News Roundup: Meow Wolf Grapevine is a Certified Hit
15 Jul 2023
It's been over a year since Meow Wolf announced a fourth permanent exhibit at Grapevine Mills, and most of us have spent the intervening time trying to figure out how to explain the concept to newcomers. Now that The Real Unreal has opened to the public, we have a new tool for doing so: firsthand accounts. Here's a roundup of DFW's (almost exclusively positive) first impressions of Grapevine's newest destination attraction:
For folks who haven't yet set foot inside a Meow Wolf exhibit, the concept can be a little daunting. This exclusive glimpse inside will give you all the context you need to grasp the basic idea. But, as anyone would tell you, there's no substitute for seeing it all in person.
Alana Quillen gives the broadest perspective on the exhibit to date, exploring its economic impact and what it means for the arts and culture community here in Grapevine. Bonus points for including both data from our staff and a backlink to this month's feature on Merlin Entertainment.
"Overall, the Dallas market has been a hotbed for companies and organizations searching for economic success. Peppa Pig World of Play selected Grapevine for its first theme park location in the U.S. Another park is opening up in North Richland Hills in 2024. This year, Universal Parks & Resorts picked Frisco as the location for its newest theme park and resort," she wrote.
"On the sports front, FIFA selected Dallas to host the World Cup in 2026. Dallas hosted the NCAA Women’s Final Four in March. The headlines seem to add up, especially over the last five years due to population growth and a robust economy."
Kendall Morgan approaches Meow Wolf Grapevine with the savvy expertise of a veteran portal-hopper, comparing The Real Unreal to its sister project, the House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe. It's a favorable side-by-side, with our local edition coming out ahead by way of its noticeably improved use of space and a demonstrably higher budget. And, more importantly, Morgan understands the significance of the choice to locate within Grapevine Mills:
"The surrealistic surroundings align perfectly with the inherent weirdness that is Grapevine Mills. Down the corridor from the Rainforest Café's janky animatronics and down the hall from half-price couture at Neiman Marcus Last Call seems to be a perfect location for Meow Wolf, even if the idea of such a freewheeling concept in our magenta state might seem like a strange fit to outsiders."
"With works from 40 North Texas-based artists displayed, Meow Wolf has already provided a valuable outlet for local creative folks. With the Matt King Mystery Center (named after Meow's late co-founder) onsite to teach arty kids, The Real Unreal promises to become more than just another Insta-worthy experience. It just might be a spark that lets the next generation know it's OK — even preferable — to embrace your inherent weirdness. That fact alone makes it worth the entrance fee."
When it comes to cultural impact, few publications in the Lone Star State have the king-making capacity of Texas Monthly. Their barbecue edition is the stuff of legends, and artistic endeavors that grace these pages tend to find a little momentum. So it's encouraging to read Taylor Prewitt's first-hand account:
"...in the hands of Meow Wolf’s multitude of creators, who seem to delight in the artful inclusion of clues and references, the creation of a multiverse feels like an earnest extension of the brand’s storytelling-as-art ethos, as well as a play on its recurring themes of perception and reality. The company says it will soon venture out into virtual reality games, apps, and graphic novels," she wrote.
"Despite the specter of brand strategy hanging over the place, there’s an overwhelming amount of novelty to scavenge. Somehow, despite the scale of the space—in which my tour guide repeatedly got lost—the most minute details are gleefully executed. In the Midwestern-style home, where the main storyline begins, a TV is loaded with countless shows and music relevant to the fictional characters; a random jazz album included therein is one recorded, in part, by local artists. In a constructed alleyway, a graffitied image of four numbers in sign language belies the code to a nearby ATM, which is itself connected to a light-up piano elsewhere in the exhibit. An arcade features original and inventive games designed by indie developers from Texas, as well as an anthropomorphized vending machine that has beef with the aforementioned ATM. "
Public perception is perhaps more important than any individual opinion, and Meow Wolf comes through in spades here. Available timeslots on The Real Unreal's ticket page are already spread thin, and folks who haven't yet secured their tickets may have to wait a few weeks for their chance to sneak inside. Notably, July 15 - the first Saturday after Meow Wolf opened to the public- was one of the busiest days at Grapevine Mills this year. The 55k estimated visits recorded by Placer.ai on that day are second only to the Spring Break rush for impact in 2023.
It's unlikely that everyone on site that day came for a look at Meow Wolf, but economic development is all about pairing strategic uses to generate growth. A few thousand extra visits every weekend will add up to massive gains for Grapevine in the years to come. That alone makes this project an essential addition to our community.