Hi! It’s Tina and Curt again and we are currently in Anaheim, California! We just finished up our whirlwind tour of San Diego and the surrounding areas, and are now at an RV park right down the street from Disneyland. This will be our basecamp to visit The Mouse, and to play many of the amazing escape rooms that Orange County and Los Angeles have to offer!
States Visited This Leg: California
Total Miles Traveled: 6,515
Total Escape Rooms Played: 47
First of all, San Diego is beautiful! They have had a few months of rough weather, with colder than normal temperatures and lots of rain, which resulted in some flooding. Luckily, the weather was pretty nice during our visit and the greater than normal rainfall has resulted in an explosion of wildflowers on the cliffs and hillsides. Seriously, just driving down the freeway is a visual treat of ocean views, rocky cliffs and masses of yellow and purple flowers. Breathtaking! La Jolla was especially memorable, with the beautiful cove, sea lions and the opportunity to venture down 145 steps into a sea cave.
While visiting San Diego, we stayed on the north side of the city in Oceanside. Our RV park was only two blocks from the ocean and we were able to visit the pier and see lots of surfers. We also got to see the famous HIGH Pie, a pie shop in the house from the Top Gun movie, which was relocated to the base of the Oceanside Pier. Curt is originally from Southern California, and Oceanside was also a great place to start a few tours of the beachside towns where he once lived. Tina playfully calls these tours “exCURTsions!” We also have more exCURTsions planned for our time in Anaheim, which is closer to where he lived as a child.
San Diego also has an extensive public transportation system, including a commuter rail line, The Coaster. We spent a day with Tina’s childhood friend, Erin, and rode The Coaster from Oceanside all the way to its terminus at the Port of San Diego, home to the aircraft carrier the USS Midway. We were able to walk around Little Italy and eat lunch (including amazing ice cream at Salt and Straw!), and tour the Seaport Village. Then we rode The Coaster back to Oceanside. It was nice to not have to worry about finding parking for Shadow, our ninja truck. Shadow does a great job pulling our 39-foot home, but is not the easiest to find parking for in urban settings. We exceed the height limit of most parking garages!
Last, but certainly not least, we also spent a day at the amazing San Diego Zoo. We took the bus tour, rode the Skyfari aerial tram, and toured the Northern Frontier (polar bears!), Africa Rocks (Elephants!), and the Lost Forest (gorillas and bonobos!). The zoo is HUGE and even though we spent several hours there, we did not get to see everything. Oh well, we will just have to make another trip to San Diego someday!
Of course, even with all the sightseeing, we also managed to play 14 games during our time in San Diego!
Top Tier Escape Rooms (Oceanside, CA)
Outside In - This was such a cute room. It was based on the Inside Out movie idea with the main character being the owner of the business. He obviously put a lot of his soul into the story. The unique intro of the game put us in the right frame of mind to enjoy this one-of-a-kind game. It's not the biggest or prettiest game we've played, but it is the most heartfelt. We loved it!
Locked Adventures (San Marcos, CA)
The Curse of KV62 - This was an Egyptian-themed room that was not bad. It had a few fun puzzles and a couple that were time sucks, but overall, we enjoyed it. The staff was also very friendly.
Mindfox Escape (San Diego, CA)
We have found that most staff at escape rooms are friendly, but some places stand out in that respect. This is one of them. Our game master was fantastic, but it was the owners who were so welcoming and fun to talk with. They even clapped as we came out of each room. They seem like people we would love to just hang out with!
Black and White Cafe - This was a fun room themed as a cafe where everything was black and white, and our goal was to bring color back to the cafe. Sadly, we struggled with this room. It was a beginner's room and we were overthinking most of the puzzles. Had we brought a couple of kids with us, we're sure they would have done better than us. That said, this one-room game was very cute and perfect for new players that won't overcomplicate the puzzles.
Moriarty's Manor - This is the kind of room we love! Interesting puzzles and a mix of fun tasks. This game had puzzles we may have seen before but done in an interesting way. We had a lot of fun playing this game. It's one of our favorites in California so far. Highly Recommended.
Quicksand Escape Games (San Diego, CA)
This place is located in Pacific Beach so parking was hard to find. There are a couple of public parking lots, but for the time we were going to be there, it would have cost around $60...just to park...Nope! We found free street parking several blocks away. Gotta get those steps in anyway.
A few notes about Quicksand. Our game master was a fellow escape enthusiast and she was super friendly. Hi, Alexis! On the negative side, Quicksand does not take team photos in the room, they do not have anything to write notes on in their rooms (and we played all four games), and most of their locks are well-worn and sometimes hard to see and move. Before selling the business, we made it a point to replace all the locks with easy-to-see and easy-to-use ones at the Escape Hatch. But we digress…
The Diner - This was a 50's diner heist. We had a good time in this game. The ending leads you into a staff closet of sorts, so that was weird. We were like, "Are we supposed to be here? This seems like an Employees Only area? Did we unlock the wrong door?" It was actually kind of funny.
Speakeasy Nouveau - This room was on the easier side for us, though we were told that many consider this their second most difficult room. I guess the puzzles just connected with us. Though we got out with a LOT of time left, we really enjoyed this game, from the music to the theme and decor. Definitely a thumbs up from us.
Chinatown - This is their most difficult room and it should be a 3-4 player minimum. We really struggled with this room, and there were a couple of puzzles we really disliked. Yet, there was one puzzle we really loved, too! There was also no music or background noises, and that always makes rooms feel a bit sterile and is an easy fix for the owners. We must mention that this room gets good reviews, so maybe it was us. That's entirely possible.
The Family Cabin - This was our favorite room at Quicksand and it was so much fun. The 90s theme was awesome and the puzzles were enjoyable. We barely got out in time with help from our game master, but even if we had lost, we still would have loved this game. It had a time suck puzzle but it was one we didn't mind spending time on. Highly Recommended!
Red Door Escape Room (San Diego, CA)
Red Door is a corporate run chain. So we weren't expecting much. They aren't as polished as other corporate run or franchised chains like The Escape Game or Escapology, but the games ended up being more fun than Escapology's games overall.
Fair Game - This game was right up Curt's alley. He loves tasks and this room had carnival games to play. It was like a fair and circus in one game. We struggled with one puzzle in particular, and there was a reset mistake so when we finished one task nothing was released like it should have been. From what we have heard, this location is notorious for reset mistakes. Despite that, we really enjoyed this game.
Phil and Jerry's Treehouse Takedown - This was a 45-minute pop-up game. Pop-up games are non-permanent games that are set up in one room and are often taken to different locations like festivals, schools, fairs, conferences, etc. This was a semi-permanent pop-up game. It never goes anywhere, but it's not set up permanently in the building either. Anyway, it sounded interesting based on the website description so we decided to try it since there was a 20% replay discount after playing Fair Game. Oh boy, we enjoyed the whimsical nature of this game. Your goal is to lure in and capture Bigfoot. While this game in no way compares to the Mogollon Monster game at The Nemesis Club in Phoenix, Arizona, it was super cute. We really enjoyed it. Oh, and we did capture BigFoot, by the way.
Quest Room Old Town (San Diego, CA)
This Quest Room location (there are a few in SoCal) was on the third floor of a (what seemed to be low-rent) office building. The signage for the business was lacking, public bathrooms were barely working and the lobby of the business was set-up to promote one of their horror games, so it was uninviting and creepy. Apparently, the location has only been open for six weeks and they were working to fix up everything mentioned. But after seeing all that, we had very low expectations for the game we were about to play.
Malediction - This game was a hoot! We were told right away that there would be live actors in the form of a snake and a cat. Um. . .okay. This game is very actor-driven and our game master was fantastic! Hi, Maddie! It is a wizard-themed game that has two versions, the PG kid version, and the adult version containing adult language. The puzzles are the same in both versions. We, of course, chose the adult version. This was a puppet show meets escape room, where you get out of it what you put into it. We were tasked to do some silly things to complete puzzles, which Curt did most of. Why? Because Tina is much more reserved and Curt is a ham. Although, Tina did lead the team in a rendition of the YMCA song and dance. This game is not going to be for everyone, but kids (and kids at heart) will definitely enjoy it. The game master really needs to be outgoing and good with improv. They will make or break this game for the players. Overall, after some processing, we really enjoyed the experience and were glad we played the game. And, the visit from a feathered friend will forever be one of the most surprising things we’ve seen in an escape room! I won’t give any spoilers, but If you know, you know. Lol!
The Unlockables (San Diego, CA)
This room was on our list and Maddie at Quest Room also recommended it. She mentioned that she works at Unlockables part-time as well, so she was a little biased. Anyway, we decided to book the room after we left Quest Room. We had to wait a few hours for the next available game, so we first had lunch in Old Town. When we showed up at Unlockables, guess who was there to be our game master? Maddie! We laughed and were excited to have her run our next game.
Sister's Secret - This creepy game was another fun one. The puzzles were unique and enjoyable. The atmosphere was creepy without being too scary. Just our speed for this type of game. We did pretty well with it all and had a fun time. We would for sure recommend this game.
Steal and Escape (San Diego, CA)
This venue came highly recommended on both the Morty app and the Facebook Enthusiast pages, so we were very excited to play both games. They also have a third game (which we were told is their best), but it has a 4 player minimum, so we weren’t able to play it. The lobby had a secret puzzle box that we didn’t discover until it was too late to really be able to play it, but we did get it unlocked and we started on the first puzzle. We recommend arriving early and taking a good look at the lobby walls, if you want to experience it!
The Missing Season - This game has the most interesting start that we have ever experienced! From start to finish it is beautiful and mysterious.There was also one very unique puzzle that we hadn’t seen before, that we really enjoyed. A few of the puzzles were not intuitive for us, but there was a wise narrator who helped us along and, at times, it felt more like a guided experience than an actual escape room. We never felt like there was any possibility that we wouldn’t finish. The ending also had another surprise that we have never seen anywhere else. Overall, we would recommend this room for its unique theming and surprises.
The Neighbor - This was another unique room with a fun hint system. Parts of the room were dark and they don’t allow any lighting assistance. Hard for those of us with old eyes! There were some fun puzzles, but one answer was given away by writing that wasn’t erased from a prior team, and one of the props would not stay in place. One thing we really enjoyed was how the storylines of the two rooms connected, and the game master took us back into The Missing Season afterwards to see how it all ties together. We recommend playing The Neighbor first, but if you can’t, ask if they can show you the tie–in afterwards. Overall, we liked this game, but would have appreciated some more light.
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.
We’ve finished up our Orange County and Los Angeles leg of the trip and are currently in Menifee, California, which is in the beautiful Temecula Valley. While in Orange County and LA we did SO.MANY.ESCAPE.ROOMS! During the eight days we were there, we managed to play 27 games! Some we loved and some we didn’t.
The policy of taking hints in an escape room is an extensive topic - a doctorate could be written about it. There is no player who has never used them. Until a few years ago, they were accompanied by sundry emotions. However, are they still relevant today? What has changed over the years in the approach to hints?