As kids get older, it gets harder to find indoor family activities that aren’t “boring” or “stupid.” Fear not; there’s good news. If you’re the parent of older school-age kids or 'tweens, you might want to try an escape room adventure. People all over America are paying to be locked in a room for an hour—to try to get out, together. Escape rooms are the newest trend, and your family might love it. We’ve found five nearby escape rooms, or similarly-themed quest activities, where you and your kids can test your quick-thinking and problem-solving skills (and maybe do some bonding at the same time).
1. Boda Borg—Malden
My 13-year-old son has been harassing me for awhile to go to Boda Borg, so I finally went with him, my 7-year-old daughter, my 12-year-old nephew, and my sister. Technically, Boda Borg is not an escape room; instead, it is dozens of “quests,” which are different challenges to be completed within a 2-minute time frame by teams of 3 to 5 people. Each quest is color-coded by the level of physical challenge, and once one room is completed, you continue on to the next until you finish and get a stamp for your accomplishment.
At first, I thought two minutes was an absurdly short amount of time to figure a way out of a room, but when you are clinging to a wall trying to mince your way out, it sometimes feels endless. Also, Boda Borg prides itself on its high percentage of failed quests, which encourage teams to work together to problem-solve. At the beginning, I was concerned about my daughter becoming frustrated, but every time we failed a quest (which was most of the time), she wanted to try it again or try another one. After two hours, we had tried dozens of quests, some multiple times, and the only one we completed was the one my son had inside knowledge about from a friend. In the end, I was grateful for the time limit, because the kids’ frustration levels could have been much higher had we been stuck doing the same thing for a long time.
Boda Borg was a delightful surprise from beginning to end. We had to reschedule our original appointment because they lost power, and their staff couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. The complex is much bigger than I thought, and while it was very busy on a Saturday afternoon (when they typically see 800 guests), we never had to wait more than about five minutes to get into a quest, thanks to the two-minute time limit. My kids are already begging to go back as soon as possible.
Know before you go: Wear closed-toe shoes, preferably sneakers. If you want to try the more active quests, plan to wear comfortable clothes, and if you don’t like to crawl or climb, skip the most challenging quests. Kids tell me that the ideal number of people for a quest is three. Boda Borg provides free lockers and sells food, but no outside food is allowed in. They have a taco bar for $10/person and they have vending machines as well. Make a reservation, because as already mentioned, it’s a madhouse on weekends. It costs $22 per person for two hours and $33 for questing without limits.
Age requirement: Boda Borg does not admit children younger than 7, and 7 and 8-year-olds must be accompanied by an adult. Kids older than 9 can quest freely.
2. Puzzle Break—Newton
The newest arrival to the Boston escape room scene, Puzzle Break is an interactive, "real-life" escape room. Games are 60 minutes long, and designed for between six and 12 people. In-game operators are present to “move the games along,” and provide hints if they’re requested. There are three games at Puzzle Break: Escape From 20,000 Leagues; Escape the Midnight Carnival; and The Grimm Escape. Escape from 20,000 Leagues is designed for 6-10 players, with a difficulty level of 8/10. Escape the Midnight Carnival is for 6-12 players with a difficulty level of 8/10. The most difficult game, The Grimm Escape, is a 9/10 difficulty level, designed for 7-12 players.
Know before you go: Should your group be smaller than the recommended size, you could be paired with strangers. Tickets are $32 per person, with games starting every 15 minutes.
Age requirement:There is no specific age requirement, but Puzzle Break suggests that participants be older than 8.
3. Wicked Escape, Saugus
Wicked Escapes is a highly immersive escape room designed to bring Hollywood movies to life. With rotating escapes, you can revisit to try different adventures. Wicked Escapes is presently offering three adventures: The Hole, Cell Block 4, and The Heist. Cell Block 4 is a challenging prison escape challenge, rated PG-13, for up to 12 people. The Heist is a moderately difficult burglary escape challenge, rated PG, also for up to 12 people. The Hole is conducted entirely in darkness, and is designed for up to eight people with a time limit of a half hour, with an extreme level pf difficulty rated PG-13.
Know before you go: Tickets for The Hole are $25 per person, and Cell Blt $30.
Age requirement:Wicked Escapes suggests that the age range for all challenges is 13+, though they accept guests as young as 7. Players ages 7 to 15 must be accompanied by an adult.
Photos courtesy of 5 Wits
4. 5 Wits—Foxboro
Like Boda Borg, 5 Wits is another experience that isn’t technically an escape room, but requires progression through an “adventure”: a live-action, immersive experience. 5 Wits offers two adventures: 20,000 Leagues, and Espionage. Each is in a self-contained space that requires hands-on interaction and teamwork to continue. Each has multiple rooms with several puzzles, which should take about an hour to complete. Up to 12 people can be in a group, which means that unless you’ve booked with a large group, you could end up with strangers. Both adventures have in-character guides who accompany your group through the experience.
Know before you go: 5 Wits suggests wearing comfortable clothing with closed-toe shoes. Allow yourself 90 minutes for the adventure, even though it is designed to take about 60. Tickets are $20 per person for an individual adventure, or $25 for the 2-adventure combo.
Age requirements: 5 Wits allows kids of all ages, though children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult, and parents should use their discretion for children under 7.
5. Escape the Room—Boston
Right in Downtown Crossing, Escape the Room is the area's inner-city escape room offering. Like the others, you could be paired with other people in groups of up to 10 players, and each of the games takes 60 minutes—but give yourself 90 minutes from arrival to departure. The Apartment is designed for up to eight players, and mimics an actual apartment for people to escape. The Dig allows up to 10 participants, who have to unravel the "mystery of the deep." The Clock Tower is an adventure through time for up to 10 people.
Know before you go: Tickets are $28 per person plus service fee. Should you want the room all to yourself, make sure to book for eight people.
Age requirements: Escape the Room is designed for all ages and skill sets, but like the other escape rooms, it’s probably best to stick to kids over 8, to minimize frustration and boredom.