How to Make the Most of Spring Showers in Rhode Island
A little rain won't disrupt your parade at these three locations that invite you to play, climb and laugh — while staying dry — as April showers keep you indoors.
A dreary day doesn’t have to be a downer when there are plenty of fun activities to do inside. Whether you want to test your puzzle-solving skills, scale new heights or tickle your funny bone, these adventurous outings might just have you wishing for more overcast afternoons.
Note: This article has been updated from a version that was originally published in 2022.
For the puzzle enthusiasts
One of the state’s best rainy day activities involves escaping in the great indoors. Escape Rhode Island in Providence opened in 2015, just before the craze expanded across the country. When the team first opened the facility, there were about fifty venues across the nation. Now, there are more than 2,000 escape rooms to be explored and solved.
Escape Rhode Island is open year-round, with games changing every year or so. The four indoor games include the Mausoleum, the Speakeasy, the Space Station Andromeda and the Bunker. There’s also two immersive outdoor games called the Zachariah Conundrum and the Eldritch Expedition.
The team enjoys dreaming up ideas for rooms and games. How long it takes to design and build a room depends on the theme and how many custom electronic effects are used, says Christopher Mejias, general manager of Escape Rhode Island. “With the actual installation, it could take several months to design a room,” he says.
An IQ of 200 isn’t necessary to master the puzzles. Each room has its own success rate. The Speakeasy and Space Station Andromeda hover around the 30 to 35 percent escape rate; in other words, “seven out of ten teams aren’t making it out,” Mejias says. The Mausoleum and Bunker have 30 and 20 percent success rates, respectively.
“Most visitors are motivated by a challenge, so games are designed to be difficult — and realistic — hence the relatively low escape rates,” Mejias says. “Teams should be able to complete the objective, so it’s finding that balance between the two.” Regardless of the outcome, teams have rated the experience 100 percent fun.
Once April showers halt for a day or two, the Zachariah Conundrum takes players out of the headquarters and into the city. The Escape Rhode Island team came up with the outdoor theme during the pandemic by brainstorming ways visitors could safely enjoy the escape room experience.
“Teams come down to us and pick up a backpack, using the items from that backpack and the city of Providence as part of the game,” says Mejias. “They interact with items that we give them in certain locations and solve puzzles and unfold the story along the way.”
Grab a friend, or gather four to ten players and create a team before entering the space that challenges your brain and encourages you to explore, adapt, collaborate, be clever and think creatively before the sixty-minute mark.
You can rent an escape room for two for $79, with extra tickets costing an additional $29 per person. Escape Rhode Island runs games Tuesday through Sunday; check website for time slots. 385 South Main St., Floor 2, Providence, 326-2222, escaperhodeisland.com
For the adventurers
From three-year-olds to seventy-year-olds, Warwick’s Central Rock Gym is no stranger to witnessing brave folks meet difficult climbing goals.
Margo Rego, the assistant manager at Central Rock Gym, is amazed by the facility’s community. Guests quickly form bonds with each other during their rock climbing sessions. “You can become best friends with people who are thirty years older or younger than you just because everyone is so like-minded,” says Rego. The activity is a full-body workout for every climber, helping to build muscle, increase cardio and improve coordination.
Beginners can start their rock climbing career with auto belays, where the rope is already at the top of the wall and gently lowers you back to the ground once you’ve let go of the climbing holds. They’re ideal for solo climbs or endurance workouts. After getting the hang of that, bouldering and top roping with a partner are other riveting routes to rock climbing.
The gym’s bouldering walls are fifteen feet tall with thick flooring to cushion your fall, since ropes or harnesses aren’t used. This type of climbing encourages you to strategize the best sequence of moves while testing your strength. Top roping with a partner, or belay, requires a trusty climber to hold the ropes (and offer you encouragement on your way up). The partner should be ready to catch you and lower you down if you fall or after you’ve reached the top.
The facility has about 100 rope stations, a thirty-six-foot lead wall and 300 feet of bouldering space. It also contains a kids’ area with easy climbs and funky-looking ladders, a yoga room and a fitness gym. Weekdays after the tiring nine-to-five and rainy weekends are the gym’s busiest times, full of individuals of every age with a common goal: reaching the peak.
During my visit, I spotted a group of determined young men attempting bouldering techniques. I thought they were veteran climbers, but they had only entered the climbing scene ten months ago. There was also a little boy poised at the top of another boulder wall, whose proud mama was supporting from afar, only giving guidance when needed.
It’s never too early or late to begin your climbing journey, whether your aim is to have fun or get a good sweat in.
Central Rock Gym offers shoe, harness and belay device rentals to facilitate your climbing journey. The gym also hosts kids’ programs, fitness and yoga classes including HIIT, vinyasa flow yoga and core conditioning. There are climbing classes that demonstrate proper movement, footwork, how to prevent injury and more. Hours are Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Thursday through Friday, 2 p.m.–10:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. 275 West Natick Rd., Warwick, 889-5452, centralrockgym.com/warwick
For the humorists
Leave the improv skits to an award-winning comedy troupe. Firehouse Theater in Newport is the home of the Bit Players, a short-form improv group that performs rib-tickling games inspired by the comedy television show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
The intimate, BYOB facility wasn’t always the comedy hub it is now. Owners Jack and Donna Maytum bought the former firehouse in the early 2000s and built it up as a prime location for plays, opening the door to comedy in 2007. Artistic Director Frank Fusaro helped the duo expand the property and make comedy its focus, attracting more people into the seventy-five-seat theater.
Whether it’s a regular show or the Family-Friendly Funnies that take place during school break, the audience members are in control: they’re the ones who determine the outcome and the Players’ actions as nothing is prepared ahead of time. It’s true improv. “Each show is different every time. It’s driven off of the audience itself,” says Karl Magner, operations manager and Bit Player. “We ask for suggestions and then we base all of our scenes, music and games off of what the audience gives us.”
When they’re not in front of an audience, the Bit Players are rehearsing — relearning and exercising their brains. “When we perform, it’s unique to us; our games are invented here in rehearsal,” says Devon Mello, who’s been a Bit Player since the troupe’s inception. “Rehearsals fine-tune those skills. We ask ourselves, ‘What are we good at and how can we shine a light on that specifically?’”
Check out the Bit Players every Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 7 and 9 p.m. Photograph by James Adams.Celebrating something or someone special? Just let the Bit Players know and you might be the center of attention for a brief moment during the show. “We have a lot of bachelorette parties that like to bring up the bride-to-be and we sing a little serenade to them,” says Magner. “We get to know them and their party, then come up with music on the spot from the information they give us.”
It can also be a great date idea. “Maybe not the first date,” Magner says. “They get awkward.”
Vlad Tenenbaum, a sixty-year-old professional mime, has been part of the fun-loving troupe since the beginning, along with Mello. What inspired him to join the group? “It was my midlife crisis,” he says.
Having been in the comedy scene for several years, the form of theater comes naturally to him. “Nothing is prepared, you don’t know what [the audience] is going to say or what your partner is going to do, but you accept everything and just go with it,” says Tenenbaum. “If you perform for yourself, you fail. If you perform for your partner, it’s about giving the ability to your partner to shine. If you try to be funny, you just look desperate.”
“Sometimes it’s reading the room and seeing how the audience reacts,” says Magner, “but also it’s about being with your seat partner and having that connection where you can have a scene that flows and have the audience go, ‘Whoa!’ It’s nice to impress the audience sometimes instead of making them just laugh.”
In case you think you’ve got what it takes to be a part of the group, the Bit Players hold open auditions once every other year and post the information on their Facebook and Instagram pages. Tickets are $18, with shows every Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and the occasional jazz night hosted by one of the Bit Players musicians on Sunday at 5 p.m. 4 Equality Park Place, Newport, 849-3473, firehousetheater.org