The door locks behind you. You and your friends look at each other, confusion in your eyes, unsure of where to begin. Welcome to Escape Artist DC.
This past Friday, three friends and I wandered around Capitol Hill. It was nearing 9pm, cold, and we were lost looking for what turned out to be an unassuming townhouse: the home of Escape Artist DC.
Open since last April, Escape Artist DC has been named the “Best New Group Night Out” venue by the Washingtonian, and scored a 9.4 out of 10 on EscapeClues, a reviewer of escape-rooms across the country. The basic premise is simple: pick a room, get locked in it for forty-five minutes to an hour, then follow the clues, solve the crime, and get out before time runs out. But this foundation doesn’t hint at straightforward solutions: each room varies in difficulty, with success rates below thirty percent for two out of the three rooms.
Walking up the steps to Escape Artist DC, you feel as though you’re entering someone’s house. You’re introduced to a living room (with added props for group photos), a waiting room, and finally the stairs to the room you and your group will be locked in. The themes vary, from a gallery heist to a night at the museum, and even a House of Cards themed challenge – the longest and most difficult. The more people in your group, the better, as one of the owners, who designed the rooms, recommends two minds working on a clue simultaneously as multiple angles of solving the puzzle begin to present themselves. With just four of us (the average is around 6-8, but there’s no minimum), we found ourselves down to the wire, success just barely evading our grasp. The best part is the group dynamic of course, seeing how each other works under pressure: you’ll have a leader, a pacer, someone who’s afraid of the dark or claustrophobic, and that one person who just stands there silently looking for something to present itself.
Not only is it clever and fun, but it’s also cheap and has a great location. Regular pricing is $20 per person, but drops to $18 for groups of eight or more and $16 for those under 21. Only a couple blocks from the Eastern Market Metro Station or a $10 Uber ride away, it’s one mile from the Capitol Building which can serve as an amazing midnight walk after a night of anxiety-inducing puzzle-solving. It’s also right off 8th St, where you can stop at District Doughnut for a midday treat or Ted’s Bulletin, the perfect place for regular and “adult” milkshakes, homemade pop-tarts and classic American cuisine.
Escape Artist DC is perfect for group outings, making it easy to get off campus with minimal damage to your wallet, – but don’t expect anything to be over-the-top. Privately-owned and designed, it’s clever and challenging in design but simple and small in construct and size, although some would argue that’s the perfect combination. If you’re looking for a low-key, high-stress rainy day activity, or an excuse to see a new part of DC, you’ve found your solution.