Updated: Feb 25
A few years ago, a friend told me all about Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When we moved to Colorado, I was ready to head there instantly since it was only a hop, skip, and jump from where we are living. However, as you know, life gets in the way with all the busyness. I kept this amazing place at the top of my list though. And my excitement about visiting would only grow, every time my friend came back from yet another day at Meow Wolf!
After all, who could possibly resist visiting a permanent art installation that was created by more than 100 artists! From what I had heard up until that point, it was an experience that lets visitors use their imagination to the fullest.
As a mom of an autistic child, as well as a travel advisor, I knew I must do ample research before I could even book my trip to Meow Wolf. I wanted my family’s experience to be as wonderful as possible, and that meant ensuring I knew what to expect first.
One of the first things I discovered during my research is the Meow Wolf House of the Eternal Return can create a slightly scary situation for some children. Younger children, and those with sensory issues, may get scared when they see the dark spaces, low lighting, tight spaces, narrow walkways, and low overhangs. The loud music and noises, theatrical fog effects, and flashing lights can be concerning for some children as well.
Knowing all those things made me slightly hesitant to take my kids at first because I knew a meltdown could happen without warning. But I am always up for a challenge, so I started to talk to my kids about what they could expect during our visit. By using social stories, I knew I could prevent some meltdowns from occurring since my autistic son would know about what we were seeing and doing.
I even prepared them, so they understood there was no map we could use to wander through Meow Wolf. Some of the paths lead visitors in one direction, while others offer twists and turns until you have no idea which part of the house you are in.
I do recommend checking out one of the sensory bags at the ticket counter when you arrive. Even if you think you won’t need this bag, I always find it is best to be overprepared. The staff does an excellent job of checking in with every visitor and they make sure you are aware that your child should never leave your side.
If you have younger children in strollers or wheelchairs, you can use them on the first floor. However, no strollers or wheelchairs can be taken up to the second floor. You will want to keep that in mind if your child relies on those items when you are traveling.
One of the things I loved about Meow Wolf is they did have quite a few quiet spaces available for when anyone needed a break from the sights and sounds. Visitors are also allowed to come and go from the labyrinth, which is perfect if you can tell your autistic child is starting to get overstimulated.
While Meow Wolf does not offer special passes for people with disabilities, I found their staff does an excellent job of noticing who needs a little extra help. One employee took the time to make sure my autistic son knew what an employee’s badge looked like in case he did become separated from me. They also let me know that if we needed to exit the house quickly, to let one of them know and they would help us immediately.
Our time at Meow Wolf was slightly exhausting. My youngest son could have spent days in this space, while my autistic son was doing his best to enjoy it despite his discomfort with certain aspects. It is just one of those situations where you can definitely see the difference between my two children. My youngest loved walking in a refrigerator and ending up in a spaceship and climbing into a dryer to only find himself inside a forest. My oldest son did join his brother, but only a couple of times before he was done with those parts of the adventure.
My oldest son did love the aquarium area, but that is because he has a love for marine life. I was quite proud that he chose not to take breaks in any of the quiet spaces throughout the day. He decided he wanted to see as much as possible during our visit. However, by our third time through the house, he told me he was done. I respected his wishes and took both boys out to the parking lot to grab some Mexican food from a food truck, as well as some shave ice. As we ate, we looked at some incredible sculptures and reminisced about what we had just experienced.
Updated!!! Meow Wolf House of the Eternal is offering Sensory Friendly Days! From their website: "House of Eternal Return offers Sensory Sensitive Days once per quarter. Sound and lighting inside the House of Eternal Return is adapted to create a low-sensory experience and capacity will be limited to one-third maximum operating capacity. Visit our events page for more information on upcoming Sensory Sensitive Days."
So, the answer to the question, “Is Meow Wolf autism-friendly?”, really depends on your child’s sensitivity. I recommend starting a conversation with your child about this innovative attraction and see how they react to the different situations they will be introduced to.