You find yourself in Colorado to explore Meow Wolf Denver and you need more Meow Wolf so you’re headed down to Santa Fe to see the House of Eternal Return. You like road trips, but only if there’s something to see along the way. You have a car full of friends that can’t decide if they want to relax, take in the scenery, or be adventurous.
We’ve taken the guesswork off your plate and put together a funky and food-filled guide to road tripping from Denver to Santa Fe! So, toss out your maps (they’re on your phone anyway), queue up some great tunes, and get ready for a drive that boasts one magnificent destination after another. Before you hit the road, first you gotta take the ride…
Meow Wolf’s third permanent exhibition opened in Denver, CO on September 17, 2021. Convergence Station is unforgettable, transformational, and not to be missed. Discover immersive psychedelic, mind-bending art and an underlying rich narrative as you take a journey of discovery into a surreal, science-fictional epic.
It’s not a rollercoaster. It’s a thrill ride for the mind. This dark ride was named in both USA Today and Los Angeles Times as one of the most-anticipated new rides of 2019 and it hasn’t lost the excitement since.
Denver Art Museum
If you’re not in a rush to leave... This incredible museum hosts a rotating schedule of events, artmaking classes, art stories, and talks with curators and artists happening nearly every day. They also offer free Zoom sessions to explore your own writing and drawing skills if you want to keep the creativity flowing.
Your road trip begins in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, Colorado, which is home to the only remaining Casa Bonita, the Mexican restaurant and entertainment destination recently purchased by the creators of South Park. Definitely don’t pass up the free backstage tour and check out the gift shop then once dining opens up, take another trip to witness cliff divers, fire jugglers, puppet shows, and a haunted tunnel called “Black Bart’s Cave.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
As you head further southwest from Denver, you’ll pass by the small foothills town of Morrison, best known for this breathtaking concert venue.
Red Rocks is a traditional tour stop for jam bands, but the open-air amphitheatre sweeps in an eclectic collection of performers, and it’s a popular setting for musicians to create live recordings. However, you don’t have to be at Red Rocks on a show day in order to enjoy it. The hikes, the landscape, and the VIEWS are worth the stop alone.
Coney Island Hot Dog Stand
Detour! Jk. This Coney Island Hot Dog Stand is nowhere near Brooklyn, but it’s a must-stop nonetheless, if only for photo opportunity of a giant, 42-foot hot dog/1950s diner nestled at the based of the Rocky Mountains’ Front Range. Located near the Pike National Forest, this exemplary piece of roadside architecture has both indoor and outdoor seating and places a large emphasis on sourcing local ingredients. Hot diggity dog!
Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort
We love our hot springs in northern New Mexico, but we won’t blame you if you want to stay in Colorado a little longer for a mini-staycation at the family-friendly Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, just over 80 miles down the road from Bailey. They’ve got 100% natural, odorless hot springs, spa treatments, luxury cabins, and (probably) cartoon bluebirds that wake you up and make you breakfast.
The Royal Gorge is a 1250-foot-deep canyon of the Arkansas River located west of Cañon City, Colorado. It’s the perfect location to ride a skycoaster, take a trip on a gondola, or get the most direct views by flying across America’s Highest Zip Line. If you’re feeling extra daring when you leave, cruise along Skyline Drive for some serious views.
Great Sand Dunes
It’s a little bit of a dogleg to the east on your drive, but worth the trip to see the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, a remarkable sight amidst the aspen forests and mountain peaks of Colorado. The tallest dunes in North America, Great Sands are an amazing spot for sand sledding, climbing, and stargazing. Just make sure to check the weather for potential high winds, storms, or snow!
Pro tip: Get there before sunrise and you can get in the park for free.
Searching for aliens takes energy, so be sure to fuel up on one of the burgers at Wize Apples in Alamosa. Our pick is the Green Chili Strip Guac, Bacon Burger Breast with fries, of course. The Main Street in Alamosa is cute and has a few shops, restaurants, and the San Luis Brewing Company.
A near stone’s throw from Great Sands, just north of Hooper, Colorado, is this remarkable UFO Watchtower. Built in the year 2000 amidst an already existing hotspot for UFO observers, this watchtower has 360 views of the San Luis Valley. Whether or not you’re a true believer, this stop is at the very least a fun place to camp and explore a sky devoid of light pollution.
Colorado Gators Reptile Park
A short drive to the other side of Hooper and you’ll soon see signs for the Colorado Gators Reptile Park. This “family oriented, educational facility” is a sanctuary for unwanted exotic pets whose goal is to maintain an integrated ecosystem for alligators, pythons, tortoises, iguanas and more. For $2, you can buy a bucket of “Gator Chow” to feed the alligators!
As you return to the comfort of 285, you’ll come across an experience that’s quite different from many of the nature-centric stops on your road trip, but nonetheless is a sight to behold in Cano’s Castle. This shining, 4-tower castle was built out of beer cans and recycled metal by Native American Vietnam veteran Donald (formerly Dominic) “Cano” Espinoza. Inspired by “Vitamin Mary Jane” and Jesus, Cano’s Castle is truly an incredible piece of folk art.
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
After passing through Antonito, you’ll find yourself with an opportunity to enjoy the transition between Colorado and New Mexico with the historic Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. This does mean ditching the car for a bit, but if you have the time, the coal-fired steam train departs daily between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico before a luxury motor coach brings you back to where you started! For fans of true Western scenery, this is your chance to enjoy a Victorian parlor car while you chug alongside mountain canyons and high desert.
Chili Line Depot
So, you’ve finally made it to New Mexico and you’re ready to eat like a local. If you take a pit stop in Tres Piedras, you’ll find green chile heaven at the Chili Line Depot. They’ve got chili-based meals to suit any time of the day and any chili mood you’re in. Try a breakfast burrito, a green chile cheeseburger, or a slice of homemade green chile apple pie. Don’t like green chiles? No problem! But really, though, what did you expect at the “CHILI” Line Depot?
As you hit the home stretch of your fantastic voyage, your body will appreciate the healing powers of Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, with soothing spring fed pools, a dry sauna and full resort right along 285.
The property is also surrounded by hundreds of thousands acres of hike-able public land, including the P’osi Pueblo Ruins Trail, a little over a mile round trip to pueblo ruins where P’osi generations lived for over a thousand years. While hiking, keep your peepers popped for pottery shards and ruins. The nearby Joseph’s mine trail and mica mine leads to caves and a vista worth seeing. There’s no more peaceful way to spend the last leg of your journey.
Meow Wolf Santa Fe
Of course, there’s only one way to end an epic road trip from Denver to Santa Fe, and that’s with a trip to Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in the City Different. Our immersive and unique art experience features an exciting new form of nonlinear storytelling and work from over 100 local artists. It’s an ideal destination for road trip groups of all ages, and you could even stick around for a concert in the exhibit itself!
Enjoy your road trip, be safe, and we’ll see you around the multiverse.
After your trip inside the House, if you are feeling the otherworldly vibes still, take a drive south to Roswell for some sight-seeing – even the light posts are alien-themed. End the day at Pecos Flavors Winery + Bistro for a glass of wine alongside a plate full of Green Chile brisket with melted Monterey Jack cheese on ciabatta bread. If you really want to dig deeper, go to the International UFO Museum and Research Center for documents, statements, and newspaper reports about the 1947 UFO landing.