The BEST thing to do in Syracuse!
I grew up in a small town just outside of Syracuse, NY, and even in the 90’s, the then “Carousel Mall” felt like it was a destination. (Of course, that may have been because my mother hated it with a passion, so we almost never went there.) But I distinctly remember being asked what I wanted for my 5th birthday, and my greatest desire at the time was to go to the mall and ride the carousel until I puked. Since then, the Carousel Mall has been rebranded as Destiny USA, and while the gorgeous antique carousel is still present in the food court, the expansion of the mall has brought in a whole host of other entertainment options, giving the children (and adults) of today many more options for things to do than I did in the early 90’s.
Now, while I did get to ride the carousel on my birthday until I was a little bit green, if I were asked today how I would want to spend the event I would be much more likely to choose a day jam packed full of fun and puzzles, which is exactly what you’ll get at The Museum of Intrigue. Now, we didn’t really need an excuse to visit, and my birthday is nowhere near June, but Gordon’s sort of is, so when we found ourselves with a day to ourselves on a trip back across the Atlantic to visit my family, there was no question about what we would be doing. Which is how we found ourselves standing outside The Museum of Intrigue bright and early on a gloriously sunny Thursday in June.
Visitors to the museum are able to book either individual stories, a half day pass, or a full day pass. On particularly busy days, if you book a pass, you may also be asked to book in times for the stories that you want to play, but this is simply to ensure that you can play the games you want, without being disappointed because someone else is already solving the mystery of the Portals to the Fey. It will come as no surprise to regular readers of Review the Room to hear that we booked a full day pass (yes, a full eight hours). We didn’t book in specific times, simply because we intended to get through as many stories as physically possible while still enjoying ourselves, and were willing to just go with whichever story happened to be available when we were.
As we walked through the door to the Museum, we were enthusiastically greeted by our host for the morning, Liam, and ushered through to a break room, reserved specifically for those mad enough to book a full day pass for the Museum. We were able to leave our belongings here, and come and go as we pleased. There were even snacks, to help us power through the day. We left our belongings in the safety of our secret room and made our way back out to the foyer to begin our day at the Museum.
The Museum isn’t exactly an escape room. It’s definitely something more akin to an immersive puzzle experience, with escape room elements, but there are key differences. For one thing, the space is massive, and no matter which story you’re following, you’ll find yourself wandering throughout the majority of the 9,000 sq foot space. You may also find yourselves crossing paths with other investigators, as they embark on a mission to follow their own story. But one of the crucial differences is the lack of time limit. Ok, the Museum says that they expect a prologue to take 30 minutes and a full story to take an hour, but if your story takes you an hour and a half, then that’s how long it takes, and you don’t have to worry about being booted out, allowing you to really lose yourself in the story.
At our time of playing, The Museum of Intrigue offered 5 Prologues and 10 Full length games. These are constantly being added to, or changed, giving plenty of options. The majority of the stories could probably be solved by just one person, and are absolutely achievable if you are just a pair. But many are multi-linear, or at least have options to divide and conquer, so larger teams will never find one person left out of the action. There are also a few stories that are specifically designed to be completed by more than two people, so this is definitely an activity that you’ll want to gather your friends and family for! Sadly, we couldn’t play those, but it just means the next time we’re in Syracuse I’ll have to wrangle my family into coming with us.
The fact that each “game” within the Museum is classed as a story should make it obvious that each adventure is highly narrative driven, with every clue you discover revealing more of the story. But more than that, the Museum really does look like a Museum. There is a desk where you will find a member of staff ready to assist you should you need it. The space is divided into different exhibits, ranging from a space set up just like a dining room, to a laboratory, and even just a classic museum-style exhibit with boards of information and a few artifacts. There is also, unsurprisingly, a gift shop.
The Museum of Intrigue may not be your typical escape room, but the puzzles we encountered were very much in the style of those that one would expect if it were: lots of searching, plenty of observation, a bit of maths, some logical deduction, actor interaction, and of course, some outside the box thinking.
Every corner of the museum revealed something new, and we found ourselves not just unlocking padlocks but also interacting with the exhibits and the staff in interesting and sometimes hilarious ways. Throughout the day we found ourselves constantly noticing new things in every space, and then being delighted when it came into play later.
We found the difficulty of the puzzles to be balanced just right. Escape room enthusiasts will be delighted by the sheer volume of content and the fact that everything was fair and made perfect sense. Those that are new to puzzles will find things a bit more of a challenge, but will be delighted with those moments of realisation that come when something finally clicks.
The Museum Staff are utterly delightful, and it was the staff interaction that made The Museum of Intrigue a truly memorable experience. We visited on a very quiet day, so we only saw a few of the staff, primarily Liam, who looked after us throughout the morning, and Gomez who took the afternoon shift. The Intern was around throughout a good portion of the day as well, and apparently “Randy,” although he was rather elusive.
Every single staff member remained in character through the day, so much so that perhaps they weren’t even really characters, and someone was always available should we need any help. Sometimes that help was incredibly cryptic, but help was always there.
I am not sure I’ve ever had this much fun at the mall, not even when I was 5. If you’re looking for something a little bit different, but totally fantastic, to do in Syracuse, you should look no further than The Museum of Intrigue.
Team: 2 players – spent 8 glorious hours in the museum (and we wanted longer)
Address: 9658 Destiny USA Dr, Syracuse, NY 13204, United States