I decided that once a month in 2018, I’m going to take a quick trip to explore/see/do/hear something weird and unusual in the space around me. I’m calling these Space Oddities and this is July…
Welp, this is the big one. The reason I started my Space Oddities odyssey back in January, the weirdo mecca in Santa Fe, New Mexico: Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return.
What is Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return? Good question. It’s so hard to explain. It’s an immersive experience, an interactive art museum, a mystery, a portal to the multiverse, an overload on your senses (all of them) in the best possible way. This video does a good job explaining it, but as you’ll hear, there are so many different descriptions and yet it still can’t be conveyed with just words.
Meow Wolf is, first and foremost, an artist collective with over 200 artists from every discipline imaginable (and unimaginable). In 2016, the collective launched its first venture in Santa Fe: House of Eternal Return. Backed by George R.R. Martin (yep, that George R.R. Martin), Meow Wolf transformed an old bowling alley in the industrial district of Santa Fe into a choose-your-own-adventure experience with a dash of mystery. There are now plans to open new ventures in Denver and Las Vegas by 2020.
Inside the bowling alley is a Victorian mansion with seemingly normal rooms, but upon closer inspection, you’ll find portals and secret entrances to things only Alice has seen through the looking glass. If you choose (and if it isn’t insanely crowded like it was at the start of my visit), you can track a mystery with clues sprinkled throughout the house, but just slipping through refrigerator doors and dryer shoots to surreal, interactive realms of story and imagination was more than memorable enough for me.
From start to finish, my friends and I explored for almost three hours and I’m positive there were rooms and things I didn’t see or touch or hear. Each room is designed by a different artist and makes use of completely unique materials, some playing on technology (there’s a rad 80s-themed free play arcade) and others on sensory overload (or deprivation). It’s such a non-linear trek in wild surroundings, you tend to lose track of time and your sense of direction. And it’s fantastic!
The already extraordinary visit was topped off with getting to see Wayne Coyne’s King’s Mouth on exhibit in the cafe lobby. You climb into the silicon mouth and just chill under a cascading LED light show synchronized to music composed by The Flaming Lips.
If you want to hop in your car to drive to Meow Wolf right meow (I had to), here are my suggestions:
1) Early is not necessarily better. House of Eternal Return is for all ages and those at the younger end of the age spectrum run rampant until about 4:30 when things clear out a bit. They’re open until at least 8 most nights, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore.
2) Buy your tickets in advance to avoid entry lines. We were lucky enough to get there when there wasn’t much of a line, but I’ve heard it can run outside the building.
3) Check Meow Wolf’s event & workshop calendar. You can catch bands playing in the crazy black light village, take a workshop on lantern making, or attend a puppet lab.
4) If you get there before 5-ish, have a drink at the Float Cafe & Bar in the lobby while the kids clear out. We got drinks at the end and then sat in the King’s Mouth, but drinks before House of Eternal Return would just add another wonderful layer of wacky to the whole thing. The cocktails are inventive (and strong!) -- don’t be afraid to try the absinthe.
5) Interact with the characters walking around! And boy are there some weird ones. They encourage dancing, question-asking, and jibberish conversation. Note that you can touch the art, but not the characters.
6) This is a duh, but go in with a fully charged phone or camera. I went with 100% battery power and came out with less than 20%. You’ll want to take a lot of pictures.
My experience at Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return was worth every mile driven from Dallas to Santa Fe and back. The creativity that is cultivated and the weirdness that is celebrated is so inventive and inspiring. If you go to the bar, they’ll inevitably ask you what your favorite room was. I honestly had no answer at the time because I was still taking everything in, trying to remember all the colorful details and effects and affects, but I think the one thing that mesmerized me the longest was being able to play red lasers coming down from the ceiling like a harp. I hope you find your one thing at Meow Wolf.