Meow Wolf opens in Grapevine: Think Willy Wonka-escape room-Winchester House mashup
Story and photography By Scott Nishimura
Looking to cool off? Here’s an option that’ll give you a few hours — or six — of AC: Meow Wolf, creator and operator of big interactive art spaces, opens July 14 at Grapevine Mills, the company’s fourth U.S. location.
Meow Wolf’s locations each has its own theme, and Grapevine’s — launched by a collaborative of 40 Texas artists and Meow Wolf’s 150-plus creatives — is “The Real Unreal.”
Think Willy Wonka meets escape room and Winchester House, the oft-renovated California landmark where doors open to walls and nothing is as it seems. But in Meow Wolf’s case, no amount of innocent exploration gets you ejected from the premises, and every door, hatch and kid-friendly crawl space leads somewhere else.
“Everything is meant to be explored,” Karie Slagle, director of sales and marketing at Meow Wolf-Grapevine, told us during a media preview this week. “Open doors, crawl through spaces.”
There’s even a mystery to be solved here, if you’re so inclined. This Meow Wolf is built into the 30,000-square-foot shell of a former Bed Bath & Beyond. Visitors enter into the front yard of a two-story Midwestern home at nightfall. Beneath a starlit sky and chattering cicadas, we begin to learn the story: a family encounters crisis. A member disappears. The visitor’s journey begins and moves from changing space to changing space (the Chocolate Factory, anyone?), each one curated in painstaking detail by the artists and other Meow Wolf creatives.
Meow Wolf uses music, sound, color, contrast, light, dimension, texture and surprise to draw visitors through their journey in, say, two hours — or four or six. The spaces offer numerous opportunities to sit and reflect, and they’re designed, including elevators, to accommodate people who have disabilities.
And you can even attempt to find clues and solve the mystery — if you remember there is one as you move through.
“You can, or you cannot,” Slagle said. “It really depends on how invested you want to get. It’s up to you, how much you want to dive in.”
Visitors to other Meow Wolf locations will find some of the same tricks (think “fridge portal,” as in, you should open every refrigerator door you encounter) at the Grapevine location.
For visitors who choose to come again and again, the solution to the mystery remains the same. But Meow Wolf is counting on that not mattering. Repeat visitors will find new ways to experience “The Real Unreal” that they hadn’t seen before.
“There’s no right or wrong way to experience this,” Slagle said.
Meow Wolf is open seven days a week. Grapevine Mills entrance is Entry 2, outside the Neiman Marcus Last Call and Rainforest Cafe. Tickets start at $45.