If you have not heard of Puzzle Rides yet, it’s time to become familiar with one of the most unique businesses in the Valley. You might have done an escape room, or you might have participated in your fair share of scavenger hunts, but I can assure you that you’ve never done anything like this before.
Puzzle Rides is most accurately described as a mobile escape room, but it really does combine the best elements of both escape rooms and scavenger hunts… and it’s all done outside and on-the-go. Participants are chauffeured around town on a golf cart by their puzzlemaster, finding clues and solving puzzles to unveil the next location on your quest for treasure.
Owned and operated by Katie and Gregg Dufort, Puzzle Rides was inspired by a combination of pandemic-related business struggles and their daughter’s 25th birthday party. For years, the Duforts used their golf carts to chauffeur passengers around Old Town Scottsdale and Prescott, but when COVID-19 hit, everything changed. Spring Training was cancelled, bars and restaurants were closed, and they had no choice but to pivot. Then, their daughter asked to do an escape room for her birthday, and it clicked. Why don’t they combine the increasingly popular activity with their golf cart service? The rest is history.
Hunting for treasure
There are a variety of different quests you can take your family and friends on. Some of the most popular Puzzle Rides include:
• Hijacked by Science – a moderately difficult adventure, where you aim to stop a mad scientist. This one is available in both Prescott and Scottsdale.
• Pirate Treasure Adventure – an easy to moderate level adventure, where you can don your favorite pirate gear on your quest to find the hidden treasure. This one is available in both Prescott and Scottsdale.
• Wild West Heist – a moderately difficult adventure, where you search for hidden loot that was buried by bank robbers from back in the day. This is available in both Prescott and Scottsdale.
Arguably the coolest element of this business is that each ride includes clues that are native to the communities in which they take place. They utilize historical elements, as well as local art to create the clue packages for each ride. For example, in the Wild West Heist, the Prescott ride has you following the route of 1880’s bank robbers, while in Scottsdale, you’re tailing the 1930’s Dillinger Gang. For those of who don’t know, Scottsdale did not exist in the 1800’s; therefore, it wouldn’t have made sense to mirror the same quest in both towns. How’s that for some attention to detail?
The future of Puzzle Rides
Katie and Gregg Dufort have plenty of exciting plans for the future of Puzzle Rides. First, they are in the process of developing an exclusively adult version of their business called Hot Summer Nights, where they will partner with local bars to include drinking elements to their mobile adventures. Right now, they plan on segmenting the rides into three categories: hard rock, classic rock and soft rock. Hard rock will feature liquor, while classic rock will focus on beer and soft rock will be centered around wine. Each participating team will need to solve puzzles to move onto the next bar. Or as Gregg likes to put it, “if you ain’t thinkin, you ain’t drinkin.”
In addition, Puzzle Rides plans to explore franchising options for other cities throughout the United States that are conducive to this kind of activity. Some early considerations include Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee. While the core themes will remain the same, the clues will once again be native to the cities themselves, as they will be created to utilize local history and art to support and bring attention to the surrounding community.