Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play in the dark recesses of Casa Loma? What it would be like to climb up the tower? Casa Loma’s Escape Rooms invite us to do just that. And it makes a perfect date night for Valentine’s Day, or an activity for friends or a whole family on Family Day.
Play Station M to infiltrate a spy facility and discover the source of the signal in the underground tunnels. Move on a notorious bootlegger in a 1920s Speakeasy in King of the Bootleggers. The greatest detective in all of Canada has gone missing, and the mission to find him in Murdoch Mysteries: The Secret of Station House #4 is in the Coachman’s Stables. Escape From the Tower in the Norman Tower is where an Anti-Submarine Detection Research Centre has detected an advance of U-boats and submarines but require urgent assistance in finding their precise locations to alert the allies.
For our Escape Room adventure we select The Dragon’s Song in the Scottish Tower.
Our mission is to find a dragon’s egg hidden somewhere in the tower, set it in the centre of a magical table, play the right keys of the Dragon’s Song to free the majestic dragons from the spell of the rouge alchemist, Morgoth.
We quietly cross a bridge in order to not awaken a sleeping dragon, before entering the tower. There are twelve brave souls in our group and we need each one of them, because this is a team effort. We have 60 minutes, and are racing against time while climbing up and down the stairs of the tower to the laboratory to map out constellations, decode a cypher, solve riddles and find very objects that correspond to magic runes so that we can recite the proper incantations and complete our mission. For one task, we need to find four sheets of designs and set them in the right configuration on a panel. We know we’ve solved this puzzle when we hold up a camera and, while looking through the lens, an augmented reality is activated that leads us to the next clue!
What is truly amazing about this Escape Room experience is that all twelve of us are constantly, actively trying to beat the clock and solve simultaneous tasks that lead us closer to our goal. The teamwork alone is a great social exercise. But more so, the setting, in the tower of the castle, is without peer. There is nowhere else like this. We’re completely engrossed, and at times, in costume, too. I never even knew this space existed in all my years visiting Casa Loma. It’s an ingenious use of space, and incorporates live theatre with live actors, from our knight to our apprentice wizard, guiding us to the end.
At last, we find the dragon’s egg! We set it in the centre of the table and, through trial and error, figure out the musical score. Each of us stand around the table and contribute our designated keys to play the song. A beam of light emanates from the table to reveal the dragon has been released to flourish.
Tempus fugit. It was such an intense and fun hour that, back in the real world, over dinner, we looked at each other with smiles and both said, “Can you believe we just did that?” We felt completely transported to another place and time, and would likely escape there again.
For a romantic evening in a magical setting, a series of intimate candlelit concerts featuring the Casa Loma Symphony Orchestra are conducted by renowned Maestro Paolo Busato. (Doors open at 7PM with performances at 7:30 pm with one 20-minute intermission, until February 17th.)
On arrival at the grand entrance of Casa Loma, guests travel the historic 800 ft tunnel below the castle to the Carriage Room in The Stables for a one-of-a-kind performance bathed in candlelight. Pre-show and during intermission, concert goers enjoy cocktails at the Carriage Room bar. In an intimate setting, the program for Wednesday and Sunday evenings features Music from the Movies, with classic scores from Hollywood’s most memorable films, showcasing Toronto’s adored operatic duo, guest soprano, Sara Papini and her partner, tenor, Joey Niceforo. Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturday features From Broadway to Opera and Beyond, with music from classics and beloved arias to Broadway favourites, to today’s most hummable hits.
And new this year, Friday Night ROCK SYMPHONY, featuring the absolute best of symphonic classic rock from Queen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and more, performed by Toronto’s indie media darling rock band, the Cold Weather Captains, with lead vocalist, Justin Di Donato, accompanied by Canadian power vocalist and Broadway musical performer, Cleopatra Williams.
The heart of the castle is its kitchen, where cocktails and dinner include dishes generous enough to share. Unique heirloom furnishings juxtaposed with the most edgy art of the day by Salvador Dali, Artworks and Mr. Brainwash, make the fascinating room a feast for the eyes as well. A visit to the wine cellar in the Castle is not to be missed. Australian rack of lamb is lovingly encrusted with pistachio, maple and Pommery mustard. A succulent bone-on Provimi veal chop has been handled with care, and snatched from the grill at its peak of luscious, medium rare perfection. The menu offers the finest cuts of beef from the world’s steak capitals. American beef from Nebraska, Kansas and Mishima Reserve farms; Canada Beef from Alberta, Ontario, PEI and New Brunswick; as well as Australian beef and wagyu from Japan. Combined with seafood towers and table-side-Caesar, crunchy duck fat fries and velvety rich house-made gnocchi luxuriating in Gorgonzola, our only hard decision is: shall we enjoy the table-side pyrotechnics of Crepe Suzette or Baked Alaska? The most decadent is the Profiterole. A chocolate dome hides house-made hazelnut ice cream encased in choux pastry with assorted berries until revealed by a warm chocolate sauce pour-over.
Casa Loma, 1 Austin Terrace in Toronto, 416-923-1171
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Publisher of DINE and Destinations magazine.