Holding the title of one of the oldest cities in the United States, Albuquerque boasts a rich and extensive multi-cultural heritage and amazing weather. With people of Native American, Hispanic and Latino, Anglo and more than 70 other ethnic descents, this is one of the few cities where multi-cultural exchanges are an everyday event. A harmony of cultural and modern influences, there’s never a lack of things to do whether it be following the neon signs lining Route 66, whetting your appetite with New Mexico’s official state cookie or taking part in one of their many festivals. That being said, here’s a list of 7 things you can strike off your bucket list by visiting Albuquerque, and we invite you to join us in checking them off one by one.
1) Go ball-istic at the International Balloon Fiesta
Home to the world’s largest and most distinguished balloon carnival, be a part of the magic and watch, with about 750,000 other visitors, as the skyline fills with more than 500 colorful balloons taking off from Balloon Fiesta Park over 9 days every October. With a plethora of activities like the famed mass ascensions, hot air balloon races, Glowdeo (a rodeo event for the most uniquely shaped balloons), music fiestas, chainsaw carving competitions, and fireworks, there’s never a dull moment to spare. You can even get a ride in a hot air balloon and enjoy the magnificent scenery from the air!
For those curious cats out there there’s no better way to learn more about the hot air ballooning capital of the world than to visit the Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. Committed to the art, culture, science, history, sport, and spectacularness that is hot air ballooning, the museum was opened in 2005 and houses one of the world’s most accomplished selections of ballooning apparatus and keepsakes. Sitting on the southern edge of Balloon Fiesta Park, the museum plays a big part in supporting the annual International Balloon Festival.
2) Take a ride on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway
Spanning 2.7 miles, watch the picturesque canyons and desert terrain pass below your feet and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the sunset hitting 11,000 square miles worth of terrain from the 10,378-foot high observation deck atop Sandia Peak in the Cibola National Forest. One of the most visited tourist attractions in Central New Mexico and more fondly known simply as the Tram, it recently observed its 50th anniversary in May 2016 and has since taken more than 11 million visitors to the top of Sandia Peak and back. Pertaining to the weather conditions, on a good day you are almost always guaranteed an unrivaled view of the Rio Grande, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Valle Grande and maybe more. Each tramcar is able to carry up to 50 passengers or 10,000 pounds up the mountain at one time and on average travels up and down 10,500 times a year.
Thrill seekers keep an eye out for updates as they are currently working on constructing a mountain coaster pending approval from the Forest Service. If all goes well, the proposed Mountain Coaster should be up and open for operation somewhere between Spring and Fall of 2019!
3) Visit the American International Rattlesnake Museum
When you think of museums they always strive to educate the public. The American International Rattlesnake Museum is no different. Holding the largest assembly of different species of live rattlesnakes in the world; even more than the Bronx, Philadelphia, National, Denver, and San Francisco Zoos combined, the animal conservation museum sheds light on how these otherwise scary animals have made an impact on our lives. Featuring works of art as well, the museum strives to scrutinize myths and reveal mysteries about these highly-feared animals. An intriguing and informative experience for the whole family, cure your phobias and learn more about these otherwise misunderstood animals.
4) Pueblo Montaño Chainsaw Sculpture Garden
When an unfortunate series of events in 2003 inadvertently led to a wildfire that ended up damaging over 250 acres of cottonwood trees, firefighter Mark Chavez took it upon himself to honor the disaster and salvage the burnt trees. A chainsaw artist by hobby, Chavez sculpted a variety of symbols including an eagle rising from flames, La Llorona (the “ditch witch” of Mexican folklore), and a firefighter standing atop a slain dragon (fireman slang for a particularly bad fire) amongst others like the roadrunner and coyote for comedic effect. The sculpture garden is located just off Montaño Road, in the Pueblo Montaño trailhead of the Paseo de Bosque.
5) Take a walk through the historic Old Town
Founded by Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, and known as the Historical Zone of the City of Albuquerque, Old Town has been the epicenter of community life since it was first founded in 1706 and spans about 10 blocks of significant adobe buildings. Home to many founding families of the town, the town also proudly boasts the city’s earliest erected structure, the San Felipe de Neri Church. Built in 1793, the people slowly started constructing homes, offices, and shops around it, slowly making the area into the community that it has become well known as. Almost three centuries later those houses, offices, and shops have since been replaced by the many art galleries, restaurants, and shops that now line the streets of Old Town.
Looking very much like what it did in its heydays, take a walk in the past as you admire the Pueblo-Spanish styled structures against the Southwestern horizon. There are also long portals to hide from the sun in front of most buildings and benches built in the back walls so you can take a rest or simply people-watch.
6) Check out all that ABQ BioPark has to offer
Albuquerque’s ABQ BioPark is made up of a plethora of different venues such as the Albuquerque Aquarium, Rio Grande Botanical Gardens, Rio Grande Zoo, and Tingley Beach, each with their own evening events as well. Hop aboard the Rio Line between the Zoo and the Aquarium and/or the Botanic Gardens, or the Thunderbird Express that loops within the Zoo.
In the day, cruise down the Rio Grande to the Gulf of Mexico and see all that the Aquarium has to offer. Delve into gardens both formal and eccentric that are sure to intrigue you. Spend an intimate date with the animals of the Rio Grande Zoo and watch them enjoy a meal or take a seat and listen as volunteers recount stories about animals in the Africa Amphitheater. For the fishing enthusiasts, hop on down to Tingley Beach barely minutes away from downtown Albuquerque and drop a line at one of their three public fishing ponds that also happen to be free of charge! Do take note though that it is mandatory for all anglers to own a New Mexican fishing license.
In the evening, join in the Bosque Moonlight Hike starting from Tingley Beach. Come rain or shine you will be able to enjoy this experience - unless they are sold out for the day that is. There are also guided night walks and twilight tours at the Botanic Gardens and Rio Grande Zoo respectively, where you can explore different plant and animal behaviors you would otherwise never get the chance to in the day.
7) Take a walk on the paranormal side
Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk is a 100-minute walk that will bring you around town to the many historic and (reportedly) haunted sites around town. Places such as the KiMo Theatre, old Bernalillo County Courthouse, Wool Warehouse, “Hell’s Half Acre” and more are sure to titillate your senses and send shivers down your spine. This is probably not a good idea for the faint-hearted but if you’re up for an adventure why not give this tour a try?
There are so many more things to see in do in this majestic city, but these experiences are just that much more special and deserve a place on your bucket list as it has on mine. For more destination guides, check out Trip101.