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Lisa and David Spira: my buddies and the escape room experts
Lisa and David Spira: my buddies and the escape room experts
Lisa and David Spira

Escape Room Tips from the Pros!

How to bust out of an escape room in record time. Plus, recommendations for some of the greatest in North America.

Lisa and David Spira founded Room Escape Artist in 2014. They also produce escape room toursa conference, and The Reality Escape Pod (where Neil has been one of many wonderful guests!).

March 19, 2023 10:43 pm

I’m an enormous fan of escape rooms. For the uninitiated, here’s how they work: You and your friends are set on a puzzle-filled adventure for a set amount of time (usually an hour) and must work together to get out. Envision this: You’re all trapped inside a runaway subway train, trying to stop it before it crashes. Or you’re attempting to bust out of a prison cell, Shawshank Redemption-style. Or you’re robbers inside a bank in the Wild West, scrambling to run away with the loot within a time limit. You’re thrown in with nothing, save your pals and your wits, as you get immersed in an interactive story. I’ve been to at least 50…a pittance compared to today’s very special guests, Lisa and David Spira, the Jedi Counsel of the escape room world. We’ve played a few games together, and I’ve been on their podcast, too. They’ve been blogging about and reviewing escape rooms since they started booming in North America in 2014, so they’re the perfect people to sit down with and get tips on how to escape, and what a few of the most interesting ones around are. I did just that. (You’re welcome.) -NPH 


1. Talk More If You’re Shy, Less If You’re Talkative

David: Escape rooms reward you for observing and communicating with one another and collaborating. So, the best thing you can do is, if you’re an introvert and you have an idea, or you see something important, speak up! Or, if you’re an extrovert, try letting everyone else speak a bit. Figure out what your personality type is, and then make sure you are adjusting yourself to be the best teammate you can be.

2. Don’t Get Distracted

Lisa: If you open something, anything — a drawer, a compartment, or the whole wall swings open — and there’s a new space, don’t get distracted by shiny objects. In other words, things that are obviously important, like a key, for example. Search the whole space to make sure you didn’t leave anything behind. Or if your teammates grab the shiny object, you can put it where it goes. But afterwards, take another, thorough look through the space. Something may have been left behind.

3. Put Nothing in Your Pockets 

David: In escape rooms, your pockets don’t exist. Do not put anything in your pockets. Because the worst thing you can do is find something, go, “This is important, I’m going to keep this,” and then put it in your pocket. Nobody else can see it, and you’ll forget that it’s there. Now your team is burning time and unable to solve something because the most important thing has vanished into your pocket.

4. Accept Hints!

Lisa: Hints are there as a safety rail to help you. Not everything is going to click for every single person every single time. David and I still take hints, even after playing as many rooms as we have. Hints are there for when the energy of the room has dipped, and for when you’re not having fun. Hints are there to make the fun start again, and to get the group back on track to figuring out how to escape in time.

5. Embrace It 

David: Have fun with it; don’t be too cool for it. Just surrender to the experience. 

Not just puzzles: escape rooms tell gripping stories
Not just puzzles: escape rooms tell gripping stories


The Man From Beyond: Houdini Séance Escape Room, Houston

David: This is my favorite escape room in the United States.

Lisa: It tells an intimate story and the game design is connected to that. It’s a beautiful, theatrical experience that also happens to be a wonderful escape room. We never expected this experience — a séance with the spirit of Harry Houdini — to make us connect with a character on such an emotional level.

The Storyteller’s Secret, Boston

Lisa: This one tells the kind of story you never imagine you’ll find in an escape room by taking you through the mind and legacy of a novelist. It’s intimate, and the technology and design are really impressive.

The Edison Escape Room, San Francisco

Lisa: The Edison Room is a technological marvel that will continue to surprise you as more and more of the game is revealed. It will floor you.

David: On top of it all, it’s built inside the Palace of Fine Arts from the 1915 World’s Fair, and the building is super cool.

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