If you want the short version of this story, it’s this: you have to experience Santa Fe for yourself. Visit Meow Wolf because no amount of explanation will suffice. And if you’re into craft beer or cider at all, stop by the breweries because no description will quench your thirst.
My wife, Megan, and I met Megan’s friend Matilda at Tumbleroot—a brewery, distillery, restaurant, and bar (complete with live music) all in one. First off, it’s really impressive that this place is both a brewery and a distillery. These are unique specialties; the processes are distinct; and the timing is different. But beyond a bravo to them, it means there’s a whole slew of specialty drinks that just aren’t available in any other single location.
So, we kicked back listening to a local band in this cool space. Megan and Matilda ordered from the spirits menu, especially appreciative of the 100% organic, and handcrafted status. I got a Honey Hibiscus Wheat beer that was great! It was creamy and sweet (but not overly sweet), and hit the spot.
We might have stayed there the whole evening, but an ex arrived, and that seemed like good incentive to broaden our horizons.
Matilda enthusiastically recommended Second Street Brewery.
The place had a cool vibe to it with an open, semi-industrial feel. After a round of drinks (Santa Fe Cider Works for Matilda and me, and a gluten-free beer for Megan), I ordered the Brewpub Nachos, which were amazing, and topped with all sorts of stuff—black beans, Pico de Gallo, guacamole, sour cream, and a boatload of cheese. And not that fake crap that passes for cheese on most nachos, but real, gooey, melted cheeses—two or three different kinds, I think. Plus, there was an option to add portabella mushrooms, chicken, ground beef, bacon, sirloin, or pork belly. I opted for traditional beef, which was excellent.
Megan had the turkey club wrap, because she was in the mood for something with chipotle mayo, and she said it didn’t disappoint. It had turkey, Swiss cheese, bacon, avocado, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, and her favorite mayo.
Matilda had the habanero citrus pulled pork, which sounded and looked awesome, with habanero-citrus barbecue, coleslaw, and pickled onion on a baguette. I wouldn’t hesitate to try that next time.
Megan and I started the next day at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. I’m glad we made a point to go in here. I’d heard the name and an innuendo about flowers, but that’s about all I knew. Yes, O’Keefe is best known for her colorful, oversized paintings of flowers, but one fact we learned was that O’Keeffe’s flower paintings were not about anatomy at all—she just liked flowers.
Inside the museum, paintings were displayed against a white background, making the vivid colors stand out all the more. The exhibit also included displays of O’Keeffe’s sketches, artist tools, and photographs of her later in her life, some by photographer Ansel Adams. Though we could have lingered longer, Megan and I cut ourselves off after an hour, knowing the next stop on our agenda could easily take weeks to explore.
Meow Wolf is what happens when a group of highly creative, slightly rebellious, and very talented artists buy a bowling alley. Apparently.
I’m going to be real. This thing is hard to explain!
Megan and I had watched the documentary, researched online, and talked to friends about Meow Wolf, so we were primed and pumped to be there—to walk through the neon pink replica mastodon skeleton, and touch the things to discover sound effects. Still, we weren’t prepared for the in-person experience of having expectations flipped on their head as they were. I was routinely astonished, delighted, and caught off guard. And I loved every minute of it.
So, here’s my best go at a description: Meow Wolf is an art gallery/playground where the gallery itself—which used to be a bowling alley—is also art. And there’s a storyline, complete with a mystery to solve. Plus there’s Float Cafe & Bar, which serves coffee beverages and protein shakes, and, come happy hour, adult beverages including a delicious coffee, chocolate rum drink served in a Tiki-faced mug. It’s also an event venue featuring live music from killer bands, and other random events like professional acting classes.
Megan and I were told to leave four to six hours to explore Meow Wolf. After having been there, I’d say that’s a minimum range. For one thing, the artists never stop changing exhibits, so no one is ever going to run out of new. For another, this place was so thoughtfully arranged that I’m positive it would take multiple visits to uncover the layers of detail. For example, Megan and I noticed a small model mastodon skeleton in one of the rooms—just a prop that looks like a toy, but it’s a replica of the giant version. Same thing with an igloo and a monster—there’s a “real” version in one area, and a printed illustration of the same monster and an igloo in a scene somewhere else.
To say Meow Wolf is multidimensional is both an understatement and a pun. Part of the mystery storyline is multiple dimensions. With that, you can open up a refrigerator and walk into a new one. Or step through a fireplace into another.
I’ve also got to mention the arcade games. Some games are classics that we all know and love, and some were created exclusively for Meow Wolf. My favorite was the duck fighting game because the creator had the audacity to create a game with no instructions and include a button that does nothing but make your duck quack. Of the few buttons that exist—one of them is entirely useless, but hilarious.
I have no doubt that I’m making Meow Wolf sound completely convoluted and a little deranged—and that may very well be the case—but it is so very well done!
When we left Meow Wolf, I felt like a buzzing atom—fully charged. Megan and I rehashed what we’d seen, and speculated about what we hadn’t as we headed to Fire & Hops Gastropub for dinner.
A big reason we picked Fire & Hops is for their gluten-free offerings. Matilda had suggested it for that and because they have a large selection of ciders, and excellent food. It did not disappoint.
Instead of appetizers and entrées, the menu offered snacks, small plates, and large plates. We chose the salt and vinegar potatoes and the crispy Brussels sprouts from the snacks list. From the small plates menu, we chose the latkes, which had cured and smoked salmon, crème fraîche, and pickled onion, as well as the Poutine.
Seriously, everything was delicious. The salmon wasn’t overwhelming and the latke made a great base, and the crème fraiche drizzled on top was just the right touch. The Poutine. Oh man! The hand cut fries, were covered with red Chile mushroom gravy, (That’s New Mexican style right there!), and braised pork cheeks and cheese curds. SO. GOOD.
For drinks, Megan chose an Austin Grapefruit Cider, and I went with a Bosque Elephants On Parade Extra Tart, a local beer. It was fruity, with notes of raspberry and tart cherry, lightly sweet but with enough tartness to balance it out. Maybe I was feeling philosophical, but it reminded me of Santa Fe—unexpected, but cool.
No matter how you describe it, everyone is going to have a different experience in Santa Fe on every visit.
You just have to go.Just Go