ART EXPERIENCE: Meow Wolf Omega Mart
Updated: Jul 16, 2022
So, Meow Wolf is an artist collective. And Omega Mart is Meow Wolf's latest interactive art experience. It's also the reason I now live in Vegas. But let me back up a little. In 2018, not too long after Jody and I met, we decided to take a three week cross country camping trip. Our destination was LA and back, where my brother was spending the summer! Even though I was relatively well traveled, the American west was just not really a place I had explored yet, and neither had Jody. As we planned our route, and searched for cool things to do in nature and the cities along the way, he discovered something called The House Of Eternal Return - An interactive art experience in Santa Fe, NM. We would be passing through that area for sure, as Bandelier National Monument was already on the list.
Not to go into too much detail, because this post isn't about that trip - but we went 2 hours before closing, and then delayed our trip to the next location so we could come back in the morning and stay another five hours. The combination trippy art exhibit and story line really captured our imaginations. It was because of this spectacular experience that when we heard that a new location with a new story line was going to be opening in Las Vegas, we immediately booked a trip for the opening month in 2021.
Once upon my 20's I was married, and one of the best things I took out of that marriage was a deep and close friendship with Scarlett*, a childhood friend of my ex's. Scarlett had just moved to Las Vegas six months ago, and was living with her brother, who had already been out here a decade. She loved the sound of Meow Wolf, and we decided to stay with her and have a few adventures together.
This version of the interactive art exhibit was housed at a much larger complex, Area 15, with other attractions available in the area - including places to eat, drink fun cocktails, play urban indoor golf, or throw a few axes. There are sculptures outside, and a separate building for the distillery and the illuminarium.
Omega Mart takes up the whole left side of the warehouse sized building that most of Area 15 resides in.
As you step inside, it seems like a perfectly ordinary grocery store at first. Until you look at the products.
Everything from cereal in the shape of sauce packets to Rose Beef - Nature's Beefiest Flower. These are not exactly your average Target run items. You are also given a "boop card" when you enter the establishment. "Booping" this card on different monitors can provide storyline information, "quests", and chart your progress. Although this may seem like just a fun twist on commercialism, there is something deeper here....
The storyline behind the Omega Mart is detailed and extensive. There is a mystery to be solved if you're interested in following the little breadcrumbs, and maybe making friends with an employee (all of whom are basically in character, like NPC's in a video game). You don't HAVE to follow the story, but it certainly enhances the experience. I'm not going to get into the story line too much, but if you search reddit there are some fantastic summaries by super fans that have figured it out.
The grocery store with the head scratching products is just the front end. Walk in the freezer door and through the portal with Cokes on either side of you to get to the back. Or climb through the tent in the outdoor section of the grocery store. You can even try behind the meat counter. There are actually a myriad of different ways to move on to the next phase, and finding them is super fun.
Back here you'll find Seven Monolithe Village (part of the storyline), the Omega Mart Dramcore offices, the Fork, and... well, I don't want to give you any spoilers! Each Meow Wolf location is the collaborative effort of over 100 artists, some of them being regular long term contributors, others pop in for shorter term projects. Even the music you hear is curated, and has been crafted just for this interactive experience. Your ears will possibly recognize ambiance created by Brian Eno, Beach House, Santigold, and Amon Tobin, to mention a few more of the well known musicians.
There are several levels in the second half, and each turn gives you a new stimulating environment to interact with. There are even little side rooms, including one with a "instrument" you can play by putting your hands in front of different lasers. Apparently, there's even a bar with Omega Mart themed cocktails - but I actually never stumbled upon it, even though I've gone twice! Now that I know it exists, the next friend to visit that wants to explore Omega Mart, I will MAKE SURE we find that bar.
All in all, if you really explore the whole thing, it will take about 3-4 hours. My only complaint, is that to continue the story line, you use the previously mentioned "boop card" at different monitors and computers throughout the facility. Sometimes, there can be a long wait for the specific computer you need to access - not all of them have the same storyline components, so you have to keep using different ones. Try going early to avoid crowds, or go late. They are open until midnight! If you're 420 friendly, perhaps make a stop at nearby Planet 13 before you go.
You can buy timed tickets online here. It's $57 for 14+ and $50 for under 14. If you're a local resident, you can get discount tickets for $39 and $34 respectively. Have you been to Meow Wolf? Did you absolutely love it? Did you play the story line? Let me know in the comments!