We’ve all had those days where boredom sets in. What to do? An outdoors activity is always an option, but there are times when it’s not possible because of the weather - or it simply doesn’t sound appealing. When you think about indoor activities to break the boredom, the obvious options come to mind – shopping, bowling, or the movies. And while they’re all great things to do, what about trying something new? Perhaps an escape room piques your interest?
Escape rooms EXPLODED in popularity in the last six years. According to ‘Room Escape Artist,’ In 2014 there were only 24 escape rooms in the United States; at the end of 2019 there were 2,350 across the country. While there are plenty out there, many folks still have not visited an escape room yet. If you’re in the market to give an escape room a try – there are a couple in ILLINOISouth that are open and taking proper safety measures to make sure that ALL visitors feel safe during the pandemic. Code Rulers Escape Room in O’Fallon and Escape618 in Belleville are two tremendous venues to plan a visit to. Although the two establishments are only seven miles apart, they each offer something different and unique from the other.
Code Rulers offers a catalog of ten games to play while you’re visiting. “We write all of our games,” explains Sharece Johnson, Owner of Code Rulers Escape Room. “Our escape rooms are unique because our rooms are not just a key hunt! We have unique puzzles and activities in our rooms that make teams use a variety of skills. Such as deductive reasoning, problem solving, and attention to detail to name a few,” Johnson adds.
Escape618 in Belleville offers up a plethora of different games as well. “We have room for 9 different rooms in total and are always working on what's next,” said RJ Corey, Creative Business Director for Escape618. “We have designs on a Harry Potter inspired room, an Antimatter Reactor and many more to come soon.” One of the most popular games at Escape618 is their “Detention Room” where ‘students’ are so bad they are chained to their desks by their frustrated teacher. “They must figure out the myriad of puzzles to get themselves out and change their grades before the teacher comes back,” Corey explains. “This is a harder escape room and takes a lot of teamwork and communication, being so close to Scott Air Force Base this room was designed to challenge the keen military minds nearby.”
Like almost every business, Code Rulers and Escape618 have undoubtedly been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both venues were closed for three months, and when they did open back up, they obviously could no longer host the capacity crowds they were used to. “The current pandemic has affected our business because we have had to decrease our customer capacities and compared have less customer bookings than a normal summer,” Johnson explains. “We were used to a packed house every night, and now our bookings have to be staggered every two hours,” said Corey about Escape618. “As anyone can imagine this would take a toll on any business. However, we persevere and will stay open for our fans and continue to make Escape618 a place to make fun memories.”
First and foremost, both businesses want prospective customers to know that they are VERY safe – and are taking the proper safety precautions each and every day. “We have added more time in between bookings to ensure different groups are not in the lobby at the same, and of course slightly alter our sanitation process in order to adhere to IDPH and CDC guidelines,” added Johnson of Code Rulers. “Our team members wear facial coverings and we have asked our customers to do the same in our public areas.” Meanwhile, at Escape618 they are requiring masks to be worn by guests at all times while in the building. “We understand this can be stifling but it is a requirement and our employees do the same while guests are here,” Corey explains. “We also only book adventures every two hours to give us and guests time to social distance. This extra time allows us to thoroughly clean the lobby, restrooms, common areas and escape room between visitors. Safety is our top priority and we want everyone to be safe while visiting us.”
Of course, both businesses have had to think outside of the box in order to survive. “We couldn't expect crowds of people to come flooding back into our escape rooms, a lot of our patrons are still being cautious and we respect that,” says Corey from Escape618. “We have reached out to groups of people such as Church Youth Groups, Business Groups and Pop Culture Groups to get interest growing, we have a Dungeons & Dragons Group coming to play in our Haunted Lobby. Our aim is to provide a clean, safe and fun place to play these games with a theme and some of our magic to spice up their game.” Johnson echoes the same sentiment about Code Rulers. “W
So the next time you’re sitting around bored, look into paying a visit to a local escape room. Not only are you helping to support a small business, but you’ll also experience something that will bring a little joy and create a memory…and who doesn’t need a little joy right now?