Best Escape Room 2019 | Escape Narrative | Fun & Games | Phoenix

The typical "get locked in with your buddies and solve a bunch of riddles before the time is up" escape room is so last year. At Escape Narrative, it's all about the story. Puzzle-lovers and mystery aficionados alike will enjoy this experience, and will be completely sucked into the storyline in no time. Add activities like searching for clues on the computer and checking your voicemail, and you'll feel like a modern-day detective uncovering some serious secrets. It's lots of fun for a group or even as a date-night activity. If you're not a fan of a scary story, this might not be for you.

There's a rule at our house: No one gets their driver's license until they do laps at Octane. And we've stuck to that rule. Once at Octane, no further rules are required, or words needed to describe general success or failure. You either keep your car off the walls or you slam into them. You run with the other bulls, (meaning the Indy 500-aspirants who were typical teens before strapping into one of Octane's dart-like electric race cars), or you're the logjam creating nightmare traffic scenarios. Once the would-be driver manages the basics, which is possible after the first session of 14 laps, a second session will hone driving skills enough to compete and maybe even beat the other drivers. Nobody's saying this is like school: Octane's a place of fun, principally, and offers laser tag, beer and wine in its bar, burgers, and a room full of video games. The races are reasonably priced: $38 for two adult sessions, plus $7 membership fee, and the same price for "junior" sessions, which include two 10-lap sessions in a slightly less powerful car. Good for Saturday thrills, good for a lifetime of safe driving — that's why we love Octane Raceway.

Friends in colder climes may tell you that there's a trade-off to spending winter holidays in Arizona. You get the swaying palm trees, but not the joy of outdoor skating rinks. Not so, because CityScape creates an ice rink in the middle of downtown, where you skate under sunny skies, then snap selfies for all those naysayers. The PhxArt Project at CitySkate featured work by several local artists, including Sam Fresquez, whose three-piece, text-based sculpture was inspired by the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Artist Mikey Estes led community members through an immersive art experience exploring the prevalence of screens in contemporary society. In place of a traditional tree, CitySkate installed a 30-foot tensile sculpture with LED lights, topped by a rising phoenix. Created by Walter Productions, it brought a touch of Bonnaroo and Burning Man excitement to downtown, proving that nobody does ice-skating and winter wonderlands quite like Phoenix.

Now that electric scooters are becoming trendy transportation around town, it's hard to believe that people used to roller-skate along city sidewalks. Thankfully, roller-skating is still around, and indoor skating venues have air conditioning. This classic skating rink brings just the right touch of nostalgia to roller skating, through interior design and musical selections. It's a fun place to meet friends or have some alone time when you just need to work out a little something running around inside your brain. Strips of colorful lights cover the ceiling and reflect on the rink below as they elevate your mood and make you believe you can roll victoriously off into the sunset. There's something for everyone in the theme department, from "lit" skate nights with live DJ music to nights focused on a specific decade, when skaters can dress up in their best retro fashion gear. Don't worry about falling on your butt. Just pick up your pride and escape to the cafe or arcade, where you can take a break from being hell on wheels.

Bowling has come a long way, baby. Beige ruled back in the '50s, but now bowling is more like an immersive arts environment filled with music, lights, and color. Bowlero North Scottsdale has 36 lanes where you can bask in the glow of black lights, so if bowling isn't your best skill, just rock your best glow-friendly fashion and go for a bit of beer-pong time instead. You can watch sports, music videos, and films on video walls if seeing balls roll down lanes isn't enough to capture your imagination. There's also a sports bar, where you can rib your friends about all those gutter balls, and an arcade. If you're all about bowling, you can get your drinks and food brought to your lane. But remember to act shocked when the ball slips from someone's hand because you were kind enough to share your saucy chicken wings.

Opened in 2017 by animal fan Melissa Pruitt, La Gattara is home to about 30 felines — and lots more human visitors who can't get enough of this sweet collection of cuddly kitties. All these furballs go directly from foster situations to La Gattara's Tempe storefront, a safe space for cats where people can come unwind and relax, playing with fuzzy friends who love stuffed mice and feathers tied to strings. Visitors who don't want to adopt a friendly feline can leave with a painting of one by local artist Kate Benjamin. Cat-specific events here include decorative sand-carving classes, an occasional evening of drag queen bingo, and a kitty-and-me yoga class called Meowdidation. Where else can you spend $10 for an hour of dangling yarn scraps with a roomful of kittens?

Best Place to Play Twister With Strangers

Snakes & Lattes

So, it's Friday night and you just have to play a couple of rounds of Exploding Kittens, followed by Kerplunk and maybe some Tip It. You're in luck, because downtown Tempe is now home to Snakes & Lattes, where you can pack away a meal or throw back some brews while playing Café Fatal or Pictionary or Battleship with some of your best friends — or with total strangers at one of the communal tables. A six-foot wall of board games is arranged by theme — party, nostalgia, dexterity — and you can help yourself to Telestrations or Clue or Monopoly. Don't know how to play Parcheesi? No problem. On-site game gurus will stop by your table and teach you how — and it's all included in your tiny $5-per-head gaming fee. Game on.

Looking for a safe place to lose control? Look no further than Tempe's Simply Smashing Rage Room, where people come to throw glass objects against walls and beat the crap out of old adding machines. Visitors dress in neck-to-toe coveralls, gardening gloves, and welder's masks, and pay to smash the doo-doo out of a shopping basket of breakables. Each smash room offers a chalkboard where folks can write down a list of things they're angry about, then throw breakable stuff at it. Pretending your ex-husband is a stack of coffee mugs, and then smashing them into little pieces with a golf club, has its rewards. Corporate executives and PTA moms and everyone in between come in to release a little anger or just to have a smashing good time — and you can, too.

What could be better than booze and seeing wild animals up close after dark? The Phoenix Zoo's Roars & Pours event happens monthly except during the hotter months. You'll feel like you're behind the scenes walking around the animal exhibits, and although many of the inhabitants of the zoo will be in for the night, there's still plenty to see. There are also fun experiences like camel rides and visits to the Stingray Bay attraction at happy hour prices. You can meander around the zoo, or stay and play yard games like corn hole and beer pong, and you won't want to miss free shows like "The Mating Game" and the live music performances. It's perfect for a unique date or for blowing off steam after work.

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