Albuquerque, New Mexico
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- Albuquerque hosts America’s largest powwow, drawing around 150,000 spectators.
- Microsoft was founded in Albuquerque in 1975.
- The “Breaking Bad” TV series was shot in Albuquerque.
- During the U.S. Civil War, Albuquerque surrendered, briefly, to the South (1862).
- The famed Route 66 is Central Avenue in Albuquerque.
Albuquerque epitomizes the stereotypical southwestern U.S. city, with the cultural characteristics that such a description implies. It also is a city for lovers of the outdoors and a modern metropolis known for the arts and its high-tech research facilities. In addition, it calls itself the world’s hot-air ballooning capital. Or, put differently, Albuquerque is a mash up that has appeal for individuals across the personality spectrum.
The influence of the original Pueblo people (i.e., Native American village dwellers) and the city’s Spanish founders is apparent in a pervasive preference for adobe-style construction and in the Old Town where the Spanish first settled.
If architecture isn’t revealing enough, the first serious shopping tour, featuring Native American jewelry and crafts, or the first meal, likely to include foods laced with chili, should settle the matter.
Visitors also may see traditional dances, visit institutions highlighting the Pueblo and Hispanic cultures or attend America’s largest powwow. As for the arts, Albuquerque is particularly known for its ballet company and symphony orchestra.
The key player in the research arena is Sandia National Laboratories, a contractor for the National Nuclear Security Administration. Fittingly, Albuquerque, situated between Los Alamos (where the atomic bomb was developed) and Trinity Site (where it was tested), hosts the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History.
As for its natural setting, Albuquerque sits in the Rio Grande Valley with the Sandia Mountains to the east and the Manzanos to the southeast. Extinct volcanoes and a large collection of petroglyphs carved into lava lie to the west.
Boasting of 310 days of sun yearly, it has a desert climate where temperatures are tempered by altitude — more than 5,000 feet. The mountains and climate invite visitors (and residents) to go out and play.
Albuquerque seems the right place for hot-air balloons to take off, in every sense. Choices for activities also include hiking, jogging, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing — not to mention the leisurely stroll or relaxation at a sidewalk cafe.
Tourism officials, warning that the high altitude has some hazards, urge visitors to remain hydrated and to protect skin and eyes from the sun.
Things to do for Venturers
- Take a hot-air balloon ride over the Rio Grande Valley. If the timing works (October), also attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest with nearly a thousand balloons. There is a balloon museum in town, too.
- Go for the scenic views by riding the 2.7-mile Sandia Peak Tramway or driving the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway. After the tram ride up, hike the mountaintop trails. Or, at the end of the driving trip, hike to the peak (four miles roundtrip). Note: These hikes are at more than 10,000 feet above sea level.
- Attend the Gathering of Nations in April, America’s largest powwow. It brings together more than 3,000 Native American dancers and singers from more than 500 U.S. and Canadian tribes.
- Ski or snowboard at Sandia Peak, or in summer head to Sandia for mountain biking, using the ski trails.
- Order the hottest dishes you can tolerate. Most menus include foods spiked with chili peppers. Time your visit to attend the Fiery Foods and BBQ Show, held in March.
- Cycle on trails at the city’s perimeters, the interconnecting trails in the Foothills Open Space, a buffer zone between city and wilderness, or the 16-mile Paseo del Bosque Bike Trail.
Things to do for Centrics
- To appreciate the local culture, include the National Hispanic Cultural Center or the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, or both, on your itinerary.
- Get married in the gazebo on the plaza at the heart of the Old Town.
- There are some unique museum options. Come inside on a hot day for, say, the fascinating and disturbing National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, or the American International Rattlesnake Museum. Earn a “certificate of bravery” for going through the latter museum.
- Attend a recital or dance performance at the KiMo Theatre and get a load of the interior, with its chandeliers shaped like war drums and canoes, air vents disguised as Navajo rugs and ceiling beams that resemble logs painted with dance and hunt scenes.
- Savor several hours and a lunch or dinner in Albuquerque’s historic Old Town area. Also, look for ghosts during an appropriately themed walking tour of the Old Town.
- See the famed New Mexico Ballet perform. Or, do something edgier: See an original drama at the Vortex Theatre.
Things to do for Authentics
- Shop for contemporary Native American artifacts in the art gallery and gift shop at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Or, shop at the Bien Mur Indian Market for a fine selection of jewelry, pottery, kachinas, paintings and other Native American crafts.
- Play golf. The city boasts more than a dozen courses.
- See the etchings at Petroglyph National Monument on Albuquerque’s West Mesa. There more than 20,000 drawings of birds, animals and humans on lava rock from extinct volcanoes. Some are accessible via paved paths. Or, for something way older, check out the dinosaur bones at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.
- Take a guided tour that uses the “Breaking Bad” TV show as its theme.
- On weekends, be on hand to see traditional Native American dances in the central plaza of the Old Town.
- Cruise Historic Route 66 (Central Avenue) for the neon signs, art deco theaters and the motels that recall the highway’s heyday and its economic impact on the city.
For more information, consult the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.visitalbuquerque.org