Over breakfast in Santa Fe a couple weeks ago, my sister and her husband suggested we check out Meow Wolf , an art... experience  that...

Meow Wolf & House of Eternal Return

Thursday, September 08, 2016 , , , , , ,

House of Eternal Return

Over breakfast in Santa Fe a couple weeks ago, my sister and her husband suggested we check out Meow Wolf, an art...experience that has recently opened. They talked it up something awful. Awfully wonderful. Britt and Noah aren't necessarily the types to talk places up enthusiastically without warrant. So, even though we'd originally planned a quick overnight visit for my niece's birthday, we decided Santa Fe was too great to eat and run. 

Meow Wolf it is.
We arrived to find a nondescript building with an arcade-inspired sign
and parking lot full of both cars and food trucks.
House of Eternal Return

What the heck is Meow Wolf? 
Meow Wolf describes itself as an immersive art experience. 
I'll say.
That's putting it rather lightly. 
To sum it up:
Meow Wolf is a company of artists that specializes in creating immersive art, while on the side they focus on bringing the children of New Mexico art education and exploration. Because the public schools there have basically abandoned this very important subject. So famous Santa Fe resident, George R.R. Martin {of Game of Thrones fame, as he wrote the books}, purchased a bowling alley that had been abandoned for years. He's long term leasing it to Meow Wolf in the name of art. So Meow Wolf now has 30,000+ square feet with which they've done something incredible. {Read George R.R. Martin's blog on the creating of Meow Wolf exhibit here.} While a good portion was used for a community art center, 20,000 square feet was used to create:

It opened in April of 2016.
This is where you buy tickets for it:
House of Eternal Return

Upon buying tickets, you are told, 
"Go anywhere. Touch everything."

So you head to the door for the exhibit, and find yourself walking through a dark hallway, through a door, and finding, well, THIS:
House of Eternal Return 

And I'm really going to try and hold back posting too many photos here. 
Because what starts out as a tour through a Victorian home in an abandoned bowling alley soon starts to turn into something much more wild. 
Beyond your dreams. 

House of Eternal Return 

Here's the thing about House of Eternal Return: 
It's immersive art. But also, like a jungle gym. 
And it's like a living mystery, too, because believe it or not, the whole exhibit tells a rather complex story about the family this house belongs to.

You're invited to stay all day, if you wish, and piece together what happened to this family. 
You can watch their videos, rummage through their mail, browse their computers, pull books off their shelves, rummage through kitchen cupboards, sit at their dining room table and pour over newspapers...
{This is the best review I've found in both describing the experience and also going into some detail about the House of Eternal Return family story.}

House of Eternal Return 

Or--and I recommend this version if you have kids with you, as we did--you can just start exploring. 

House of Eternal Return 

While the front of the house seems perfectly normal, as soon as you set foot in it, things start to become surreal. 

House of Eternal Return 

You might find yourself going through unexpected portals. 
Here's what's on the other side of that fireplace.
House of Eternal Return

After crawling through any given portal, you're not in a Victorian home anymore. 

House of Eternal Return

You might find yourself in what looks like a fish tank.

House of Eternal Return

Or a room with a mysterious beast.

House of Eternal Return

I want to say: this place is a bit Tim Burton at times, but 100% kid friendly. 
They've made an effort to make it not scary. 
This is no haunted house.
Just trippy as all get out.

House of Eternal Return

One minute you're invading a deserted dessert trailer home, and the next minute you're back in the hallway of the Victorian looking at family photos on the wall.

House of Eternal Return

Are you a snooper?
This place is your dream come true. 
Yeah, dig into those nightstands!

House of Eternal Return

Feel free to see what's on the family computer...

House of Eternal Return

Remember the ripples on the ceiling over the dining room? 
Same sort of ripples in the room right above it...what happened with the toilet?
Hint: if you lean over far enough, you can see what's in there.
{I think I'd have loved to be able to spend a day here putting together the family's story!}

House of Eternal Return

Ever been tempted to peek in someone's medicine cabinet?
Oh, come on! Admit it! 
Well, this one is certainly mysterious. 
Pills are falling into a Coraline-esque tunnel of pink fluff.

House of Eternal Return

Whenever you find yourself immersed in normalcy once again, all you need do is open a kid's closet door to find yourself back in someone's acid trip...

House of Eternal Return

On a catwalk, free to explore one of several tree house structures. 

House of Eternal ReturnHouse of Eternal Return

There is not an inch of this dreamworld that isn't covered in something to behold.

House of Eternal Return

So in case you were wondering exactly what "immersive art" meant.

House of Eternal Return

House of Eternal Return

And they meant it when they said touch everything, because you never know what might light up and change colors on you.

House of Eternal Return

You might turn around to find the aspens giving you the stink eye.

House of Eternal Return 

And this. Well, this sums up one hidden room we stumbled upon.
House of Eternal Return

Remember there's 20,000 square feet to explore here. Just when you think you've seen it all, you discover another portal, staircase, or doorway into something entirely different than where you just were. 

This area, which almost felt like the seedy area of Bangkok at night, is where local bands might be invited to play for a special Meow Wolf event.

House of Eternal Return

I really am holding back with the photos here. 
Just giving you a glimpse at the craziness. 
{If you want to see even more of my photos, you can visit my Flickr account.}
This blog post shows fewer than 1/3 of just my Meow Wolf photos.
I'm holding back in case you ever get to go.
I don't want to spoil it all, but I did want to show just how incredibly unique this place is!

House of Eternal Return

TV tunnel. 
Once I saw it, I realized I've always wanted to go through one.

House of Eternal Return

House of Eternal Return

Sometimes even the walls react to your touch.

House of Eternal Return

Or if you just want to sit down and play the grand piano, the staff will not stop you.

House of Eternal Return

My sister shared a rumor that they say there are rooms at House of Eternal Return that haven't even been discovered yet. I asked the girl who sold us our tickets if that was true
...she wouldn't give a clear answer.

House of Eternal Return

All ages are welcome at Meow Wolf.
My parents enjoyed themselves SO MUCH.
See for yourself:
House of Eternal Return

Like I said, portals and stairways lurk everywhere just waiting to be found.
I wasn't sure I was glad we found this incredibly claustrophobic spiral staircase.
It was not for the faint of heart. 
House of Eternal Return

House of Eternal Return

And then there was this stairwell, which led to...
House of Eternal Return

I just...I have no words for whatever this is.
House of Eternal Return

But here and there you find yourself back inside the house. And that's okay! There is no right or wrong way to travel through; this art experience is a choose-your-own-adventure.
House of Eternal Return

With three little ones in tow {DO bring kids, but know they could get lost so easily in here} we ended up staying and exploring about two hours. It was so worth the cost of tickets. I'd like to go back with just adults and try the storytelling/mystery side of it.

But we did enjoy experiencing some of the paranormal in the dining room before we left. 
House of Eternal Return

I read later there is a second floor window you can go through, and I regret that we didn't find that portal. Next time...
From upstairs, though, you can see the entrance/exit. Oh, see people going through the family's mail at the mailbox? Story to tell there...I'll get to that in a minute.
House of Eternal Return

When you're ready to go, you enter reality once again, maybe even with a sense of relief. 
House of Eternal Return

There are a few amazing sculptures in the parking lot, too.

I'm so happy Santa Fe has such an incredible, absolutely unique art experience to boast about.
Look, I'll stop short of saying you should make a special trip just to Santa Fe to see Meow Wolf...I won't be that dramatic.

However, if you were to visit Santa Fe and leave without seeing Meow Wolf and House of Eternal Return...that'd be a crying shame, man. A crying shame.
House of Eternal Return

So, now to explain the bomb threat story I mentioned weeks ago on Facebook...

While in House of Eternal Return, we all made some sardonic remarks--despite how amazing it was--that, man, we'd hate to be here when the fire alarms went off! The fact that this place even managed to pass code is in itself a modern marvel. 

But we survived the experience unscathed and with just as many children as we had going in. We left right after I'd taken  peek at the family mail in the mailbox in that third-to-last photo, remember that? After just seeing all 20,000 square feet of trippy non-sense, I wasn't trying to make sense of anything anymore. I picked up a pile of letters and opened the one on top. It looked like thank you note stationery. I read out loud what the handwritten message said.

It mentioned suicide bombers which I thought was rather dark, and exchanged confused glances with my family--our expressions all agreeing that it sounded cryptic. I don't remember what it said exactly, but I do remember thinking it must be a historical clue of some sort, a character's backstory. A staff member stood right next to us during this, I'll add.

I wasn't even going to try to make sense of all the letters when I hadn't been following the story all along anyway, plus a line of other guests was starting to form behind me, so I put them back and we joined my dad in the lobby to leave Meow Wolf at about 2 p.m.. Would never have thought anything of the letter if I hadn't seen the news that night...

Anyway, we visited the Plaza and went back to the hotel and out to eat, and got the kids to bed, and then I sneaked upstairs to my parent's hotel room where they had the end of the Olympics on the TV transitioning into the 10 p.m. news. It was then that we heard a report about Meow Wolf being evacuated after a supposed bomb threat in notes and clues left around the building! The very same day we'd visited. It was startling, and my mom quickly mentioned, "Didn't you read a note in the mailbox that mentioned suicide bombers?" Oh my gosh, I had! How crazy is that?! Without knowing details, hearing "Meow Wolf evacuated after bomb threats" was rather alarming! 

Happy to report, however, that this seems to all be at worst an elaborate, unfunny hoax and at best a misunderstood, silly addition to the exhibit. It took the staff to finally notice the cryptic messages weren't part of the exhibit. None of the fake clues read like an actual threat {according to updated news sources}, but one had the mention of suicide bombers in it, so in an abundance of caution, they shut down the place and searched for any legit threats. If anyone did mean it as a real fake threat, that's not cool. and that person is a turd. I really don't think there was any real threat in the first place. Not even as a cruel, sick joke.

All that to say...it was just ironic that this happened a couple hours after we left, and after we'd been saying, "I'd hate to be here when the alarms went off!" ...only to find out later that exact thing happened. And that yours truly had unknowingly handled the note that would later summon the bomb squad.

In fact, huge props to the staff of Meow Wolf and the Santa Fe PD for taking even the slightest possible threat seriously and doing their due diligence! Glad it turned out to be nothing, but the response is impressive. I'm sure it's not likely to ever happen again. Meow Wolf is clearly a well loved Santa Fe attraction.

If you should ever get the chance to go to House of Eternal Return, DO.
Be sure to open the refrigerator. 


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  1. what a great and thorough review and photo essay. My wife and I, both geezerish and Denverites, spent four hours. The back story of the family is particularly interesting and well crafted. worth time on the computer. Going back to visit again before halloween.

  2. Yip yip yip yip uh huh!

  3. I went there today, and I think you described the experience perfectly. There are new rooms now, and those letters are to the Selig family, who apparently used to live in the house, and we're the cause of all the crazy kookyness of Meow Wolf. I am still trying to piece all of the story together, but those letters you read (not the one about the suicide bomber) are condolence letters for the death of Lex. Despite the slightly dark background, I agree completely with your review, and I believe that the House of Eternal Return is a must see for everyone of all ages.

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