Escape Expert

“Not smarter than a fifth grader.” That’s probably what our tombstone would read, after we were left stumped by the Attic Society room. But to be fair, it would take a pretty darn smart fifth grader to beat an escape room at Plano’s Escape Expert.

Co-owner Andrew McJannet-Smith warned the room would be challenging — and turns out it was, in the most fun way possible. Full of clues waiting to be discovered, escape rooms require teams of friends, family or even strangers to work together to solve their way out through a (virtually) locked door before time runs out. Bring your sneaky friend, your smart friend, heck, even your friend who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes. You’re gonna need ‘em all. The clues you solve together reveal codes you’ll need to unlock your way to freedom—literally—as you find ways to remove a series of padlocks that reveal your final passcode.

A tiny preview of the Attic Society Level 1 room (the rest is all secret!) // photos by Jennifer Shertzer

Open in Plano since May 21, at over 10,500 square feet, Escape Expert is actually the largest escape room facility in America. Husband and wife team Andrew and Traci operate nine escape rooms featuring seven different themes, each with its own backstory and unique tricks and challenges. (Four of the rooms are currently under construction with plans to debut this fall.) Part brains and part brawn, they make a great team, with Traci dreaming up new ways to baffle customers and Andrew building them all from scratch.

Escape Expert owners, Andrew and Traci McJannett-Smith

Andrew laughs as he remembers how they found inspiration to open Escape Expert. On a vacation to Nashville, the family sought some fun on a break between visiting Taylor Swift landmarks. Intrigued, they visited an escape room together. The family lost, but they ended up loving it and were sad to find it too booked to visit again before vacation ended.

Back in Dallas, Andrew sought a similar local experience for the family but was disappointed by the lack of facilities. So after a year of preparation, he opened Escape Expert in Dallas in 2015, and quickly the business became a popular attraction. With tons of corporate and individual bookings, Andrew and Traci’s talents were in demand, and they both deciding to leave corporate careers in IT and accounting to better run the business.

Andrew gives a short orientation before these teams proceed to their escape rooms

After wrapping their highly-successful first year, the couple was ready for Escape Expert to grow. But then almost overnight, things hit a huge roadblock. Due to unforeseen problems with an occupancy certification, Escape Expert was effectively shut down by the fire department, never to reopen again within Dallas city limits.

When one door closes another door opens, people say. That next door just happened to be in Plano, where city officials welcomed the business with open arms and patiently worked with them to find the perfect location. Located just east of 75, the new spot also keeps Escape Expert close to corporate clients, something Andrew is quite happy about.

It’s easy to see how corporate groups could use Escape Expert to their advantage. Once in the escape room, teams rely on their wits and their teammates’ strengths to find their way out—all while staff watch from closed circuit cameras, used both to offer help to puzzled patrons and to entertain them after their eventual escape. There’s a certain camaraderie required in order to beat an escape room. And at least one client has used the facility for an unexpected and rather untraditional job interview process, throwing potential promotion candidates into the room to see who would emerge as a natural leader.

Our team unlocking the final padlock to get out of the virtually-locked escape room

With escape rates averaging between 8 and 45%, Andrew and Traci have built an escape room for every level. The challenges? Hard. The clues? Helpful. The look on your friends’ faces as they try to decipher a code involving adorable children’s building blocks? Priceless. At $28 a person per game, Escape Expert is a worthwhile way to spend the day.

Plus, if you lose, you’re still in good company.

Escape Expert Website > [codepeople-post-map]
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