10 Things to Do in Albuquerque

New Mexico's biggest city is worth a weekend trip for amazing food, outdoor access and quirky museums for all ages.

August 13, 2019

Photo By: Nick Cote

Photo By: Nick Cote

Photo By: Jay Blackwood

Photo By: John Phelan, Wikimedia Commons

Photo By: www.visitalbuquerque.org

Photo By: Egret Communications

Photo By: Nick Cote

Photo By: Nick Cote

Photo By: Nick Cote

Photo By: Nick Cote

Photo By: Nick Cote

Why Albuquerque is One of the Southwest's Best Cities for Adventure

Far too often, Albuquerque is pushed out of the spotlight to make room for Santa Fe, with its seemingly endless adobe art galleries and hundreds of years of well-preserved history. But Albuquerque just might be New Mexico's best, underrated city, a place where you’ll find outdoor adventures around every corner and so many world-class yet affordable restaurants you could spend an entire weekend just eating your way around town.

If you’re looking for a weekend getaway with the perfect balance of adrenaline, relaxation and scenic views—not to mention some of the most colorful sunrises and sunsets around—Albuquerque will surprise and satisfy you. Here's what not to miss while you're in town.

See Rock Carvings at Petroglyph National Monument

Just minutes away from downtown Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument is an excellent place to hike and learn about the Ancestral Pueblo people. It’s estimated that the park contains about 25,000 petroglyphs carved into the volcanic basalt roughly between 1300 and the 1680s. The park has four trails of varying difficulty that take you right alongside hundreds of petroglyphs. If you’re traveling with kids (or if you’d like a challenge yourself), ask for a Junior Ranger activity book at the Visitor Center to learn more about how and why these carvings were made.

Ride the Sandia Peak Tramway

Get breathtaking views of Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains from the Sandia Peak Tramway, which will take you to the 10,378-foot summit of Sandia Peak. Bring a jacket: temperatures can be as much as 30 degrees cooler up there than in the city. The ride only takes 15 minutes each way, but you’ll want to spend some time up at the summit, where you’ll find hiking trails. A new summit restaurant will open in late summer 2019.

Explore Old Town Albuquerque

Albuquerque is undoubtedly an up-and-coming city, thanks to its exploding arts and culinary scenes. But it’s still worth visiting Old Town, where you’ll find a taste of the city’s history, traditional New Mexican food, and boutique shopping. You’ll also find Iglesia de San Felipe de Neri here, a Catholic church built in 1793. It’s the oldest church in Albuquerque and one of the oldest buildings in the whole city. For lunch, dine at Garduños at the Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town. The tacos and chile rellenos are superb, and the tableside guacamole is an experience. If you like tequila, don’t skimp on the margaritas. Their creative flavors include blueberry mint, lavender, hibiscus, elderflower, prickly pear and, of course, jalapeño.

Road Cycling in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque is the biggest city in New Mexico and among the most populated in the U.S., but it has no shortage of outdoor adventures that can make you feel worlds away from urban life. Whether hiking, mountain biking or whitewater rafting is more your speed, Albuquerque makes an excellent home base for a long weekend of outdoor adventure. For downhill riding without the uphill slog, buy a one-way bike ticket for the Sandia Tram.

Fly in a Hot Air Balloon

Albuquerque is known for its annual International Balloon Fiesta, where more than 500 balloons float above the Sandia Mountains over the course of the festival. But you can still gape at the mountain views from the sky the rest of the year, too. The city has a handful of hot air balloon operators that will fly you over the Chihuahuan Desert year-round.

See More Photos: 10 Sights at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Ride a Bike or Walk the Paseo del Bosque

Rent a bicycle or bring your walking shoes for a relaxing ride or stroll through the cottonwood forest around the Rio Grande river. The Paseo del Bosque runs for 16 miles through the city and Rio Grande Valley State Park. The trail is dotted with public art installations. At Pueblo Montaño, for example, you’ll find sculptures artist and firefighter Joseph Chavez carved from burned tree stumps with a chainsaw after a wildfire charred the area in 2003.

Stay at a Working Lavender Farm

Wake up to relaxing views of lavender fields at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, a working lavender farm as picturesque as it sounds. This boutique bed & breakfast was designed by John Gaw Meem, one of New Mexico’s most famous architects, in the 1930s and is still brimming with historic charm. The property is packed with adorable nooks and crannies in various gardens where you can hide away with a book or journal. They also offer cruiser bikes you can borrow for free to ride around the area. Be sure to have dinner at Campo, Los Poblanos’s restaurant, which features ingredients grown right on site.

Visit the Casa Rondeña Winery

Albuquerque’s wine history has deep roots. In 1629, Franciscan monks smuggled grape vines out of Spain so they could make their own in New Mexico, in the Rio Grande Valley. Production stalled around Prohibition, but has been picking up again in more recent times. Visit the scenic Casa Rondeña Winery, an easy bike ride from Los Poblanos, for a tasting and a tour. Be sure to ask about their wine-infused dessert sauces, too. The Cabernet Chocolate Sauce is amazing over ice cream.

Play With Eclectic Masterpieces at the Tinkertown Museum

The Tinkertown Museum might be one of the quirkiest museums in the United States. The museum was built from old glass bottles plastered together, and features giant moving displays of tiny towns hand-made by artist Ross Ward. Each one has scores of buttons you can push to watch the scenes come to life. The museum also has some old-fashioned arcade games and fortune tellers, so bring a pocket full of change. You’ll find something new and entertaining around every corner at this eclectic museum.

Go on a Culinary Adventure

Albuquerque’s culinary scene is not to be missed. Throughout the city, you’ll find upscale dining worth writing home about. For a splurge, bring a group and order all the small plates you can eat at Más Tapas y Vino in the Hotel Andaluz. Executive chef Marc Quinones—whom you may have spotted on "Chopped" and "Cutthroat Kitchen"—has designed an incredible menu packed with next-level flavor. At the very least, you’ll want to order the honey bacon-wrapped dates with goat cheese—they cure their own bacon in house—the grilled artichokes with pickled watermelon rind, and the salt & pepper octopus. Also worth a visit is El Pinto. Don't be deterred by this restaurant's massive size; you won't find sub-par food here. El Pinto grows many of its ingredients on site, composts and raises chickens for fresh eggs. And tequila drinkers, rejoice: There are more than 160 types of tequila on the menu.

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