A few years ago if you asked most people whether they'd pay money to be locked in a room by strangers, they would have said no. But suddenly "room escape" challenges are all the rage, and that's exactly what they entail.
Most places offer several challenges, many up to six, each with a different, complex theme. Groups varying in size from two to 10 people work together using a combination of creativity, logic, math and observation to find objects, clues and solve puzzles to win the game and escape before an hour is up. Success rates vary, but they hover between 25 and 50 percent.
If you're with a small group or even by yourself, you can usually still buy tickets, and you'll be mixed in with another party. If you prefer to play with just your friends, there are typically options to book a private room, too.
There are at least 18 room escape challenges in DFW. Below we've rounded up 10 of the best. And don't worry, the staff promise they're legally obligated to let you out. So they probably will.
Escape the Room
11661 Preston Road
$28 a person
There are four challenges to choose from at Escape the Room: "the Dig," a mixture of Indiana Jones and DaVinci Code; James Bond-themed room "The Agency"; "Western Bank Heist," where you carry out a robbery; and the "Apartment." The latter is just what you'd think — it's set in a typical apartment — and surprisingly it's their most popular. Escape the Room is set apart by the fact that each challenge has multiple rooms within it.
Red Door Escape
280 Commerce St., Suite 285, Southlake
$28 a person
Ever fantasized you are Liam Neeson in Taken? You can pretend more effectively when you sign up for the "Taken" challenge at Red Door Escape, where you'll be asked to save a girl from human traffickers.
Not interested? Try "Prison Break," where you're taken prisoner while vacationing in Asia; "Entrapment," where you sneak into a suspected murderer's home to uncover evidence of his crime before he gets home; "Confinement," a scary game recommended for adults; or "Once Upon a Time," where you recover missing magical artifacts from a sticky-fingered Rumpelstiltskin.
Their newest game is "The Gift," where you unlock an engagement ring in time for man to propose to his girlfriend. One Yelp reviewer says wearing camouflage will help in the "Confinement" challenge.
Escape Rooms HQ
1565 W. Main St., No. 495, Lewisville; 1701 W. Walnut Hill Lane, Las Colinas
$30 a person
This escape room company has two locations, each offering different themes. In Lewisville, handle nuclear weapons in "Nuclear Test," neutralize a computer virus in "Code Back Slash," capture Osama Bin Laden in "Zero Dark Thirty" or identify a killer in "Crime Scene."
The Las Colinas location has three rooms: "End Run," where you're a team of freelance journalists digging up dirt on a corrupt energy company; "Country Club Heist," where you steal a valuable golf ball from the Dallas Country Club; and "Corporation of D.O.O.M." where you're stuck in a life-threatening internship.
One Yelper says for each room you complete, you can choose to go amateur or pro. Amateurs will receive more hints when they're stuck.
4372 Spring Valley Road, Farmers Branch
$29 a person
"I like that they don't hide dozens of objects around the room and instead make you think outside of the box," Yelper Zehra S. writes of the challenges at Escape This. "It was cool to see how we could have solved the room in different ways by paying attention to details."
The rooms include "The Epicurean," a kitchen setting where you have to identify the secret chemical ingredient a celebrity chef is using to make his food taste so good. "The Society" asks you to complete the initiation ceremony for a secret society. "Pathogen" and "Heist" explore more common escape room themes. In the former, a virus is on the verge of wiping out the human race and you have to find the vaccine before it does. In the latter, your task is to get to the bottom of a case of white-collar crime.
A Room With a Clue
2715 Main St.
$20 a person
Right in Deep Ellum you can complete three challenges at A Room With a Clue. Find the whereabouts of a missing actor in time for the show to go on in "The Theater"; submerge yourself in a creepy horror plot that seems straight out of The Conjuring with "The Doll House"; or take on Titanic-themed room "The Ship." A Room With a Clue is in the process of developing a new challenge, "The Treehouse," in which you'll be able to venture into one kid's magical kingdom. A Yelp reviewer who did all the rooms claimed the "Doll House" theme is the hardest.
Room Escape Adventures
701 Taylor Drive, Suite 2, Plano
$28 a person
This escape room with locations in five other cities offers only one theme, but it's a twist on the escapes offered at other places. In "Trapped in a Room with Zombie" there's an actor, playing, yep, a zombie, and the zombie provides an additional distraction and incentive to complete the clues so you can get out of the room. One Yelper called the actor "Oscar-worthy." Apparently if you get tagged by him you have to go to "time out," where you're constrained in helping solve clues.
Ultimate Escape Game
4887 Alpha Road
$28 a person
This escape room is unique in that it offers 18 virtual reality escape challenges. But Ultimate Escape Game also has six other, regular challenges if you feel like going the traditional route. A few will feel familiar. "The Vault" is a DaVinci Code-inspired game, and "Hackers" is another virus-neutralizing plot.
In "Dallas," the whole "secret ingredient" thing crops up again — this time involving a special soda recipe — but with an added twist of Dallas- and Texas-themed puzzles. "Amnesia" is a horror escape where you have to figure out the past of a patient at a mental hospital; in "Enigma" you're a code breaker in WWII; and "Roulette" has you working to gain access to a speakeasy in 1920s Chicago.
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Room Escape Wizards
9850 Plano Road, Plano
$26 a person
This room escape in Plano offers two rooms: "Office Escape," where you have to finish a pile of last-minute work so you can leave on a beautiful Friday, and "Hidden Heirloom," where you have to find a treasure left for you by your great aunt before the barn it's in is sold. Yelper Lana Y., who completed the heirloom escape, advises bringing a pen and paper. "There is some math that has to be done to figure out this room and be sure to write down the answers to each step/question, you will need that later," she says.
Dallas Panic Room
2001 W. Irving Blvd, Irving
$25 a person
You have three choices at Dallas Panic Room: "Human Trials," where you've been abducted by a sadistic doctor; "Abandoned School Room" where you have to retrieve the blueprint for artificial intelligence before it gets into the wrong hands; and "Cabin Fever," where you've sought shelter from a blizzard but the cabin is about to give way. Yelper Louise S., who completed the AI-themed adventure, says not to go in expecting to win the challenge. "I will say it isn't easy, so don't take it too seriously," she writes.
2414 E. Highway 80, Mesquite
$20 a person
You might want to bring a flashlight to Xcape Adventures according to Yelper Joe D. "Both of these rooms were dimly lit and some of the clues were hard to see, but they let us use our phones as flashlights so it wasn't a problem," he writes.
The five challenges you have to choose from are "Game Over," where you're trapped in a demonic video game; "Steam Punk," a 19th century adventure where you have to prevent the room from "exploding" ; "Captain Skully," where you have to overcome a pirate who has stolen your identity; "Dr. Gene Etics," another sadistic doctor challenge; and "Contagious" another escape where you have to save the human race from a virus.