Escape rooms appear to be popping up throughout the area and Plymouth residents don’t need to go far to try one out. Since Lee Tufte opened the city’s first facility last year, Zero Hour Escape Rooms has been a popular teambuilding experience for local companies and the rooms fill up with families and friends on the weekends. The game concept challenges players to search for clues and solve puzzles to escape a room before a clock runs out.
Tufte’s first escape room experience was with his entire family in Florida. “I realized everyone was participating and having fun and I found it unique that you can have five generations in one room and everyone’s having fun,” he says. After that outing, Tufte used his entrepreneurial background and business degree to figure out the industry and make a go of it. Tufte first opened a location in Duluth in June 2016 before opening his second business in Plymouth.
Orono resident Wendy Huml has been an escape room enthusiast since she became aware of them about a year and a half ago. She and her son, Charlie, 18, have done many escape rooms within the last year. “It’s one of the most fun things to do in the Twin Cities,” she says.
Huml says Zero Hour is the best escape room experience around. “It’s hands down our favorite in the Twin Cities.” She loves that the rooms are well-built and thoughtfully put together, and that the family-run business has “super friendly” staff. Since she’s going with her son, Huml also appreciates that the Plymouth escape rooms are safe and clean.
There are four rooms at Zero Hour, though Tufte has more in the works. Winter is his busiest time, so the newer offerings might wait until warmer weather. Gold Rush, Prison Break, Mad Tea Party and Changes in Latitude are the current games. The latter is the latest, and Tufte painstakingly recreated a Florida setting for the room. He rented a U-Haul to bring décor from Florida — a big shark head, furniture, old flooring, bamboo and thatching. Huml was impressed with the room, having been to the Florida restaurant on which the room is modeled.
Tufte is enthusiastic about his newest creation. “What’s neat about that one is I was able to do a ton of technology in it. Lasers, other types of sensors that sense movement, Arduinos to pick up a rhythm, vibrations that have to be in a specific order. Those are the kind of things that really create that ‘wow factor,’” he says.
The furnishings for the Gold Rush game all came from northern Minnesota, Tufte says. “We literally built out an entire cabin with a forest and a cave.” For Prison Break, players start off in handcuffs and jumpsuits. “It really transports you to somewhere you hopefully have never been,” Huml says. Prison Break is Zero Hour’s biggest game at 2,000 square feet, and can accommodate larger parties. Most games can handle 10 people, but up to 14 can play if you make your reservation over the phone.
The Mad Tea Party is designed for one to eight players, which makes it a little different from the others. This is Huml’s favorite game at Zero Hour. “It had lots of physical puzzles versus looking at maps and reading,” she says, trying to explain without giving away any secrets.
The games are all about puzzles and problem-solving, but it’s the setting that can really make the experience feel genuine. “They spend a lot of time putting them together and it shows,” Huml says. Reviewers on Trip Advisor and other sites agree, posting enthusiastic ratings. “We shoot for quality. All our games are outstanding; [the] immersion is very authentic,” Tufte says.
Tickets are $29.99 per person. The newest room is $34.95, and the age range is 10 and up.