If all those blazing orange leaves and heavy autumn skies get too poignant for you, here's a way to have fun in windowless rooms: the escape-room craze has made it to the Triangle in a big way (except for Chapel Hill—what's up with that?). If you're not familiar, it involves being locked in a carefully crafted and themed room with a group of friends, family, or team-building coworkers, searching for clues as to how to get out. Basically, imagine that old Nickelodeon show Finders Keepers, but with logic puzzles and brain teasers—the joy of tearing up a room combined with the satisfaction of solving problems.
BULL CITY ESCAPE (711 Iredell Street, Durham, www.bullcityescape.com) You'll find many escape rooms nestled in inconspicuous office parks, and this one is no exception. But behind its modest façade are three games for varying group sizes and with different difficulty levels. One has a NASA theme, one a fantasy theme, and one is based on a game of Clue.
MISSION X ESCAPE (3400 Westgate Drive, No. 8, Durham, www.missionxescape.com) With horror themes like Vampire Manor and the bloodily styled Butcher Shop, this one skews more adult, though you can still stick the kids over in Candy Playland. Mission X also touts its multiroom scenarios and its unique use of sensing technology.
NC ESCAPE (119 Orange Street, Ste. 101, Durham, www.ncescape.com) This relative newcomer in the heart of downtown Durham stands out for its concepts. In one scenario, you're a secret agent infiltrating a reclusive billionaire's mansion. In another—very meta—you puzzle over strange machines in "a secret room" discovered during an NC Escape renovation project. And in the third, you scour the studio of a vanished artist and critic. (Gulp!)
TIC TOC ESCAPES (2006 Fairview Road, Raleigh, www.tictocescapes.com) This family-owned Raleigh game emphasizes joy and simplicity in its presentation and logic in its puzzles (read: no trivia). In the Green Room, you play as a band locked in its green room before a concert, while the Locker Room has you playing an athlete who's been the victim of a friendly prank.
AMAZE ROOM ESCAPES (3209 Gresham Lake Road, No. 128, Raleigh, www.amazeroomescapes.com) This one keeps things grittier with The Mysterious Room, in which you play a group of criminals stealing back jewels you were wrongfully convicted of stealing, while in Prison Break, you're embroiled in a government rescue mission, escaping from a rebel force's prison with "your brothers in arms." (The FAQ doesn't mention women being barred, so that's probably just a wording slip.)
RALEIGH ROOM ESCAPES (1500 Brookside Drive, Raleigh, www.raleighroomescapes.com) OK, this one's a little—make that a lot—different. Rather than a traditional escape room, it uses the form for something artistic, much closer to immersive theater, putting you in character with puzzles that are more psychological than just logical. All the rooms are original and locally created, not licensed like many rooms elsewhere, and actual actors flesh out the scenarios.
CIPHER ESCAPE (250 Dominion Drive, Morrisville, www.cipherescape.com) One of the first escape rooms to come to the Triangle, the reliable Cipher Escape has added a Holmesian room set in the Victorian criminal underground to its tried-and-true lineup of North Carolina themed, local brewery themed, and geek-culture themed rooms.
TIME'S UP! ESCAPE ROOMS (216 East Chatham Street, No. 108, Cary, www.timesupescape.com) This Cary outpost smartly highlights the kinds of skills favored by each of its rooms: a bomb-squad scenario requires "math, logic, and deduction," but you'll need more "technical" chops to solve a murder.