Iâ€™ve tried a whole bunch of escape rooms.
The first was in Edmonton, the day after St. Patrickâ€™s Day, and I was so violently hungover that it took me all day to come around. Not working with the sharpest brain cells, there. I failed miserably (but it was hella fun).Â
The second was in New York City with the Nomadic Matt team. It was a hoot, and we came awfully close to winning, but all the suuuuper specific American history really threw me off.
I havenâ€™t tried the Escape Quest games in St. Johnâ€™s yet. But my trip to the Great Northern Peninsula last week to FINALLY visit theÂ Lâ€™Anse Aux Meadows UNESCO World Heritage Site just so happened to coincide with Escape Questâ€™s launch of an escape room. At Lâ€™Anse Aux Meadows. On a 1,000+ year old Viking settlement. Yes.
For those who donâ€™t know much about Lâ€™Anse Aux Meadows: itâ€™s the site of an 11-century Norse outpost at the very northern tip of the islandâ€™s Great Northern Peninsula. It might even be the location of Straumfjord from the Vinland sagas. There had been a lot of speculation about the site and its grassy mounds being a former Norse settlement for quite some time — as early as 1914 — but it wasnâ€™t proven until the 60s. A Norwegian explorer named Helge Ingstad first visited the area in 1960, and then his wife Anne Stine Ingstad led the first excavations.Â
Now when you visit, youâ€™ll see a recreated site: buildings made of timber and sod meant to showcase how the Vikings lived and worked and played. Nearby are the actual grassy mounds that called attention to the site in the first place. Actors in traditional garb roam the area, and youâ€™re welcome to visit the blacksmith or learn about weaponry or cooking or anything else that strikes your fancy. Itâ€™s a fun visit.
But, to be honest, I came for Escape Quest — The Test of Tyrkir:
â€œGrapes have been discovered in this wondrous new land! Tyrkir, family servant of Leif Eriksson, has found them, and he alone knows where they are found. Leif has declared that only Vikings that prove themselves worthy will share in this rare and valuable resource. Tykir has locked away a map to the grapes inside the servantâ€™s hut, but only those that demonstrate a sharp wit and a keen eye can retrieve it. Can you pass The Test of Tyrkir and take your place at the side of the legendary Leif Eriksson?â€
The actual game takes place within the recreated village, in the slaves quarters. Itâ€™s a tiny circular sod hut with definitely not enough space for more than four people. It was my friend Emilyâ€™s first time playing, so the guide (dressed in traditional garb, waiting outside the door) took the time to run us through everything. We had 45 minutes inside the hut totalâ€¦
AND WE WON!
(Mostly thanks to Emilyâ€™s wonderful math skillz. I got none of those. Occasionally good with words.)
I’m obviously not going to give you any spoilers, but the Viking theme is really well done. You don’t necessarily need to know anything Saga-related before you go.
If you head up head up to Lâ€™Anse Aux Meadows, DEFINITELY try this. Itâ€™s appropriate for all ages. Itâ€™s super fun and mysterious and I mean, youâ€™re literally playing an escape room game on a 1,000-year-old settlement. How cool is that?
Youâ€™ll need to pay the admission fee ($11.70) in addition to the Escape Quest fee ($24.50), which makes for a kinda expensive visit. On the other hand, I canâ€™t imagine why youâ€™d visit the site without wanting to appreciate the actual historical significance of the area, so come earlier in the day and stay for awhile (we were rather pressed for time at 4pm). You need to reserve by calling 709-623-2608, and thereâ€™s a maximum of four people. Â Theyâ€™re open daily at 10am and the last session is at 4pm.