Feel like you’re in a rut with winter activities? Want to escape?
Try an escape room. Winnipeg offers several, but the fun has spilled over the perimeter to four rural locations.
Locked room challenges pit groups against a time constraint — usually one hour — to find clues to freedom. (Safety protocols prohibit locking people in. Only the exit door is secured. Players can leave the way they entered any time.)
Sites have one to five themed games, each usually involving two rooms. Throughout are numerous brainteasers involving word play, memory, spatial reasoning (such as pattern prediction or realizing how things fit together) and perspective shifts. Multi-themed venues offer a variety of challenge levels.
Auberge Escape Room in Elie is charmingly set in a 115-year-old former Roman Catholic convent, which also houses a bed and breakfast, L’Auberge Clemence Inn on the Prairie. Owners Linda and Jean Aquin, along with daughter-in-law, Brandy, designed the rooms.
In keeping with the site’s spiritual nature, Auberge has Judgement Day and Mystery of the Lost Holy Grail and Hidden Treasures. Wrapped graphics on the floor and walls create an incredible atmosphere. These were produced in the sign shop also owned by the Aquins. Linda explains Judgement was inspired by the waiting room in the movie “Beetlejuice” and the television series “Drop Dead Diva.”
The second room has a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” feel. Linda says, “Groups are given a scroll with a list of the seven priceless treasures.”
The scavenger hunt portion may appeal to group members who dislike enigmatic brainteasers. Players are supplied with headlamps (there are light and darker areas) and an SOS sign which security cameras can spot no matter where in the room it’s raised. Linda prefers not to interrupt to ask if players want help.
Each room has a box marked Hints & Clues. You can look inside with no penalty to see how many clues are needed — a big tip in itself. Sealed in envelopes, each comes with a price. For every opened envelope, your treasure haul loses value.
Auberge has several unique features. Linda tells clients they are welcome to continue playing after the time limit for winning. For those who value the entertainment aspect of solving puzzles, it’s a great addition. Refreshments are offered at no additional charge while guests discuss how they did. Successful teams (within time frame, no clues) are entered into a draw done every few months. One lucky team receives a free B&B one-night stay followed by a full breakfast.
Elevaro Escape Rooms in Winkler was built and originally owned by Ed Peters and has five theme rooms. Current owner Vicky Reimer says, “I have the only duelling rooms I’m aware of in the province.” (There are duel challenges in other locations, but not with dedicated rooms. Duelling teams are each placed in one of the two rooms used for a single theme challenge.)
In Elevaro’s Jail Break, competing groups are equally matched with two identical rooms with identical clues. Each team ‘incarcerates’ one member in an adjoining cell. First team to spring their associate wins. The jailbirds are not left out of the fun. While behind bars, they also have puzzles to solve. This is good for bigger groups as it can easily accommodate 16 players (eight on each team), although staff will be flexible if your group is slightly larger.
Board game enthusiasts will love Checkmate, an expert-level room. Grandma’s Kitchen and Lion’s Stone are also currently offered.
Elevaro has partnered with Bella’s Castle Bed and Breakfast in Morden to host a new escape room, Bella’s Crown, on the third floor the weekend of Feb. 21, 22 and 23. After that, Bella’s Crown will be the latest addition at the Winkler location.
Steinbach’s Adrenaline Escapes offers two rooms: Pirate’s Plunder and Spy Games. Bookings done by online form are for weekends only, but they offer weekday custom booking if you email them.
Escape the Final Countdown in Brandon offers a unique twist on giving clues to those who get stuck. The first clue is free, but for subsequent hints they suggest donating $5 per clue. Quarterly, this money is donated to a local charity or non-profit. In 2018, it partnered with Assiniboine Community College to create the first post-secondary escape room site in Manitoba. In ACC: The Legacy, players work to uncover the identity of their (fictional) father, an ACC alumnus.
A few venues provide mobile services for special events or fundraisers, indoors or outside. A two-room tent version was set up at the 2017 Portagex in Portage la Prairie to the delight of fairgoers. According to experienced players, it was a welcome treat.
Regular player benefits
Relationships are built on teamwork. To escape, individuals must stay in communication with the group. Corporate packages with after-game analysis are a good team-building activity. Workplace-friendly themes and puzzles are challenging, but achievable as the aim is to see how well employees work together.
It feels good to win. And even if you don’t, your group will have solved at least some of the puzzles. Any success releases dopamine into the brain which creates a positive mood, greater concentration, better memory and improved social skills.
Make sure everyone knows to arrive 15 minutes ahead. Instructions are given before you enter the room.
Go with at least one person who has experience. They can offer advice on what to look for and what to avoid as a possible red herring.
Delegate tasks. A good way to do this is to divide the room into sections.
Rooms are monitored for safety and in case your group requires help.
Different locations may have different rules, restrictions and special effects. Check the web page or email or call if you have questions. Possible concerns might be accessibility, strobe lighting, fog, loud noises or pop-out scares. Age and number of player restrictions may differ from room to room in the same location.
Cellphones and bags/purses aren’t allowed in rooms. Lockers are provided.
Why should you try an escape room? Research shows that when people engage in group problem solving, they can enter an optimal mental state. It’s created when the challenge level of a task is appropriate to a person’s highest skill level. This is referred to as ‘flow.’ When people focus on the task at hand and enter a state of flow, they become immersed to the point of forgetting about the outside world.
And when the outside world is a chilly Manitoba winter, that’s a good thing.
- Brandon Escape The Final Countdown
- Elie Auberge Escape Room
- Steinbach Adrenaline Escapes
- Winkler Elevaro Escape Rooms
- Mobile escape rooms: Rent for an event or fundraiser
Based in Brandon
- Escape: The Final Countdown
Based in Winnipeg
- Time Lapse Escape Rooms
- Codebreakers Escape Rooms
- Wasagamin Escape: The Final Countdown
- Portage la Prairie Escape “Le Rideau”
- Fort la Reine Museum Van Horne Train Car