Greetings from San Francisco! We are now three months into our epic eight-month RV trip. We just finished up our five-week Southern California leg of the trip and have moved into Northern California.
In our last update, we had just arrived in the Temecula Valley and had plans to play several highly rated rooms including 40 Thieves at Mind Trap, Hope End at the Ministry of Peculiarities, Tree House at Confusion Escapes and Headcase at Breaking Point.We were able to play all of those and many more; a total of 18 rooms! Our full list with brief reviews is below, but we also fit in many non-escape room-related activities in Temecula, so we’ll start with those.
States Visited This Leg: California
Total Miles Traveled: 10,398
Total Escape Rooms Played: 93
One of the first things we did was an exCURTsion up to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear in the San Bernardino Mountains, so that Curt could show Tina a few of the summer camps he had previously worked at. It was a gorgeous day and the views were amazing. Although it was in the mid-80s in the Valley, as we traveled up the mountains, it dropped to the low 70s and we even saw a few patches of snow that hadn’t melted yet.
As an aside, when not playing escape rooms, Tina is a big reader and one of her guilty pleasures are books by Dean Koontz. Many of his books are set in Southern California and Tina has enjoyed nerding-out and being able to see many of the places where his books took place. She read Lightning as a teenager and got really excited driving around Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear, where some pivotal scenes took place. She totally owns her nerdiness!
Wineries and Hot Air Balloon Ride
For those that don’t know (Tina didn’t), Temecula Valley is a wine mecca, similar to Napa Valley. Tina’s friend Erin was celebrating her birthday while we were there and they enjoyed a girl’s day getting pampered at the South Coast Winery & Spa. The next morning we all took a sunrise hot air balloon ride over several vineyards and citrus groves. This experience was AMAZING! (Except for having to be there at 4:45am, of course.)
If you ever decide to take a hot air balloon ride in Temecula, book with Cielo Balloons. They are great. There were around 7 other balloons in the air that morning, all from different companies. We were the first ones in the air (by at least 20 minutes), and all of the balloons landed at about the same time. We were definitely in the air longer than all the others, and they gave Erin a birthday cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes.
Palm Springs Aerial Tram
This is something Curt has wanted to do forever. After huffing and puffing just to get up the hill from the car to the tram, we took it up to the top. It's amazing the elevation the tram travels in such a short time, and how you go from desert to forest. The top had some beautiful views. It was a great way to spend half a day. We didn't get the chance to do any real hiking up there, since we had escape room reservations, but we really enjoyed the time we had.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
This was a wonderful experience! You get so close to the animals, and there were fewer people here than at the main San Diego Zoo. We opted for the truck safari ride and were able to get incredibly close to all sorts of African and Asian animals, including the Asian rhinos! One of the giraffes also literally licked the side of the open-air truck.
Later, on a tram ride, we saw a giraffe starting to give birth. Wow! Another highlight was the bat house where fruit bats were being fed. Watching them take the food off sticks, fly and crawl around on the tree branches was very exciting. Overall, we liked the safari park more than the main zoo. Highly recommended!
Now onto the escape rooms! We played some amazing rooms while we were here.
Clever Fox (Menifee, CA)
We had a rough start here. From low lighting to the way they handle their intro rules. We understand that we (older enthusiasts) aren't their target audience, so we'll leave it at that. We will say that the owner, Tom, was very responsive when Curt messaged him. Everyone (other owners we met) says he's an incredibly nice guy. We wish we could have met him personally.
Forbidden Temple - We had trouble seeing the locks and some of the puzzles in this room, and our game master did not tell us that we were able to make our lanterns brighter. Other than that, the puzzles and set design were just okay.
The Curse - We enjoyed this one a whole lot more. After Curt messaged Tom, he made sure we had more light for our second game, which we appreciated. There were some typical haunt jumpscares (which are fine with us), and the set design and puzzles were fun.
MindTrap (Temecula/Murrieta, CA)
This place is the crown jewel of the Temecula Valley. Fantastic game masters, managers and owners.
Operation Nightwalker - This game was dark, but they give you flashlights. It has some interesting puzzles and the set design was good and in theme.
Conspiracy of Tia Canyons Corp - This game was fun. We had problems finding things that were right in front of our faces. (Searching is an issue with us.) This game had a unique hint system that we really liked.
Excalibur - We liked this game a lot, We wished it would have had a little more in the way of decor and number of puzzles but the theme was cool, the puzzles interesting, and our game master was fantastic (as they all are there).
40 Thieves - We LOVED this game! The intro is the best one we have experienced in any game. So cool! The puzzles were fun and the decor and effects were also fun. The final puzzle seemed a bit disconnected, but overall, this was a fantastic game.
Confusion Escapes (San Bernardino, CA)
One of the best game masters (Emily) that we have had on our trip! We always use the bathroom at escape rooms (well, Tina does. Curt just likes to put one of his little ducks in there). The bathroom here is magical!
The Last Job - This was an enjoyable heist game. Solid puzzles and set design. They are also able to customize the difficulty by adding or removing puzzles, which is a nice touch.
The Treehouse - This game was super cute and enjoyable. The set design is magical and whimsical, which we love! This is normally a four-person minimum, but we found the puzzles to be on the easier side. With just the two of us, we finished with plenty of time left. A fantastic room for families and those new to escape rooms, but an experience enthusiasts should have, as well.
Escape Games at the River (Rancho Mirage, CA)
The owner here is really nice, and this place has one of the nicest bathrooms we have come across. (Yep, we take into account the FULL experience of each venue, bathrooms included.)
The Great Candy Challenge - A fun and whimsical game. Some of the puzzles nearly stumped us. The best part is that you can eat all the candy you want.
80's Radical Radio Rampage - We are suckers for an '80s themed game. This one was full on 80s. It was light on the number of puzzles, we would have liked more, but the puzzles that were in there were creative and interesting.
Mutiny: Skull Island - We are also suckers for a good pirate room (we have played some stinkers, as well). This was our favorite game at this venue. We really liked it, especially the last room.
The Escape Game (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)
The game master here, Devon, was also the manager. He was super nice, and we chatted with him quite a bit. He is moving up to San Francisco to manage The Escape Game up there, and we are going to try to meet up with him to play an escape room when we are in the area. It's great meeting game masters who are also escape room enthusiasts!
Timeliner: Train Through Time - Before this game, The Depths was our favorite game at The Escape Game. Since Timeliner is only at a few of their locations around the country, we had to play it, and it did not disappoint. This is now our favorite TEG game. The theme, set design, effects, and puzzles (with the exception of one) were so fun.
Breaking Point Escape Rooms (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)
We had two game masters here and they were both game masters we have had at other locations. Anthony (also at 13th Room) and Emily (also at Confusion) were wonderful!
Headcase - You are tasked with stopping the sadistic doctor and retrieving the cure he has developed. The puzzles and set design were incredible. Such a good game. It gets a lot of praise, and rightly so.
The Secret at Whitmore Estate - We also loved this game. It's sort of a Haunted Mansion meets Clue. It's hard to pinpoint why this game was so fun, but it is. Highly Recommended
The Ministry of Peculiarities (Azusa, CA)
This place is hidden, in a way. Once you find it, one of the staff will come out and the experience (not the game) has begun. It was very confusing but awkwardly enjoyable. We weren't sure what to do. They only have one game (as of right now). This place gets a LOT of love and positive reviews.
Hope End - The actors here are great! They play their characters so well. This is a game that has a four-person minimum (thank you Katie and Anita for joining us!). We are positive two people can finish it, but we understand why they require four due to the immersive theater elements. While this room gets a lot of (deserved) praise and love, I think our expectations were a little too high because of it. Again, the staff are incredible. There really is so much to like in this experience, but it didn't land with us as we had hoped. One of the puzzles in this game is one we will not forget, probably one of our favorite puzzles ever, but most of the other puzzles were a bit weak and the immersive theater elements meant fewer puzzles. To be fair, Tina is not into immersive theater because being the introvert she is, she struggles with improv, and she is all about the puzzles. Curt enjoys it more because he is more extroverted. As a player, the more you give to immersive theater, the more you get out of it. We have found that extroverts tend to LOVE immersive theater,
Mind Suite Escape Rooms (Upland, CA)
When we walked in, the game master was playing a game on his phone and barely looked at us. No hello, just told us to do our waivers, and then he went back to his game. To be fair, he later acknowledged that was rude of him. By the end of our visit, he was friendly with us.
The Argo - The set design starts off very cool. Then it kind of goes downhill. The puzzles and gameplay were fine. Overall, an average escape room experience.
Quest Tavern (Pomona, CA)
We decided to backtrack a bit and hit a couple of rooms we missed while staying in Anaheim. The next two (Quest Tavern and Exit Games) are ones we are definitely glad we returned for.
The Bridge Between - What an experience! The set design goes from neat to fantastical, but it was all fun. The ending was so fun, and the puzzles were pretty neat, too. We will say that we felt we sometimes got puzzle props way too soon for certain puzzles, which caused us to waste time on puzzles that weren't ready to be solved. Being a non-linear game it was tougher than a linear game and we needed a few hints on what to do next. After getting the hints, we knew we'd never have thought of doing those things. Nevertheless, we enjoyed this game. Diego was our game master, as he was for The Last Supper, and he is fantastic!
The Exit Game (Anaheim, CA)
13th Basement - This game is all about a serial killer that also loves escape rooms. So, he built one for his victims (us). While we felt the puzzles were on the easier side, this game plays with common escape room tropes, is comical at times, and is an absolute blast. This was one of our favorites in SoCal. Talking with the owners and game master for over an hour afterward was the icing on the cake. They also have a geocache set up out front, which was a fun added bonus. We LOVED our time here and can't wait to come back and play their next game.
San Francisco is our last major escape room stop in California and we have rooms at Palace Games, Trivium and Omescape lined up!
Tina is a former city and transportation planner turned escape room owner and Curt is a podcaster/blogger/content creator for the summer camp industry. Their worlds collided when they were handcuffed next to each other in a pirate themed escape room while attending an escape room enthusiast meet up event.
Greetings from Traverse City, MI! Now that we have had a week to recuperate, we’re ready to give you a recap of our twelve state, thirty-five escape room marathon that we completed in just sixteen days!