Escaping the Concrete Jungle
Returning once again to the concrete jungle, I was definitely glad that weather was much more agreeable than the last time I visited. It made walking around the city a whole lot nicer. Having said that, it’s not like I managed to fit in anything very touristy since we had other priorities. Central Park and Liberty Island will have to wait until next time!
What could be more important than food and being a tourist, you ask? Escape rooms! If you care, here’s my updated master list. We managed to fit in 9 escape rooms in less than 48 hours with a success rate of 88.89%. Our group of four got lost trying to find some of these places. Of all the places we visited, there were no storefront escape rooms. We may have spent more time getting to and trying to find the escape rooms than being locked up in them.
We also experienced a bout of frustration and having to reset our expectations as we realized that we were in rooms with complete strangers. That’s the downside to traveling with a small group and not being baller enough to book up all available tickets. Strangers are luck of the draw. I could go on and on about that topic, but I digress.
Here are 8 things worth noting about escape rooms in NYC:
1. Scheduling seems to run more in the 1.5-2 hour range. We suspect this has to do with the complexity of finding a place and registering for the room once you arrive. One place we visited is located in the concourse level of a business building. You need to find the entrance, provide the concierge/security guys with your ID for them to print you a visitor pass, find the right elevator and make your way to the right suite.
2. Game masters are trained to give you a walk through at the end of your experience, right in the room. I find that this is less common in Toronto as game masters are already resetting the room to try and get the next group in.
3. Outer space / alien themes are to NYC as prison themes are to Toronto. When we were doing our research on which escape rooms to visit, we noticed that most escape businesses had an outer space / alien-themed escape. We managed to check out 2 such themes and there is definitely a lot of potential there, but it usually involves some sort of tech (duh!).
4. We reaffirmed our appreciation for live actors in escape rooms. Sanitorium was very well done. Our circumstances were unfortunate and not the fault of the business in any way. The actors were great and the theme was great. I felt that some of the puzzles were so-so and waiting in the paintball area for the entire thing to start also set my expectations low, but what a surprise. All of us loved it!
5. Puzzles don’t have to be overly complicated or difficult for an escape room to be fun! Being well-themed and lighthearted make a HUGE difference. We visited Komnata Quest to check out their 7 Sinful Pleasures escape. The puzzles were not difficult, but the theme was definitely unique and it was super fun watching each other trying to complete the tasks and puzzles! DO NOT do this one with anyone who is not comfortable with anything sexual or kinky!
6. NYC rooms seem to hold more people than the Toronto ones, but it could also be just the ones we happened to shortlist. The rooms themselves seem to be larger than the Toronto ones, even when comparing “Ikea room” to “Ikea room”.
7. In majority of the escape rooms, hints were provided at the discretion of the game master, who was watching and listening throughout the game. Toronto doesn’t really do much of this. I’ve noticed it in Kingston and Ottawa a bit, but it’s definitely much more common in NYC (at least across the places we visited). Our group prefers (likely because we’re used to it) getting hints only when we ask for them. The exception to this preference is in scenarios where we are grouped with strangers. One escape place required player consensus before providing the hint. Not sure if this was overkill or not. I can see why that might be a good idea with a room full of strangers.
8. TV hints are a thing in NYC! My preference is still for the game master to enter the room, but compared to some places in Toronto that run a Walkie Talkie hint system, I think the TV is not a bad alternative. Walkie Talkies can be frustrating, especially when there’s static, or you can’t clearly make out what the person on the other end is saying. The only problem with the TV hint system is one TV in a multi room game. I think that most places get around this by alerting the players using some sort of alarm/sound, but if you miss it or have no idea what caused the sound, you probably wouldn’t be going to look for that clue.
Here’s the ultimate list of escape rooms we did, ranked by how much we liked them:
1. I Survived the Room – Sanitorium
2. Komnata Quest – 7 Sinful Pleasures
3. Mission Escape Games – Nemesis
4. Clue chase – Egyptian Tomb
5. Escape Entertainment – Manhattan Mayhem
6. Escape Entertainment – Alien Attack
7. Escape Games NYC – John Doe
8. 59:59 – Escape of the Three Little Pigs
9. Mystery Room NYC – Cafe Belim
If you’re still reading this, you’ve finally cut through all the escape chatter! We missed a few of the food joints on our itinerary due to flight delays, travel times and whatnot, but of those that we managed to hit, there were a few worth noting.
1. Distilled makes a yummy roasted mushroom dish for brunch. Their crispy brussel sprouts are also quite delish. The set up is not too cramped and it’s very family friendly. As for their refreshments, I’d pass on Buck’s Fizz but definitely try Morning Bell if you like your coffee and alcohol.
2. Sakamai has a very interesting egg on egg on egg dish. I couldn’t get enough of the rich, umami flavour infused in the scrambled egg. The shishito peppers with meldon salt were delicious and I now have an urge to try and make this snack at home myself. Nom nom nom.
3. The wines we had at Via Carota were great, but definitely not as dry as I had expected for Italian wines. The Meyer-lemon risotto was a first for me. I’ve never had this kind of flavouring in my risotto. It’s definitely worth a try, but I find that I prefer truffle to meyer lemon. I loved their gnocchi though. Super soft and melt-in-your-mouth goodness. The seasonal wild ramps were yummy and so was the funghi dish. Dessert was probably my favourite course at this restaurant. The affogato was my favourite. The panna cotta and mascarpone were both super light and airy and perfect companions to a filling and rich meal.