We gifted a family member a trip to Meow Wolf Grapevine, Texas, last week and I know you are all curious about the adventure, especially if you read the blog on the Denver and Las Vegas locations.
First, let me help those who are new to this experience. Meow Wolf is an interactive, imaginative, mystery art museum, where you can explore, choosing your own adventure, finding the clues, hidden rooms and doors, and a psychedelic total and complete immersion experience. It’s hard to describe without visuals and if you are curious about the first two locations we visited, check out the link here. There are pictures over there, too, to help you understand the enormity of just what these worlds are like. It is not at all like an escape room, in case you are wondering.
Meow Wolf Grapevine, The Real Unreal, is completely different from the other two locations in storytelling and it does not have Boop Cards – I’ll explain more about that in a moment. But because of that, its uniqueness opened a completely different discovery experience that had a beginning and an end. In Vegas and Denver, I didn’t get a complete “end” because there was so much to explore. This doesn’t mean Grapevine is lacking – it’s not – but it’s different. Stick with me.
The story of The Real Unreal begins on a quiet clear night under the stars with a garden to the left, a large tree to the right, and a two-story house in front of you. You are immediately transformed into a world that greets you with a soft hush. Denver greeted us with a totally different vibe as we were "dropped off" with a short elevator ride to an alleyway. And in Las Vegas, we were in the bright lights of a busy grocery store. And it is here where you choose your adventure. Do you....go in the direction of the garden, the house, the tree? Oh, wait, is that a shed beyond the tree? Another option.
In the Denver and Vegas experiences, there is a mystery that unfolds as you explore each world within the stories and uncover the connections along the way. The Boop Card is a card that is activated at the respective locations to keep track of your clues and help you see what you are missing along the way. Computers strategically placed around the worlds are there for you to “boop” (tap) the screen with your card to gain information at each station. I found we zig-zagged back and forth to try to find what our Boop Card showed was missing and it helped us to put the stories together. And if you are a person who likes to find everything, this definitely helps have a pathway to discovering where to look for clues.
In Grapevine, without the Boop Cards to guide your adventure and gather clues, you are left to put it together in a way that relies on you reading clues in journals, finding hidden cell phone messages/posts, and paying attention. And I mean really looking at your surroundings. There is a world [spoiler alert] deep inside the experience that we had walked around (for hours) and it wasn’t until we were going to head out that I put together a book in a hidden library with its wooden structure and some odd features that didn’t make sense at first because I didn’t see them as connecting. Then it hit me. We were inside a Baba Yaga House and the details of the design were so good at hiding the obvious in plain sight, that we missed it until we couldn’t unsee it! One leg had to be 10’ long and I never saw it because it was so well designed to be part of the main structure.
The story in Grapevine, just like all the locations, can get quite detailed and complex and I'm pretty sure, just like with the other locations, we didn't get everything figured out the first time around. We got the main story, and I think we figured out how it started and how it ended, but there was definitely more to it than what we came away with. I'm not going to spoil the discovery of the storyline, in case you were hoping. Your job is to figure out what that entails. And it is a lot more than just the obvious.
When our family went, we were a group of five. I say this because going with a friend or partner makes this a very easy magical experience. A group of five is like herding cats and you will lose someone down a hidden portal. Every single one of us at some point got "lost" from the group as they were totally enamored by something they saw and followed that trail. I suggest either going with a plan to A) stick together and discover together or B) make it clear that it is okay to enjoy and explore and you'll most likely bump into each other somewhere inside. You can then compare notes and show each other what the other didn't see. Keep cell phones handy for communications, but don't get attached to your phone, it's meant to be experienced in person. Don't be afraid to take pictures. It's a lovely, bizarre place to explore with snippets of imagery.
We went during the month of October and in the spirit of "dress up" Meow Wolf had Halloween-costumed staff and some temporary decorations around the world that you won't find on an ordinary visit. And no, this is not like a haunted house. You will find staff around to help and maybe even give a clue of where to look for something, but there are no jump scares and there isn't the intention of making things creepy - interesting, yes. Mysterious, yes. Weird, definitely, yes. Imaginative, without a doubt. Scary, no. (Well, there are a few, um, creatures, that littles might be a little startled by, but mostly they are just bizarre).
Meow Wolf says that in most cases, you need a minimum of 90 minutes to 2 hours to explore. I say you better book 3-4 hours of your day if you really want to explore everything and are interested in discovering the story hidden within. Meow Wolf is excellent at hiding side trails of mystery. In Grapevine it shows up as finding tiny leaves painted on walls with a phone number and a hashtag code. You text a #word to said phone number to collect a series of hidden messages (sorta) connected to the storyline. At the end when you leave (pun intended), you do one final hashtag send and you get back a response with a visual of all the ones you found and all the ones you didn’t! Oh my goodness. Talk about a reason to go back. We casually found 7 with our group and discovered at least a dozen still remained hidden within the world and that was after 4 hours of exploring.
A bit of housekeeping, in Denver and Vegas, you have the option of stopping at any time for a bathroom break as you’ll find bathrooms and water fountains in a few areas and on a few levels (all Meow Wolfs more than one story high). In Grapevine, bathrooms and water fountains are outside the world by the main entrance, so you’ll have to leave and come back if you need a break. For a break from the overwhelming stimulation that you might experience, there are plenty of quiet nooks to be discovered that balance out the vibrancy of color you will be bathed in.
Do not go if you feel you gotta experience things in an altered state. You won't be able to take in the information. It's designed to be a sensory experience. Besides, it's forbidden by Meow Wolf, and you are more likely to pose a safety hazard to yourself and others. You want to safely explore the stairs, and places you might have to physically crawl into to see. Plus, it's a thinking experience as much as it is an immersive one. This is for all ages, we saw several older people (with canes and wheelchairs) as well as some kids under age 10 (there are several elevators that bypass the stairs) - all the more reason to go level-headed. Also, if you can go on a day that is not likely to be as busy, I think you'll enjoy it all the more (we went on a weekday). For more details on my suggestions before going, click here.
Grapevine's The Real Unreal has a very small cafe located within the complex in the same hall as the gift shop area, near the bathrooms. Meow Wolf will send you an email with what to do and expect upon your arrival once you purchase your tickets. Ladies with purses, and guys with backpacks, it's gotta be no larger than a small 8"x 8" space, so travel lightly.
We enjoyed it and we'll go back. I like them all for different reasons. I did like the organization of how the Boop Cards allowed me to track progress while going through the experience, but there was a different kind of freedom in Grapevine exploring without them. There are a few places I feel like we walked by (several times) but didn't really look at the walls for clues, etc. There is so, so much to see. As a fellow artist, I really love the diversity of styles, the mediums, the details, and the range of creativity is really wonderful.
Houston, Tx is expecting to open up a location in 2024 and Santa Fe, the original Meow Wolf, is a location we have yet to explore. So stay tuned!