Stopping a nuclear disaster has been added to the list of things to do in downtown Rutland.
Don’t worry — none of the missing fuel rods from Vermont Yankee turned up in Depot Park. The nuclear disaster is one of two plots groups can play through in the city’s new escape rooms.
Stephen and Anna Montanez, owners of Vermont Truffle Company, opened “The Escape Room” in the vacant space above their Center Street shop last weekend. Escape rooms offer guests a set amount of time to solve a series of puzzles. Stephen Montanez said the idea of opening the escape rooms formed in his head while staying at his family’s condominium in Florida.
“I just noticed every other shopping plaza had an escape room in it,” he said. “This was a city where there wasn’t one two years ago.”
The Montanezs own the building and had tried unsuccessfully to rent out the second floor, so they decided to open a second business.
“We did a little bit of market research and realized the closest ones were an hour and a half to two hours away,” he said. “It’s a fairly low monetary investment, but a lot of time, a lot of energy.”
Montanez said they had originally hoped to open last Halloween, but renovations took longer than they thought.
“We ran into a lot of unexpected setbacks,” he said. “This building is very old, and when you peel off some layers of the onion, you get to see what’s underneath.”
Montanez wouldn’t let the media past the lobby — which looks like a sitting room out of a Sherlock Holmes movie — into the actual rooms, but offered basic descriptions. The puzzles range from physical to wordplay.
“You might find a piece of paper that, if you read into it, it might give you the combination to something,” he said.
Montanez said the room made up to look like a nuclear bunker — in which the players must unravel a mess left behind by a defecting scientist in time to stop a meltdown — is the medium-difficulty room. The second room offers more of a challenge, he said — a zombie apocalypse scenario in which players search a pilot’s apartment for keys to a plane that can take them to safety.
A third room, oriented toward younger players, is under construction. Montanez said that while the established rooms don’t involve particularly adult content, he would not recommend them for children under 13, “unless you’ve got a particularly smart 12-year-old with a group of adults.”
The rooms can accommodate a variety of group sizes, but Montanez called six the “sweet number.”
“It gives you enough brainpower and enough hands that there is a good chance of success,” he said. “Eight is probably the max. ... Four would be more of a challenge. Theoretically, two people could go through a room if you hit everything really quickly.”
The rooms are open Wednesday through Sunday and reservations are recommended on weekdays. Tickets are $26.50 per person.
More information is available on The Escape Room’s Facebook page.