Nestled along the Rio Grande and a main stop on any road trip along Route 66, Albuquerque’s highlights include a wealth of Native American culture and a variety of outdoor activities and destinations. Take some time to shop in Old Town, have a beer at sunset on a roof top bar or ride one of the longest tramways in the world.
Located in the center of New Mexico, I arrived in the city during my trip from Austin, Texas to Los Angeles, California. Having never visited New Mexico before, I figured the biggest city in the state would be the place to get a sampling of this part of the southwest. Odds are your stop here will be a part of a Route 66 roadtrip, which means you’ll be in for some of the same activities I found.
I did quite a bit in the two days I spent exploring the city. I started with a visit to the Albuquerque Biological Park (aka. ABQ Biopark) which was nice after being in the car for so long. It took a couple of hours to walk around the entire park while shooting pictures, and there are interesting, if small, different gardens to check out. My favorite was (obviously) the Japanese garden, although the Heritage farm looked good as well. Be aware that a ticket here also gets you into the Aquarium.
After the park, I was relaxed and ready to try the tramway. I met some friends at the base for a great Mexican lunch before grabbing our tickets for the tram. One of the longest in the world, it took us 15 minutes to get from the bottom to the peak where we basically hung out, enjoyed the view and had a beer at the nice, if a bit pricey, bar on top. If you are there during winter you can ski and/or snowboard at the peak.
That evening was spent in Nob Hill, which is essentially where all the cool, college kids go to eat, drink and be merry. If you’re on that Route 66 roadtrip, be sure to have a meal or drink in this quirky area and see some of the old, authentic Route 66 motel signs along the way.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC)
The next day I spent immersing myself in Native American culture at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. This museum goes into detail on Native American history and their way of living. The highlight of the day was the dance demonstration, performed by Fabian Fontenelle, who is of Zuni and Omaha descent, and Shelley Morningsong, who is North Cheyenne.
After filling my mind at the IPCC, I went to Old Town, which has some of the older-style buildings and centers mostly around shopping. There are some food options here, but this area mostly caters to selling New Mexico souvenirs and Native Amreican arts and crafts. It’s interesting to walk around and people watch but you can skip this spot if you’re low on time and have no interest in souvenirs.
While I wasn’t there at the right time, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta would be the perfect reason to plan a trip to Albuquerque. Held in the fall, it’s the world’s largest ballooning event and sounds like it would be quite the spectacle.
If you’re really interested in Native American culture, you might also consider coming around the end of April for the Native American Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow. There are many events going on during the Pow-Wow and this also sounds like it would be worth a return trip out.
While Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico, it’s a bit more relaxed than you’d expect a big city to be. I was there in February and the weather was perfect for spending the day outside wandering around and following that up with a night at an outdoor pub or rooftop bar. If you’re into hiking and outdoor activities, you could tack on a day or two to check out some of the outlying hiking trails and national parks. A city bustling with energy this is not, but that’s perfectly fine as long as you’re up for some relaxation and a bit of culture.