12 Best Escape Rooms in the San Francisco Bay Area

As locals, we’ve done 30+ San Francisco Bay Area escape rooms and will be keeping this list up-to-date with our best escape room recommendations for both tourists and locals alike. We’re narrowed down all the ones we’ve done to the top 12, and are listing them in order of what we think are the best in the area.

We care about the following factors when evaluating a room: satisfying puzzles, immersive experience, unique theme, and (most importantly) fun with a team. If you’re looking for more personalized, detailed, recommendations, scroll down to our “Personalized Recommendations” section, leave a comment, or contact us!

If applicable, let your hosts know that “EscapeRoomTips.com” sent you!

We hope you enjoy this article! Just so you know, we may have received media-discounted or comped tickets to these rooms. We may receive a small percentage of the sale if you purchase via our Groupon links. We strongly believe that this should not impact our ratings, reviews, or rankings.

Last Updated: June 24th, 2017

#1. Roosevelt Escape Room – Palace Games

Theodore Roosevelt is collecting some of the best and brightest minds of the era to accomplish some critical objective. Opened in 2016, This room is the sequel to Palace Games’ Houdini Room, but can be played regardless if you’ve played the first one or not.

Outstanding Features

This room is expansive, fully automated, and packed with fun physical and tactile puzzles. The style is more linear in nature, which helps make sure that you can experience most of the cool stuff. This room physically requires multiple teammates to do certain puzzles, and executes teamwork quite well.  (Read Full Review)

Quick Facts

  • Our Rating: ★★★★★ (Editor’s Choice) (Read Full Review)
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Good for beginners: No, this is a complex game and is best appreciated after you have a few other games under your belt.
  • Price, Size, Duration: $410 per game, 6-12 players, 90 minutes (note, Palace Games only does bookings for the entire room at once. You cannot buy individual tickets, which makes logistics difficult for any tourists / non-locals)
  • Play with strangers: No, you will not be grouped with strangers
  • Automation / technology: Automated high-tech game
  • Booking: http://roosevelt-escape.com/ (if you need help putting together a group, we recommend posting on the Bay Area Escape Room Enthusiasts Facebook group)

#2. Great Houdini Escape Room – Palace Games

The great escape artist Harry Houdini built a contraption inside of the Palace of Fine Arts to challenge 8 great American innovators. Opened in 2015, this game (along with its sequel) are not just in the best of the San Francisco Bay Area but also all of North America.

Outstanding Features

The whole room is a fully automated contraption made with an intricately complex system of Arduinos and sensors. Most importantly, the technology is executed so well that the Houdini room transforms into a truly magical experience.

Quick Facts

  • Our Rating: ★★★★★ (Editor’s Choice)
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Good for beginners: No, this is also a complex game and is best appreciated after you have a few other games under your belt.
  • Price, Size, Duration: $410 per game, 6-12 players, 90 minutes (same note as for Roosevelt Room)
  • Play with strangers: No, you will not be grouped with strangers
  • Automation / technology: Automated high-tech game
  • Booking: http://houdini-escape.com/ (if you need help putting together a group, we recommend posting on the Bay Area Escape Room Enthusiasts Facebook group)

#3. Escape from the Time Travel Lab – SCRAP

SCRAP

 

You are trapped within a curious laboratory where it was rumored that scientists were studying time travel. Released in 2013, this was one of the first games in North America. This game is open in two locations in the Bay Area (with the San Francisco location closing soon).

Outstanding Features

This room features an excellently executed time travel mechanic that is pure joy to experience. Furthermore, it plays towards SCRAP’s strengths, with some devilishly difficult sequences of specific actions that you must complete in order to escape. (Read Full Review)

Quick Facts

  • Our Rating: ★★★★★
  • Location: San Jose, CA
  • Good for beginners: Yes, absolutely. This is one of the best games to start with for a beginner in the area.
  • Price, Size, Duration: $30 per player, 11 players, 60 minutes
  • Play with strangers: Yes, you will likely play with strangers (unless you buy all tickets)
  • Automation / technology: No automation, little technology, key reveals are staff-driven
  • Booking: http://realescapegame.com/sjttl/

#4. Pandemic Zero – Omescape

pandemicOmescape

 

Mankind is suffering from a deadly pandemic. You must pass the sewers, reach an underground laboratory, and release the cure in order to save the human race. Opened in 2016, this is the newest of Omescape’s San Francisco Bay Area offerings.

Outstanding Features

Pandemic Zero is a large, multi-room adventure with new unique puzzles. The build quality is quite impressive, and each room comes with at least one fun unique mechanism. The progression of the room follows the story as outlined in the intro video, which is satisfying.

Quick Facts

  • Our Rating: ★★★★★
  • Location: San Jose, CA
  • Good for beginners: Mostly, yes. But we would recommend doing Kingdom of Cats here instead if you’re a beginner.
  • Price, Size, Duration: $90 – $180 per game, 3-6 players, 60 minutes
  • Play with strangers: No, you will not be grouped with strangers
  • Automation / technology: Automated high-tech game
  • Booking: https://omescape.us/sanjose/book/

#5. Blind Tiger – EscapeSF

Blind Tiger is set in a prohibition-era Speakeasy, with decor appropriate for the era.EscapeSF

You find yourself in a speakeasy (an illicit prohibition-era bar), and are drawn into a nefarious plot with 7 alleged Mafia members and their secretive backroom deals. Opened in 2015, Blind Tiger is the 3rd and best of EscapeSF’s offerings in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Outstanding Features

Blind Tiger by EscapeSF is well executed thematically, with decor, puzzles, and an experience that matches the feeling of a speakeasy. Expect an immersive, tactile, fully-automated game full of fun surprises that’s great for small groups. (Read Full Review)

Quick Facts

  • Our Rating: ★★★★★
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Good for beginners: Somewhat, for beginners we would definitely recommend starting with EscapeSF’s Alcatraz game, and then returning for Blind Tiger later. Blind Tiger is their most complex game, and Alcatraz is particularly great for beginners.
  • Price, Size, Duration: $139-$149 per game, 2-5 players, 60 minutes
  • Play with strangers: No, you will not be grouped with strangers
  • Automation / technology: Automated high-tech game
  • Booking: http://questroomsf.com/

#6. Forgotten Treasure – Omescape

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The captain of your ship, Captain William Kidd IX, led a secret life as a pirate who accumulated a fortune’s worth of buried jewels, doubloons, and riches. Opened in 2014, Forgotten Treasure is the most expansive room in their large Richmond, CA facility.

Outstanding Features

Forgotten Treasure by Omescape is a fun linear adventure through a series of pirate-themed rooms. Specifically, expect a sand pit and a wooden boat that fill up a good portion of the room. This game is fully automated and full of fun surprises.

Quick Facts

  • Our Rating: ★★★★★
  • Location: Richmond, CA
  • Good for beginners: Yes. This is the best game at Omescape’s Richmond location for beginners.
  • Price, Size, Duration: $140-$280 per game, 5-10 players, 60 minutes
  • Play with strangers: No, you will not be grouped with strangers
  • Automation / technology: Automated high-tech game
  • Booking: https://omescape.us/richmond/book/

#7. Kingdom of Cats – Omescape

omescape_kingdom_of_cats

Omescape’s Kingdom of Cats is a fun adventure with quite a few sensory puzzles thrown in.

The King of the Kingdom of cats throws a tournament every year to award the wisest cat in the land. Transported into this feline world, you must compete to escape. Opened in 2015, this was one of the first two rooms in Omescape’s San Jose location.

Outstanding Features

Kingdom of Cats is a polished, fully-automated game full of surprises especially great for beginners. The “cat” theme of this room is playful, unique, and delightful, especially with a surprise non-visual puzzle that can be surprisingly tricky.

Quick Facts

  • Our Rating: ★★★★★
  • Location: San Jose, CA
  • Good for beginners: Yes, this is the best game at Omescape’s San Jose location for beginners.
  • Price, Size, Duration: $60-$180 per game, 2-6 players, 60 minutes
  • Play with strangers: No, you will not be grouped with strangers
  • Automation / technology: Automated high-tech game
  • Booking: https://omescape.us/sanjose/book/

#8. Puppeteer’s Workshop – Head Games SF

You and your team have made the final round of interviews to be the apprentices for famed Puppeteer Harry Keller. The Puppeteer has set up a series of puzzles for you and your team for you to solve in 70 minutes, else you will not be able to escape…

Outstanding Features

This is an unconventional “indie”-style escape room in San Francisco. The designers have made some bold choices in this game, which translates to fun surprises. A fun, great-value experience in San Francisco, especially for small groups!

Quick Facts

  • Our Rating: ★★★★½
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Good for beginners: Yes.
  • Price, Size, Duration: $59-$179 per games, 2-6 players, 70 minutes (use promo code HeadGames20 for 20% off until the end of July)
  • Play with strangers: No, you will not be grouped with strangers
  • Automation / technology: Automated medium-tech game
  • Booking: https://www.headgamessf.com (use discount code HeadGames20 for 20% off until the end of July)

#9. Detention – Kuma Escape

Flyers on the door to Kuma's waiting room.William | Escape Room Tips

Flyers on the door to Kuma’s waiting room.

You’re just about ready to leave for your high school senior trip to Paris. However, due to ramifications of a senior prank, your teacher puts you under Detention. You have to find some way to get out of Detention and escape to make it to the airport.

Outstanding Features

While the game has somewhat of a low-budget feel, it works as part of a classroom theme. The outstanding parts are all of the interactions with the “teacher” as an in-game actor. The interactions are hilarious fun!

Quick Facts

  • Our Rating: ★★★★
  • Location: Santa Clara, CA
  • Good for beginners: Yes, absolutely!
  • Price, Size, Duration: $30 per player, 6-12 players, 60 minutes
  • Play with strangers: Yes, you may possibly play with strangers (unless you buy all tickets)
  • Automation / technology: No automation, little technology, key reveals are staff-driven
  • Make a Booking: http://www.kumaescape.com/games/

#10. Penitentiary – Omescape

Laser maze within Omescape's Penitentiary.

Omescape’s Penitentiary features an impressive laser maze in a mock prison facility.

You find yourself in the control room of a high-security prison with access to the system’s personnel files. Can you figure out the secrets of the facility and escape? Opened in 2014, Penitentiary is part of Omescape’s large Richmond, CA escape room facility.

Outstanding Features

Penitentiary is a robustly-constructed, atmospheric escape room with an excellent progression through the multiple parts. The room is fully automated with always some neat surprises around the corner, including a laser-maze-lined hallway.

Quick Facts

  • Our Rating: ★★★★
  • Location: Richmond, CA
  • Good for beginners: Somewhatthis game has somewhat of a more complex flow.
  • Price, Size, Duration: $168-$280 per game, 6-10 players, 60 minutes
  • Play with strangers: No, you will not be grouped with strangers
  • Automation / technology: Automated medium-tech game
  • Booking: https://omescape.us/richmond/book/

#11. Pirate Adventure – Limitless Escape Games

You and your band of pirate friends have plundered various treasures but awoken the wrath of the deadly Kraken. Your goal is to escape the Kraken and save your crew. Limitless Escape Games opened this game (along with 2 others) in February 2017 in the East Bay.

Outstanding Features

This beginner-friendly game features appropriately pirate-themed decor and some fun puzzles involving some of the larger set pieces. The puzzles are varied, clean, tactile, and flow well. Overall a solid game for groups of friends, coworkers, or strangers!

Quick Facts

  • Our Rating: ★★★★
  • Location: Livermore, CA
  • Good for beginners: Yes, absolutely!
  • Price, Size, Duration: $30 per player, 3-8 players, 60 minutes
  • Play with strangers: Yes, you may play with strangers (unless you buy all of the tickets)
  • Automation: Automated medium-tech game
  • Booking: http://www.limitlessescapegames.com/

#12. Escape from Alcatraz – EscapeSF

Alcatraz-preview1

Escape from Alcatraz has you starting off handcuffed in a stark, bare jail cell.

You find yourself handcuffed to a pipe in your bare, small Alcatraz cell, and must sneak past a sleeping guard to escape. Opened in 2015, Escape from Alcatraz is one of the first two escape rooms (the other being Escape from the Antique room) offered by EscapeSF.

Outstanding Features

Escape from Alcatraz is surprisingly “realistic” – you start off handcuffed in a bare, small, uncomfortable jail cell, and must find a way to both unlock the handcuffs and the door to your cell. You’ll be itching to escape after being confined within the stark walls of this game.

Quick Facts

  • Our Rating: ★★★★
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Good for beginners: Yes, absolutely! This is the best game by EscapeSF for beginners.
  • Price, Size, Duration: $139-149 per game, 2-5 players, 60 minutes
  • Play with strangers: No, you will not be grouped with strangers
  • Automation / technology: Automated medium-tech game
  • Booking: http://questroomsf.com/rooms/alcatraz#book

Runner Ups

These escape rooms did not make my top 10 but are still recommended. Here is an (unordered) list of other ones that barely missed this list:

  • Escape from the Puzzle Room – SCRAP (San Francisco) This fun SCRAP room is polished and makes fun use and re-use out of the same objects around the room. The sequence of steps after solving the meta-puzzle are full of “aha!” moments and this is great fun with a large group of friends. Expect a normal SCRAP structure, with a bunch of mini-puzzles leading up to a series of “aha!s” and a difficult last puzzle.
  • Wonderland – Paradox Escape (San Jose) is the first game by this new San Jose company opened in September 2016. While the game isn’t very high-tech, the experience is polished and this should definitely appeal to fans of the Alice in Wonderland series.
  • Antique Room – EscapeSF (San Francisco) is the 3rd game by EscapeSF (the other two made the top 10 list). This is another fully-automated game from EscapeSF that features some neat mechanisms like a mini-laser maze.
  • Future Technology Escape Room – REASON (San Francisco) is an escape room in San Francisco aimed towards corporate groups (most of their bookings are during weekday work hours and they charge a pricy $480 per game). Their features of various “future technologies” like 3D printing and drones are quite novel for an escape room and you’ll get to demo a bunch of these during this 90-minute game. See our full review.

Groupon Deals

There are currently three Groupons running for San Francisco Bay Area escape rooms:

Personalized Recommendations

We’ve narrowed down the full list above based on preferences for particular groups.

  • For beginners – Alcatraz at EscapeSF, Time Travel Lab / Puzzle Room by SCRAP, Wonderland at Paradox Escape, Detention at Kuma Escape, Pandemic Zero / Kingdom of Cats, Puppeteer’s Workshop by Head Games SF, and Pirate Adventure at Limitless Escape Games are particularly good for beginners.
  • For small groups or couples (2-5) that don’t want to play with strangers – Try Puppeteer’s Workshop by Head Games SF, any of the games by EscapeSF, or Kingdom of Cats / Pandemic Zero in Omescape San Jose. Those games accept small groups and will not add strangers to your game. Puppeteers’ Workshop and Omescape San Jose offer reasonable pricing for very small groups of 2-3.
  • For children ages 8-15 – We recommend booking a private game (no strangers) for groups of children, to avoid mixing groups with children with groups without children. We also recommend having at least 1 adult in the group to supervise if needed. Always remember to check the website for rules about accompanying adults and requirements for liability waivers. For groups of children or families with children:
    • Small groups: Try Kingdom of Cats, or Pandemic Zero at Omescape for families with children (Omescape has no age limit but their games are designed for 13+). Alternatively, Try Escape from the Antique Room (8+ only) or Escape from Alcatraz (12+ only) from EscapeSF.
    • Large Groups: Try Time Travel Lab or Puzzle Room by SCRAP. Try Pirate Adventure by Limitless. We recommend booking the entire room for your group to avoid mixing with strangers. SCRAP has no age limit. Alternatively, try Forgotten Treasure at Omescape. Forgotten Treasure is difficult but linear.
  • For escape room enthusiasts – Both of the games by Palace Games are superb and are must-dos for escape room enthusiasts in the area. They only sell tickets by the game though (at a pricy $410), so plan ahead and build up your team beforehand.
  • For large groups (up to 12) – SCRAP games (Time Travel Lab and Puzzle Room) are generally the best at making sure that a large group has enough stuff to do. Besides SCRAP, check out Palace Games or Detention at Kuma Escape.
  • For team offsites (up to 12) – For groups of up to 12, pick from our above list based on your experience level and team size. Future Technology Escape Room is particularly more suited towards corporate bookings rather than individual. Note that we’d only recommend Palace games for teams that are more experienced.
  • For team offsites (over 12) – You’ll want an escape room company that has multiple rooms so that everyone can escape at the same time. Try EscapeSF in San Francisco, Omescape Richmond, or Omescape San Jose. If your team is somewhat experienced in escape rooms, check out Palace Games as well.
  • For something unusual – Check out Palace Games for some of the best games in North America. Check out Detention or Time Travel Lab for some fun staff-interactions. Check out Puppeteer’s Workshop for an excellent “indie” experience in San Francisco.
  • For people based in San Jose – Check out our other article The 5 Best Escape Rooms in San Jose

If your case isn’t covered here, please feel free to contact us and we can help route you to the right game. For everyone else, make sure you read our list of Top 23 Tips & Tricks to Win Escape Room Games before you play!