Take America’s Escape Game and Revolution Offroad as two prime examples. We’ve been out testing a variety of choices this summer for when the kids are a bit older (in our case, the ‘kids’ are 18, 20 and 23!), and this pair of alternative attractions definitely gets extremely high marks with us.
Let’s start with America’s Escape Game, one of several escape-game type choices in Orlando these days, and definitely one of the best. Located two doors from the Official Visitor Center on International Drive (at the junction with Austrian Row, but behind the big Boston Lobster Feast restaurant), it is easy to find and very inviting.
We tried out their game ‘Pandemic’ when it first opened a couple of years ago but were keen to sample one of their other games (they have five at any one time, and add and change games periodically), so we signed up for ‘Crisis at 1600,’ a full-on missile emergency in The White House itself.
If you’ve never played an escape game (and, if you haven’t, what’s kept you!), the basic idea is that you are challenged to find a series of clues that solve a themed puzzle within an allotted time frame (usually an hour), and you have to work as a team to unravel the mystery that surrounds you.
For ‘Crisis at 1600,’ the five-member Team Veness was paired with a family of four from North Carolina and charged with averting an international disaster. After a briefing from our ‘handler,’ Chandler, we were sent into the escape room to solve the crisis.
The countdown was on, and we immediately set about solving the first clues on a set of presidential photographs. The photo frames opened to reveal keys behind them, which opened locks, which led to more clues, which led to a second room, which…well, you get the idea.
One of the challenges included firing a Nerf gun at a target to open a secondary room where the real missile crisis was under way, and we had to unscramble a series of puzzles to crack the code and halt the countdown.
It was breathless stuff and the 60 minutes seemed to pass in half that time, leaving us scrambling for the final solution. Fortunately, you are allowed to ask up to three clues from the ‘handler,’ and Chandler was able to point us in the right direction.
Unhappily for us, the final five minutes slipped away with our team unable to solve the final step to halting the missile firing. Sorry, world. We really did try, though!
The full puzzle included a crossword, a library of books that needed to be re-arranged to spell out a message and a map of the world with cross-references that provided numbers to unlock one of the many padlocks in the main room. There were at least 10 challenges in all, some of them requiring multi-person solutions (hence the need for a team hierarchy and a leader to detail responsibilities), and we had an absolute blast.
OK, so we didn’t Save The Day, but the bottom line was we all found it terrific fun and got on really well with the family from North Carolina (mum, dad and two teenage children). Our boys insisted it definitely got their attention and was something they would do again in a heartbeat.
We finished with a fun group photo of our full Team, with a variety of props. Cue another win for Orlando!
Our next stop was Revolution Offroad, the outdoor activity centre in Lake County (just over 10 miles off Highway 27 on the way to Clermont). Again, we have been here several times in the past to ride their quad bikes (or ATVs), which are enormous fun for the 16-and-older crowd, but this time we were keen to try something new – clay pigeon shooting.
This activity was only installed a few months ago and features the chance to shoot modern, 12-gauge shotguns at clay targets that are fired into the air from an automatic dispenser.
It was all conducted under the watchful eye of one of RO’s fully qualified instructors, in this case Justin, a former US Army sniper and weapons expert, and it felt extremely safe. Only one gun was active at any one time in any of the five firing positions, and the three of us took it in turns to fire either single or successive shots at the various targets (which exploded with a very satisfying splatter when hit!).
We each got a pouch of 20 shells and fired in bursts of four at a time, giving us a turn at each of the five stations, which were ranged in a line parallel to the firing dispenser, hence Position 1 was closest to the dispenser and gave the shortest reaction time, while Position 5 was furthest away and afforded more time to track the target and pull the trigger.
Justin was wonderfully clear and precise about what we needed to do (as well as being full of anecdotes about his time in the Army in Afghanistan, where he worked on dangerous IEDs, amongst other things), and he made us feel very comfortable and, above all, safe with the shotguns.
Simon’s two boys were the stars of the show, with the oldest just edging out the younger for most targets hit, but it was a close-run thing. Once again, it got a big thumbs up from all participants, but be aware this activity is for ages 18 and older only.
Revolution Offroad is located within 240 pristine acres of prime Florida countryside and woodland, with a large, central lake that makes it as inviting and scenic as they come. As well as the shooting range, there is also archery and bass fishing, while the wheeled fun includes ‘Mucky Ducks,’ drive-them-yourself eight-wheeled amphibious vehicles that can take a driver and up to three passengers.
It is a fabulous place to visit, but our advice is to book for the mornings during the summer as it can get fiendishly hot. But, for a taste of the real Florida, it takes some beating, and British owners Kevin and Audrey Jowett have a real love for the countryside, so you’ll definitely want to put this on your own Action List for Orlando.
You just have to take your pick from the many attractions on offer!
If you have questions about America’s Escape Game, Revolution Offroad or anything else about the wonders of Florida, be sure to go online and ask Susan and Simon on the ATD forums.
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