Best Things To Do in Albuquerque
Start your visit off with a tour of Old Town, the epicenter of Albuquerque. This 10-block neighborhood is a living tribute to the city's Native American and Spanish heritage. Explore the Southwestern art galleries housed in ancient adobe structures and stop by the stunning San Felipe de Neri Parish, the city's oldest building. If your history quota isn't filled, spend some time at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History or the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Just don't miss your chance to enjoy New Mexico's great outdoors: Devote a few hours to strolling the Paseo del Bosque Trail or relishing the views from the Sandia Peak Tramway.
Updated April 10, 2018
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For more than 300 years, both Native American and Spanish cultures have been shaping this neighborhood (this is the site of the original city settlement in 1706). Anchored by the central plaza, Old Town's cobblestone streets are filled with brightly colored adobe huts that now house galleries, restaurants and souvenir shops. The stunning San Felipe de Neri Church – Albuquerque's oldest building – can also be found here.
Many visitors recommend spending a few hours wandering around Old Town, likening it to a less crowded (and more affordable) Santa Fe. Along with the interesting shops and restaurants, reviewers also loved the area's clean streets and talented street performers. However, if you're heading to Old Town in search of Southwestern souvenirs, recent shoppers advised watching out for knockoffs.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Albuquerque1 mile to city centerParks and Gardens, Zoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND1 mile to city centerParks and Gardens, Zoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Sitting along the Rio Grande river just southeast of Old Town, the ABQ BioPark is the ideal venue for a relaxing day spent outdoors and a must-see, according to recent visitors. This massive park is home to four distinct attractions: an aquarium, a botanic garden, a zoo and Tingley Beach. The aquarium is a particular hit with children thanks to its 285,000-gallon shark tank, while the zoo's 200-plus species (snow leopards, kangaroos and polar bears included) are sure to keep their attention. If you're not really interested in the animal kingdom, spend an afternoon exploring the 36-acre botanic garden, which features numerous exotic plant species, meticulously manicured grounds and serene walking paths. You can also enjoy the many opportunities to hike, bike and fish at Tingley Beach during a summertime visit.
To save money at each of these traveler favorites, previous visitors recommended purchasing the package deal, which grants you access to the zoo, the aquarium and the botanical garden, as well as unlimited train rides at the zoo. Keep in mind: The combo ticket is only available to purchase Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon. After noon, there is not enough time to get through all of the attractions, according to the park. Combo tickets cost $22 for adults and $8 for children ages 3 to 12.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Albuquerque7.6 miles to city centerFestivalsTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPEND7.6 miles to city centerFestivalsTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPEND
The city's dry climate is ideal for hot air ballooning, and so during the first week of October every year, thousands flock to Albuquerque to experience the International Balloon Fiesta. For a full week, the sky fills with almost 600 brightly colored balloons, which launch every morning from the 78-acre Balloon Fiesta Park in northern Albuquerque. Festival attendees witness the mass launch just before sunrise and the "Balloon Glows," during which the balloons are illuminated against the night sky.
Many recent visitors struggled to find the words to describe the magnificent sight of the balloons, calling the festival a bucket list experience. They also offer some essential tips for making the most of the festival. To start, travelers suggest taking advantage of the park and ride option (it costs $15 per adult when booked in advance and includes admission to the park) to avoid the heavy traffic that usually surrounds this event. Visitors also advise getting there as early as you can (some got on the road or boarded their shuttle bus by 4:45 a.m.) to witness the early morning activities, such as the Dawn Patrol. Just remember to wear layers – travelers warn it's chilly in the morning and gets progressively warmer as the day goes on. If you're willing to spend a bit more money, reviewers also recommend purchasing the Chasers' Club ticket option. For $45 per person, you'll receive admission to the festival, guaranteed seating in a private patio situated on the north end of Balloon Fiesta Park (a prime photo op location), beverages and a hot food item.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Albuquerque0.6 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.6 miles to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Sitting on the north edge of Old Town's plaza, the San Felipe de Neri Church, originally founded in 1706, was the first Roman Catholic Church erected in Albuquerque. The structure that stands today was completed in 1793 (one year after the original building collapsed) and has expanded over the centuries to include a rectory, a convent and a school. There is also a museum here that displays religious art and artifacts that once hung on the church's walls.
Recent travelers said that a visit to the San Felipe de Neri Church is a must when visiting the Old Town area, even if you're not religious. Visitors admired its peaceful atmosphere and well-preserved interiors and architecture.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Albuquerque1.5 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.5 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Long before the Spanish conquistadors made their way to New Mexico, the region was home to numerous tribes of Pueblo people. Today, the cultures of these indigenous tribes are preserved at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Located about 2 miles northeast of Old Town, this educational facility of Pueblo art and history also hosts a variety of cultural events, including lectures and workshops.
Recent visitors strongly recommended stopping at the center while in Albuquerque, calling it a "treasure." If you can, try visiting on a day when Pueblo dancers are performing; according to reviewers, it was a highlight of their visit. Travelers are also quick to recommend the Pueblo Harvest Cafe, which diners praised for its traditional dishes.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Albuquerque0.7 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.7 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
For an in-depth look at Albuquerque's rich cultural heritage, take a few hours to explore the Albuquerque Museum. Sitting on the eastern edge of Old Town, this spaceis home to an impressive collection of historic artifacts detailing the city's past; some of the more notable objects include a 19th-century chapel and armor used by the Spanish conquistadors. The museum also features approximately 7,000 pieces of art, including work by renowned local artists, such as Georgia O'Keeffe and Peter Hurd.
Both travelers and locals praise this museum for its well-stocked permanent collection, but they also recommend spending some time in the temporary exhibits. Reviewers also suggested visiting the museum on one of your first days in Albuquerque to better understand and make the most of your time at the city's historical attractions, such as Old Town and the San Felipe de Neri Church.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Albuquerque12.6 miles to city centerRecreation, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND12.6 miles to city centerRecreation, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
For excellent views of Albuquerque and the nearby Sandia Mountains, take a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway. Cable cars carry passengers nearly 3 miles along a suspended cable between eastern Albuquerque and the 10,378-foot-high summit of Sandia Peak. Once at the top, visitors relish the views of the Rio Grande Valley and the Land of Enchantment – you can see up to 11,000 square miles on a clear day – not to mention some excellent hiking trails and, during the winter, snow-covered ski slopes. Sandia Peak's summit hosts several restaurants that offer dinner with a side of spectacular views.
Recent riders agreed that the tramway is a must-do for Albuquerque visitors and strongly recommended hopping on the tram at sunset for the incredible vantage point. Travelers also suggested hiking along the trails once you get to the top of the peak. Another tip from reviewers: wear layers; the top of the mountain is much cooler (as much as 30 degrees) than the base.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Albuquerque0.6 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.6 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Neighboring the Albuquerque Museum on the outskirts of Old Town, this museum educates visitors on 12 billion years of natural history. Highlights include the display on the Jurassic era that features life-size replicas of dinosaur skeletons, and "The Hall of the Stars," which attempts to explain how the night sky is organized via a tapestry that's equipped with UV reactive thread. Along with several temporary exhibits, the museum is home to a planetarium and a 3-D movie theater.
Recent visitors praised the museum's artifacts and exhibits, especially the fossils, and said its informative displays have the ability to engage a variety of visitors (even children).
- #9View all Photos#9 in Albuquerque5.7 miles to city centerHiking, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND5.7 miles to city centerHiking, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you're interested in (very) early American history, take a trip to the west side of the Rio Grande River where you'll find Petroglyph National Monument. This 7,236-acre park is home to more than 24,000 carved images left behind by New Mexico's first settlers.
Before you head out to interpret the petroglyphs for yourself (the park features numerous hiking trails), stop by the visitor center. Keep in mind: The petroglyph viewing trails are a one-mile to a 6½-mile drive from the visitor center, so if you're being dropped off at the visitor center by a cab, have the driver wait for you to transport you to the trailheads. Staff members can direct you to specific attractions within the park, while on-site educational programs offer further insight into the ancient rock art. As far as the trails go, recent visitors raved about their accessibility and scenic views.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Albuquerque1.9 miles to city centerRecreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.9 miles to city centerRecreation, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This 16-mile-long walking and biking path traces the Rio Grande River through central Albuquerque, passing major sites like Old Town and the ABQ BioPark. It also features public art and a variety of wildlife. The trail is uninterrupted by road crossings, making it a great option for exploring the city sans traffic.
Recent visitors loved the trail for its ease (it's mostly flat) and its convenient location near downtown. Though travelers strongly recommend walking or biking the trail, they also warn that it can get congested, especially on the weekends. If you get hungry along the trail, veer off the path at Central Avenue to indulge in any of the restaurants that line the avenue.
- View all Photos0.6 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.6 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Open since 1993, The Turquoise Museum is a fantastic place to go and learn all about the history of mining and crafting turquoise. The museum has a lot of information on the best turquoise mines in the country, how to tell different types of turquoise apart, how to tell fake turquoise from the real thing, the history of turquoise and more.
Recent visitors had high praise for the 90-minute guided tours, saying that you'll learn a lot of helpful tips and get to view a vast collection of turquoise. Others liked that the museum is family-run, and appreciated hearing about the family's long history mining and studying gemstones. There's also an on-site lapidary shop, where you can view how artisans polish turquoise, along with a gift shop.
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