Visiting Albuquerque - What to See and Do
(Albuquerque International Sunport Airport ABQ, USA)
New Mexico's largest city, Albuquerque
, is a beast to spell but a wonder to explore. It is one of America's oldest settlements, fusing 1,000 years of Native American tradition with Spanish priests and conquistadors from the 17th century, as well as intrepid American artists who discovered this place in the 20th century.
The Old Town district is where the rich history of Albuquerque is best displayed. This traditional Hispanic plaza has been around for more than 300 years, and today is the prime hunting grounds for shopping and dining. Native American jewelry shops, timeless restaurants dishing up New Mexican cuisine and a smattering of really old historic landmarks make the Old Town the one attraction not to miss in this city.
You can explore the artistry of this area in the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, or venture just out of town to the Sandia Pueblo Craft Market for an afternoon of real native shopping. Another great outing is riding the tram to the top of the Sandia Peak, the watermelon-shaped mountain looming over the cityscape.
Ten things you must do in Albuquerque
- There is simply nothing quite like Albuquerque's Old Town. Most visitors never even bother to venture much outside its historic perimeter, because this is where all of the city's ambience is concentrated. Superb shopping, authentic New Mexican dining, and a handful of amazing churches and museums add to the thrills of this 300-year-old neighborhood.
- Don't miss the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. Sitting right on the edge of the Old Town, it is the best spot to enjoy the artwork of Georgia O'Keeffe and other local legends. The gallery also features a marvelous collection of Spanish colonial-era artifacts, weapons and armor. Films of the city's rich history are shown, and guided walking tours of the Old Town depart most mornings from the museum.
- Whether it is hot in summer or cold in winter, a ride up the tram to the top of the Sandia Peak is a real treat. Besides the fun ride itself, the top of Sandia is covered in hiking trails and forest, and offers reliably cool weather. In winter there is usually lots of snow to play in. A restaurant sits at the top of the tram station, which stays open past sunset so that you can enjoy the twinkling night views over the city.
- Native American heritage is the most interesting aspect of life in Albuquerque, and the best venue to experience it is the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. All 19 of the pueblos (or tribes) that live in New Mexico contribute to this wonderful non-profit attraction that features everything from archaeology, to museum exhibits and traditional dancing. The gift shop and café are also of note.
- Even if you can't make it to Albuquerque for its hugely popular Balloon Fiesta each October, you can experience the magic of hot air balloons in the city's new Balloon Museum. The entire timeline of ballooning is laid out in excellent detail, with other fun activities like a flight simulator and kid's workshops.
- If you are feeling lucky, there are several Indian casinos right on the outskirts of the city limits. The Sandia Resort and Casino is the largest and most modern, with all the usual gaming tables and lots of slots. It is actually a very striking piece of architecture as well, modeled after a traditional Indian pueblo structure.
- A really popular outing just minutes from town is the Petroglyph National Monument, an outdoor area of lava flows dating back some 25,000 years, where Native Americans have been drawing pictures on the rocks for millennia. There are three trails to walk that highlight some of the most impressive petroglyphs in the park, or you can scamper around the lava flows searching for your own undiscovered piece of ancient native artwork.
- The Rio Grande Zoo is a great sunny day outing for several reasons. Its open-moat enclosures feel as natural as possible, and most of the big name wildlife stars are on hand, along with native New Mexican species. The setting is also quite lovely, with towering cottonwood trees and the mighty Rio Grande River flowing near by. Take the Thunderbird Express Train, as it loops around the zoo and provides an easy look at the complex.
- When the weather is warm, one of the best ways to get around Albuquerque is on the Rio Line, a miniature train that runs between several of the city's top attractions. It stops at the Rio Grande Zoo, the Albuquerque Biological Park and the Tingley Train Station during its one-hour journey. The conductor tells riders all about the city's history along the way.
- It is a wonder to see a huge modern aquarium in the middle of a desert environment like this city, but the Albuquerque Biological Park makes the dream a reality. Besides its excellent aquarium facility, the site is also home to a state-of-the-art conservatory that showcases the magical plant life of the New Mexico high desert, alongside several other desert regions from around the globe.