The Great Escape in Clovis is in the process of opening a location in Visalia
By Reggie Ellis
Visalia – Imagine waking up in a nightmarish scene. A sinister scientist has trapped you and your family in has laboratory with his latest experiment — a zombie chained to the wall. The only way out of the room is a locked door and the only way to find the key is to solve a series of clues. Every five minutes the zombie’s chain gets longer and the clues get harder as you try to avoid being infected in a race against the clock hands to escape the clutches of the undead.
Now imagine this is taking place in Visalia. It’s a Walking Dead fan’s dream come true!
That dream could become a reality later this year thanks to Jana Wilkerson’s business The Great Escape. Her escape room company in Clovis is currently in the site plan review process to open a 1,200 square foot escape room with the City of Visalia. Wilkerson is proposing to open The Great Escape’s second Central Valley location at 3300 S. Fairway St. behind the Milan Institute of Cosmetology and Tokyo Gardens.
“It’s probably the best form of entertainment that I can think of,” Wilkerson said. “It’s interactive, creative and you have to think and problem solve.”
Wilkerson, 42, opened her first escape room in Clovis a year and a half ago and a second location in Maui just nine months ago called “Escape Kihei,” a city in Maui. She has been a full-time teacher for 20 years when she opened the Clovis location, just seven months stepping into her first escape room as part of a pre-college vacation with her son and husband.
“I’m horrible at them,” she said. “We did two on that trip and failed both times. I stayed up all night trying to figure out what I could have done differently, but that’s part of the fun too.”
Quality escape rooms have a success rate of about 30-45%, which is about where The Great Escape’s attractions fall. The Zombie Lab described above is one of three escape room themes offered at The Great Escape in Clovis. They also offer the Mafia Bomb Squad. You and your crew are a bomb squad in 1920’s and get sent into action after prohibition gangsters were tipped off about a raid at an underground casino. Your crew finds itself in a speakeasy and must solve clues to not only find the bomb but disarm it before it is too late. Door number three is a little bit trickier. In The Heist, you and your crack team of thieves have broken into a famous art gallery to steal the Cora Sun-drop diamond. You begin in the gallery and must find clues to unlock the vault where the diamond is held before navigating a laser maze security system. To make things more challenging, your team begins in two different rooms and are only aided by each other communication skills.
“Neither team can completely see the other team’s room so there is a lot that has to be communicated between a wall,” Wilkerson said. “All of these challenges are about working together to solve problems. It’s awesome to see people come together and funny to watch how people react in a scenario.”
If approved by the city, Wilkerson said two of these themes will be brought over to the Visalia location with the addition of at least one more new room, possibly a prison break room. She decided to open a location in the South Valley because many of her clients in Clovis drive from Hanford and Visalia. Most of Wilkerson’s business comes from corporate team-building exercises, but birthday parties and family adventures are also frequent clients.
“It’s great for families with teenagers because you get an hour with your teen without their phone because you can’t take a cell phones in the room,” Wilkerson said. “Where else can you get that kind of time.”
Wilkerson recommends escape rooms for those12 and older to avoid children who will be too scared or frustrated to enjoy the experience. Each escape room can handle up to 8 people and last one hour.
If you can’t wait for The Great Escape to open in Visalia, check out their Clovis location at 130 W. Shaw Ave., #101. The cost is $25 or about half of what you might pay to experience something similar in Southern California or the Bay Area. Reservations can be made online at
firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call The Great Escape at 559-722-7793.