Make a Day of It: Escape Games PDX (Portlandia Room)

Kelly, Joe, Marilyn, Teresa, and Geli after we busted out! Also, this beer wall contains no clues, it's just cool.

Run Oregon loves running - that's no surprise. But we also love the Pacific Northwest and all that it has to offer. Running is a part of us, but it does not fully define us. In our new "Make a Day of It" feature, we aim to showcase some great local non-running events and highlight where to run and how to make the most of your experience!

The next installment of this series is Escapism Games PDX, a group puzzle-solving "Escape the Room" experience:

As you probably know, going for runs with people is a great way to get to know them pretty well. You can chat away the miles, you see each other reach for their goals and struggle through challenges. It's not usually a team sport and even when it is individual performance is still a big factor. That's probably why we are all addicted to Escape Rooms: they're a fun way to spend time with friends, support each other and help each other out, but it's 100% a team activity. Recently, a five-person team of Run Oregon bloggers attempted to escape the Portlandia Room at Escape Games PDX. Located in NW Portland near Montgomery Park, Escape Games is just a few minutes off where Highway 30 pulls off from the I-405. That's why we highly recommend that before you head to your room, you get your run in on some of the less-traveled trails in Forest Park. One good trailhead to hit is the one at NW Salzman for a nice, peaceful out-and-back. Logging a few trail miles will clear your head so you can focus on the next part of your day: figuring out the puzzles and escaping your room!

While a number of escape rooms utilize “pop-up” venues or vacant spaces throughout town, letting the area and the building set the tone, Escape Games has an actual retail location in which their custom-built escape rooms keep their secrets locked up. It’s nice to pull up to a building with the business name on a big sign, know you’re parking in the right place, and have a dry place to wait for your appointment.

Signing up is easy: You just visit the Escape Games PDX website, select the number of participants, and which room you want to play. If you book the whole room (take all the slots), you automatically save 15%. Otherwise, the price is just $30 per person. So if you have four people, it’s $120 total. If you don’t book the whole room, there’s always the chance that other people will be scheduled with you, making an exciting new challenge because you’ll be working with people whose communication style will be different – which can actually be a benefit!

Kelly’s notes:

I’ll make my part short. Immediately after we escaped, before we pulled out of the parking lot, I’d bought another room pass. It was that awesome. Tip: Check out Groupon for special deals!

Joe’s notes:

After experiencing my second escape room with my Run Oregon colleagues, I can safely say I’m hooked. These things are a lot of fun! The Escape Games PDX Portlandia room was less mysterious than the first one we tried. Instead of being greeted by an actor with a vaguely eastern European accent, this time Kelly and I arrived to find Teresa, Geli, and Marilyn waiting in a brightly lit waiting area, watching an episode of the room’s namesake show.

Soon the hostess/owner walked in and started giving us the lowdown on how the game worked. The instructions were very straightforward, and it was clear that the emphasis would be on puzzle solving within the room itself, without the overall spooky atmosphere surrounding our previous experience.

Instead of being led into a darkened room with our eyes closed, our hostess actually gave us more simple information inside the room and answered any questions we had. We were told we could ask for up to five hints via the two-way radio (in contrast to the other room, where we used an old-fashioned telephone). We could also get “warm/cold” style help if we were temporarily stumped (pun intended!)

After final instructions, we were locked in and got to work, scattering to each corner of the room, examining every available object. Some things immediately revealed themselves as important, and a domino-effect of puzzle-solving ensued, as everyone seemed to be working on something and making progress on finding the next thing.

Looking back on the whirlwind experience, I don’t think I really solved anything directly myself, but I did discover things, make helpful suggestions, offer second opinions, and help gather and organize objects, while the other Run Oregon brainiacs did the actual solving. There were times when others solved something while I was working on something else, and I wasn’t sure what they did or how they did it!

But that kind of division of labor and teamwork is a big part of the fun of these escape room games. It occurred to me that they are similar to urban adventure / scavenger hunt races that take place throughout an entire city, but conveniently contained within a small room. That’s especially true of the Portlandia Room, with its theme of Portland history, locations, and institutions.

Somehow, through all the frantic solving, we made it out with about three minutes to spare. I can’t wait to try another one of these!

Marilyn’s notes:

This was my second-ever escape room, and it was AWESOME. The owner was great, really personable, and you could tell she really wanted to create a great experience. The quality of the props was great (local artists were commissioned to construct some of the pieces), and I LOVED the Portlandia theme (but FYI, you don’t have to be familiar with Portland or the TV show to escape–everything you need is in the room). It was fun having the room just for the five of us Run Oregon bloggers. It would be really interesting to see how the experience is different if your group is paired up with another group of people you’ve never met (which is possible, unless you book the entire room)!

While our time wasn’t quite fast enough to make the Wall of Fame (next time, guys!), we did escape–Escape Games PDX says that the success rate is about 37% for their rooms. I definitely want to try their other rooms: Sherlock’s Secret, and Prison Break.

Teresa’s notes:

I’m pretty much addicted to escape rooms, after just a few, but I almost declined the Run Oregon challenge, since it was past my bedtime on a Sunday night. I’m so relieved I sucked it up and met my blogger buddies because the Portlandia Room at Escape Games PDX was my favorite. It was bright and clean and focused on puzzle solving, instead of scare tactics or actors trying to creep you out. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the other escape rooms, I just thought this room was the perfect fit for me.

I loved the focus on Portland with local beers on the wall and all sorts of  Rose City flair. I’d love to list all the details, but the spoilers might be frowned upon. I felt right at home, like it was my own little loft and I was impressed with their creativity, attention to details and customer service. It’s a given that our blogger team made it pretty amazing. I spent a good portion of the time laughing, when I wasn’t jumping up and down that we found a new clue or unlocked another box. I think every Portlander should do the Portlandia Room. I loved that it pulled in the geography, history and teams, not to mention the little television show. I can’t wait to try out their other rooms, past my bedtime or not.

Geli’s notes:

This was my first escape room experience, and it was lots of fun! At first I was hesitant to commit to participating since the thought of being trapped makes me anxious, but even though the door was locked from the outside, there was never a moment where I felt truly trapped. Talking to my teammates, I’m glad that this Portlandia Room was my first experience, since I’m not sure how well I would have handled a scary setting.

Before entering the room we were given a walkie-talkie to call the game facilitator for hints, and she also showed us the cameras where she would be watching our progress on CCTV. After the door locked behind us and the 60 minute countdown timer had started, I was a bit at a loss as to where to start, so I observed what my more experienced teammates were doing, and soon figured out that I had to look for number combinations and codes that could lead me to number combinations. I kept glancing at the countdown timer, only to have Kelly shout “Don’t look at the clock!” 🙂 It was easy to get so focused on one part of a puzzle that I probably missed a lot of the other puzzle solving that was going on. I felt that we were able to take suggestions well, even though the game facilitator gave us a few unsolicited hints when we kept insisting to pursue a dead end! In the end, we made it out with almost four minutes to spare. What a fun evening, and I look forward to trying the Sherlock themed room some day.


About Kelly Barten (1152 Articles)
I started the Run Oregon blog in February 2007, because I felt like running in Oregon and SW Washington deserved more positive coverage. I also wanted to level the playing field so that small, non-profit races could compete with big events; and to support LOCAL race organizers. I'm a Creighton Bluejay (undergrad) and an Oregon Duck (Sports Marketing MBA), and I live in Tigard with my husband and two kids. My "real job" is working for an incredibly awesome math textbook company doing marketing and production.

3 Comments on Make a Day of It: Escape Games PDX (Portlandia Room)

  1. The entire team at Escape Games PDX would like to thank RunOregon and our five AWESOME escape artists! You guys were so much fun to have and we look forward to having you all back to try our other rooms and seeing some more of the running crew. We might even have to try out that recommended run at Forest Park as a team when the sun starts shining!

  2. Great :)!!! Escape games PDX is a nice opportunity to make new friends through game. Surely going with my friends and play escape game. Last time i enjoyed and played with my family at beat the clock nashville.

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