Imagine you and 10 other people are locked inside two side-by-side, steel-barred, Texas jail cells. Splintered lumber adorns the outside walls and clues are scattered about what appears to be a sheriff’s office. Red-eyed stuffed rats peer down at you as you stare wide-eyed at each other, wondering what lies ahead in your journey to escape. You have been instructed that you only have 60 minutes before the Sheriff returns to his post and your opportunity to escape is gone. A frenzy sets in as your group begins to scour the space, looking for clues leading to the key that will open the locked, sturdy cells you are in. The next thing you know, 10 minutes have passed and there are many more puzzles to solve.
As a part game, part theater, part team-building exercise, escape rooms are taking off around the country, and the growth has been explosive. Originally developed a decade ago in Japan, escape rooms debuted in the U.S. in 2012, and there are now more than 2,800 locations throughout the nation.
The concept is simple, as friends, family members, business colleagues or total strangers pay to be locked inside a themed room. Participants are given an hour to solve the room’s mysteries, puzzles and conundrums, armed with nothing more than their wits, with hopes of escaping the room. Using teamwork, communication and delegation, as well as critical thinking skills, attention to detail and lateral thinking, escape rooms can be played by a wide age range of participants. Individuals of all age groups have all been known to join the excitement, using a variety of experiences, skills and brain power in order to escape.
The phenomenon has certainly found a foothold here in the North Texas area. Escape Hunt Dallas recently opened its doors in December 2016, welcoming guests to try their hand at escaping their choice of three different themed rooms. Owned by Chad and Heaven Lesher, Escape Hunt Dallas is a franchise of the Escape Hunt Experience entertainment company, the acknowledged global leader in this fast-growing entertainment sector that offers branches around the world.
Mr. Lesher says, “Heaven and I are typically the couple that hosts a game night at our home for friends and family. We both have a competitive spirit and enjoy the social aspect of entertaining. When we stumbled upon the escape room idea on a date night, we were immediately hooked.” Mrs. Lesher adds, “It was interesting to work together to solve puzzles and exercise our brains. When we took our 10-year-old daughter, she loved it too! We were all immersed in the theme and focused on the thrill of the escape.”
Escape Hunt Dallas offers 5,000 square feet of adventure in five separate rooms, complete with three different games — Jailhouse Justice, Circuit Overload and Stolen Texas Lone Star. There is also a full conference room area and lobby within the facility. Uniquely designed with an excellent game concept, Escape Hunt Dallas offers games created exclusively for this location, ensuring the highest possible customer service and a true five-star experience in a luxury lounge atmosphere. “We understand that our customers have many options in the Dallas/Fort Worth area when choosing entertainment,” continues Mr. Lesher. “Our goal is to deliver an extremely high-end technological environment that gives those who seek adventure a unique, authentic and memorable experience.”
Originally, escape rooms used to be basic lock boxes with keys and codes. At Escape Hunt Dallas, the space provides a technological element and the team is always thinking about new ways to increase the excitement level and interest for their guests. Each room offers something people have not seen before — a wow factor, if you will. The staff has yet to see any participants disappointed in their experience.
Created for groups of all sizes, whether it is a couple on a date night, a family spending time together, a party of five or six enjoying a night out after work or a corporate team-building activity, Escape Hunt Dallas welcomes all groups and parties to join the adventure. Lasting around 90 minutes, the experience begins with a short briefing and then transports participants to another era as they begin their 60-minute game. Afterwards, participants are encouraged to chat about the game in the lounge over refreshments. They can even hold props and don Sherlock Holmes’ hats and capes in photos to share! If participants get stuck during the game itself, operators provide sly hints and tips to help them progress and advance.
Mrs. Lesher notes, “Our job is to guide them through and provide help if needed. We do not want anyone to feel frustration or irritation during the experience, but we know people want a challenge, as well. Typically, we have about a 20-40 percent success rate, depending on the room. So, it is not a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination.”
Situated at the intersection of Preston Road and State Highway 121, near the heart of numerous Plano and Frisco corporate headquarter locations, Escape Hunt Dallas is ideally designed for team-building and corporate groups. When groups and co-workers play the game, they work together using brain power in a creative way to achieve a common objective.
Often, corporate teams assume they will be required to endure a dry, bland, unbearable team-building activity. However, this is simply not the case when it comes to an escape room experience. Once the game begins, teams buy into the activity, overcome mental obstacles, have “a-ha” moments and accomplish the goal by working together, which is exactly what some groups need! “I had my sales guys come in from my other company to try out a game. And, frankly, it destroyed them. They argued and no one was the leader. We re-grouped in the conference room and talked about it, as a team,” explains Mr. Lesher. “We strategized and determined the best tactics to go forward. They tried again in a different room and absolutely killed it. In fact, they almost broke the record. Overall, it was an excellent opportunity for them to bond and accomplish something together. They loved it!”
With customer service tantamount to their business model, the Leshers are always open to customizing the game. “Once, with an hour and twenty minutes to spare, we had a group contact us to ask if they could stage the game for a wedding proposal. Of course, we agreed, and once the group arrived, we had customized the game so the gentleman could walk through the game with his group, ultimately popping the question at the end to his girlfriend,” notes Mr. Lesher. “She was shocked and thrilled and overcome with emotion. We felt so touched that we could be a part of this wonderful moment and could accommodate their request. They put so much trust in us, and we could not have been more honored.”
With different themes, intriguing mysteries and challenging rooms, this game comes to life for Escape Hunt Dallas participants. This local entertainment destination offers the perfect way to spend time with friends, family or co-workers. No doubt about it, at Escape Hunt Dallas, you will have an experience like you have never had before.