Old Town Albuquerque#1 in Best Things To Do in Albuquerque
- 5.0Food Scene
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.
Old Town sits about 6 miles west of downtown Albuquerque. Businesses in Old Town operate their own hours and prices. If you choose to drive, you'll find free two-hour parking on all the streets in the Old Town area. There are also nearby lots that charge $1 to $6, depending on how long you stay. Rapid Ride buses also stop here (Red Line No. 766 and Blue Line No. 790). For more information, check out Old Town's official website.
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#2 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
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.
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