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Do you have what it takes to escape?

Escape Hour Gig Harbor brings Universal Studios-stype excitement to local area

Escape Hour Gig Harbor owners Matt and Kelsy Matteson at the entrance to the Mayan ruins. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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The door closes behind you. Suddenly, you leave Gig Harbor and enter into a dimly lit Mayan ruin. There is a sense of impending doom as you begin discovering the clues that will help you escape. Escape rooms -- live-action games in which participants have the opportunity to discover clues, solve puzzles and figure out combinations for locked boxes, all within an hour -- are surging in popularity across the United States.

Escape Hour Gig Harbor is the brainchild of owners Kelsy and Matt Matteson, who are Disney and Universal fanatics.

"We wanted to bring that type of experience to Gig Harbor," Matt said.

The two mulled over the idea for several years before making the leap and starting their own business. Although familiar with the concept, neither had ever been in an escape room before.

"I took my son and friends to one in Seattle and realized this is such a great way for a family to connect," Kelsy said. "You put down your cell phone, and there are no distractions."

She felt it was a great business opportunity for their family, especially since they own a construction company.  The two went the extra mile when designing and constructing their escape rooms. Each room is built to fit the theme with the décor, lighting and sound system all state-of-the-art. The props are sturdy and realistic, and the puzzles are thought out and challenging.

"I want to make things that make people happy. I also want them to walk away saying ‘that was awesome,'" said Matt.

The escape room experience begins with a 15-minute briefing and movie. Just like a Disney attraction, it builds up the expectation. Then you move into your chosen room for a 60-minute game followed by a post-brief and photo opportunities. Winners' photos are posted on the wall. Escape rooms are great fun for birthday parties, but children must be a minimum of 12 years old -- and the clues and puzzles are challenging and geared to young adults. It also makes an exciting and interesting event for corporate or military team building. All three rooms available at Escape Hour Gig Harbor accommodate a total of 24 people.

Both Kelsy and Matt believe in giving back to the local community.  They offer a 10 percent discount to first responders and to the military, which includes active-duty, retirees, veterans and their family members. Each month, they also choose a charity, and guests are offered the opportunity to support the charity in addition to their own contributions.

Escape Hour Gig Harbor, noon to 10 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday; 10 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday, 3212 50th St. Ct. NW #104, Gig Harbor, 253.313.0107,

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