5 Wits: An Indoor Adventure for Boston Families
If the arrival of summer vacation and this heat wave (holy heat stroke, Batman!) don’t have your kids jumping for joy and itching to get off the sofa, you are in good company. Luckily, there’s a perfect antidote to summer-heat-induced lethargy: 5 Wits.
My family and I checked out the two 5 Wits shows at Patriot Place in Foxboro last weekend, and discovered that they are enormously fun for parents and kids alike. And if you're wondering what else you can do while you're in Foxboro, take a look at my list of 15 Things to Do With Kids in Foxboro.
What is 5 Wits, exactly? It is difficult to categorize, which I think is a big part of its appeal. Different from anything else we have experienced, it’s a unique blend of attraction, show, and adventure that includes mind-bending puzzles, special effects displays, and improvisation. You may have experienced your first 5 Wits show, Tomb, in Boston during your pre-kid days. Since the move to Patriot Place, 5 Wits now offers two different shows: Spy-themed Espionage and steampunk-themed 20,000 Leagues.
For years, I secretly harbored a burning desire to step into a spy thriller; dodge lasers, crawl through ductwork, and crack codes. Espionage gives you the opportunity to live out that fantasy (c’mon, admit it, you’ve pictured yourself as a spy at least once). After a successful dead drop pre-show mission, our operation began in a rug shop that serves as a front for spy headquarters. What followed was an action-filled show of solving puzzles, cracking codes and – yes, dodging lasers and climbing through ductwork. We always felt like we were propelling the action, but appreciated having our guides there every step of the way.
The 20,000 Leagues adventure starts as an innocuous visit to a museum, which turns into something decidedly more interesting when you find yourself deep under the water, stumbling upon Captain Nemo’s secret laboratory. If you’re deciding which show to take your younger kids to, my whole family agrees that 20,000 Leagues is the better choice. Compared to Espionage, the action is less intense and the themes more appropriate for elementary school age children. The visuals are just gorgeous – they almost make you not want to leave, ever. The puzzles are very hands-on, physical, and accessible to kids.
When I talked to the President & CEO of 5 Wits Productions, Mathew DuPlessie, he told me that every show is unique. You could do the same show several times, and your experience would be different each time. For example, there are five possible endings to Espionage. It’s like being in a “choose your ending” book. And, get this: they actually have an additional room for 20,000 Leagues that they aren’t yet using. We will definitely be going back when they roll it out (and probably well before then, since my kids are already begging to go again).
For both shows, the guides are really the key to making the experience uniquely yours. They are the ones who adjust the shows to fit your group, helping the kids (and some of the adults) with the more difficult puzzles and tempering the intensity a bit. I thought our guides in both shows were excellent. Our guide in 20,000 Leagues kept things light and witty, which worked very well for our group. The guides for Espionage stayed in character the whole time, even after our show ended. My kids thought that was a really nice touch.
Here’s what I loved most about both adventures: For the hour we were in each of them, we were completely immersed in the action and felt like we were in another world. I didn’t think about doing laundry or paying bills. I just soaked in the mise-en-scènes and special effects, focused on solving puzzles, and enjoyed the make-believe drama that took me out of real-life drama for a little while. My kids were active, completely engaged, and didn't ask to watch a movie or play a video game (not even once). And, it was a whole lot of fun: The kids had fun, the adults had fun, and our guides even seemed to have fun, too. 5 Wits is the perfect escape from the dog days of summer.
- I do not recommend bringing kids under the age of seven, unless they are advanced readers and have a high tolerance for intense action. This is especially true for Espionage.
- 5 Wits is on the second level, above CBS Scene. You walk up an enormous flight of stairs or take the elevator, which is located inside the area with the public restrooms. It took us some time to find the place because you can’t really see the front when you are on the ground level. These directions may be helpful.
- If you are going to 20,000 Leagues, I recommend reading the story beforehand (we didn’t, and I wish we had). You can pick up a copy 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and a couple of other Jules Verne books in the gift shop after (or before) the show.
- I don’t want to give away too much about what happens in the shows, but I feel compelled to mention that there is a bomb to defuse in Espionage. I you fail, you will be led to safety, and then you will see the aftermath of the explosion. This is something to be aware of when you are bringing children, or if you think it might trigger strong emotions in your group in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
- Get 10 people together to go to 5 Wits if you can. That way you’ll be guaranteed a private show.
- The cost of admission is a pretty big chunk of change, but there are ways to reduce the cost: If you bring your ticket from a Pats or Revs game that day, you can see a show for $10. Groups of 20 or more get a $2 discount on each ticket. They also offer a combo ticket for less than the cost of two individual show tickets (if you want to see both shows the same day). Parking is free.
- If your kids are older and would enjoy a scarier version of 20,000 Leagues, take them in October for Lights Out. You go through the whole adventure in the dark, with only flashlights to illuminate the rooms. The ghost of Captain Nemo haunts your adventure .
- You can buy snacks for a reasonable price right there in the lobby of 5 Wits, and there's a nice waiting area upstairs where you can eat your snack, take a bathroom break, or use yourself as a pawn in a giant game of chess. There are restaurants all around Patriot Place if you want a sit-down meal.
5 Wits Patriot Place, 202 Patriot Place, Foxboro, MA 02035. Tickets: Adults (13 and up) $18, Children (12 and under) $14. Contact: 508-698-1600 or info@5-Wits.com.