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Home Things to do Travel A quick trip to trippy Santa Fe should be on everyone’s bucket list

A quick trip to trippy Santa Fe should be on everyone’s bucket list


Santa Fe calls itself “The City Different” in New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment, but could it change you into a different person while visiting?

Less than six hours by car from Denver, Santa Fe is close enough for a weekend away or for spring break without a long flight. Yet this small city is like a world away from the Front Range in terms of the vibe and activities. From art to a transformational retreat, there are many mind-altering — or trippy — options to consider on your next excursion to Santa Fe.

Meow Wolf, museums and more attractions

The phenomenon that is Meow Wolf started in a former bowling alley in Santa Fe. Although I’ve been to this original location before, as well as the one in Denver, I was happy to return because, although the original exhibition and story inside are constant, the space allows for new artists and their installations. That means the experience can be fresh for repeat visitors.

The immersive and interactive art experience (with a complicated backstory) differs significantly from location to location, so even if you’ve been to the Denver location, it’s worth a visit here. My tip: Get those 3-D glasses they offer before you enter so you can really appreciate the neon space by artist Lauren YS, aka Squidlicker. Drawing on the artist’s Asian-American heritage, the room is like a psychedelic prayer room with a portal entry from the main room. Look for the buttons on either side of the wheel across from the portal to get it spinning and then put on your glasses so your eyes can play tricks on your brain.

Two other artists, Jacob Fisher and Virgil Ortiz, have new rooms nearby. Ortiz is from the Cochiti Pueblo south of the city, and his installation pulls from his Native American background. Pause to watch the video here of a dystopian future during the “Pueblo Revolt.” Fisher’s art takes you into the realm of outer space with a capsule you can climb inside.

Our favorite room was just beyond these and one that I missed on my first visit: the laser harp. Like entering a haunted house through heavy black flaps, you find yourself in a dark room illuminated by red beams of light that emit sound when you run your fingers through the beams. It was mind-bending and delightful — and hard to leave.

(Remember that Meow Wolf is a timed-entry experience, so make your reservations in advance.)

For a more traditional puzzle, visit the Loretto Chapel just off the main plaza downtown. Santa Fe has several lovely churches, including the San Miguel Chapel (my favorite, which lays claim to being the oldest church in the nation), but the Loretto Chapel might be the most visited for a peek at its mysterious staircase. The legend is that no one knows who built the beautiful, curving wooden staircase in the late 1800s, or how it is supported with only wooden pegs.

Another favorite is the Museum of International Folk Art up on Museum Hill. The permanent collection of miniature worlds from dozens of countries and cultures is appealing to all ages with scenes of bullfighting, tea parties, deserts, heaven and hell, and so much more. Also on display at this museum for this year is La Cartoneria Mexicana, or The Mexican Art of Paper and Paste. While the materials seem so simple — paper, paste and paint — the results are brilliant and colorful, but also mind-blowing, with life-size (and larger) figures from myths and Day of the Dead celebrations.

I’ve come to appreciate the curatorial style at SITE Santa Fe, part of the city’s vibrant Railyard Arts District. On this trip, we saw two installations by Mexican artist and social activist Pedro Reyes that involve repurposing guns into shovels or musical instruments. “Direct Action” will be on display through May 8.

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