Barrels of Cheddar Bunker tempt snack-craving shoppers in
Barrels of Cheddar Bunker tempt snack-craving shoppers in "America's Most Exceptional Grocery Store."

Omega Mart

Field review by the editors.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Take away the first letter of each word of "Omega Mart" and you have "mega art."

Shelf-stable items can be purchased at the check-out, just like at a real supermarket.
Shelf-stable items can be purchased at the check-out, just like at a real supermarket.

That might just be a coincidence, but it's probably not -- not in a grocery store/alternate universe built by Meow Wolf, the New-Mexico-based art collective that created House of Eternal Return. "We like to make environments and artwork that are taken to the absolute extreme of fullness," said Corvas Brinkerhoff, Omega Mart's executive creative director. "The absolute furthest level they can be taken." It took them 3.5 years to build this one.

Omega Mart ("America's Most Exceptional Grocery Store") opened in February 2021. It's fully stocked with food and household items and appears to be a real supermarket -- until you look closer at its weirdly unreal products: Frosted Hay, Nature's Canvas Tattoo Chicken, Organic Moth Milk, P-2000 Cracker Spackle. The fresh vegetables can be played like musical instruments; the processed meats are sliced to reveal porky versions of the Mona Lisa and The Scream. These comestibles had to come from somewhere, and when the store lights flicker and menacing messages override the in-store videos, you know that they came from a place that isn't normal.

Carey Thompson's
Carey Thompson's "Juke Temple" is a walk-thru color-changing jukebox.

Omega Mart.
One of many portals that snake their way through Omega Mart.

"We like the power of the mundane," said Corvas, explaining why Meow Wolf built a fake grocery store. "The idea that you could open a refrigerator and have it be a portal to to this imaginative other world is much more interesting than just having a whole bunch of otherworldly stuff."

There is, in fact, a refrigerator-portal in Omega Mart -- it's in the chilled beverage section -- and there are more walk-thru portals behind the deli counter, in the cereal aisle, in the rear of the employee break room, and in other places as well. They lead into a labyrinthine warehouse of theatrically lit, extra-dimensional galleries -- dozens of them -- some quasi-normal, but most filled with musical space-noodling and factory-scale psychedelic techno-art, such as the Vibration Elevator, the Juke Temple, and the Luxophone.

It's clear that Omega Mart was created by a bunch of happily impractical artists: the monthly electric bill must be staggering. And there are far too many things that can break. Omega Mart has the interactivity of a children's museum: there are buttons to push, switches to flick, dials to turn, weird machines to operate, places to crawl, climb, and slide. We've seen these kinds of attractions before (Enterprise Square comes to mind) and we've seen them when their infrastructure starts to crumble. Omega Mart may not entirely escape entropy, but it might be big and weird enough to ignore it; there's so much stuff here that out-of-order exhibits may go unnoticed or be misinterpreted as art. If the door to the Infinitizer is locked, is that a problem, or is it a wry artistic statement on the incomprehensible scope of infinity?

Claudia Bueno's
Claudia Bueno's "Pulse" is made of ten hand-painted layers of light-shifting plexiglass.

Beverage cooler portal warps space-time and chilled bottles.
Beverage cooler portal warps space-time and chilled bottles.

In short, the time to see Omega Mart is now, while everything still works.

When visiting Omega Mart you'll find yourself wandering back and forth through the fabric rips in reality, between the grocery store and the bizarro back room otherworld. You'll enjoy it at first just for the perception-bending details and trippy spectacles. Then you'll probably want to slow down and try answering the question "What does this all mean?" by diving into the Omega Mart backstory, which involves, in part, several generations of the sometimes darkly-dysfunctional Dram family, owners of Dramcorp, the company that makes the products sold in Omega Mart. As with Arizona's The Thing, it would be rude to reveal more; the whole point of Omega Mart is to explore and discover its secrets for yourself. There are phones to pick up and listen to, computer files to open, office drawers to search, desk litter to rummage through, robots to interrogate. And more portals, of course; Omega Mart covers 52,000 square feet, as much as 20 suburban houses.

Double-helix tube slide in the Factory infuses Omega Mart products with human mojo.
Double-helix tube slide in the Factory infuses Omega Mart products with human mojo.

The Projected Desert: a two-story box canyon with psychedelic vistas.
The Projected Desert: a two-story box canyon with psychedelic vistas.

At some point during your visit, an Omega Mart employee will hand you an RFID "boop" card that can be waved at numerous electronic readers ("Please Boop to Access") to give you even more information. This is helpful and fun, but also slightly terrifying. Omega Mart is learning about you -- everywhere you go and everything you do. The artists at Meow Wolf are excited about this behavioral tracking and predictive modeling ("It allows us to create a much more complex storytelling experience," said Corvas) yet we all know that artificial super-intelligence always goes catastrophically insane. The people who designed Omega Mart watch a lot of Hollywood sci-fi movies; haven't they heard of HAL 9000? Don't they remember Skynet? Are we all a simulation in a post-trope universe?

Meow Wolf is clearly throwing caution into the wormhole at Omega Mart, which was built, after all, to challenge an overstimulated audience in a fantasy-driven city. Corvas said that the attraction has enough empty space to keep adding warped art for at least ten more years. That hardly seems necessary. When it comes to immersive environments, Omega Mart is already out-Vegasing Las Vegas.

Omega Mart

Area15

Address:
3215 S. Rancho Drive, Las Vegas, NV
Directions:
Area15. I-15 exit 39 onto Spring Mountain Rd, then turn right at the first stoplight onto Aldebaran Ave. Drive to the stop sign and turn right onto the Desert Inn Arterial exit ramp. Turn left at the next stop sign, drive under the overpass, and you'll see Area15/Omega Mart ahead on the left.
Hours:
M-Th 3-9, F 3-midnight, Sa 10am-midnight, Su 10-8 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
725-241-6300
Admission:
Adults $45. Must book in advance.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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