Los Angeles

The Most Exciting Escape Rooms in LA

Maze Rooms Los Angeles
Maze Rooms Los Angeles
Maze Rooms Los Angeles

Escape rooms are popping up in just about every major US city, and thanks to Hollywood’s stacks of storytellers and set designers, the trend’s infiltrated LA as well. There are now dozens of places throughout the city where teams of players can solve puzzles and use clues to escape a (temporarily) locked and painstakingly themed room before the timer runs out.
 
The premise might sound challenging at first, but escape rooms are some of the coolest things to do in LA; they’re seriously fun for groups of friends or as team-building for a small company, or as a date that’ll let you know whether or not you can actually trust the person you swiped right for. We tested a slew of rooms across the city to come up with the following checklist of must-try escape experiences in LA — gather up a few of your favorite people, and start sleuthin’.
 
(Note: New rooms open constantly, sometimes taking the place of others, so call ahead to make sure the one you want to do is still around.)

Stash House
Stash House
Stash House

Stash House

Koreatown
Standout room: There’s only one
In a nondescript K-town building, you’ll be initiated into a drug gang by a crew expecting you and your teammates to find all the baggies of dope and flush ‘em down a toilet in a locked room before the cops bash down the door. Totally immersive and entirely on-theme, Stash House is the rare escape room with replay value, thanks to an in-game decision that sends various groups in different directions.

60 Out Echo Park

Echo Park
Standout room: The Cartel
60Out is a multiple-location franchise spread across the city, and their Echo Park location’s completely devoted to a game they call “The Cartel: DEA Undercover.” It’s almost the opposite of Stash House, in that you’re an undercover agent who needs to escape from the drug gang you’ve infiltrated. Our group got gummed up on some pretty frustrating stuff in this room, but the experience ends with a bang that makes it all worthwhile.

Evil Genius

Mid-City
Standout Rooms: Occam’s Apartment/Norcross Art Gallery
The two escape rooms at Evil Genius can be played back-to-back — and that’s what you’re going to want to do, since the story (involving an art thief framing you) crosses over between them. The rooms might look bare-bones, but that’s part of the appeal: keys, clues, and even doors are hidden in ingenius spots.

ESC Escape Rooms
ESC Escape Rooms
ESC Escape Rooms

ESCRooms

North Hollywood
Standout Room: Nuclear Option
Full disclosure: Thrillist contributor Wilder Shaw and his dad are the guys behind this new escape room, which is located in two shipping containers behind a small theater in North Hollywood. It’s not just nepotism that locked their spot on the list, though: the room’s full of pop-culture in-jokes and the setup (you’re tasked with disarming a nuclear weapon) is one that’s perfect for the escape room countdown trope. Just try not to MacGruber yourself.

QuestRoom

Koreatown
Standout Room: Red Giant
Though their Cannibal’s Den room is also pretty great, QuestRoom’s Red Giant has got a big ‘ol twist that would be terrible to give away, but literally breaks just about every rule of escape room protocol, and makes it a total must-play. The Indiana Jones-esque story (and the very, very cool special effects that go along with it) are presented in a way that’s as immersive as possible; you’re definitely going to Instagram your adventure-seeker photo when you’re done.

Get The F Out Room

Downtown
Standout Room: The Virus
Both of the rooms at Get The F Out are fun, but The Virus gets our pick over the more challenging Experiment for its interesting method of clue-giving: with a real-live person acting a part that totally makes sense in the story, sitting in the room with you. You and your team are scientists who’ve been exposed to a deadly virus and are tasked with finding an antidote in time; there’s some high-tech sorcery hidden throughout, as well as some low-tech puzzles that take serious brainpower to solve.

Hatch
Hatch
Hatch

Hatch Escape

Mid-City
Standout Room: Lab Rat
Lab Rat unquestionably has the highest production value of any of the rooms we’ve mentioned so far. You’ll start off locked in a cage in which you are the rats being experimented on by an evil doctor, and (if you can get out of that first section, which is harder than it seems), you’ll be thrown into a madcap maze that takes true teamwork to solve.

Virtual Room

Hollywood
Standout Room: Chapter I
Bordering on being a tourist trap, Virtual Room is also LA’s first all-virtual-reality escape room (as you can probably tell by the name), which gives it sort of a more kid-friendly appeal than some of its competitors. This also gives it the ability to transport you and your team to different worlds, which is part of the fun as you solve puzzles involving dinosaurs, mummies, and the gravity on the Moon. Note: There are multiple experiences here, and your team will have to choose between them on the spot.

60Out Hollywood

Hollywood
Standout Room: Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
60Out’s Hollywood location has three rotating rooms — and, when it first opened, the Jumanji room seemed like just a temporary promotional tie in to the (actually pretty good) Rock reboot. It’s become semi-permanent, though, and the fact of the matter is it’s actually one of the best escape rooms in LA, with stunning set design, slick special effects, and puzzles that require different players to take on different avatars from the movie. Clever!

Escape Room Catalina
Escape Room Catalina
Escape Room Catalina

Catalina Room Escape

Avalon
Standout Room: There’s only one
The appeal of this one-room business lies in its simplicity. It’s on Catalina Island, which means it’s not going to be as sophisticated as its mainland counterparts, but if you’re on the island and are an escape room aficionado it’s totally worth your time: the puzzles’ homemade feel are refreshing after the whammo-bammo aspect of some of the other rooms, and there’s a strong logical element that’ll make you proud of each clue you get correct. 

The Basement

Sylmar
Standout Room: The Courtyard
Escape room enthusiasts rightly love all four of the Basement rooms for their attention to detail and their serial story, which keeps adding new “chapters” as the business expands. The latest, room “The Courtyard,” is a tech-and-actor-heavy offering that’s fully immersive, and continues the story of Edward Tandy — a man with a peculiar love of taxidermy. Beware: he may be coming for you.

Maze Rooms Hollywood

Hollywood
Standout Room: World of Illusions
Similar to 60Out, Maze Rooms are actually all individually owned rooms under the same umbrella, so there’s not really a standard of greatness across the board. That said, one that most escape enthusiasts can agree on is World Of Illusions, with circus and magic tropes playing a part in challenging, technologically impressive puzzles.

Jeff Miller is fully addicted to escape rooms and wants to play all of them. Did he miss a great one? Let him know at @jeffmillerla on Instagram.

 

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Los Angeles

How to Spend a Weekend in Topanga Canyon

Nature and the arts collide in this beloved canyon community.

Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains and known for its vibrant creative community, Topanga is one of Los Angeles’s most prized destinations for art and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And while LA boasts its own sprawling landscape of fun to tap into, you’d be remiss to miss a chance to explore this tucked-away collection of state parks, and cafes, and restaurants-especially when it all rests just 20 minutes away from the city. From a quaint caf√© with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.

Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray

Friday

Book dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray
Owner Lucille Yaney opened this iconic restaurant in 1975 after spotting the property on a drive through the canyon with her late husband Ralph, and it’s safe to say she had a good eye. The land perfectly fits into Yaney’s vision of a romantic, alfresco dining space with tables tucked into cozy nooks and gazebos, all beneath canapes and fairy lights. Today, Yaney co-owns the venue with executive chef consultant Brad Miller. Together, they continue to fulfil the restaurant’s original mission to serve pure, natural foods reflective of the season’s best. That approach appears in dishes like 8-Hour Black Vinegar Braised Short Rib with creamy rosemary polenta, duck bacon Brussels sprouts, and caramelized onion and fig jam; Roasted Mushroom Toast with oyster mushrooms and sherry tarragon cream; and Beets & Whipped Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Consider the carbs here. Pastas and sauces are made in-house and from scratch, as is the bread (available regular or gluten-free), an order of which you won’t want to miss. Check out the wine list, too, which offers a robust organic and biodynamic selection that has helped the restaurant garner some impressive accolades in recent years.

Check into Topanga Canyon Inn
In addition to plenty of excellent Airbnbs available to rent in the Canyon, there’s Topanga Canyon Inn, a charming bed and breakfast comprised of two Mediterranean-style buildings-Casa Blanca and Casa Rosa-both built by the owners. Guests can enjoy bespoke design details in each room, along with gorgeous mountain views from their own private balcony. Come morning, join other travellers for breakfast, served daily at Casa Rosa.

Saturday

Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and caf√©, where ample (and busy) outdoor seating offers some of the Canyon’s best views. A full breakfast and lunch menu is available (complete with hearty orders like eggs Benedicts, soups, and club sandwiches), but for lighter morning fare, spring for a pastry and any of their specialty drinks, such as the turmeric latte or Moroccan mocha.

Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock

Hike Topanga State Park
Spanning 11,000 acres and 36 miles of trails, Topanga State Park is the largest state park within the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the world’s largest parks within city limits. Visitors can access the grounds via more than 60 entrances. Once on the trails, enjoy sweeping vistas while exploring the region’s range of plants, habitats, and wildlife, including several resident bird species.

Grab lunch at Topanga Living Café
Guided by their Topanga upbringing and need for a community gathering spot with great eats, sibling team Agustina Ferguson and Bayu Suryawan opened this daytime eatery in 2016. Ever since, locals and visitors have found refuge in the caf√©’s warm, airy space and nourishing, hyper-fresh fare-all California-inspired with global influences. Check it out in plates like the Island Style, a breakfast salad with Balinese corn fritters, a poached egg, and house-made chilli jam, or the tacos (Baja Fish or Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, or Kabocha Squash), made-to-order and served on handmade tortillas. If you’re seeking something shareable, try the Farmers Market Crudite, a seemingly humble order whose bright beet hummus reminds us that eating your vegetables is, indeed, very cool. And take a drink to-go. The team here takes great pride in their coffee (organic espresso, courtesy of their iconic pink La Marzocco machine) and a lineup of made-to-order smoothies, juices, and teas. Shop your way through town
Visitors can stroll through the town centre’s most popular shops for various fun finds, including Moona Star, Pebbles, and Topanga Homegrown. Be sure to stock up on specialty, local snacks at Canyon Gourmet and satiate your sweet tooth while you’re at it. The organic soft-serve there is a must. Pro tip: Top it with any of their artisanal syrups for a winning combo, namely, the vanilla with cardamom.

Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Catch a show at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
This beloved open-air theatre has hosted productions for decades and is recognized worldwide for its Shakespeare interpretations. In addition to its annual summer season, which includes works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the venue hosts concerts, rehearsals, and classes throughout the year for budding actors and playwrights of all ages.

Snag a slice at Endless Colour
This family-run pizza joint specializes in from-scratch pies with clever topping combinations (think purple potatoes, fontina, and truffle oil in the Purple Molly Potato or spinach, leeks, and goat cheese in the Super Greens). Bring some friends, order a pie or two, and check out the drinks list, which includes offbeat options like orange wines and hard kombucha.

Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery

Sunday

Check out The Canyon Bakery’s “Sunday Funday”
Situated on the grounds of the aforementioned Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, this bakery specializes in naturally leavened breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies using locally sourced, whole grain flours. There’s a takeout window on Sundays, from 9:30 am until the bakery sells out. A strong following lines up for favourites, such as whole grain croissants and gluten-free pizza, so be sure to arrive early to get your fill.

Try tacos to-go at La Chingona
On your way out of town, grab some tacos at La Chingona, where a team puts forth fresh, organic, gluten- and dairy-free tacos. Orders range to include options like grass-fed beef (carne asada), shrimp (wild-caught), and soy chorizo and can be fashioned into plates beyond tacos, too (think tostadas, salads, and bowls). Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; this taco stand sees good demand. Plan accordingly, pending your travels, especially to savour an order or two of the churros.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

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