Get Ready for Meow Wolf’s Three-Day Vortex Festival

The festival is returning to Denver for the second year.

Courtesy of Atlas Media
Courtesy of Atlas Media
Courtesy of Atlas Media

Meow Wolf can’t seem to help itself when it comes to providing immersive, mind-bending experiences blending sight, sound, and vibe. Vortex, the knockout three-day event that also debuted Denver’s newest music venue, The Junkyard, in 2022 is back again this year on August 25, 26, and 27. Expect a killer lineup, all the creativity and experiential art, decor, and concert accompaniments that Meow Wolf is known for, plus an array of food, booze, merch, and craft vendors to check out in-between sets.

The festival is brought to you by the unstoppable partnership of Meow Wolf and Live Nation, which initially held the EDM festival in Taos, New Mexico. (Which makes sense, considering nearby Santa Fe is the OG Meow Wolf location.) But due to a rapidly growing audience and Denver’s Meow Wolf opening in late 2022, the team behind the event made the switch from Taos to Denver last year. Now, The Junkyard is in the mix, aiming to bring concertgoers not just an incredible music experience, but a “halcyon multi-stage dreamland.”

Guests can expect an experience like no other, combining ethereal sensation with The Junkyard’s edgy, industrial atmosphere. Even cooler is the fact that the production team behind the blood, sweat, and magic of Vortex is female-run, and your joy will make a positive impact by supporting local hires and supporting Meow Wolf’s sustainability initiatives.

So grab your tickets before they’re gone and let yourself be transformed and transported to a plane of euphoria, exploration, and enchantment while dancing your little heart out. Here’s everything you need to know about Vortex 2023.

Courtesy of Atlas Media
Courtesy of Atlas Media
Courtesy of Atlas Media

Where is Vortex happening?

The Junkyard, one of Denver’s newest, grittiest, and coolest music venues sits on the west end of Lincoln Park amid an industrial area (it did actually used to be a junkyard, after all), away from the hustle, bustle, and traffic of other popular venues in the city. While The Junkyard is only a four-minute drive from Convergence Station, be sure not to head there by mistake, unless you’re planning to try and hear a beat here and a note there over the roar of I-25.

There’s no on-site parking, so your best bet is a ride-share or hopping on the RTD to 10th and Osage, and trekking the 20-minute walk or 6-minute scooter ride to and from the venue. For those using a ride-share app, plug in: 1098 Yuma Street, Denver, CO 80204.

As for arrival, doors open at 4:30 pm on Friday and 1:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

What are the ticket options (and how can I get them)?

Depending on your preferred level of commitment, you can opt for a single-day pass or full weekend access with a three-day pass. Single-day passes are currently selling for $110, and three-day passes are going for $250, which is quite the deal if you’re interested in seeing acts each day of the fest.

Ready to buy? Purchase tickets here.

What are the must-see acts?

The big name here is GRiZ. The internationally-known DJ and producer actually played the first-ever (and completely sold-out) show at Meow Wolf’s Denver venue, The Perplexiplex, so it’s safe to say he’ll be a huge hit (again).

Also sneakily on the lineup is Two Feet, who has definitely gained some trend traction in the last year thanks to the spicier side of TikTok. The alternative singer/songwriter will bless the stage with provocative electric guitar and sultry lyrics.

What’s the lineup?

There’s no official list of set times (yet), but there is a lineup list for each day of the fest. Heavy hitters like GRiZ and Remi Wolf will headline on certain days, while acts like Pneuhaus, Andrea Fischer, and Shrine will play every day of the event. Here’s who’s playing on which days:

Remi Wolf; Claude VonStroke; Dennis Ferrer; Jadu Heart; Jean Dawson; KILTRO; Nikki Nair; NotMeghan; QRTR; Underscores; Pneuhaus; La Adorna; Jon Medina; Victor Rivera; Andrea Fischer; Gigi Douglas; LUMENATI; Rainbow Dome; Shrine

GRiZ; Armani White; BLOND:ISH; Brownies & Lemonade All-Stars; CATZ ‘N DOGZ; CJ; Erez; ESCPE; Ford.; Jacques Green; Jerro; Two Feet; TF Marz; Zingara; Pneuhaus; La Adorna; Jon Medina; Victor Rivera; Andrea Fischer; Gigi Douglas; LUMENATI; Rainbow Dome; Shrine

GRiZ (Chasing the Golden Era); Chase West; Dusky; The Funk Hunters; Justin Martin; MINDCHATTER; DJ Minx; Parra For Cuva; Parkbreezy; Rossi.; Shady Jones; TOKiMONSTA; Thought Process; Pneuhaus; La Adorna; Jon Medina; Victor Rivera; Andrea Fischer; Gigi Douglas; LUMENATI; Rainbow Dome; Shrine

What’s allowed (and what’s definitely not)?

The event is happening rain or shine, so dress-or pack-accordingly. Remember: it’s an all-ages event, so the occasional kid will be around.

Each guest can bring in one small bag that’ll be subject to search. The cross-body bags that sent LuluLemon into a supply-demand tailspin this past year are totally allowed. But beware: No bags with chain straps are permitted in the venue. Vortex gets pretty specific about its additional bag regulations, so it’s advised that you read the full list here.

Reusable water bottles are A-OK as long as they’re empty when you enter, and service animals that are in accordance with ADA guidelines are allowed.

The things that are definitely not okay to bring include the usual list: outside alcohol, drinks, or food; drugs or weapons of any kind; and a decent-sized list of potentially unsafe or environmentally harmful (or both) items-like single-use plastics, glow sticks, or spike jewelry-that you should also familiarize yourself with.

What are the food options?

Several food vendors, concession booths, and water refill stations will be available. All bars are entirely cashless, and food trucks and vendors take credit with cash optional. There won’t be ATMs inside the venue, so get what you need before you enter.

Will there be bathrooms?

A bank of restrooms (portable toilets) will be available, with accessible restrooms too. Close by will be a hand-washing station and a medical tent.

What should you listen to to get hyped?

If you’re itching to dance and the thought of waiting another week and a half is killing you, check out the official Vortex playlist featuring songs by every artist on the lineup on Spotify.

What are Vortex’s sustainability efforts?

In an effort to bring immersive entertainment to Denver in a more sustainable way, Vortex has put a few initiatives in place, primarily to address waste reduction, climate action, and community engagement. In addition to art installations made from upcycled material to banning single-use plastics upon entry, there are a few noteworthy features of Vortex 2023.

The push for reusable water bottles and recycling is huge this year, as is the limiting of plastics and other disposable products, and leftover food waste will be collected for composting. There will also be an increased effort to reduce energy usage (since live music events can take up an unnecessary amount of power) and carbon emissions by tracking usage as it relates to staging.

Additionally, vegetarian and vegan meal options will be plentiful, and waste management teams will be on the hunt for dance floor trash throughout the event. The goal is a cleaner, safer, more sustainable Vortex from this year forward; read more about the event’s efforts here.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Erica Buehler is a Denver-based freelance writer. Follow her @e_buehler on Instagram and @e_buehler_on Twitter for more updates on Denver food and other Mile High shenanigans.


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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