ABC News // Obama, Japanese Prime Minister remember Pearl Harbor during Final Hawaiian Vacation as President

ABC News // Obama, Japanese Prime Minister remember Pearl Harbor during Final Hawaiian Vacation as President

Obama, Japanese Prime Minister remember Pearl Harbor during Final Hawaiian Vacation as President

By SERENA MARSHALL and JON GARCIA
Dec 27, 2016, 9:50 PM ET

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Shaved Ice and 'Live-Action Escape:' Obama's Dad-Daughter Day Out
Saturday, Dec. 24

After President Obama enjoyed a roughly two-hour lunch with daughters Sasha and Malia Friday at Waikiki's Side Street Inn, the trio, along with the daughters' friends, headed to Breakout Waikiki, which bills itself as "Hawaii's first live-action escape room."

The venue allots guests roughly 60-minutes to escape from a room using codes and "your gut" by solving riddles.

The President and his daughters spent an hour-and-a-half inside the room, so whether they made it out, is unclear.

Afterwards, the group visited the president's favorite shaved ice spot, Kailua's Island Snow. According to the travel pool, Malia passed on partaking in the frozen dessert, but Sasha opted for a blue shaved ice treat.

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Kansas City Star // Obama visit to escape room surprises Breakout KC’s Waikiki location

Kansas City Star // Obama visit to escape room surprises Breakout KC’s Waikiki location

BY ROBERT A. CRONKLETON
bcronkleton@kcstar.com


Breakout KC is making a name for itself in live-action escape rooms — where players enter themed rooms and have 60 minutes to “break out” by figuring out clues, puzzles and riddles.

In less than two years, the Kansas City-based company has expanded to four entertainment centers, including one in Waikiki.

On Christmas Eve, the Hawaii location was thrust into the limelight when a celebrity booking turned out to be someone totally unexpected — President Barack Obama.

It wasn’t until the U.S. Secret Service arrived about 40 minutes ahead of the scheduled afternoon booking that the staff at Breakout Waikiki realized they would be hosting Obama and his daughters, who were vacationing in Hawaii.

“That’s when things became really, really interesting,” said MacGregor Greenlee, general manager of Breakout Waikiki. “Of course we flew into a flurry of excitement about this crazy, crazy opportunity and did everything we could to prepare well and be ready for him.”

Hosting celebrities is not something new for Breakout Waikiki. Shortly after it opened in November last year, members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team played the escape game.

Perhaps it was a tweet following the athletes’ visit that got Obama’s attention. The tweet challenged him to try the game while he was visiting Hawaii a year ago.

“Hey @POTUS, if you think running a country is hard, try breaking out of one of our rooms! #WambachDidIt #BringMichelle #ShesYourOnlyHope”

“Nothing happened of it,” said Matt Baysinger, CEO of Breakout KC. “They didn’t come that week, which was fine. It was fun just to have the thought that they might show up.”

Fast forward to the morning of Christmas Eve — afternoon Kansas City time — when someone called Breakout Waikiki wanting to book all four rooms for a celebrity client that day, Baysinger said.

“They didn’t say who it was,” Baysinger said. “Fortunately we had some availability. We had to move some things around to accommodate their requests.”

The Secret Service vetted all of the employees and checked their identifications. Police dogs made a pass through the business to make sure it was safe.

“Our employees were all having panic attacks out of sheer excitement,” Baysinger said. “It’s a real special thing to meet a president, especially to be able to interact with them for a full hour.”

Baysinger said he first learned of the president’s visit while he was in the middle of Christmas dinner. He got a call from Breakout Waikiki. He responded with a text saying he was busy. He got a response back, saying he needed to call — that it was important.

Baysinger called and said the exchange went something like this:

Waikiki staff: Hey, the president is coming.
Baysinger: You’re really funny.
Waikiki staff: No, seriously. The president is coming.

“That’s when it started to sink in, and so I tried to make all the phone calls of our folks out here that needed to be on standby just for whatever reason,” Baysinger said.

One of the phone calls was to Greenlee, who was in Alabama for the holiday.

The duties of dealing with the Secret Service and making sure everything was set up and ready to go fell to Mitch Massey, on what was his first day as shift leader.

“From that time forward, we were glued to our phones because we got to watch part of the experience and listen to the president interact with our staff,” Baysinger said.

“My family might tell you that it ruined Christmas dinner,” he said with a chuckle. “Obviously not all of us were really excited that they were glued to my phone as much as I was.”

With 12 seconds remaining, the president was able to escape from the Mission Manoa room, which is one of the two most challenging rooms across Breakout KC’s facilities. It has a success rate of about 21 percent. It’s similar to the Szechuan Secret room in Kansas City. Both were designed here.

“They are nearly identical,” Baysinger said. “There are just a couple components that we tailor to be more Hawaiian for our Hawaii location.”

The cost for the Mission Manoa room is $28-$40 per person, depending on how many people are in a group, according to Breakout Waikiki’s website.

As news spread that Obama played the escape game, Breakout Waikiki has been hearing from others through social media about their experiences, comparing their time to the president’s.

The visit has also caused a surge in business, prompting the Waikiki location to start offering overtime.

“Our bookings almost doubled overnight, and our web traffic is up 700 percent in light of all the news coverage we have gotten out in Hawaii,” Baysinger said.

This kind of Christmas present, Greenlee said, will last for a very long time.

“Thanks, Obama,” he said.


Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261@cronkb

CBS NEWS // How are the Obamas spending their Christmas weekend?

CBS NEWS // How are the Obamas spending their Christmas weekend?

REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE


HONOLULU -- President Obama spent Christmas Eve working out at the gym, stopping for shave ice and participating in a live-action escape game with his daughters during their vacation in Hawaii.

The president brought his daughters, Malia and Sasha, and friends to a place called Breakout Waikiki where they had an hour to “crack the codes” and “use your gut” to break out of an escape room.

This comes after the venue tweeted at Mr. Obama on Friday, challenging him to try the game.

After their visit, Breakout Waikiki tweeted that they broke out of the escape room with only 12 seconds left.

Meanwhile, first lady Michelle Obama spent Christmas Eve surprising kids across the U.S. with a phone call.

“I want to hear Santa talk,” said Austin, one of a handful of kids who called the NORAD Tracks Santa program on Saturday and found Michelle Obama on the other end of the line.

Santa couldn’t get to the phone, the first lady patiently explained, “because he’s delivering all the gifts” — 3 million of them and counting, according to NORAD, as of late morning in Honolulu, where President Barack Obama and his family are on vacation.

There was a bittersweet note this year as the first lady carried out her annual Christmas ritual for the final time, taking calls from kids who wanted to know exactly how much progress Santa had made on his journey. It’ll be up to the next first lady, Melania Trump, to decide next year whether to continue the tradition.

But Austin had another concern in mind: Would Santa know where to go?

“I’m going to move to another house,” said Austin, joined by three other kids in North Carolina.

No matter, Mrs. Obama replied.

“He’s going to be able to find you no matter where you go,” she said, according to a transcript released by the White House. “That’s the special thing about Santa.”

The first lady spent roughly a half-hour taking calls before joining her husband, daughters Sasha and Malia and family friends for lunch at Side Street Inn, whose greasy food and low-key atmosphere is popular among Hawaii locals and tourists alike. Then the family drove to Breakout Waikiki, a “live action” experience where visitors are “trapped” in a room and must work together to break out.

But before the family fun, there was a geography lesson as the first lady updated children about Santa’s most recent locales on his gift-giving voyage: Sardinia, Malta and Hungary, to name a few.

If there was a lesson for the first lady, it was a crash course in the latest hot-item gifts.

A girl named Kirsten told Mrs. Obama she wanted a drone from Santa. Joshua wanted a Hot Wheels garage, while Aiden wanted a hoverboard.

But it was Adilyn whose gift seemed to catch the first lady off guard.

“I’m getting a hedgehog tomorrow,” Adilyn said.


© 2016 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

AOL NEWS // Obama spent Christmas Eve doing a live-action "escape room" game with his daughters

AOL NEWS // Obama spent Christmas Eve doing a live-action "escape room" game with his daughters

ANNA SWARTZ
Dec 25th 2016 4:01PM


How did the outgoing leader of the free world spend his Christmas Eve? According to theHillPresident Barack Obama took his daughters and some friends to complete a live-action "escape room" game in Hawaii, where the family is spending the holiday.

MacGregor Greenlee, general manager at Breakout Waikiki in Honolulu, where Obama and his crew competed in the "escape room" challenge, told BuzzFeed News, "We didn't know that they were coming. It was 100% unexpected. They booked under a different name."

Greenlee told BuzzFeed the Obamas chose "one of our harder rooms" to try to escape. According to the venue's website, participants have an hour to "crack codes" and "solve riddles" to figure out how to break out of the rooms. "They were yelling [and] screaming, having a blast," Greenlee told BuzzFeed. "They broke out with 12 seconds left."

Another employee told BuzzFeed 18-year-old Malia Obama was the real star of the show, doing "a lot of the work" to help the group successfully escape the room in time.

According to the Hill, the Obamas celebrated their victory by stopping for shaved ice and greeting crowds on the way home.

The New York Times // President Obama Wishes Crowd Merry Christmas

The New York Times // President Obama Wishes Crowd Merry Christmas

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS     DEC. 24, 2016, 11:42 P.M. E.S.T.


HONOLULU — The Latest on President Barack Obama's annual two-week vacation in Hawaii (all times local):

6:30 p.m.

Before heading home for the night, President Barack Obama, his two daughters, and close friends unwound with some local style "shave ice" at Island Snow in Kailua. The popular Hawaiian dessert combines thinly shaved ice with different flavors of syrup and assorted toppings.

Although Secret Service sectioned off the entire block, tourists and local shopkeepers quickly got wind of President Obama's appearance in the neighborhood and flocked to both sides of the block hoping to catch a glimpse.

The president, wearing casual clothes and flip flops, shook hands and spoke with a small crowd outside the store. He spent some time speaking to a few children in the crowd before he wished everyone a Merry Christmas. The crowd sent him off with a cheerful applause.

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6 p.m.

Following an exciting trip to Waikiki, President Barack Obama, his two daughters, and close friends made their way back to the east side of the island Saturday to unwind with some local style "shave ice" at Island Snow in Kailua. The popular Hawaiian dessert combines thinly shaved ice with different flavors of syrup and assorted toppings.

The president and his daughters went to Breakout Waikiki earlier that afternoon. The venue, described as "Hawaii's first live-action escape room," is located on block away from the famous Waikiki Beach on the south shore of Oahu.

The Obamas are spending their annual two-week winter vacation on the island of Oahu in Obama's home state.

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5 p.m.

First lady Michelle Obama is telling kids across the country how much progress Santa has made in his gift-giving journey.

Obama is volunteering to take calls through the NORAD Tracks Santa program. It's the last time she'll carry out her annual tradition.

The first lady spent roughly a half-hour talking with kids. In a transcript of the calls released by the White House, she told callers that Santa was flying over Malta, Sardinia and Hungary.

Obama also heard from children about the gifts they were hoping to get. Some of the highlights included a drone, a hoverboard and a hedgehog.

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3:20 p.m.

After dining at Side Street Inn for lunch, the President, his daughters, and family friends took a short drive over to Breakout Waikiki for some afternoon fun. The venue, described as "Hawaii's first live-action escape room," is located on block away from the famous Waikiki Beach on the south shore of Oahu.

Upon seeing the motorcade driving down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki, dozens of tourists followed the vehicles, hoping to catch a glimpse of the President.

Breakout rooms are realistic puzzle-based spaces where patrons are "trapped" in a room and must work as a team to break out. These establishments are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.

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1:30 p.m.

President Obama and his daughters, Sasha and Malia, are eating lunch today at Side Street Inn with family friends. The restaurant, located in the middle of Honolulu, is a popular place for locals and tourists alike.

The traffic in Honolulu is busy today with weekend beach goers and last-minute holiday shoppers at the Ala Moana Shopping Center nearby.

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9:40 a.m.

President Barack Obama is at the gym this morning for a Christmas Eve workout.

Despite thick cloud cover over the Ko'olau Mountain Range, the sun is shining brightly on the Marine Corps Base Hawaii where the president goes for his daily workout routine.

The roads near the first family's vacation rental home in Kailua are quieter than usual this morning, although several small groups of people still waited on the side of the road to wave and photograph the presidential motorcade driving by.

The Obamas are spending their annual two-week winter vacation on the island of Oahu in Obama's home state.

BuzzFeed // The Obamas Successfully Beat A Live Action Escape Game On Vacation

BuzzFeed // The Obamas Successfully Beat A Live Action Escape Game On Vacation

Sounds like Malia was the MVP and they broke out with 12 seconds to spare.

President Obama and his daughters showed up unannounced at Breakout Waikiki, a live action escape room site, during their Hawaii vacation — one year after the attraction tweeted at POTUS challenging him to try his hand at the game.

“To be totally honest, we didn’t know that they were coming. It was 100% unexpected. They booked under a different name,” MacGregor Greenlee, general manager, told BuzzFeed News. “An hour earlier, Secret Service showed up.”

Greenlee says that the Obamas were able to successfully break out of Mission Manoa, which he says is “one of our harder rooms.”

According to White House pool reports, Obama spent about an hour and half inside of Breakout Waikiki, but only had an hour to complete the game. According to Greenlee, they beat the game just in time.

“They were yelling screaming having a blast. They broke out with 12 seconds left,” Greenlee says.

“Abby Wambach and Sydney Laroux broke out with about a minute left,” he added, in reference to the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Players who took on the same escape room last year. “Technically, they beat POTUS.”

Breakout Waikiki describes itself on its website as a “top rated live action escape game. Your goal is simple: You have 60 minutes to breakout from one of our real life escape rooms. Crack the codes. Use your gut. Solve the riddles. Find out if you have what it takes to breakout in time.”

“They were in a room where you’re a secret agent and terrorists come and grab you. It was Malia who did a lot of the work,” Mitch Massey, shift leader, said. He agreed that Mission Manoa is one of the harder rooms to break out of.

On meeting President Obama, Massey said, “I got to tell him that I was in Iraq when I voted for him.”

Greenlee says he was the one who composed the tweet last December. “I was sad that nothing came of it but this more than makes up for it.”

The White House did not respond to request for comment.


Michael Hayes is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Contact Mike Hayes at mike@buzzfeed.com.

Honolulu Magazine // We Tried This: Breakout Waikīkī

Honolulu Magazine // We Tried This: Breakout Waikīkī

7 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ONE OF HONOLULU’S ESCAPE ROOMS.

BY KATRINA VALCOURT
PUBLISHED: 2016.02.24 09:33AM


Editors’ note: The HONOLULU Magazine staff is always excited to try new things. With this web series, we bring you activities we tried for the first time—a new one every fourth Wednesday of the month.

PHOTOS: BRITTNEY NITTA-LEE

PHOTOS: BRITTNEY NITTA-LEE

Imagine being stuck in a room and having to find clues and solve puzzles in order to unlock the door. It’s your team against the clock and the odds are stacked against you—can you get out in time?

This is the concept of an escape room, a trend on the Mainland that has recently made its way to Hawai‘i. One such company, Breakout Waikīkī, invited us to check it out, so we put together a team of six: myself, web producer Brittney Nitta-Lee, digital media manager Diane Lee, art director Stephen Guzman, associate art director Gary Saito, and marketing and special projects editor Bianca Sewake.

Breakout offers three different themed rooms, with a fourth scheduled to open in about a month. We chose The Hatch, which had only an 18-percent success rate when we signed up, compared to Room 13’s 28 percent and Mission Mānoa’s 21 percent.

In order to succeed, you have to work as a team to solve all the clues hidden in the room within one hour. Though we can’t spoil any of the tasks you’ll have to complete, we can tell you it’s all about critical thinking and problem solving, with the staff sending you occasional hints via a monitor (yes, they watch and listen to you struggle). Basically, it’s a live-action video game.

Awesome, right? Yes. Even if you don’t succeed (which we didn’t. But we were so close!).

ONE OF MANY LOCKS THAT YOU HAVE TO OPEN.

ONE OF MANY LOCKS THAT YOU HAVE TO OPEN.

1. WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED?

According to Breakout manager MacGregor Greenlee, escape rooms are great for everyone from families (ages 14 and under with adult) to couples to colleagues. With rooms accommodating two to eight people (minimum four for The Hatch), Breakout is perfect for an out-of-the-box date night, party or team-building activity. Once you book a room it’s yours, so no outsiders can join—it’s just your group.

We recommend going with competitive people who think differently from each other. We went with a mix of artists and writers, which came in handy when those who were more visual or hands-on were able to solve codes that were totally lost on others.

2. WHEN TO GO

Reservations are required, but you have plenty of options—each room is available once every hour-and-a-half, with them all starting 15 minutes apart. The first slot is at 8 a.m. (Room 13), and the last is at 11:30 p.m. (The Hatch). Go when your mind is at its sharpest! For the most options, book at least a week in advance. See the schedule and sign up for your room here.

Make sure to arrive at least 15 to 20 minutes early to sign a waiver and go through all the rules with the staff. If you arrive late, you may have less than an hour to escape so the next appointment can start on time.

3. WHERE IS IT?

 

Even though the address is on Ka‘iulani Street, Breakout Waikīkī is accessible from Prince Edward Street. 

4. HOW WE FELT (BEFORE)

Gary: When we first got there, I felt pretty calm. I tried not to think about anything so I wouldn’t make myself nervous, or have any expectations.

Brittney: I downloaded an escape-room app to practice, because I was so excited to do it. I’m also kind of competitive, so I was pretty determined to escape out of the room.

Stephen: Happy with anticipation, and rushing for parking!

Diane: I was really suspicious of the escape room. I mean, how hard could it be to solve puzzles with a big group? I read a couple of generic tips and tricks for conquering escape rooms the night before the event. Unfortunately, the stories didn’t divulge too much information about what kinds of puzzles you’d be solving. Would I need to use algebra skills? Would my useless-facts knowledge come in handy? I was anxious to find out what puzzles we’d be solving.

5. HOW WE FELT (AFTER)

THE HATCH HAS MANY TASKS THAT EACH TEAM NEEDS TO COMPLETE TO UNLOCK MORE CLUES.

THE HATCH HAS MANY TASKS THAT EACH TEAM NEEDS TO COMPLETE TO UNLOCK MORE CLUES.

Brittney: The app didn’t help at all.

Diane: I was really surprised to discover the intensity of the puzzles. Eventually, everything connected and made sense. It felt like we were a real-life Sherlock Holmes team trying to solve a mystery.

Katrina: When it was down to the last minute and the clock started making noise for us to hurry up, I freaked out. I was going as fast as I could to finish the puzzle I was on, shouting codes with my heart beating super fast. It took me a while afterward to calm down from all the anxiety and adrenaline. But I had an awesome time.

Gary: Good. Had a lot of fun, too bad we didn’t make it out, though. I don’t feel like I was really stressed by this. Compared to closing an issue, this was nothing.

Bianca: I had a lot of fun being so stressed out. I was surprised at how well thought-out this was. I’m glad they don’t allow picture-taking in there and that I knew nothing about it for my first time, because not knowing what to expect allowed for this great feeling of discovery and joy whenever we figured out clues to complete puzzles.

6. WOULD WE GO AGAIN?

Stephen: Yes, a different room, though, since I already know what’s gonna happen in the first room.

Katrina: Absolutely. Now that I have a better understanding of how it all works (and because we were literally only a minute or two away from breaking out), I’m that much more motivated and confident. Plus, it was like being on a game show. Who didn’t dream of being on Legends of the Hidden Temple as a kid?

Gary: I would definitely go again and try the other rooms. I would only go to the same room with people who have already done it to try a speed run. I think what made this fun was finding the solutions together as a team.

Brittney: It was stressful, but I would go again because it was super fun. Even though we didn’t break out, it was exciting to unlock clues and use your brain to crack cryptic codes.

7. TIPS

LEFT TO RIGHT: STEPHEN GUZMAN, GARY SAITO, DIANE LEE, KATRINA VALCOURT, BIANCA SEWAKE AND BRITTNEY NITTA-LEE.

LEFT TO RIGHT: STEPHEN GUZMAN, GARY SAITO, DIANE LEE, KATRINA VALCOURT, BIANCA SEWAKE AND BRITTNEY NITTA-LEE.

  • It doesn’t really matter which room you pick—while The Hatch had an 18-percent success rate when we signed up last week, it was up to 21 percent when we tried it (no thanks to us).

  • Don’t worry about studying trivia. The puzzles are all about critical thinking, knowing where to look, problem solving and teamwork.

  • If you get stuck on something, move on and find something else. Chances are it’s part of a bigger puzzle and there will be another clue that will make it much clearer later on. Just don’t forget about it.

  • If you need to use the bathroom, take a phone call or leave for any reason, you’re not actually locked in—there’s a button by the door that will let you out, but keep in mind that the clock will not stop.

  • If you’re claustrophobic, be aware that the rooms average about 225 square feet, which can feel a little cramped if you have a large group.

  • In addition to the free hints on the monitor, you are allowed to ask for help three times. Make sure you communicate with your team about when you want to ask—don’t be proud! We asked for ours when there were 45, 30 and 15 minutes remaining, when there was at least one person not actively working on a clue. You can’t afford to waste time.

  • If you are still totally stuck, you can ask for more hints. Each additional hint will add three minutes to your final score—as long as you break out within 60 minutes.

  • No photos or cell phones. But, really, nothing on them would help you, unless someone who has gone through before is telling you all the answers. But that’s no fun.

  • The more people who go, the cheaper the rate is per person. For example, it’s $40 a person for two people, but it’s only $28 each if you have eight people on your team.

$28–$40 per person, located on the outside of King’s Village, 131 Ka‘iulani Ave., Suite 88, entrance on Prince Edward Street, click here for parking options, 926-1418.