Road Trip Report: Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station
Quantum leaps and immersive art inside Denver’s latest attraction
It’s not the tourist trap you might fear it to be, and it is just about as visually astounding as you could hope, maybe even a little weirder and more over-stimulating than you expected.
General admission tickets for Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station are $45 ($40 for kids 5-13, seniors and military). Book advance tickets at meowwolf.com. Halloween weekend is sold out.
Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station, the long-in-the-works, much-hyped, 90,000-square-foot immersive art installation and interactive experience, opened last month under an I-25 viaduct at First Street in Denver. It’s the third creation by Meow Wolf, a punky Santa Fe-based art collective that made its first Meow Wolf there in 2016 with funding by “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin.
I arrived at Convergence Station for my first experience in mid-October, excited and unsure about what to expect, admittedly skeptical of how much creative integrity or how much of anything interesting could endure Meow Wolf’s transformation into a big business endeavor and entertainment chain, cheered by politicians and tourism boosters, expected to draw more than one million visitors a year.
Those concerns evaporated once I was inside having my mind blown consistently as I opened doors and wandered through a succession of genuinely awe-inspiring weird new experiences. Convergence Station adds itself to the short list of musts for every curious Denver visitor. And for the mountain-folk in ski country, it’s worth planning a Front Range road trip around.
The four worlds inside Convergence all flow together and include 79 individual interactive installations – from the grimy futurist scene of Convergence Street, where everyone starts their Meow Wolf experience and where people collect and trade memories and where a new mayor is elected every 20 minutes, to the awe-inspiring memory libraries and catacombs of Ossuary, to the ice world of Eemia and its luminous movable three-story Plexiglas cathedral, to the other-worldly day-glo swamp and interactive sculptures of Numina.
There is a mysterious narrative you can attempt to follow through it all if you choose, or you can just enjoy the trippiness for its own sake.
So who is the intended audience at Meow Wolf?
Is it for the art gallery crowd? For kids and families? For adults on drugs? For nerds who want a new lore to immerse in? The answer, I think, is yes. All of them will find their niche and their path to follow here.
For art folks, the craftsmanship, magnitude and imagination on display here is worth marveling at, and the collaboration of some 300 visual artists is a stunning collective achievement, though you might find yourself spending more time in the room with walls constructed out of indigenous Mongolian masks than some of the more sci-fi/fantasy elements.
For kids and families, mileage may vary depending on how young and how receptive children are to creepy funhouse imagery and sound, but based on the kids I watched running around Convergence Street and literally climbing up the walls elsewhere, it’s a dream (sometimes nightmare) come true, the unreal made real – like if Disneyland rides didn’t have seat belts and a prescribed experience but instead just let you run wild in a Magic Kingdom that was actually magic.
For adults eating some edibles or taking stronger substances, sure, the space is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday night and I’m sure it all takes on an acid test vibe in those later hours than my energetic and sober mid-day mid-week crowd.
And the deep-diving nerds may end up being the most loyal and most rewarded constituency at Convergence Station. I didn’t attempt to follow the plot the two hours or so I was wandering Convergence Station, but I did watch a group of teens for a bit as they tapped their key on digital stations and traded info and theories. And when I got home I did peak at the Reddit threads on r/meowwolf about it, which made clear there are seemingly endless layers of story and character beneath the surface, many secrets to be uncovered inside if you can put in the time. It’s easy to imagine friends and dates returning often, to see friendships and new communities growing up around exploring the Convergence Station lore.
That embedded narrative, you might argue, is what separates Meow Wolf from, say, the Selfie Museum, that makes it more than just a collection of cool stuff to see and take pictures of – instead it’s something you can be a part of.
Likewise, you can dig in and do some research and you can learn about the artists who made this wild thing –110 of them Colorado artists – and there is a sort of gallery off of C Street where exhibitions rotate and art is actually on sale.
The big picture of Convergence Station was conceived by Meow Wolf’s founding team, but the artists were given free reign to play within this world and to put their own stamp on it. The collective Everything is Terrible!, for instance, created an immersive section about a doomed fictional pizza chain (the funniest thing I found in here). Another small room places you inside a brain infected with dementia, showing VHS-quality memories on screens as they fade (the most poignant experience). And one section of catacombs includes a stretch with 666 portraits of Francis Bacon and bacon (because, why not?).
Beyond the plot there are also little secrets and Easter eggs all over the place. I had a bit of a cheat in that I had a guide with me who tipped me off to a few hidden experiences, like secret intercoms in a fish tank room, a secret door to a hidden room out of a laundry area, and how to position lasers in order to make a wormhole open up in the artificial night sky above Eemia.
And yes, there are elements and experiences in Convergence Station that haven’t been discovered yet by the public. But it’s only been open a month and, based on the line of patrons outside and the buzz from far beyond the Mile High City, Convergence Station will be here for a long time.