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Meow Wolf, an art experience

Updated: Mar 9

Glowing Tree at the Las Vegas Omega Mart in Las Vegas
Glowing Tree at the Las Vegas Omega Mart in Las Vegas

If you haven’t heard of Meow Wolf, then I’ll need to explain. Meow Wolf is an interactive experience that is part scavenger hunt, immersion, sound, lights, color, Imaginarium, and all art. It started in Santa Fe, NM in 2008 as a way to shake up the art world, bring about an alternative to art and music, and change the rules of how art was experienced. It was finally brought to fruition with a surprise twist when George R.R. Martin bought the bowling alley to get Meow Wolf open in Santa Fe – at last, a place to make it sustainable.

The result was a magical world, with rooms to explore, discover and spend time in, but not only that, Meow Wolf was meant to inspire. They have since expanded to Las Vegas, NV, and Denver, CO, and they are opening in Grapevine, Texas in 2023 and Houston in 2024. Each location is a unique installation of storyline and discovery. No two are alike. How could they be? It’s ART! (side note, I thought about applying for the job at the Grapevine location to help with finishing the installation, but I couldn't commit to the 6-month full-time position - cool to know about it though!).

My husband and I have been to the Denver and Las Vegas experiences and are looking forward to the new Grapevine location because that’s a lot closer to our backyard than out of state. And we’ll be super lucky to have TWO in Texas by the end of 2024.

For those in the art world who like to experience art, not just look at it, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of the two I’ve been to. Let’s start with Denver.

Denver Meow Wolf – The Convergence Station

Getting to the Denver Meow Wolf can be a bit tricky the first time you go. We used a Lyft and even though our driver knew where it was, the turn to get there was not obvious. Meow Wolf is situated under a high rise of highway crisscrosses and loopy-doos, nestled on a piece of property that really couldn’t have been better suited for it. Like graffiti in gritty places, The Convergence Station is an entire world of magical art under the bridge of highways, by itself making a statement - it seemed fitting.

Purchase your tickets online and show up at your allotted time slot. They stagger entrances because once you’re in, you’re going to be there for hours. Hours. This is not a walk through the museum or a gander at the zoo. You are here to explore, figure out the clues and find all the hidden rooms. Yep, hidden rooms.

First, get the card you are offered at the check-in desk. You’ll want it. And your small group can share it if you will be sticking together. If you have a larger group, get a card for the people who will most likely split off so they can discover the things along the way on their own. Denver is a story of many worlds learning to communicate and work together and you’ll need the card to discover how they connect and what to explore next.

Here's the thing with Meow Wolf. No one wants to spoil anything for you. Once you get inside, it is a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure (but there is an adventure to follow!). You’ll find people share tricks and tips along the way if you get lost and there are “characters” that wander around (sometimes giving away clues in their actions or words so pay attention). And for that same reason, I’m not going to divulge the mystery of the locations I’ve been to, but I do want to share some of the imagery to help you understand, enjoy and appreciate what goes into the world of Meow Wolf.

I remember looking down from a third-story balcony down to a two-story castle and realized we were definitely not in Kansas anymore, Toto. The lights, the architecture, and the sounds were completely different than the entrance, and they weren’t the same as the first landing with the map of a hundred “you are here” points.

The magic I experienced before was a hint of what was yet to unfold.

Use your card to gather hints and clues about the story, don’t be afraid to ask your fellow explorers, they might help you fill in the blank on something. Mostly, however, everyone experiences their own thing and allows the magic to unfold for all the people around them in their own way.

Get curious, items are meant to be explored. Look inside everything, try doors, and don’t be afraid to (respectfully) touch things like the walls, buttons, cabinet drawers, and doors. While we were in Denver, we had to cut short our exploration after 2.5 hours. There were rooms and clues we didn’t get to and after visiting Las Vegas, I’m sure we would have been there much longer to find it all. When you go, plan for at least 3-4 hours to really explore the venue - longer if you want to find all the clues.

Now to Las Vegas. A city of lights and architecture candy store for sure. And inside Meow Wolf?

Las Vegas Meow Wolf – Omega Mart

Our second exposure to Meow Wolf was the world of corporate greed in Omega Mart. Upon entering the massive warehouse, we were greeted with a giant skull lit up with lights and were led to enter to the right of the building. We didn’t realize the warehouse is split between Area 15, a huge entertainment playground with virtual reality rooms, bowling, golf, indoor zip lines, bars, axe throwing, and more. The entire left side of the building is all Omega Mart, our destination.

After walking past the tree of changing lights we got in line for the “store.” At first, we were hit with the imagery and setup of a grocery store but everything seems just a bit off. We realize that all the items are altered, and some of them are actually real products that you can purchase. The first thing we did was get our code card – the one I mentioned from Denver. Each Meow Wolf is set up with its own memory card specific to the location that you “boop” onto computers inside the experience to gather your clues.

And then the journey begins.

Discovering hidden doors and access points from the Mart area to the other rooms is a great way to introduce you to exactly how Meow Wolf works. There are several hidden entrance points to get to the “back” of the store. And once you go through any of those, the world you step into next will depend entirely upon which passageway you chose.

The sensory overload takes some getting used to if you are a person who likes to take everything in and loves to look at the details. Because at Meow Wolf’s experiences, there are a lot of details. You might enter from a passageway that was a small hallway, or perhaps a tunnel that opens up to a large 2-story cavern, or a small room that acts as a transition point.

Get curious, and explore them all!

At the Las Vegas installation, we went when it was fairly busy. There were enough people present that we had to wait or circle back to certain places to gather our clues and get access to the computer points. While this in of itself is not a deterrent, I do think there was one part of the story we missed because we never did get access to the computer in that area.

While I didn’t take as many photos as I did while in Denver, it is worth stopping to really take a look at certain places around the installation. There are several areas where the lights change patterns and colors and each phase creates a new experience of the space.

For adults who are curious – look for the bar behind the pharmacy.

Things to note before you go to any Meow Wolf experience

· Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You will walk a lot, sometimes stooping low to get in, out, under, or around things (but that’s always an option, you don’t have to). There are places to sit, absorb and observe. But most of what you’ll be doing is exploring – for hours!

· There are stairs. If you prefer elevators, there are some available, of course. But be aware that many of the exploration levels are best experienced through the ups and downs of seeing the atmosphere of the different worlds from these varying vantage points.

· Eat before you go. If you are a person who needs to watch your blood sugar, then do eat before you go. You’ll be glad to have the time to play and explore without feeling like you need a food break.

· Go sober. I know that both Colorado and Nevada are legal for marijuana purchase, but the experience is best navigated with a clear head and a body you can count on to get you from one place to another without any problems (think of spiral staircases, for example). And, I’m telling you, the worlds are so sensory abundant that you will be plenty tripped out by the art all by itself. Plus, I overheard someone at the airport that admitted going after eating a gummy was a complete mistake – she couldn’t process the experience and therefore she didn’t enjoy it. It’s forbidden according to Meow Wolf rules, anyway. So don’t mess it up for everyone else.

· Go with an open mind to play, explore, appreciate, and let go. Meow Wolf is meant to get you to think, shake up your idea of norms, and appreciate the beauty in being human and seeing life with a creative eye.

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