If your family nights tend to be whatever movie’s next in your Netflix queue accompanied by the finest frozen pizza sold at Target, well, it’s time to switch it up. And what’s better for adding excitement to a sometimes-boring ritual than a splash of espionage? Check out Chicago’s new EscapeHouse and SafeHouse for an evening that could never be described as dull, even by the pickiest tween or teen.
If you’ve wanted to try out the new escape room trend by don’t know where to start, head to River North for a fun-filled experience at EscapeHouse Chicago. This 60-minute escape experience lets your whole crew roleplay as super-spies or Secret Service agents, depending on which room you pick. And although the “Save the White House” experience is hailed as being great for first-timers, take it from the Chicago Parent team: It’s not as easy as you think! (We made it out with 31 seconds to spare. #humblebrag)
While you’re in the escape room, you’ll solve puzzles and clues that draw on all sorts of knowledge centers in your brain that you haven’t used in a long time. It’s also an exercise in teamwork, which is the ultimate family bonding. While we can’t reveal any of the secrets, we can say that working together is a must. The “agents” who work at EscapeHouse – staying uncannily in character the whole time – also provide hints and clues along the way.
If you’re worried about things or people popping out to scare the bejeezus out of you, don’t be. EscapeHouse isn’t spooky or at all like a haunted house. The experience is recommended for ages 14 and up, but you can also book a Family Mission to complete with kids as young as 8. And for fellow claustrophobes out there, I will say that I was concerned about having a panic attack when the door shut behind me, but the room is spacious enough that it wasn’t an issue (and if you need to get out for any reason, you can).
Once you’ve exulted in your success – complete with fun photos – or bemoaned your lack of escape artist skills, head next door to SafeHouse Chicago, the ultimate spy-themed restaurant. The surreptitious spot just opened last month, and it’s a family-friendly destination during the day before it turns into adults-only nightclub in evening hours (think Maxwell Smart vs. James Bond).
The spy shtick is carried out to remarkable effect throughout the restaurant. Just to go in, your team of super-spies will have to reveal a top-secret password … or pay the price. And once you do enter, you’ll find décor that hails back to countless spy movies as well as the all-too-real Cold War. All the servers commit to their spy personas, and the menu uses every espionage reference imaginable. (The Fried C4 Cheese Curds are – no pun intended – to die for.)
While you’re waiting for your food to arrive, you can explore the space with the help of a top-secret Reconnaisance Duty checklist. Keep your eyes peeled for any SafeHouse secrets or artifacts you might come across – not even the lead agent knows where all of them are! And don’t leave before taking a Stealthy Selfie at one of the designated spots (you know you want to break out your Charlie’s Angels pose).
Thanks to Spring Break, SafeHouse was packed with kids and families when we visited, and it’s sure to attract thrill-seekers of all ages, whether you’re more Austin Powers or Jason Bourne – or something in between.