Sunday, January 31, 2016

Escape Room Downtown

Photos by Escape Room Downtown

203 Market Ave. S. Suite 200
Canton, OH 44702
(330) 844-1492

I think I am now slightly obsessed with the concept of "escape rooms" - small themed rooms where a group of individuals are locked inside and tasked with solving puzzles in order to escape. While I am usually posting about adventures that exercise the body, escape rooms exercise the mind. They bring people together to use their brains to accomplish the goal under the given time limit, which is a huge adrenaline rush!

After an unsuccessful attempt at the Trapped! Escape Room Cleveland, I am happy to report that my latest endeavor at the Escape Room Downtown in Canton had a much happier ending!

The Escape Room Downtown debuted in late 2015 and was immediately a hit! People have come from all over Stark County, the state of Ohio, and beyond to give the room a whirl! 

On January 16, we had a group of folks whose ages ranged from late 20s to early 60s: myself, my mom, my dad, my aunt, and my friends Tim, Zac, Greg, and Cass. Only Zac and I had previously ever done an escape room challenge (the aforementioned Cleveland room), which we failed. So we were all a bit skeptical of our abilities.

The Escape Room Downtown currently has one themed room: The Missing Detective's Office. It essentially is like the board game "Clue" brought to life, with a mix of Dick Tracy thrown in. The story revolves around a private investigator who goes missing, with suspicions of involvement of the Canton mob. Not only is the story line realistic and unique, the room itself is decked out in authentic props that are of the time period, and of course a lot of mind-bending puzzles. There's even live actors that interact with you at one point. It is incredibly well-done and detail-oriented, which our group certainly appreciated.

There were some really clever elements that were thrown into the mix, that made you think outside the box (literally), and not only unscramble codes and clues, but also use some tools in thoughtful ways to reveal more and bust out of the room!

I know that all sounds vague, but I don't want to give too much away to readers, as that would take away the fun and integrity of the game! All I can say is: use all the brain power you have available, and communicate with everyone in the room in order to get it all done. You only have 45 minutes to escape!

All of the folks in our group were on top of our game, because we were able to escape in an impressive time of 25:36, which the employees at Escape Room Downtown said was a very quick time, compared to other groups! We were able to take celebratory pictures (shown above) bragging about our accomplishment!

Soon, more rooms will be added to the Canton location, with different quests and themes! Reserve your room now to see if your group of detectives and sleuths can beat our group's time!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Ice Breaker Indoor 5K Recap

Photos by OHventures

It's cold, it's snowy, it's windy. No one wants to go outside, let alone run outside.

Thanks to our friends at Run To You Racing, there is a solution to that: the Ice Breaker Indoor 5K! This novel concept takes all the things you hate about winter running and throws it out the window. It's a 5K race that is housed under the roof of the Kent State University Field House in Kent, Portage County. Gone are the hills, the puddles, the runny noses, and the layers of gear to keep you warm. It's all indoors, and it's all good!

My friend Matt and I have been wanted to kick off our racing season early this year, and the Ice Breaker Indoor 5K on January 30 was the perfect way to start things off right. The race began bright and early at 7AM, and required you to run around the indoor track at the Field House a total of 17 times (plus a little extra in order to make it a perfect 5000 meters).

You'd think it would get monotonous or boring running around the same indoor track nearly 18 times, but it was actually pretty exciting. You were able to see all of your fellow competitors as they also circled the course, and you would get to see your time displayed each time you lapped the start/finish line. There were also water fountains easily accessible, and of course, no cold air to keep you down (it actually was a bit too warm, if you can believe it).

Honestly, this was my first time running since before Christmas, so I was way over due, and I also benefited from the easy terrain. My time was 26:03, which is not my best, but definitely a good start and a good motivation to improve over the course of the year.

The best part of the race, though, was our reward when it was all over: a giant greasy spoon breakfast at Mike's Place, a staple in Kent.

Hopefully indoor 5Ks become more common, because Matt and I would definitely partake.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Trapped! Escape Room Cleveland

Photos by OHventures

Trapped! Escape Room Cleveland
1796 Coventry Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 309-1796

Trapped! Escape Room Cleveland is part of one of the newest crazes to come our way: small themed rooms where a group of individuals are locked inside and tasked with solving puzzles in order to escape! As a fan of mysteries and games of logic, I was all about getting friends together to try it out for ourselves.

We put our thinking caps on and traveled to Cleveland Heights on a snowy Sunday evening this January. We had previously booked our Escape Room experience for a group of 8 friends (which is the maximum amount of people who can take part in a single booking). There were 4 themed rooms to choose from: The Cell, Pirate Tavern, Apocalypse: The Beginning, and Chainsaw.

Our choice was The Cell, which, as it sounds, is a prison you need to escape by making your way out of a barred cell, and into the warden's office. We first watched an informative video that taught us what we needed to know, including the backstory and the goal at hand. The person working at Trapped! told us how we would be able to ask for clues if we were in a pickle. She said that she would be monitoring us as we went through the room, and if she noticed we were getting entirely off track or stumped, she would offer a clue on her own as well.

Waiting in the lobby before our experience.

The 8 of us (myself, Zac, Kyla, Ryan, Ben, Emily, Erica, and Paul) were stripped of our smart phones, and we were "locked" in the cell (they can't technically by law lock us in the room). We had exactly 1 hour to get out. A countdown clock was displayed so we knew how much time we had left.

I obviously would not want to spoil any more of the experience to anyone that is reading. The experience was incredibly fun and challenging! We actually did not make it out in the time allotted. However, we were SO very close, as we had one final two-digit number to figure out on our combination lock, and we were able to figure it out just a couple minutes after time expired.

Some tips that you will need to know when doing this or any escape room

  • Don't waste ANY time, as you will need ALL the time you are given. Had we not spent so much time in the cell, we would have had those precious seconds needed in the warden's office.
  • Divide and conquer! Split up and start uncovering clues and solving puzzles in pairs or smaller groups. It would be impossible to do it all yourself, so take value in having lots of people.
  • Communicate! Be sure to share all information or items that you find with the rest of the group. Make sure everyone knows. One of our group members found a key item but did not let anyone know (because no one had let him know it was such a  key item). Sharing everything is important as to avoid confusion.
  • Think outside the box. Definitely get your creative juices flowing so you can think of any and all possibilities that might exist to solve clues or find items.
  • Do your homework. It might not hurt to refresh your memory of some of your long lost book smarts from high school, like US history or geography. For us, it was particularly helpful for us to conjure up our algebra skills.
The group after we failed the mission!

The prison cell was certainly a fun theme, as it reminded us of The Shawshank Redemption and Escape From Alcatraz! It was great how elaborately the room was set up, complete with real steel bars in the prison cell, and a nice electric chair (a fake one of course).

We are now addicted to escape rooms and we are eager to return and attempt the other 3 themed rooms at Trapped! Cleveland!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Cleveland's "A Christmas Story" House

Photos by OHventures

A Christmas Story House & Museum
3159 W 11th Street
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 298-4919

Do you still have that Christmas itch? Did you find it hard to get into the holiday spirit due to the unusually warm winter Oho has had so far? Are you sad that all the festivities have come and gone so quickly?

Even though Christmas has technically passed, there is one place in Ohio where the sun never sets on Christmas: the “A Christmas Story” House & Museum located in the Tremont neighborhood in Cleveland.

Everyone is familiar with this insanely popular holiday film, in part due to the 24-hour marathon of the movie every Christmas season on TBS! Who could forget the film's central character, Ralphie - the boy who wanted nothing more for Christmas than a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, but was repeatedly denied of his request by Santa, his teacher, and his parents - all warning him by retorting, "you'll shoot your eye out!"

The movie is iconic in so many ways. The movie scared me into not swearing so that I didn't get my mouth washed out with a bar of red soap, and to this day I still get freaked out when I watch the "tongue stuck to a flagpole" scene.

You may recall me participating in the annual A Christmas Story Run around this time last year. This was a 5K with a finish line at the unmistakable yellow and green house (pictured above) that appeared in the 1983 cult classic movie. It's such a popular movie that hundreds and hundreds of people run each year, many dressed in pink bunny suits and evil elf costumes to represent the colorful cinematic characters.

Goofing around in the gift shop!

This Christmas season, I visited the house once again (this time not in any running attire) with my friend from Toledo, Steve. Steve is a huge movie buff and so I knew this would be right up his alley when he visited Cleveland. The A Christmas Story House is open all year-long, 7 days a week! So even if it's not Christmas time, you can still get a taste of the holidays. Admission is just $10 for adults, and it gives you entry to the house itself, as well as the museum located directly across the street.

Tickets are purchased in the gift shop (also across the street from the house), and tours run every half hour, beginning at 10:15 AM. Tickets never expire, so you can bring it back again and again in order to visit the house over and over! 

Steve in front of THE house!

Steve and I easily found free street parking, but nearby houses also charge small fees if the streets are filled. Be prepared for standing in line outside, because this place is super popular! We had to wait in line about 15-20 minutes, but this gave us time to pose for photos in front of the house, and hear a few tidbits of trivia from one of the tour guides who was on the porch.

It's A Major Award!

The house was used for filming all exterior shots of the movie (including when The Old Man put the infamous leg lamp in the front window, and the backyard scenes with Ralphie fighting the robbers and shooting his gun). However, interior shots were filmed on a sound stage. Therefore, the inside of the house is merely a replica of what the film contained. The leg lamps found inside are also replicas (in fact, the original no longer exists, as it was broken after filming). The furniture, props, and Christmas decorations are all recreated to make it look like Ralphie's house. It's fun to walk around and feel like you are in the movie. We had a kick posing with the BB gun and leg lamp!

Steve and I inside the A Christmas Story House

Immediately after our self-guided tour, we went to the museum across the street where we saw some really awesome memorabilia from A Christmas Story. This included actual costumes (such as the maroon winter coat worn by Ralphie's little brother), vehicles (like the fire truck that came to help during the flagpole scene), scripts, photos, and memorable props (such as a piece of the classroom chalkboard and the actual BB gun)!

Before we left, I of course had to buy a miniature leg lamp Christmas ornament (which was just $11, versus the $500 for a large leg-size leg lamp)! Our visit to this landmark was one for the books. It's great to have such an important piece of American pop culture right here in Cleveland, Ohio! 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Adopting Wine From "It's Your Winery"

Photos by OHventures

1484 Medina Road Suite 113
Medina, OH 44256
(330) 784-9463

For me, being a wine enthusiast means not only tasting and drinking different varieties of wines from various Ohio wineries, it also means making wine, which I do on an annual basis to give out as holiday gifts.

Instead of buying tons of equipment to make my wine at home (which I don't really have the money or space for), I have found a couple of great wineries in Ohio that allow you to use their equipment and ingredients to make your own batch!

In the past, I had gone to Camelot Cellars in Short North in Columbus to make and adopt wine (read about my 2012 wine making experience, and my 2014 wine adoption experience). However, for my 4th annual wine gifting, I switched to a place that is located closer to home in Northeast Ohio.

It's Your Winery is located in Medina County, in the City of Medina. It's found in a large plaza off of State Route 18. It has a small tasting room and retail area, and an enormous area for wine production! 

It's Your Winery is named as such because it specializes specifically in offering patrons the unique experience of using state-of-the-art equipment to produce their own wine to take home with them in small batch form (30 bottles for a full case, or 15 bottles for a half case). There are over 50 varieties of wine to choose from! 

The winemaking process at It's Your Winery takes up to 10 weeks. You first come in to choose the wine you want to make, then begin the process with step-by-step instructions from knowledgeable staff. You come back in several weeks when the fermentation process has completed. This is when you bottle, cork, cap, and label the wine (with your own personalized labels)!

If you're like me and you are strapped for time, you also have the option to adopt wine. This is wine that has already fermented, but needs bottled, corked, capped, and labeled! If you go this route, you do limit yourself on the varieties you can get. 

When I went, it was shortly before Christmas, so I had no choice but to adopt rather than make the wine from start to finish. I was looking to make a sweet fruit red wine, in order to go with my ongoing theme (2012 was dry red, 2013 was dry white, 2014 was a blush wine).

Luckily, It's Your Winery has a HUGE selection of fruit wines. Everything from a cherry/peach sangria to a cranberry wine to a  raspberry wine. There was even a watermelon wine, which was the first time I had ever heard that! I opted for the Pomegranate Zinfandel, a very sweet yet very tasty wine with just 7% alcohol - a crowd pleaser, even for those who aren't typically wine fans (it basically tastes like juice with a tiny kick).

The process was fun, quick, and exciting. I even met some new pals there, Bobbie and Amy, who are also bloggers and who watched while I put everything together (their favorite part I think was watching the caps melt onto the bottle)! The owner had us sample a couple of other wines while I put everything together! It was fun designing my own label as well (although I couldn't use my own mime drawings like I had done in the past, I was able to find a nice wine-stain design).

Over the last couple of weeks during Christmas and New Years, I gifted 15 bottles of wine to some select friends and family! I am excited to hear feedback on how they liked this year's wine, and I am looking forward to returning to It's Your Winery to make some more!