48 Hours in Albuquerque: The Ultimate Itinerary

Albuquerque, New Mexico
DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

While it's more than 300 years old, Albuquerque usually sits in the shadow of its northern neighbor, Santa Fe. However, the Duke City is a worthy destination in its own right. It’s claiming its place in the spotlight thanks to Netflix bringing a $1 billion production studio to the already film-rich city. Although it’s only a mid-sized city, experiencing the bounty of cultural and outdoors attractions in Albuquerque in two days is a feat. However, a 48-hour journey through the city allows travelers to hit the highlights, both rich in New Mexico’s heritage and trendy touches.

01 of 06

Day 1: Morning

Entrance to Albuquerque's Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

John Elk III / Getty Images

8 a.m.: To start the day with a jolt of caffeine, head to Little Bear Coffee, at either of its two locations. The friendly, neighborhood coffee shop also serves salted-butter and prickly-pear frosted donuts from Bristol Doughnut Company. For a more robust meal, stop in The Grove Café & Market, where you can nosh on house-made English muffin breakfast sandwiches or bowls of granola and fruit in a refreshing environment.

Stars of the hit show “Breaking Bad” will recognize The Grove from the show; it’s one of dozens of real-life filming locations around the city. If you want to tap into Albuquerque’s film and TV culture, join a “Breaking Bad” themed tour with Routes Bicycle Tours or Albuquerque Tourism & Sightseeing Factory.

11 a.m.: If ancient culture is more your speed, head to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center where the 19 pueblos of New Mexico tell their stories in a permanent exhibit. Leave time to shop in Shumakolowa Native Arts, home to Native American-made pottery and pottery-inspired coffee mugs that can be filled at the Pueblo-owned Starbucks across the street. Grab a green chile cheeseburger at gas-station-esque Laguna Burger before your afternoon activities.

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02 of 06

Day 1: Afternoon

Old town plaza at hidden patio with San Pasquals shop and decorative sidewalk with brick paths, flowers, dried chiles, and gardens
ablokhin / Getty Images

1 p.m.: In the afternoon, take in the Sandia Mountains. You can opt to take in scenic views of the bluish, granite peaks while walking or biking the 16-mile Paseo del Bosque Trail or guide to the top along the Sandia Peak Tramway. From the vantage at the peak, you’ll be able to see 11,000 square miles of the Rio Grande Valley.

3 p.m.: Head to Albuquerque Old Town, the city’s original neighborhood, to browse the shops, galleries, and boutiques there. If you’re in the market for a clever, New Mexico-themed T-shirt, this is the place to find it, but you’ll also find fine art. Native American artisans sell silver-and-turquoise jewelry beneath the portal on the plaza’s east side. On the north side of the plaza, don’t miss the 1793 San Felipe de Neri church.

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03 of 06

Day 1: Evening

Outdoor terrace restaurant in Hotel Chaco

 Courtesy of Hotel Chaco

5 p.m.: Start off your evening with a New Mexico wine, beer, or spirits at Crafted, in Hotel Chaco, where you’ll be spending the night. The stacked adobe buildings in Chaco Culture National Historical Park dictated the building’s design. Inside, Native American art, from Two Grey Hills style weavings to contemporary art from today’s masters, enhance the lobby, common areas, and guest rooms.

7 p.m.: For upscale dining, book a reservation at Level 5, Hotel Chaco’s rooftop restaurant. The restaurant takes its inspirations from Native American dishes and the Southwest. For a more laidback fare, the Sawmill Market, New Mexico’s first food hall is slated to open in February 2020.

Save a little room for tapas. You may want to snack on light bites when you head to Flamenco Tablao, at Hotel Albuquerque, where dancers and musicians affiliated with the National Institute of Flamenco present a stage show in the intimate venue.

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04 of 06

Day 2: Morning

Exterior of albuquerque's turquoise museum

 Courtesy of Turquoise Museum

8 a.m.: Fuel up for the day at Remedy Coffee shop or the food counter, both inside Duran’s Central Pharmacy. The restaurant is known for massive flour tortillas slathered in butter and some of the best red chile in town. Or grab a quick coffee at Zendo, home to locally roasted coffee and vegan, gluten-free baked goods, before you head across Second Street to the Turquoise Museum.

10 a.m.: The Turquoise Museum is home to one of the largest private turquoise collections in the world and world-class specimens. The collection includes the George Washington stone, a cabochon in the shape of the founding father’s head, and features a world tour of turquoise around the world. It’s housed within an architectural rarity in this sea of adobe and skyscrapers: a castle that was once a private home.

11 a.m.: If you’re able to break away from jewelry shopping, drive across town to the Anderson Abruzzo Balloon Museum. It celebrates the history and sport of ballooning around the world, but the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (the largest gathering of balloons in the world) features prominently in the display. The museum also highlights local pilots’ achievements, which include setting both time and distance records in the sport.

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05 of 06

Day 2: Afternoon

Route 66 Malt Shop in Nob Hill District, Albuquerque

Richard Cummins / Getty Images

Noon: Spend the afternoon strolling and browsing Nob Hill, a pedestrian friendly swath of Route 66 that doubles as a popular shopping district. Don’t miss stopping in Kei & Molly Textiles, which prints colorful tea towels and other home goods with colorful New Mexican scenes. As the sun sets, vintage neon begins to glow in Nob Hill, which is centered on old Route 66, aka Central Avenue. Farther west on Central Avenue, head to El Vado, a restored 1939 motel that was reborn as a shopping and dining destination.

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06 of 06

Day 2: Evening

Los Poblanos Inn Albuquerque

Courtesy of Los Poblanos Inn and Organic Farm

5 p.m.: Kick off your evening by tapping into Albuquerque’s craft beer scene at Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. The female, Native American founders, Shyla Sheppard and Missy Begay, are making waves in the national brewery scene. They incorporate local ingredients, such as wild sumac and blue corn, in their craft creations. To watch the Sandia Mountains turn their signature watermelon hue at sunset, grab a table on the patio at Steel Bender Brewyard, another of Albuquerque’s top brew pubs.

7 p.m.: Keep your evening local by dining at Farm & Table or Campo. Both are in the city’s North Valley and the restaurants sit on the grounds of the farms from which they draw many of their ingredients. Campo’s Chef Jonathan Perno is a star chef in the Duke City and beyond; he’s been nominated for Best Chef Southwest on several occasions by the James Beard Foundation. He specializes in Rio Grande cuisine, which draws ingredients from the valley’s several-thousand-year agricultural history. Campo occupies a finely restored 1930s dairy building on the ground of Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, where you should get tucked in for the night. The boutique inn’s guest rooms are housed in a traditional adobe and farm-inspired buildings. At this pastoral inn, the farm is never far away: The most recent additions lavender fields, from which the inn distills essential oils for its line of body products, available in the farm shop.

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