The Franklin Institute debuted its Intergalactic Escape on June 14. Their second Escape Room is Island Escape which officially opens to the public on June 28. For those not familiar with Escape Rooms, have no fear, I’ve got you covered. A typical Escape Room is a game where you and others are locked in a room. You have to use critical thinking skills to solve puzzles, find clues, and escape before your time is up. I specifically used the word “typical” for a reason because the two new attractions at The Franklin Institute’s are far from typical. Intergalactic Escape and Island Escape shatter any preconceived notion about Escape Rooms due to their next generation technology. Not to mention incredibly engaging designs and a well-crafted story. Together, it creates a suspenseful and fun experience for people of all ages to enjoy; and more importantly, make guest want to come back and do it multiple times.
I was fortunate enough to attend a preview of these new Escape Rooms and even played Intergalactic Escape. Both Escape Rooms are made for groups of 6 to 12 guests to do together. Naturally, I assembled my own team for this space-themed adventure. I enlisted the help of my long time friend from college, Carl L. Siler because he’s got a knack for computers and all things techy. I selected my friend Tiffany Padilla, because she is a creative whose out-of-the-box thinking is perfect for puzzles. Last but certainly not least, my seven year old son Ian Hawk. His youthful energy was a major factor in keeping the group’s spirits high. We were also grouped with other guests from different Philly media outlets.
Intergalactic began with each member receiving a wristband that assigned the members with a special role. Escape Room designer Elisabeth Garson says this high-tech feature was created to keep people from being “wallflowers.” After scanning our bands we entered a wormhole to space a.k.a. the Escape Room experience. I can’t go into spoilers because it’s really an experience you want to walk into fresh. What I can tell you is if you are a sci-fi geek you are going to be hit with references that will make your nerd heart happy.
My favorite element of Intergalactic is the amount of oxygen we have in the 60 minutes we have to escape. (They don’t literally cut your oxygen. It’s just part of the story.) My friend Tiffany mentioned at the end it gave her “anxiety” but also motivated her to work with others to solve puzzles. That small detail combined with everyone’s individual roles created an atmosphere of teamwork. My seven year-old son had no problems working with an older woman, a teen and myself to come up with code combinations. Awkwardness or shyness originally going in was virtually eliminated by the time the first puzzle started.
As the group and I went from room to room I was in awe of the level of creativity. Steel Owl and Garson’s fun and whimsy could be felt with each puzzle. According to Elisabeth Garson, ideas were constantly tested (some even given by the staff of the museum) and even the ending was changed four times. Garson also included Philly “Easter Eggs” in both Escape Rooms.
Both new Escape Rooms feature high-tech elements that creates a sense of ease. There’s no need to worry about holding onto a key or physical clue. Both rooms are tonally different; Island is like a party and Intergalactic was like the Hunger Games. The technology in both fit seamlessly in. More credit to Garson and Steel Owl for truly designing something to such a high standard.
After several rooms and puzzles the group and I escaped with just three minutes to spare. At the end, we took commemorative photos that we could later retrieve off The Franklin Institute Escape Rooms’ Facebook Page. The experience was invigorating with many exclaiming they wanted to do it again. My friend Carl, whose role was the captain stated, “It was really fun and I will definitely be telling my other friends about this!”
President & CEO of the Franklin Institute; Larry Dubinski said in an address that “the Escape Rooms here at The Franklin Institute not only incorporate skills needed in the field of science but in every field today.” Dubinski is absolutely correct. The Escape Rooms at the Franklin Institute require teamwork, critical thinking, creative thinking, leadership, and friendship. All things needed in our day to day lives. What differentiates Island and Intergalactic from other Escape Rooms is the ability to combine it with groundbreaking technology and the visionary work of Steel Owl. The Escape Rooms at the Franklin Institute never felt like it was competing with other Escape Rooms that have typically have horror elements. It simply created its own unique lane that will be hard for others to match.
I highly recommend both Intergalactic Escape and Island Escape to anyone looking for a new experience in the city. No matter your age or your experience there is something for everyone to enjoy.
The Escape Rooms at the Franklin Institute
Intergalactic Escape & Island Escape are both OPEN NOW
9:30 a.m – 5:00p.m.
The Franklin Institute, 222 N. 20th Street 19103
Tickets for non-members are $28 not including general admission to the museum
Members of the museum do get a discount on their tickets but also does not include general admission to the museum