Jen Carver of Banner Events here, and I’m excited to talk about tips and trends to keep in mind when planning a teen birthday party! Planning a successful teen birthday party can be tricky. Teens crave excitement, a thrill, and a challenge, while also wanting to be entertained.In short, teens want an experience! Previously, party budgets were largely spent on lavish party decorations, food, birthday games, and favor bags filled with toys, treats, and trinkets (that in our experience, often end up in the garbage); budgets for teen parties are now being reserved for what I like to call the “party experience”. While outings to the movies, a concert, the mall, and the local bowling alley will long be popular teen party activity options, the latest party trend to take the teen world by storm is escape rooms!
My daughter Kaylee recently turned 13, and chose an escape room for her party activity. An escape room is the perfect teen party experience, allowing party guests to be the stars in their own real-time puzzle-solving adventure game. My husband and I (and another adult couple) were thrilled to accompany her and her party crew of 10 girlfriends to Hourglass Escapes last month. I’m sharing my full review of the party experience and reasons you should consider Hourglass Escapes for your next teen party. Read on to hear all about it!
*Full disclosure: Our escape room experience was provided complimentary, but the thoughts and opinions expressed are all my own.
To begin with, you might be wondering what in the world an escape room even is and how our chosen venue, Hourglass Escapes, is unique. You might also be curious as to why this kind of entertainment is trending with teens (and I might add, adults), and finally, what our group thought about our escape room experience. Let’s start by unraveling those first 2 mysteries.
What is an escape room? First off, in generic terms, an escape room is an interactive, real-time physical adventure game in which participants must solve a variety of puzzles, problems, and riddles using hints, strategies, and clues to complete the escape room’s mission(s).There is a timeline given to players that is specific to their escape room scenario. Generally speaking, it is around an hour. During that time frame players must work to solve the problem and complete the mission. Sometimes this involves physically escaping a room or situation, and other times it means escaping an undesirable consequence before time expires. There are varying levels of complexity to accommodate both the age and experience level of players. Usually game play can even be scaled according to the number of players as well.
How is Hourglass Escapes unique? Located in the heart of downtown Seattle near Elliott Bay, Hourglass Escapes was created in 2016 by talented owner, Seth Wolfson and his partners. Seth has an incredible resume of work experience, including a long stint working in the film and theme park industries and also 13 years in the medical simulation industry. (You can hear more about that via this 1o7.7 The End podcast interview here).
The immersive escape room adventure you will find at Hourglass Escapes is a thrilling marriage of Seth’s work experience as a scenic and animatronic artist for Universal Studios. It’s clear from the unique puzzle escape rooms currently running there–Rise of the Mad Pharaoh (the one our group chose) and Tales of the Ghostly Galleon–that designing original games and beautiful sets is a top priority for Seth and his team. Each room and its contents was designed by motion picture prop makers, set designers and scenic artists. The atmosphere and ambiance, as well as the handmade set details definitely set the stage for a unique, life-like, adrenaline-pumping experience in which participants race against a 60-minute clock, hunting for clues, solving a variety of puzzles, and figuring out the solution to the overarching mystery. Check out this video that shares more about Hourglass Escapes.
(Please note: in order to capture some of the awesome details of the room, different lighting was used for photography than is used during actual game play. The lighting is actually much dimmer with a moodier ambiance–as seen in the lamp and table image at the top of this page–which definitely adds to the experience.)
As mentioned previously, our group chose the Rise of the Mad Pharaoh, an Egyptian themed escape room. And while you may be thinking that our group needed to “escape the room” to win, that isn’t actually true. For this puzzle adventure challenge, we were actually helping someone else to escape!
After our group arrived on location, we were warmly greeted by Seth and his crew. Our adventure began soon after as we were met by the curator of the Seattle Archaeological Antiquities Division, and each member of our party was given a special role by way of a character card. The card identified a secret goal and gave some basic knowledge related to the specific game character they would play that would aid in our quest.
The plot was an exciting one and was laid out via video, instantly captivating our group of teens and getting us into game playing mode. Our quest? Save Dr. Carter before time ran out. You see while on a recent archaeological dig, Dr. Carter discovered the tomb of the Mad Pharaoh, Ah-Ramen Twostep. Unfortunately, a trap was triggered and he became stuck inside. Oxygen and time were running out! Fortunately, Dr. Carter was able to radio for help. His first call was to his assistants. He instructed them to ship all of his crates of fossils and artifacts to his Seattle office. His second call was to us, asking for our assistance in unlocking the sarcophagus before Ah-Ramen Twostep could rise again. Our 60 minutes started immediately after.
Our party crew loved that there were costume accessories that could be worn to reinforce the theme and help get us into character. It definitely added to the fun factor!
We also loved that the experience took place in Dr. Carter’s established Egyptian antiquities office filled with Egyptian decor and accessories. While we couldn’t photograph many of the coolest details, because they would ruin game play, we did capture a few sneak peeks of the decor.
The puzzles were challenging, but not impossible. Enthusiasm and energy was high! The 12-14 year-olds were competitive, engaged, and eager to work together to save Dr. Carter. We were so impressed as we observed them using their critical thinking skills, often solving the puzzles and riddles before we (the 4 adults that accompanied them) even had a chance to look at the clues and artifacts. There were a few tricky clues, but thankfully the escape game includes the opportunity to get a few subtle hints from the curator, who was present throughout the experience to assist as needed. These hints proved helpful in steering our group when we had a hunch, but weren’t quite sure how to proceed. We definitely felt the anxiety levels rising in those final minutes as we raced against the clock to piece together the final clues! With minutes to spare, we solved the final puzzle and rescued Dr. Carter from certain death! There was audible cheering!
While we won’t ruin the game by giving away specific clues from the crates of artifacts and cryptic containers or share the information from the endangered doctor, suffice it to say that the puzzle solving was really exciting and fun! Combined with really cool decor, and impressive, well-designed and though out technical elements that tied into the game play (sounds, lights, and special effects triggered as clues were solved), the experience was one that was talked about the whole car ride home. We were blown away by the creativity and design, and were left wondering how some of the technical elements actually worked! Our group loved The Rise of the Mad Pharaoh Escape Room and definitely left hungry for another escape room experience at Hourglass Escapes!
Bottom line: Two thumbs, way up! We all thought the escape room experience at Hourglass Escapes was awesome! The teens loved the challenge, the teamwork, the rush to beat the clock, clue sleuthing, and puzzle solving. We can’t wait to return to check out Tales of the Ghostly Galleon next.
Coupon Code to Save $ on your escape room experience: If you’re local here in Washington or planning a trip to Seattle, I have great news! Use the coupon code BANNER2018 and receive 10% off booking your escape room experience!
Did you know that Hourglass Escapes can accommodate all sorts of events, even corporate events? They can even bring the adventure to you with their mobile version!
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