The Great Escape Room

Do you have what it takes to cooperate with a small group to solve a series of challenging puzzles? If so, this type of real-world entertainment, known as an “escape room” may get you and your kids away from screens and back to some fun and memorable times.

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As of September 2017, there were over 8,000 escape room venues worldwide, and their popularity continues to skyrocketing. An escape room is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints, and strategy to complete the objectives at hand, typically requiring you to escape from a ‘locked’ room.

After entering an intricately themed room with your team (typically family or friends) the door is locked behind you and then the fun begins. The rooms are part scavenger hunt and part puzzle-solving (put on your thinking caps), and all groups must work together to escape. You have just 60 minutes.

Hal Feldman with his kids Emma (19) and Andrew (16), posing after escaping

Hal Feldman with his kids Emma (19) and Andrew (16), posing after escaping

For anyone who thinks this sounds even remotely scary, put those fears aside. A room guide is in the room with you at all times and acts as a helper (only if you want it) if you are really stuck. The adrenaline rush of working with the group and using a team approach to solving the puzzles is tremendous, far more stimulating and humanly interactive than playing games on electronic devices.

After being introduced to escape rooms just a few months ago, I’ve now tried three of the themed rooms at The Great Escape Room. The Game Room was the most challenging (I didn’t escape), The President’s Bunker was the best theme and story (I got out!) and Sherlock’s Study was challenging but I still managed to get out with time left on the countdown clock. This is seriously fun stuff!

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While I certainly don’t want to give away event the faintest of hints, the rooms typically have pieces you need to find for a puzzle. Once assembled, the puzzle then needs to be interpreted and analyzed to get to a series of numbers that open a lockbox. The lockbox then has parts that need to be used to get to the next solution level. Eventually, all that has been solved prior allows you to access a key that proves exit from the room.

David Demarchena, Nicole Rosa, Ekaterina Khayrulina and Hal Feldman turn keys simultaneously to unlock a new secret at  The Great Escape Room

David Demarchena, Nicole Rosa, Ekaterina Khayrulina and Hal Feldman turn keys simultaneously to unlock a new secret at The Great Escape Room

Besides being a great activity for family and friends, this is a unique corporate team bonding exercise. You can book The Great Escape Room at thegreatescaperoom.com or by calling 786-322-6619. They are located at 2315 LeJeune Road, Suite 200, Coral Gables, FL 33143. Two important notes: the entrance is on the second floor with exterior stair walk-up and there are a few free parking spaces right outside if you are lucky enough to snag them. Otherwise, there is a public parking lot across the street.

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If you happen to live near Palmetto Bay, The Great Escape Room is taking their fun on the road! The Village has arranged to use Thalatta Estate (17301 Old Cutler Road) to put on Sherlock Showdown - A Puzzle Solving Competition on March 8 at 7:30pm. Participants must be 21+ years old. For $35, you get valet parking, appetizers, beverages and a mobile version of an escape room. I plan on being there. You can be too by going to thegreatescaperoom.com/miami/book-now and then click on ‘Other Available Rooms’.

LISTING: Kendall Breeze Corner Lot Townhome

Live the good life! Best-in-class corner unit with larger driveway and perfect location.

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Bright and sunny in all the right places. Impeccable maintenance. Enter to flexible living and dining space.

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Open kitchen with recent and stainless steel appliances opens to family room.

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Peaceful fenced backyard patio. Bonus astroturfed side yard for serene green moments.

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Upstairs bedrooms. Double door entry to master suite with tray ceiling.

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Oversized walk-in closet and WOW bathroom with dual vanities and oversized tub.

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Full sized laundry machines in upstairs hall closet. Community pool nearby and close to everything! Do not miss this one!

See all the photos at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/YMt6rbV1BkJUdqNX7

12233 SW 123rd Passage
MLS #: A10605162
Miami, FL 33186
Listed at $324,922

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Wagons West Is A Pinecrest Institution

When you think of your hometown, a few things always come to mind: the kids' sports leagues, schools, friends and a great local restaurant. For many in the Pinecrest area, Suniland Shopping Center’s Wagons West is their favorite place to eat.

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Brothers Walter and Steven Muench, came to the United States from Germany in 1958. They moved to South Florida in 1971, and after a few other restaurant ventures, opened Wagons West in 1981. For eight years, the two brothers cooked everything themselves. There’s a cast iron skillet proudly hung on the wall to memorialize their work.

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Walter (or Wally as most people call him) looks back on those days with pride and satisfaction. “There was nothing like working the kitchen and turning out great food for all my patrons. Their smiles and support were all I needed to know we’d done good. People eat with their eyes,” says Wally. “We know that to stay successful, we need to be consistent. The secret is stable pricing, quality product and good service.” Brother Stephen retired in 2010, but Wally continues the family tradition.

Wagons West owner Walter Muench

Wagons West owner Walter Muench

Although there are new people discovering Wagons West every day, most have been dining here ‘forever’. For more than 25 years, Jim Smith (of JAS Group Architects Planners) has come four days a week for his lunch.  Why? “It’s predictable, the food is great, the hostesses are the best and there’s always Wally, the entertainer. It’s where the elite meet to eat,” boasts Smith. “I’ve closed business deals here and made lots of new friends. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Those stories are easy to find. Multi-generational families celebrating milestones and having reunions over the hand-made counters and booths built by the Muench brothers. 38-year patron Joyce Langley explains, “Wagons West’s food is consistently good, the coffee is wonderful, Walter is a great guy and the staff is marvelous.”

Joyce Langley and Walter Muench in 2016

Joyce Langley and Walter Muench in 2016

Wagons West is the water cooler spot. Even more than the great American food, it's the place for local news and gossip. It's impossible not to be recognized and warmly greeted when you walk in. There’s a strong sense of consistency and staying power, punctuated perfectly by the original redwood outdoor sign which now proudly hangs over the kitchen area. Simply put, Wagons West is South Florida tradition.

Wally reflects, “This is like Times Square right here in our town. Everyone gets to Times Square at least once in their life. Like Andy Worhol said, ‘You’re gonna get your 15-minutes of fame’. This is where everyone gets their 15-minutes. This is where everyone comes to be part of the community. Everyone seems to pass through here.”

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With a long-term lease in place and a veteran staff like family, Wagons West isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Yet, ‘passing through’ may be a term Wally Muench uses soon. “I’m interested in making sure my Wagons West family carries on. I’m also interested in spending more time with my kids.” And so, now the search is on to pass the baton to the right person.

If you're in the area, I highly recommend you grab some good American food and soak in a little bit of South Florida tradition. Tell Wally I sent you. You won't be disappointed. And if you know someone who might carry the baton, I’d be happy to make introductions.

Wagons West is located at 11311 S Dixie Highway and can be contacted at 305-238-9942 and wagonswestrestaurant.com.