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After puzzling through pandemic, Escape Room Herndon wins national award

The business won a TripAdvisor award in the category of fun and games. (via Escape Room Herndon)

After nearly shutting down during the pandemic, Escape Room Herndon’s team-based puzzle game experience has won a national award.

The business, run by longtime Herndon resident Omer Are, was recognized by TripAdvisor as this year’s Travelers’ Choice Award winner for fun and games.

Kanika Soni, Tripadvisor’s chief commercial officer, noted that the award recognizes the best in tourism and hospitality based on selections made by customers. Awards are based on a full year of reviews on Tripadvisor.

“Whether it’s using new technology, implementing safety measures, or hiring outstanding staff, I’m impressed by the steps you’ve taken to meet travelers’ new demands. You’ve adapted brilliantly in the face of diversity,” Soni said in a news release.

The pandemic was a show-stopping force for an entertainment business that depends on people closely collaborating with others in an indoor, contained setting. In March of 2020, Escape Room Herndon closed and refunded future bookings. It remained closed for five months and instead designed free online games for guests to play while they were stuck at home.

“It was a tough time and we had to make some adjustments to the new normal we are in today,” Aru said. “We added a mask policy, sanitizing in between games, and changed to an all-private model.  Slowly we’ve climbed back to a place where I think we will be able to continue hosting guests in Herndon for years to come.”

Aru launched the business in June 2016 after his brother-in-law told him about a similar concept on a beach trip — Escape Room in Richmond — that he had started several years ago. Aru, a Herndon resident who previously hoped to get into selling 3D filaments online, was intrigued by the idea.

That year, he drove down for his first escape room experience with a group of strangers.

“After an hour of laughing, jump scares and mysteries, we escaped cheering and high-fiving each other. I was instantly hooked,” Aru told FFXnow.

The next month, he started filing paperwork to open a business in the county.

He set his sights on Herndon because he says it’s a family-oriented community with great schools and other small businesses.

“The Mayor’s Office was also very supportive from the beginning helping us get established,” Aru said. “Our shopping center also helped us in the beginning months of Covid to take some of the burdens off while sales were nonexistent. At the end of the day, we love it in Herndon and are proud to call it home, so much so that we put it in our name.”