Break free from the top 14 escape rooms in the U.S.

November 30, 2015                 6m read time
Barbie Carpenter

Mix together the pressure of a ticking clock, the thrills of a criminal mystery, and a lot of problematic puzzles and confounding clues, and you’ve got an escape room that will leave you screaming in delight. The number of escape rooms in the U.S. more than tripled from October 2014 to June 2015—and for good reason. These thematic adventures are a multisensory experience that test your smarts and press your team-building prowess. So pull out that magnifying glass, snack on some brain food, find your smart friends, and book one of these top escape rooms in the U.S. for an unforgettably challenging hour of detective work.

1. Get educated at the School of Hard Locks

Staircase in a haunted house Sergio Foto

Staircase in a haunted house

Sergio Foto


Head to Carlsbad, California, for a lesson from the dark side. Students might have disappeared from Hiram Mack’s spooky school in 1870, but their laughter still lingers in the hallway. You’ll get locked in the principal’s office, which holds 12, or the science lab, with space for 6, where you’ll have to collaborate to get out, all while those missing students’ voices linger in your head. Brave players ages 16 and up are welcome, with one adult required.

2. Solve a murder in Wisconsin

Antique keys and a candle ArtRoms

Antique keys and a candle



The Serial Surgeon theme at Seven Keys to Escape in Racine, Wisconsin, is like an episode of Law & Order—and you’re the detective. A serial killer is terrorizing the town, and you might be the star witness. After investigating a suspicious neighbor, the serial surgeon comes home to find you snooping in his house. Solve the clues before time is up and you become the next victim. This thrilling crime mystery requires some crawling and bending, so dress for some action.

3. Become a VIP in The Ritual Room

Candles and papers in the dark Vera Petruk

Candles and papers in the dark

Vera Petruk


You slip into unconsciousness and wake up an hour later in The Ritual Room in Portland, Oregon. Two to eight participants enter the Vox Society headquarters, where you can try to become members of this exclusive society. Your team has one hour to solve the society’s secrets so that you can take advantage of the luxuries of power and influence that the Vox society offers. Time’s a tickin’ on your path to riches.

4. Find Your Way Out of Houdini’s Escape Room

Light bulbs on the ceiling Hadrian

Light bulbs on the ceiling



San Francisco’s Houdini’s Escape Room welcomes 6 to 12 participants, who have 80 minutes to escape the Palace of Fine Arts. This game involves a series of unique puzzles inspired by the master magician’s ideas as well as Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and other world-renowned inventors. The success rate for escaping in time is just 25 percent. Do you have the skills to untangle the mystery? Book this adventure on ZOZI and find out.

5. Hunt for a Serial Killer in L.A.

Bloody knife and handprint SWEvil

Bloody knife and handprint



The FBI agent who is hunting for L.A.’s latest serial killer has died, and you need to take over the investigation. Two to six participants tackle this one-hour adventure, where you’ll solve puzzles, explore clues, and use tools around the room to find the keys to freedom. If you fear the serial killer is near, use the room’s camera and microphones to get a little help. It’s time to play detective, so book this thrill at the Maze Rooms on ZOZI.

6. Rock Those Stonewashed Jeans in Philly

Vintage joystick in arcade Guiseppe Cammino

Vintage joystick in arcade

Guiseppe Cammino


It’s a throwback to the 1980s at Philadelphia’s Steel Owl Room Adventures, the city’s largest escape room. Here, you’ll pull out that push phone, make a call to the Knight Rider, or ask your Cabbage Patch Kid for help. If you’re ready to ditch that side ponytail and high-tops, you have an hour to solve puzzles with your team of 2 to 12 to get clues that guide you back to the future.

7. Choose Your Own Adventure at The Basement

Old abandoned furniture Zastolskiy Victor

Old abandoned furniture

Zastolskiy Victor


The Basement in L.A.’s Sylmar neighborhood has many solutions, so you can use your creativity to get out unlike any team before you. On this 45-minute thrill, up to 12 teammates can analyze clues, check out trap doors, and use hidden items to make an escape from Edward Dandy, a cannibalistic serial killer. Live actors (this is L.A. after all) in the room add some authenticity, not to mention some serious spook, to your experience. If you get out, you deserve a gold medal because only 12.38 percent of players successfully escape.

8. Get Grungy in Durham

DVDs and CDs  Jiri Vaclavek

DVDs and CDs 

Jiri Vaclavek


Slip on your favorite flannel shirt, bring your good luck Beanie Baby, and wear those durable Doc Martens in The ’90s Room. Gather two to six of your closest friends and work together to solve mysteries, puzzles, and codes that will help you find your way out of this ’90s flashback. Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, this escape room is a truly interactive experience that tests your wits.

9. Get Ancient at Pharaoh’s Revenge

Egyptian carvings Javier Garcia

Egyptian carvings

Javier Garcia


Edmond, Oklahoma, isn’t ancient Egypt, but it’ll sure feel like it in this escape room. Pharaoh's Revenge follows Emerson Hastings Williams III, a renowned history buff and explorer who needs your help. An ancient curse is set to doom his quest for Ramses the Great’s treasures, and it’s your job—along with your team of two to six folks—to save him. You have one hour to hunt down this cursed explorer, and you’ll have to crack Egyptian codes and symbols to unearth clues. If you save ol’ Emerson from the curse, you’ll walk out with a free T-shirt.

10. Go on a Witch Hunt in Utah

Horror movie scene with lonely girl Tom Tom

Horror movie scene with lonely girl

Tom Tom


Ding, ding! Salt Lake City’s Bell Witch Haunting Room is being terrorized by the Bell Witch, and her endless bell-ringing must be stopped. When the store’s doors close, the witch’s soft chanting and cursing begins. You’ll be locked in the room with this haunting horror, and it’s your job to escape from her grasp—if you can. Work with up to 12 participants for an hour as you analyze puzzle boxes, explore secret compartments, and tap into your math, science, and logic knowledge to get away from the bell’s tolls.

11. Get Haunted in Savannah

Bloody gloves on a family album Escape Savannah

Bloody gloves on a family album

Escape Savannah


Southern belle Charlotte Ann Pemberton met her demise, and you need to find the culprit. Savannah, Georgia’s Escape from Haunted Room brings you into Miss Pemberton’s home, where you’ll move couches, solve cryptic codes, and collect evidence in the parlor room. The city’s only immersive escape room experience, this one-hour thrill welcomes up to 11 participants. Pore through books, examine bloody gloves, and figure out who murdered Charlotte. Get exploring, y’all.

12. Say Yee-Haw in North Carolina

American West rodeo vintage Western riding spurs  Olivier Le Queinec

American West rodeo vintage Western riding spurs 

Olivier Le Queinec


Step into an old Western saloon in Archdale, North Carolina, where you and up to 11 pals transform into bandit outlaws who are up to no good. It’s time to get out of this dark saloon and wreak havoc on the ghost town, but first you need to open locks and use magnifying glasses to explore the room for clues. This one-hour adventure was created by a team of set designers, audio and lighting teams, and IT teams with 30 years of experience, which means your experience will be authentic and exhilarating.

13. Sail the Seas at Forgotten Treasure

Treasure box holbox

Treasure box



Strap on the eyepatch and go on the hunt for buried treasure in Richmond, California. This challenging quest has just a 14 percent escape rate, so secure a team of the 6 to 10 smartest swashbucklers you know. Work together for one hour to find where Captain Kidd IX hid his treasure. If you’re successful, you just might uncover caskets of buried jewels, chests of gold ingots, and bags of shiny coins.

14. Go to War in The Parallax Room

Wheelhouse with focus on radar High Voltage

Wheelhouse with focus on radar

High Voltage


Get patriotic and fight for the U.S. against a nation-state using Parallax, a crippling artificial intelligence system. This Memphis-based escape room welcomes four to seven participants for a one-hour battle to find the Parallax’s code. Navigate through fog and duck lasers as you help the U.S. win the war against the enemy. With an escape rate of just 40 percent, the odds are against you as you tackle this high-tech AI beast.

Barbie Carpenter

Barbie Carpenter is a freelance writer and editor and self-proclaimed grammar enthusiast based in Lexington, Kentucky. When she’s not polishing prose, she’s spending time with her husband and two young children, exploring the Bluegrass region, and planning her next trip to the beach.

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