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Hometown Tourist: The Great Escape

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Sometimes big adventures can happen in the smallest of places, and The Great Escape of La Crosse provides plenty of room to explore. 

It functions on a simple premise: teams get one hour to escape rooms, armed only with three clues, teamwork and brain power. This seemingly strange concept has already proved to be a gigantic success throughout the world, and The Great Escape’s Experience Curator (owner), Toby Farley, thought it was time La Crosse residents could join the fun.   

"I’ve been here for over 20 years and have done just about everything and anything," Farley said. "There’s a lot to do, but there’s isn’t a lot to do. It’s a very weird conundrum we have here, and we’ve got a population that I think is craving for cool stuff."

The Great Escape of La Crosse is a place where that "cool stuff" comes to life, as players interactively work together to break free of the rooms. For Farley, the best part is to watch it all unfold as his staff monitors game play with cameras in each room.

"It never fails, the game is never played the same by two different people. Everybody’s brains work a little bit differently when they’re playing these things, so as much as I can try to overthink and think like a player would, they always surprise us."

Surprises are just what’s in store for all those who play, because each of the four rooms has a different theme: Bank Robbery, CSI, Blackout and Mad Hatter.

Along with each theme, also comes unique features. The ultimate goal of the Bank Robbery is to steal from a vault, but what make it unique is the history incorporated, as Farley worked the building’s original mid-1800’s vault into the story line.

Different rooms also appeal to different age groups, with Blackout catering toward adults.  

"In essence you had few way too many drinks last night while you were one vacation. You woke up in a very strange place. No one’s here. You have one hour to find your flight ticket, your passport and get on the road before you get left in whatever country you are vacationing in. For adults there is a lot of giggling. It’s silly. It’s risqué."

If you’re looking for one that’s kid-friendly however, Farley suggests you fall down the rabbit hole, and in to the Mad Hatter’s room.

"The Mad Hatter can be grumpy, wonky, just all around loony, and you don’t want any part of that. But he’s on his way back, so needless to say you need to get out of here before he arrives back, in an hour."

The Great Escape also branches outside with scavenger hunts using their app. Farley plans on creating a Smash Shack slated to open next year.

In the meantime, the escape rooms will continue to evolve as the business does. Taking on different themes over time, players get the chance to keep creating fresh experiences. 

"To watch them play it and get stuck, and solve, and those highs and lows of watching somebody play the game. It’s awesome. It is really, really neat to see it happen."

For another adventure, make sure to check back next Wednesday for a new episode of Hometown Tourist, and a chance to make the La Crosse area your own.