re-reading a mystery novel.”
For more information and to book your mission, go to escaperoom60.com.