WTF Is an Escape Room (and Where Can I Do One in LA)?

Los Angeles

WTF Is an Escape Room (and Where Can I Do One in LA)?
WTF Is an Escape Room (and Where Can I Do One in LA)?

Courtesy of Escape Room LA
Courtesy of Escape Room LA

We've noticed a ton of confusion about escape rooms, a still-getting-off-the-ground trend that can best be described as a live puzzle game, utilizing a team (from two-12 people, depending on the size of the room and your ability to get along with others) to figure out clues and puzzles, and that all add up to the ability to unlock a door after a set amount of time (usually 30 minutes to an hour, again depending on your ability to get along with others; if you're super-stuck, there's always someone watching who'll give you a hint... if you want it).

Though some are horror-themed, they're not particularly scary... we promise that countdown clock doesn't mean you'll die in there. And they're ultra-fun for groups of friends or as team-building for a small company, or as a date that'll let you know whether or not you can actually trust the person you swiped right for. And here's where you can do them in LA:

Courtesy Countdown Live Escape Rooms

Countdown Live Escape


This Las Vegas-based company has a handful of themed rooms that rotate occasionally. Right now, they've got a semi-permanent one based on the movie Krampus (seriously!), and a tiki-themed room that'll remind you of every Jimmy Buffet song you've ever heard... if Jimmy Buffet songs included the lyrics "figure out what order the totems go in / and you'll open a door to a secret volcano room and win / margarita time!!!"

The Basement


This totally themed experience (i.e., their first room, "The Basement," has a story that continues into their second room, "The Boiler Room," and their third room, "The Study") gets points not just for creativity, but also for scale: rooms range from a max of 12 in The Basement to just four in the The Boiler Room, meaning you've got to put together the ultimate dream team to get out. And by "get out" we mean you'll escape being eaten by the cannibalistic serial killer who kidnapped and locked you in the room to begin with.

Courtesy of Enigma Escape Rooms

Enigma Escape Rooms


This company's got three rooms, all of which combine tech elements (they've even got virtual-reality segments to the games!) with physical sleuthing to make you feel like you're totally immersed in a movie set. They boast a 15% success rate, which means you definitely get bragging rights if you get through their scenarios, which include an Indiana Jones-esque archaeological mission and a game in which your team has to diffuse a ticking bomb.

The Bunker Experience


After a test run around Halloween, this cinematic, multi-room experience is returning this spring in a more permanent fashion; the experience is very Maze Runner-esque, with a plot that's set 60+ years in the future with all inhabitants (that's you) living in maze-like underground tunnels that, obviously, you need to escape from. Like, pronto.

Maze Rooms

Mid-Wilshire & other locations

Each location of these mini-cabal of rooms has totally different adventures, so you've got to hit all three if you want to have each of the experiences: West Hollywood's got a difficult jungle-themed room, Los Feliz boasts a '70s-era safe-house for a Soviet spy, and the one in the middle of the city has an all-oculus-rift game that bucks convention by being entirely VR-powered.

Courtesy of Escape Room LA

Escape Room LA


The company with the easiest-to-remember-name was also one of LA's OG escape rooms: their first room, The Detective, is a challenging one full of cyphers and maps, but they have four total, including a puzzle that takes place in an abandoned theater (if you think it's a coincidence that all the posters in here have numbers on 'em, uh, think again) and another where you're racing against time in an underground cavern before air runs out*.

(*Not really. They're not gonna let you die in there, OK? It's just an excuse to have a countdown clock. Calm down.)

Room Escape Adventures


Room Escape's original escape room is another OG to the LA scene. Called "Trapped in a Room With a Zombie," you can guess the hook... werewolves! Just kidding. There is an "actual" zombie in the room with you, chained to a wall, whose chain gets extended every five minutes; if he touches you, you're "out" and can't physically explore the room any more. They're launching a second room soon that'll be dubbed "Still Hungry," which will feature... werewolves!!! Just kidding again: it's more Zombies, duh.

PanIQ Room

Universal City

Most of the other rooms on this list will match you with other groups coming in so you're playing the game with strangers (unless you're able to max out the room's suggested team number), but the Hungarian company PanIQ Room asks that you book out each experience entirely -- which is great if you've got a gang of friends ready to take one on. They've done events for Google and Fox, thanks to realistic props and challenges that take communication and teamwork to figure out.

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Jeff Miller has always made it out. Find out if he can maintain that record at @jeffmillerla on Instagram and @ThrillistLA on Twitter.

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1. Countdown Live Escape Games 2284 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA (Downtown)

This DTLA venue cashes in on the escape room trend. Choose from three adventures (The Krampus, Tiki Palace, and Spaceship) and, with a group of friends, go in and solve the interactive mystery together. Work as a team and decipher all the clues in these immersive installations and games. Watch out, you're against the clock!

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2. THE BASEMENT: A Live Escape Room Experience 12909 Foothill Boulevard, Sylmar, CA 91342 (West Valley)

Enter if you dare: this super spooky interactive mystery takes place in a haunted basement. You have 45 minutes to escape the lair of a cannabalistic serial killer who's got you trapped underground. By successfully deciphering a series of mazes and puzzles, you and and your teammates have the opportunity to escape his clutches. Communication is key to make it out alive.

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3. Enigma Escape rooms 7805 W Sunset Blvd #200, Los Angeles, CA 90046 (West Hollywood)

Take your pick of three mysteries to solve at this Sunset Blvd escape room. In "The Secret Temple," you'll be trapped inside a clandestine temple run by ritual members of the world's oldest secret society. Will you be able to crack their messages and escape unharmed in 60 minutes or less? You'll have to try to find out.

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4. The Bunker Experience 20 North Raymond Basement, Pasadena, CA (Pasadena)

Set in a science-fiction inspired alternative universe, you have only 45 minutes to escape a subterranean bunker and defeat a group of vandals set to destroy what remains of planet Earth following the wreckage of global warming. Will you succeed? Accept the challenge at this escape room complex in Pasadena and find out.

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5. Maze Rooms 1182 S LA Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019 (Mid Wilshire)

Can you escape the Maze? This amusement center offers eight escape games (and three more coming soon) for you to test your mystery solving skills. Have you always wanted to try your hand at finding a serial killer? Play the FBI mystery game and immerse yourself in the world of crime. Every wondered what it'd be like to plan a prison break? They have a game for that, too.

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6. Escape Room 120 E 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014 (Downtown)

Prepare to be transported to another world at Escape Rooms LA. Choose from four live mystery events set in a haunted theatre, an ancient library, a film-noir murder mystery, or an underground cavern. Can you solve the mystery? Team up and race against the clock to find out!

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7. Room Escape Adventures 2035 Bay St #110, Los Angeles, CA 90021 (Downtown)

This popular room escape franchise has made its way to LA. Flex your mystery solving skills and try to escape from murderous zombies on a violent rampage. Will you be able to make it out of the zombie apocalypse?

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8. PanIQ Room Hollywood 3393 Barham Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90068 (Hollywood)

Can you make it out alive? These games place you inside a either torture chamber you must escape before your impending capture for terrorism, or inside an insane asylum as a member of a medical investigative team. Which one will you choose? Will you make it out in 60 minutes or less?