The Pros & Cons of Visiting All 3 Meow Wolf Locations in 3 Days: An interview with a courageous multiversal traveler
By Quinn Fati
Photos by Atlas Media
Published Issue 109, January 2023
Have you visited one of our exhibits and immediately started planning trips to our other locations? Have you called in sick so you could solve the mystery of what’s going on in our exhibits? Have you fallen through a portal in Santa Fe and landed in Las Vegas?
Our friend, bold adventurer, trip planner and art enthusiast Ryan Ottaviano visited all three permanent Meow Wolf locations — Santa Fe’s House of Eternal Return, Las Vegas’ Omega Mart, and Denver’s Convergence Station — in the span of three days, and took some time to chat with us about the pros and cons of such an ambitious adventure.
What got you into Meow Wolf?
I had first heard about Meow Wolf when there was a media tour or media exposure about the Experience Tube. I didn’t really know much about the immersive location in Santa Fe until much later. I had heard of the name before, and I have a friend in Denver who lives only a few minutes away from the Denver location. While Convergence Station was still being built, he would drive by the construction site daily, so the name continued to pop up in conversation every so often.
Eventually I heard about the Vegas location that had just opened and saw some ads for it online. I was living in Phoenix at the time and had a friend who was coming to visit, and she really wanted to visit Vegas. So I agreed to hit up Las Vegas with her, but I had one condition: “I’ll only go to Las Vegas if you promise to visit Meow Wolf with me.”
When did you decide you were going to visit all three? Was that process planned or was it on the fly?
By the time my friend and I were planning to visit all three locations in one shot, I had already been to all three locations at least once. Due to cost and making sure we got the most time at each location, we spent a lot of time planning. We were coming from Fort Lauderdale, and after about three to four days of checking flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, etc., we eventually found a plan that worked best for us. Since flying into Santa Fe from Florida was incredibly expensive, the trip played out like this: We would fly from Fort Lauderdale into Vegas and dedicate an entire day to Omega Mart. Next, we would fly from Vegas into Denver where we had the friend I mentioned above who lived just minutes away from Convergence Station. But, we didn’t visit Convergence Station right away. We rented a car and left Denver at around 4 a.m. to drive straight through to Santa Fe for an entire day at House of Eternal Return. We stayed in Santa Fe that night and woke up super early again the next day to drive straight through back to Denver so we could visit the final stop. I’ll never forget that drive into Denver — and that day either — because we drove into a snow storm!
Which one was your favorite and why?
This has been a topic of conversation for close to a year now. I’ve been to all three locations twice, and whenever I talk to my friends about it they always ask me, “So which one is the best? Which one should I go to?” Realistically, the only answer is all three of them. But if I’m backed into a corner and had to pick just one location, it would have to be House of Eternal Return. I picked this location for lots of reasons. But the most important reason for me is how intimate this location feels. There is something about exploring someone else’s home that is very much alive and lived in; gradually uncovering bits of a story through tactile objects and reading a journal entry that doesn’t rely heavily on a digital keycard like Omega and Convergence.
The attention to detail is incredible, and you can spend hours going into the same room and notice something you didn’t see the first, second or even third time. However, as much as I love the hyper-stimulation scattered throughout this location, I also very much enjoy the chill moments it offers. Getting to escape into a small crawl space; escape the crowds, revel in the tameness of the room, ambient noise and relaxing imagery.
What were some things that you wished you had known beforehand?
I wish I had known about Meow Wolf years prior to the House of Eternal Return opening. I love so much about what this collective has done over the years that I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do! I would have LOVED to see The Due Return in person.
This last observation isn’t so much what I wished I had known beforehand, but I kind of wish that the entrance or first exposure to a new location did a better job for Omega Mart and Convergence Station. So many times, when I would be going to different rooms and using the terminals with my “boop card”, other visitors would be asking me what I was doing and where I got that card from. Other visitors would even walk up to the terminals and press with their fingers on the boop reader. I’d do my best trying to explain what the card was for, where to get it and why it was important for the full experience. At the same time, I do love that there is a bit of mystery when entering a new location for the first time. So I understand there is a challenge to balance what you tell the customers upfront and what you leave for them to discover on their own.
What was the most surprising thing about the experience?
I think the most surprising thing about the experience was my first ever visit to Omega Mart. I had no idea how detailed everything was going to be, nor did I realize that there was going to be a story to uncover. In college, I went to school for TV and film, so I have a passion for storytelling and imagery. The first thing I did when I walked into the grocery store was pick up an item from the shelf and start to read the back. I was immediately confused because this ordinary can on the shelf was telling me something. I picked up something else and it was the same thing! All the products on the shelf were trying to tell me something. My mind was blown that a large variety of tactile objects — that I had control over how and when I was exposed to it — were being used as a way of delivering a message!
If you had to describe Meow Wolf in three words, which would you use and why?
For me, when someone asks me what Meow Wolf is, I always start out by saying it’s the “Future of Storytelling.” Typically, people get it when I relate the experience to playing a fully fleshed out video game or an escape room that isn’t a shallow, 30-minute experience. However, I still think relating it to an escape room is a disservice to what Meow Wolf actually is.
The greatest compliment I could give it would be to say that it’s changed my life in the way that I look at how a story could be told. Traditionally, a story has always been presented as a book, a comic, a TV show, a movie or a video game. But now, there are so many unexplored possibilities that are opened up because of how Meow Wolf literally changed the game.
Were there any other notable points in your road trip that you wanted to shout out?
Yeah! While I was visiting Santa Fe I was fortunate enough to meet up for dinner with one of the artists who helped at Convergence Station. It was a lot of fun getting to pick the brain of someone who has firsthand experience and to hear cool stories from the very early days of its foundation.