D.C. is opening up to new avenues of unwinding. Instead of a bar or a movie theater, now Washingtonians can go to “Escape rooms.”
These collaborative and immersive game rooms are sweeping across the city.
So far, D.C. has a handful of escape-room businesses. Each follow a similar theme: the participants are "locked" in a room and, using the available clues in the room, they have to solve the mystery and earn their freedom.
Escape Artist DC
in Barracks Row is run by Milind Raj, an IT professional and also an artist. It was a visit to New York that proved to be his turning point. “I went to an Escape Room in New York and was impressed by it. It got me thinking, ‘why can’t I start something similar in D.C.?” says Raj, who loves puzzles and mysteries. In April, he opened Escape Artist DC.
The place has two themed game rooms; the first room, ‘House of Bards,’ is a political game. It’s an ongoing mystery with new characters being added to it every four months. Here’s what the website says:
Rumor has it, the latest Asteroid Bill will be a real game changer for overcoming America's fossil fuel dependency. As the plot thickens, you discover that the senator's old college pal may have come upon a secret formula capable of converting the recently found asteroid's element into cheap and abundant energy. As an Alternative Energy Lobbyist, you must figure out the secret element and earn your freedom!
The next room is ‘The Gallery Heist’, where players have to find a stolen artwork, uncover the culprit, and find your way out of the now-deserted gallery. Raj says he will be opening a third room, ‘Project Art Restoration’, in two weeks. Here, you and your team must restore a ruined painting before your boss turns up.
Escape Artist DC is also deaf friendly, with an interpreter who will help you with the game. “Since we are close to Gallaudet University, we do get a lot of participants from there. So, I decided to have an interpreter,” says Raj.
He says escape rooms originated in Japan, initially as a video game. Only recently have escape rooms become real-world experiences.
The Great Escape Room
, in Dupont Circle caters to the ardent fans of Sherlock Holmes. Unlocking the mysteries in ‘The Library’ will help you become an apprentice to the legendary detective.
However, Lana Jin is prepared to top it all with her ‘The Omescape Room Escape DC
’. Jin is not new to the concept. In fact, she hails from an area which thrives on such rooms. Originally from Beijing, she shares that there are more than 200 escape rooms in the Beijing area alone. (Omescape is a franchise originating in China.) She promises that her escape room will be something D.C. has never seen. “There will be three themed rooms and it will be very complicated. There will be secret doors and many other surprises. It will be more frenzy and fantasy,” says Jin. The Omescape Room Escape DC is scheduled to open in Adams Morgan in November.
Jin says she wanted to open an escape room to give Washingtonians a new option to relax. “When we meet with friends, we always go to a bar or for movies. Or you sit around and chat. What else is there to do? But now, with an Escape room, it’s going to be fun and different,” says Jin.
Each of these rooms can accommodate around 8-12 people at a time. Weekdays are not very crowded, but on weekends, most of the rooms’ slots fill.
With more escape rooms popping up, there is definite competition. Jin says she will fight competition with more competition: even before the Adams Morgan location opens, she is planning to open a new escape room after a year, in a different location. Raj also adds that in order to stay in the game, he keeps adding things to the mysteries. “D.C. is a very transient place. People move in and out constantly. Also, just like all businesses, not all escape rooms are created equal. The best will survive, is my thought,” says Raj.