Escape to Grover Beach and beyond-By Donna Polizzi

While visiting the Netherlands my friends and I went to a place called the “Exit Game.” This was an escape room game facility that was more fun than I could have ever imagined. It was a super-challenging, team building, brain-straining, blast.

After arriving home from my trip to Europe and sharing my favorite experiences with a few friends, I was informed that we have something very similar to the Exit Game, called “The Locked Inn,” right here in Grover Beach.

I couldn’t wait to gather a group of my closest friends and go to The Locked Inn, which is owned and operated by Patrick and Mariah Eaves, both Central Coast natives. The couple opened The Locked Inn, a live escape-room experience, in 2015. There truly are few other places on the Central Coast that will get your brain racing to this level.

Originally, escape rooms were meant for online gamers, but have now evolved into full-fledged, active participation activities.

These types of escape games are addicting. I was thrilled to find one on the coast and was told that people travel long distances to try to make their escape.

The live escape rooms are a rush and I can say that the two that I went to, had no similarities, other than being extremely fun. I can’t give away local secrets, but I will tell you that in the Netherlands, I was put into a room with seven other people and we were all immediately handcuffed to a huge, steel wheel hanging from the ceiling and our host threw the key 20 feet away and said “good luck” as he left us and locked the door. It can be an hour of your time that will be spent having fun with your friends and family, that is unlike anything else that you can experience.

You will be searching for clues, keys, tools, solving puzzles, and trying to figure out how to unlock the door to freedom, with a time limit that adds additional pressure. There are plenty of surprises along the way! I’d love to tell you more, but that would be like telling you the end of a movie.

“Guests often ask if it’s scary, or if they’ll feel claustrophobic. The simple answer is, no. Though it is normal to be a little nervous with anticipation before your first visit, once you enter the room, you’ll soon forget about being scared and find yourself immersed in playing the game” Patrick explained.

While many escape rooms are corporations or franchises, The Locked Inn is family run. All puzzles are designed and built by Mariah and Patrick. The guests will have a unique experience, unlike any other escape room.

If you go, do yourself a huge favor and invite your smartest friends. It will take brainpower to find your way out of the Locked Inn, during the one hour that is allotted.

It is very challenging. Out of the last 200 groups that attempted to escape the current puzzle, only nine have met the challenge and made it out within the one-hour mark. You need basic math skills, abstract reasoning, puzzle-solving attention to detail, and most of all, excellent communication with the other group members on your team.

“Yes, it is challenging. But, that’s what makes it fun. If it was easy, everyone would get out, and most guests would get out very early. We know our guests work hard for their money, and we want them to get the most for it. We’ve designed the game so that it will take most groups 60 minutes or more to complete (with no additional clues), so most teams will not escape on their first visit. But work hard, work together, work smart and you may be one of the groups to earn an escape in under 60 minutes. Groups DO escape, will yours?”, Mariah challenged.

“This was an exciting experience, definitely a great way to spend an evening. It is well worth the price, for 60 minutes of my life that won’t be forgotten,” stated Louden Jeffers.

If you feel the need to escape, give The Locked Inn a try.

Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys2TheCoast.com. Keys 2 The Coast is a travel resource for Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties, offering recommendations on “local choices” for the best places to wine, dine and explore.

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