Sitting in the high desert of New Mexico is the state’s largest city, Albuquerque. With its juxtaposition of old and new, the city is a fascinating place to live in or visit. Whether you enjoy the International Hot Air Balloon Festival, the area’s thriving dining, shopping, and nightlife, or prefer to surround yourself with remnants from the past, there is much to explore in Albuquerque. Although the city was originally founded in 1706 as a Spanish colony, its history dates much further back than then and has a rich and intriguing Native American past.
As the region’s own website boasts, “At the heart of New Mexico beats the pulse of a vibrant city.” Ready to experience the best of this vibrant city for yourself? Keep reading to find out all there is to know about Albuquerque – whether you choose to spend a few hours, days, or a lifetime here!
Why We Love to Travel
From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
Benefits of Traveling Locally
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
- More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and local parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
- Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
- Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
- Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
- More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being close by definitely has its benefits.
Explore Local: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Whether you’ve lived in Albuquerque your whole life, are a recently new transplant to the city, or are planning on visiting the region sometime in the near future, Albuquerque offers an exciting new experience in almost any direction you look.
Read on to start your Albuquerque, New Mexico adventure!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
State Parks in Albuquerque, New Mexico
With the Cibola National Forest on one side and the famous Petroglyph National Monument on the other, the city itself lies within some of the most beautiful natural scenery that the state has to offer. Albuquerque experiences around 310 days of sunshine each year, so why not make the most of the good weather by getting outside and exploring the region’s stunning state parks? Here are our top picks!
Petroglyph National Monument: This national park is an archaeological site showcasing thousands of prehistoric Native American drawings on stone walls. It is one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America and also features the work of early Spanish settlers dating back approximately 400 years ago.
Cibola National Forest: Just 16 miles out of the city is the Cibola National Forest, which covers more than 1.6 million acres in New Mexico, with elevations ranging from 2,700 feet to over 11,300 feet. Nearby, you’ll find the famous Kiwanis Cabin, as well as trails for hiking, mountain biking, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing.
Santa Fe National Forest: Covering over 1.5 million acres is the Santa Fe National Forest, which is home to thousands of culturally significant and archaeological sites. Enjoy a wide range of activities here year-round, including hiking, camping, climbing, biking, fishing, scenic driving, water activities, and winter sports.
Hyde Memorial State Park: This 340-acre park boasts high mountain peaks, intricate rock formations, and emerald green evergreen forests. Here, you can enjoy plenty of fun, recreational activities, including hiking, wildlife watching, or winter sports such as cross-country skiing, sledding, tubing, snowshoeing, and more.
Best Hiking Trails
After exploring some of the national and state parks within the region, you might want to hit the trails to enjoy even more of what Albuquerque has to offer in terms of flora and fauna. Here are our most recommended hiking trails in or near the city.
The Sandia Foothills Open Space: You’ll find the Sandia Mountains bordering Albuquerque on its eastern edge, but their open space foothills are accessible from anywhere in the city in just minutes. This open space covers around 2,650 acres and offers miles and miles of intertwining trails open to hikers 365 days a year.
Grassy Hills Loop: The Grassy Hills Loop begins at the Cottonwood Springs Parking area and is also accessible at the Elena Gallegos Picnic area. It’s a 4-mile loop popular with hikers as it provides close up mountain views, as well as panoramic vistas of the city.
La Luz Trail: Also located right near the city is the La Luz Trail, which is a 21.4 kilometer heavily trafficked out and back trail. It’s rated as difficult, so it’s perfect for more experienced hikers. From the peak of the mountain, you can experience beautiful views of the Albuquerque valley to the west. Once up the top, you have the chance to take the tram down.
Best Restaurants in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque is home to a bustling and trendy dining scene, so there’s sure to be a restaurant, café, or diner to satisfy your cravings. If you’ve worked up an appetite after a long hike, or simply feel like treating yourself to a delicacy, then you’re in luck. Here are our top restaurant recommendations!
The Frontier Restaurant has been an Albuquerque tradition since 1971. This large restaurant contains five dining rooms which can seat up to 300 people, and features a delicious menu of classics, including breakfasts, burritos, burgers, the famous Frontier Sweet Roll, and so much more.
Grove Café & Market
The Grove Café sources the finest ingredients from farmers and producers in Albuquerque, throughout New Mexico and the Southwest region, so you know your food isn’t just fresh, but responsibly sourced too. It’s Albuquerque’s favorite breakfast, brunch and lunch café, and offers some of the tastiest and best-looking food you’ll find!
El Modelo Mexican Restaurant
This unassuming little Mexican restaurant might look humble, but boy oh boy do they serve some incredible tamales! What originally began as a handmade tortilla “factory” operating out of a home in 1929 has now grown into one of Albuquerque’s most famous Mexican eateries. Try El Modelo Mexican Restaurant for yourself to see what all of the hype is about.
Green Jeans Farmery
Green Jeans Farmery is a great local hangout and is referred to as “Albuquerque’s original shipping container marketplace”. It can be described as multiple small businesses situated around a central, open-air courtyard, giving visitors a wide range of food and beverage options to choose from. We hear the pizza, burgers, and brewery are not to be missed!
More ‘fine dining’ than perhaps the other restaurants on this list, Antiquity Restaurant is the city’s go-to for fresh seafood, charcoal-grilled steaks, fowl, lamb, veal, and nightly specials. They also offer local, domestic, and imported beer, and more than 60 different wines from around the world to accompany your meal.
Fun Things to do in Albuquerque
After feasting and enjoying all that the hiking trails and state parks have to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Albuquerque’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
For kids and families
Looking to entertain some little ones? Or perhaps you’ve got some teenagers in-tow who are starting to get a little bored? Either way, these attractions will entertain both children, teens, and adults alike!
The ABQ Biopark is located along the Rio Grande River near downtown Albuquerque and consists of the ABQ BioPark Zoo, Botanic Garden, Aquarium, and Tingley Beach. It’s a one-stop destination for the coolest flora and fauna related activities within the region and is sure to keep guests of all ages entertained.
Cliff’s Amusement Park
With 50 rides and attractions, including favorites such as the New Mexico Rattler (voted one of the Top 25 Wooden Roller Coasters in the world), the Balloon Wheel, and Kiddy Bumper Cars, Cliff’s Amusement Park is a great place to spend the day. Try your hand at the smaller side games to see what prizes you can win!
On the cheap
Looking for ways to save money while exploring the city? These activities just aren’t some of the most fun things to do within Albuquerque – they’re also some of the most affordable!
Sandia Peak Tramway
As little as $15 per person will buy you a one-way ticket on the Sandia Peak Tramway, while children under 5 years of age can travel for free. As you travel the 2.7 miles up the mountain, you’ll learn about the mountain, rock formations, types of vegetation, and animals that can be spotted here. For an additional $5 – $10, you can take the tram for a round-trip.
New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is a popular attraction within the region, as it offers a range of fantastic museum exhibits, a 3D DynaTheater, and a planetarium. Admission costs between $4 – $10 per person, but on the first Sunday of every month, New Mexico residents can enjoy the museum for free.
What should you do in Albuquerque once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
Sister Bar has established itself as Albuquerque’s premiere, independent live music venue and nightlife destination. Here, you can enjoy exciting national touring acts, established dance parties, and breakout local bands. But wait, it gets better! Along with some seriously talented performers, you’ll also find craft beers, handmade cocktails, refined local cuisine, and an “ever-rotating menu” of classic arcade and pinball machines.
The Kimo Theatre is a historic landmark located on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Fifth Street and plays host to a wide assortment of local and national performances, including concerts, plays, ballets, artist discussions, movie screenings, and more. Enjoy a free tour of the restored movie house or purchase a ticket online to enjoy an upcoming show.
Free Things to do in Albuquerque
If you’re wondering what free things there are to do in Albuquerque, then you’re in luck! We’ve listed some of our favorite attractions below, both of which won’t even cost you a cent!
Albuquerque Old Town
You just haven’t experienced all that Albuquerque has to offer unless you’ve visited the traditional and historic part of the city, known as Albuquerque Old Town. Check out the Old Town portal vendors, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, or Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There are also plenty of restaurants, bars, shops, and other historical attractions waiting to be explored. Don’t miss the guided public walking tours held daily at 12pm.
We mentioned Tingley Beach previously as part of the ABQ Biopark, but this wonderful outdoor recreational facility has free entry and allows visitors to enjoy fishing, model boating, or hiking. It’s the perfect, budget-friendly place to waste away a sunny afternoon.
Spas in Albuquerque
After you’ve been on your feet all day, you may even feel like some rest and relaxation to get you through the night. Luckily, there are plenty of highly-rated spas in Albuquerque, offering services such as massages, facials, manicures, and so much more.
Betty’s Bath and Day Spa
The team at Betty’s Bath and Day Spa aim to make you feel good with soothing treatments in a relaxing environment that rejuvenates the mind, body, and soul. They’ve been operating within the city since the year 2000 and offer popular services such as hot tubs, deep tissue massage, hydrating facials, body wraps, and more.
Green Reed Spa
The Green Reed Spa isn’t your average spa. You see, it’s situated at the base of the Sandia Mountains with expansive views of the river valley below and is said to offer serenity and luxury unlike anything else in New Mexico. Just some of their luxurious services include Vichy rain showers, soak tubs, and a tranquil indoor/outdoor relaxation and meditation room.
Best Gyms and Yoga Studios
If you’re less about relaxation and more about sweating it out, then perhaps one of Albuquerque’s top-rated gyms or yoga studios is for you?
Bhava Yoga Studio
The much-loved Bhava Yoga Studio offers a wide range of ongoing, series, and private yoga classes. Some of these popular classes include shoulder and neck relief yoga, yoga hour, back care yoga, restorative yoga, and kids’ yoga. Keep an eye on their scheduled events for even more rest and relaxation.
Ever wanted to learn how to overcome both mental and physical obstacles to achieve your fitness goals? This is one of Ninja Park’s ultimate goals for its attendees, and they offer everything from obstacles, weight lifting, and personal training, to adult group classes and kids classes. It’s even been voted as one of the best places to host a children’s birthday party!
Day Trips Near Albuquerque
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? Consider these day-trips next time you fancy a new adventure!
There’s no doubt you’ve already heard of this famous national park, but what makes it so unique? It’s an underground limestone cave in the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico, just north of the Texas border. It’s located almost entirely underground, with over 119 limestone caves to explore. Above ground, you can enjoy scenic hikes which take in the vast beauty of the Chihuahuan Desert.
Just over an hour’s drive from Albuquerque is Acoma Pueblo, a stark contrast to the bustling city. This tiny town is famous for being the oldest continually inhabited settlement in the whole of North America and is situated atop a nearly 400-foot-tall mesa in the middle of the desert. It’s home to over 5000 tribal members, as well as over 250 dwellings, none of which have electricity, sewer, or water. Enjoy Native American pottery making and tribal celebrations, as well as educational tours and cultural exhibits.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Albuquerque that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Albuquerque? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.