Albuquerque, New Mexico, has a wealth of history, gorgeous landscapes, and a fairly temperate climate. A visit to this sprawling city offers much for the wandering tourist to experience. Whether you will be visiting for just a couple of days or a week, here are 8 of the must-do things to take in while there.
1. Ride on the world’s longest aerial tram: the Sandia Peak Tramway. If you do nothing else while in Albuquerque, do not miss this high-flying experience. The Sandia mountain range is the
highlight of anyone’s visit to this New Mexico town. It’s also a veritable compass for those living in the city. These splendorous peaks are difficult to miss seeing from anywhere in town! When you look in the direction of the Sandias, you know you’re looking eastward. The Tramway pulls you 10,378 miles up to the Sandia Peak. During the 15-minute ride in the glass enclosed tram, you have a panoramic view of the city of Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley, including parts of Santa Fe. Once you reach the peak, the view is even more incredible. There is a restaurant at the top where you can linger and enjoy the sunset from nearly 3 miles up. You can also opt to hike up or down on the marked trails or even ski in the winter.
2. Spend some time in Historic Old Town. This section of the city is where Albuquerque’s original settlers lived. There is a vibrant central plaza that is surrounded by two square blocks containing dozens of art galleries, restaurants, and shops on quaint cobblestone and brick streets. Near the plaza is the San Felipe de Neri Church, the city’s oldest building, dating back to 1793. It is a tourist favorite for its architectural beauty and rich history. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is also in Old Town. New Mexico’s 19 pueblos are represented here, showcasing their history, culture and artwork. There are often native dances performed, and a gift shop and restaurant is on site. This is a wonderful place to learn about all 19 Indian Pueblos before you decide to visit one in person.
3. Come during the International Balloon Fiesta. This extravaganza is held every year beginning in the first week of October. Over the course of a week, thousands of people visit the city to view hundreds of hot air balloons rising silently upwards as sunrise nears and then again, after sunset. This is the photo opportunity of a lifetime! The Fiesta also sponsors other events within the confines of the ballooning grounds. Music, chainsaw-carving competitions, balloon rides, a balloon museum plus much, much more is going on during the week-long festival. People from around the world come to Albuquerque to witness or take part in the balloons’ mass ascensions.
4. Get your kicks on Route 66. Yes, the original Route 66 is alive and kicking in Albuquerque. This was once the only paved road, dating back to the 1930s, which connected Chicago to Los Angeles. During its heyday, post-World War II, when many Americans owned cars, Route 66 was the way to travel cross-country. Businesses offering unusual side-trips for travelers popped up along the route, including cheaply priced motels and diners with eye-catching neon signs. Today, sections of Route 66 in Albuquerque run through the Nob Hill and Highland neighborhoods of town. The road has been renamed East Central Ave., but the original signs still exist, as do some of those neon-lit motels and restaurants.
5. Take a walking, bus, or trolley tour. This is perhaps the best way to see Albuquerque and get both a feel for the layout of the town and its history. You will also find creepy ghost tours
available and a wildly popular in-depth tour of the locations in town where the television show Breaking Bad was filmed.
6. Visit the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. The park is a perfect antidote to city life, with interpretive trails for hikers and birdwatchers, and an expansive biking trail. There are nearly 300 acres of riverside forest and meadows. There is also a nature museum and staff members who truly know their history, both current and original, of the Rio Grande that flows from Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico.
7. Take the kids to the ABQ Biopark Aquarium. This is a triple-play destination, with an aquarium, zoo, and botanical garden all in one. You can visit each site via a trail line that connects them. The aquarium boasts a 285-gallon tank of seawater that includes sharks, sea turtles and other ocean life.
8. Check out the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. If you want to see where Bill Gates worked before he went on to become the developer of Microsoft, this is the place to
see. This spot is where the world’s first personal computer was made and sold. Two permanent exhibits include Start Up Albuquerque and the Personal Computer Revolution. New Mexico’s
natural history in the form of gigantic dinosaur skeletons dating back thousands of years is exhibited here, also.
There is much more to see and do in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If your time is limited, however, these are the highlights that you should try your best to cover. If you can’t fit everything in this time, there is always your next visit!