Looking for ideas for a night out this weekend? Sure, concerts are canceled, theaters are closed and restaurants operate at half-capacity. Escape rooms offer lots of socially-distanced fun in Raleigh, during this otherwise un-fun time.
There’s hope for your next date night. I’d never visited escape rooms, until I found Tower Escapes in downtown Raleigh this past weekend. It’s not only open right now, but one of the most fun times my wife and I have had on the town during our five-year marriage.
What Are Escape Rooms, Exactly?
Escape rooms are adventure scenarios. Couples and groups must use logic, creative thinking and teamwork to solve puzzles in real time and to “escape” realistic, fantasy settings. Escape rooms first began in Japan about 10 years ago. We started seeing the first ones in the U.S. around 2014, and they’ve become increasingly popular since.
Tip: For lists of escape rooms in other North Carolina places besides Raleigh, go here and here. Caveat: Make sure you check the escape room’s web site before you go, just in case hours have changed during the pandemic.
Our Escape Room Experience
During our Tower Escapes experience, we got one hour to follow clues and solve puzzles. We uncovered secret passageways, hidden vaults and a myriad other surprises. The hour seemed to fly by.
We choose to be medieval adventurers striving to find a holy grail which the tower’s secretive “owners” had hidden. If you choose other Tower Escapes games, you might be bootleggers trying to save your stash before the police catch you. Or you might race to solve a murder that happened during a shady poker game.
Escape Rooms Have Built-In Social Distancing
The best part? You don’t have to make ‘rona part of your adventure. Heaven knows we’re getting enough of that mess in real life.
You can reserve online, and the premises are clean. Given the pandemic, you play with people outside your group. Your game master wears a mask, and everyone in the building’s public areas also wears masks.
Each escape room is separate from other escape rooms in the building. So you are literally isolated with your family or friends during your adventure. The game master corrals everybody safely, asking others to stay in their rooms even after they “escape.” Groups don’t pass one another on their way out, either.
Out and About in Downtown Raleigh
My wife and I showed up early to escape room reservation, so we had time to take a little stroll around Raleigh. We were surprised and delighted to find that downtown still has a lot to offer to those of us weary of being at home.
First, we stopped by Sorry State Records on Morgan Street. (It’s easy walking distance from Tower Escapes.) It’s great if you’re in the mood for grungy nostalgia. We felt like we had stepped into that 1995 cult-classic movie, Empire Records. We discovered old-school Outkast, obscure 60s and 70s garage bands, 8 mm, and even cassette tapes.
During COVID-19, you need an appointment and a mask to visit Sorry State Records. We were able to take a peek inside because the owner had no one else visiting during the time we were there.
Just a few blocks west is Morgan Street Food Hall, where we enjoyed some refreshing boba tea. In addition to Boba Brew, 18 other vendors work the Food Hall. It’s a great place to go when someone in a couple or a group can’t decide which food or drink they want. You just order in a “fast casual” setting, and gather together at a table once you’ve all made your own choices. Thankfully, there’s plenty of outdoor seating at Morgan Street Food Hall.
In the midst of all the pandemic’s limitations, it’s refreshing to know exciting nightlife still operates safely in downtown Raleigh.
For more ideas on all the socially-distanced fun you can have in North Carolina, visit our “safe-vacation” series for a deeper dive.