Sitting high in the desert, it’s New Mexico’s largest city and was founded in 1706 as a Spanish colony. Today, the core of the modern Downtown area contrasts vividly with Old Town, which is filled with historic adobe buildings, such as San Felipe de Neri Church, as well as specialty shops selling Native American handicrafts and other unique goods. Get a taste of true tribal history by taking a trek down to this urban sprawl on route to Santa Fe or Taos.
Though the city sits perfectly set as the gateway to other New Mexico wonders such as Acoma Pueblo and Chaco Canyon, Albuquerque’s got a rich history and dramatic terrain all its own, with the meandering Rio Grande, desert volcanoes, and a striking array of mountain ranges that continue to capture the imagination of folks traveling to the region. Experience subtle beauties like a flock of sand hill cranes overhead, or take a hot-air balloon ride before checking out the various vintage Art Deco buildings and neon motel signs in town. You’ll also fall in love as you watch the Sandia Mountains get lit up pink by the fading rays of the summer sun.
There’s never short of activities to do here. Drive up the Camino Real or south into Barelas to catch a glimpse of vintage shops and taquerias galore all decked out with hand-painted signage in blazing-hot colors and idiosyncratic script. Be sure to stop for a bite at Barelas Coffee House or Garcia's Kitchen before taking a nice stroll or bike ride towards Paseo Del Bosque along the Rio Grande. Outdoor lovers with adore the lush scenery surrounding the 16-mile trail of cottonwoods, migrating birds, and an ever-present river rippling quietly on the side.
Culture enthusiasts might want to explore the National Hispanic Cultural Center or visit the historic KiMo Theatre in the center of Downtown right on old Route 66. Even watch a stellar sunset over the volcanoes in the Western desert—a brilliant pink flood that creeps up and over the valley by making its way east to illuminate the mighty Sandias before disappearing into the night. It's one of the best sights to witness in late summer when there’s an aroma of fresh roasting green chiles in the air.
Why not spending a day doing all of this? Kick it off with breakfast at Flying Star Café in the heart of Downtown before checking out the handful of shops and galleries on Gold and Central avenues. Head on out with a short drive west along Central to get to Old Town, where you can explore even more shops and museums, such as the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History and the Albuquerque BioPark, which contains an aquarium, a botanic park, and even a zoo.
Chow down with a quick lunch before taking the Red Line bus eastward to reach the main campus of the University of New Mexico and the nearby Nob Hill District. The UNM campus is home to numerous historic adobe buildings, as well as the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and the UNM Art Museum. Then get ready for an evening of fun by checking out the array of offbeat shops in town, and trying out El Patio or Nob Hill Bar and Grill before heading back to Downtown for a bit of late-night barhopping. Fun.
As of late, Albuquerque has experienced a massive wave of hotel building, driven in part mainly because of the infamous amount of lodging shortages during the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in October. Upscale, trendy hotels can be discovered all throughout downtown-- as well as by heading east on Central Avenue towards the University of New Mexico and the Nob Hill neighborhood. Those wanting something more affordable can venture on the I-40 to "uptown" or further north on I-25 towards the airport, where lodgings are typically more vanilla-flavored and business-traveler centric.
The entire surrounding area of exquisite Bosque lands along the Rio Grande is a renowned network of bicycle and hiking trails that have been creatively developed by the city. Downtown serves as a primary hub for the New Mexico Railrunner, which offers daily for transfers commuters and visitors alike to Santa Fe along the scenic Rio Grande corridor. What’s more is that although the city in itself sprawls widely, there are a handful of neighborhoods well worth exploring on foot, including both Downtown and Old Town, as well as the adjoining Nob Hill and UNM neighborhoods. Try bunching together a bunch of interesting area attractions that interest you to make the most out of an all-day trek across Albuquerque by hitting up the Bosque Brewing Co. and then the Balloon Museum before going to check out the Petroglyph National Monument.
If you get tired, take a ride on the Sandia Peak Tram, or make it even more of an adventure by embarking on a narrated ride via the ABQ Trolley Co., which provides a variety of open-air trolleys that take travelers on route to unique areas—such as the shooting locations of the television show “Breaking Bad.” Some might even opt to savor a bit of New Mexican culture and history with a jeep tour or a guided hikes starting from Albuquerque courtesy of local-history expert Roch Hart, owner of NM Jeep Tours. Of course, for those jetting in, there’s always just Albuquerque's airport, the Albuquerque International Sunport, which serves as the major air hub for all of New Mexico.
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