An Epic Adventure

Circus clowns, sea monsters, and mad scientists may not be the   characters one encounters on a typical day in wine country, but they are the protagonists inside the immersive worlds of the Grape Escape, Napa’s premier escape room. This real-life adventure game brings a fun and under-the-radar experience to Napa locals and tourists, families, and friends alike.

Escape rooms, the live-action games in which players must solve elaborate puzzles before time runs out, are exploding in popularity  worldwide. The Grape Escape owners and founders, Rick and Shannon Johnson,  recognized  the need for one in Napa and  followed their dreams to open the city’s first escape room in July 2019.

This family operation is committed to offering an  attraction  beyond  the  grape in a world-class wine destination. The husband and wife team, who have owned a Napa-based commercial glass company for the past 16 years, discovered their passion for escape rooms on a family vacation to Oregon. Over the next six months, they completed over 15 escape  rooms,  each one opening their eyes to additional possibilities, and they ultimately decided to embark on a new business venture outside of the construction industry. “We  wanted to do something that could not only bring our family together but others as well,” said  Shannon.  “We  knew  that  this  type of venue would be a great addition to the community, and Napa needed it,” she added.

The Grape Escape currently offers three thematic rooms full of pad-locked boxes, hidden doors, and improbable missions involving cursed seas, saving the circus, and bombs ticking toward detonation. Players become enveloped in the story the moment the door is shut and the clock starts ticking. Through digital clues and direct interaction with props and objects around the room, players live out the story in real-time  and  work  together to “escape.”

Each room ranges in difficulty, offering various puzzles and riddles from technical and tactile to color or pattern based. Completing the tasks at hand require teamwork, creativity, and patience. But help is  always  near  if  clues  don’t  seem to be adding up. The Game Master,  often the role of the Johnson’s enthusiastic daughter, Heather, guides guests through the action with occasional tips and helpful encouragement. The most competitive groups who escape in record time  and with less than three hints from the Game Master earn their place on the coveted neon-lit leaderboard. Regardless of which- ever team cracks the code and solves the mystery in time, everyone leaves with lasting memories and a feeling of accomplishment. While the game’s thrill is undoubtedly the biggest prize, the family- run team at the Grape Escape ensures players relish in their achievements. The Johnson’s engaging son, Tim, also known as the Game Host, showers the success- ful escape artists with a popping confetti canyon while successful escapees pose for victory photos. They have mastered the experience from start to finish.

“Our goal is to make everyone who comes into the  Grape  Escape  a  new  fan of escape games,” said Shannon. “Where else can you unplug from your devices and come together with friends, family, and even co-workers across all generations to conquer a common goal and have a blast while doing it,” she continued. Indeed, there is no place quite like it in  Napa where one can take a brief escape from reality and connect with a close group of friends for a 60-minute epic adventure.

Since the Grape Escape’s grand opening last summer, the Johnson’s have garnered a large following based on word of mouth. Sadly, the momentum has been cut short as they were required to close temporarily  due  to  Covid-19.  The  Johnson’s  used this mandated closure as a time to rethink operating procedures and introduce a new set of safety guidelines, including careful sanitation of props before and after any group enters a room, instituting private parties, and requiring face masks for all staff members and guests in public spaces. “Covid has  definitely   taken   the   wind out of our sails and our sales,” Shannon lamented, “But we hope that we can bring back some joy and lots of laughs and smiles this holiday season.”

Reservations to book a private room for up to eight players can be made at Gift cards  starting at $90 are also available and make a fun and unexpected gift for loved ones  over the holiday season.




Article and Photos By: Marisa McCann