Ever since reading the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I always found the idea that a simple wardrobe could be an entryway to another world fascinating. Imagine my delight when my oldest daughter and I saw a travel show snippet about a fantastical slide whose entry point began in a laundry room dryer. At the bottom of that slide was a world unlike any we’d ever seen. The woman who slid down shared she was at Meow Wolf, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My daughter looked at me and said with 100 percent assurance, “We are SO going there”. A few months later her wish came true.
What Exactly is Meow Wolf?
First, you need to understand the Santa Fe location is just one chapter in the Meow Wolf story. Meow Wolf started in 2008 as a small collective of artists who could not find their way into the “traditional” art world. At their very first meeting everyone put two words into a hat. They then picked two random words out and got “Meow Wolf.” The group’s goal was to create immersive, multimedia experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of storytelling.
Through many ups and downs (well captured in the documentary Meow Wolf: Origin Story), these determined artists brought several brilliant exhibitions to life on their own terms. Then, with the help of longtime Santa Fe resident George R.R. Martin, Meow Wolf took over a vacant former bowling alley, transforming it into a multi-use art complex.
House of Eternal Return
Today Meow Wolf Santa Fe is home to both the permanent installation House of Eternal Return. My husband and I each took a daughter into the exhibit, while my parents and brother ventured off on their own. I hadn’t planned on separating from everyone, but the kindergartner found a fireplace doorway and we were off and running.
Let’s call this approach FULL STEAM AHEAD (FYI anyone under 14 must be accompanied by an adult). It was wonderfully liberating to be in an exhibit where touching the art is highly encouraged. The little one immediately began checking doors, rocks, windows, nooks, and more to see what she could find. A few pathways are a tight squeeze (myself going down the dryer was not graceful, but definitely worth it). At no point was my youngest scared. In fact, she was quite taken with the performance artists who were interacting with everyone throughout the exhibit.
There is no map or guide for House of Eternal Return. This is done intentionally so visitors can explore and discover the exhibit in their own unique ways. While myself and the youngest were barreling through worlds, the oldest and her dad thoughtfully walked through the house and then beyond…call this the SLOW AND DELIBERATE approach. She knew a major event had caused the house owners to vanish. Where did the Selig-Pastore family go?
To find out you have to put breadcrumb hints together, which are all over the house. It blew me away that everything, from photographs, books, newspapers, video loops on cameras, items in offices, kids artwork, a diary: all give glimpses into a much bigger story. My girl became Nancy Drew in this supernatural universe. She loved it.
In fact, she loved it so much that on our last day in Santa Fe she tiptoed into my room (several family members were napping) and asked, “Could we go back to Meow Wolf? Just one more time? There’s a couple of things I want to check out.” Our schedule was open and honestly there were several more things at Meow Wolf I wanted to check out.
So off we went for quality mother-daughter sleuthing. What made it doubly special is she took me to places I had missed the first day and I did the same with her. Plus we uncovered several more appearances of Nimsesku, the family’s unusual hamster. How does Nimsesku fit into the story?
You’ll just have to visit Meow Wolf to find out.
Tips For Visiting Meow Wolf
- Meow Wolf is for everyone. The youngest in our group was five, the oldest 75. The first floor of the exhibit, which features the majority of the installation, meets ADA standards and is accessible. Note that strollers are not allowed because of the exhibit’s layout and number of visitors.
- Give yourself at least two hours to explore Meow Wolf. We were there longer.
- Tickets are good for the entire day. You can purchase them in advance on the Meow Wolf website, which will reserve your check-in time.
- Meow Wolf hosts a slew of events, including nighttime performances. You will need to purchase tickets beforehand.
- Float Bar and Cafe is great for snacks. If you want a larger meal go offsite. Again, your ticket is good for the entire day.
- The exhibit can be crowded, depending on when you go. My oldest and I went back for our second visit late Sunday afternoon and had a much easier time exploring smaller details.
- Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes. After all, you are very likely going down a dryer.
- If you or someone you love becomes overstimulated (there’s a lot going on in this exhibit) take a break in the Float Bar and Cafe. There are also plenty of areas in the exhibit where you can sit down to let your mind settle.
- They have done a good job of making it easy to exit the exhibit for a restroom break. Having gone through with a kindergartner, this was greatly appreciated.
- Explore, explore, explore.
Meow Wolf Online
Written by Erin Prather Stafford
Top image provided by Meow Wolf
Other images taken by oldest daughter
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