Albuquerque Bucket List Activities

The Top Must-Dos Whether You're a Local or a Visitor

Whether you're a local or a visitor with a few days to spare while in Albuquerque, there are some things that should be on your Albuquerque bucket list. This list deals with the must do's -- the things that Albuquerque is famous for. They're quintessential activities that will give you insights into what the city is about: unique, one-off, and absolutely spectacular. Though it isn't possible to do them all in one day, they give you something to aim for.

  • 01 of 09
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    ••• RONg

    If you're active and love the outdoors, a great place to see the city in its beauty is from the Sandia foothills. Choose one of the city's trailheads to start, and discover what chamisa and cholla cactus look like up close. 

    What to Expect: You'll hike from 5,000 to 6,800 feet and will see a range of plants, grasses, wildflowers, and animals. 

    Why You Should Do It: Not only will you enjoy the surrounding beauty of the trails, but the city stretches out below like a canvas. Western New Mexico looms in the distance. 

  • 02 of 09

    Seeing Albuquerque from above is compelling for a reason. The view of Albuquerque from the Sandia Tramway is spectacular no matter the time of day, but sunset is especially beautiful, as the sun goes down and the lights come up.

    What to Expect: In addition to seeing city and mountain views, you'll get an in-car tour guide to explain what you're seeing, and a chance to hike or tool around at the top. 

    Why You Should Do It: From the top of Sandia Crest, you'll see the Rio Grande Valley and to the west, Mt. Taylor and the Four Corners area. 

  • 03 of 09

    Old Town Albuquerque contains the city's past and a place to shop for the present. Step into adobe shops to get Indian moccasins, or pick up Native American jewelry along the plaza sidewalk. Shops like San Pasquals will give you a taste of local goods, and other shops like Casita de Kaleidoscopeare just plain fun. Be sure to stop in at the Rattlesnake Museum, especially if you have kids. Step into the San Felipe de Neri church to step back in time.

    What to Expect: Shops contain everything from souvenirs to art. Galleries highlight local artists, and restaurants give you a taste of local flavor.

    Why You Should Do It: You'll discover the architecture that used to be everywhere in Albuquerque and its historical roots.

  • 04 of 09
    ••• Photo Courtesy Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau

    Because the International Balloon Fiesta takes place in Albuquerque, the city has hot air balloon ride companies that will take you soaring year round. Take a romantic flight at sunrise or sunset, float above the Rio Grande, or fly early in the morning before dawn and see what it's like to light up the dark.

    What to Expect: You'll see majestic views of the Rio Grande Valley and the Sandia Mountains, followed by a toast and certificate of achievement. Take the camera on this 3 1/2 hour adventure. Your tour guide will point out what you're seeing below and 

    Why You Should Do It: The views, the sense of exhilaration, the views. There is nothing like it.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09
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    ••• Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

    The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center contains a museum about the history of the Pueblos of New Mexico, galleries with Indian arts, and a gift shop with authentic, Indian-made pottery, jewelry and more. The Pueblo Harvest Cafe features Native fusion cuisine that gives familiar foods distinctive, Native one-offs.

    What to Expect: Immerse yourself in Pueblos of New Mexico at the Cultural Center, which is like no other place in the world.  

    Why You Should Do It: On weekends, see Pueblo dancers perform. On any given day, you might see the Buffalo dancers of Acoma, the Apache Crown dancers and more for a glimpse at these beautiful indigenous cultures.

  • 06 of 09

     A visit to Albuquerque wouldn't be the same without trying the green chile stew, burritos or huevos rancheros at local favorite Frontier Restaurant. The local icon is a favorite with the UNM students at the campus across the street, and with everyone else, to include local celebrities. 

    What to Expect: Western paintings adorn the walls and wagon wheel chandeliers add to the ambiance. A favorite painting subject is John Wayne. Large buckets of salsa and green chile sit by napkins and flatware so you can dress up your food just as you like.

    Why You Should Do It: The food is good, especially the chopped green chile, which comes on just about everything. 

  • 07 of 09

    While wheeling down Central Avenue, or Route 66, be sure to stop in at the 66 Diner to get a bite to eat. You'll definitely want to try one of their world famous milkshakes.

    What to Expect: Neon lights, retro diners, vintage architecture and even some old motor coach hotels. 

    Why You Should Do It: Route 66 provides a glimpse at our country's culture when the automobile took us to places we'd never been before.

  • 08 of 09
    ••• The flamingos are the first animals you see at the zoo. © Aileen O'Catherine

    If you have children, you'll want to explore the city's aquarium, Botanic Gardens, and zoo. While at the Botanic Gardens, be sure to see the Fantasy Gardens where everything is big enough to make kids feel not so small. If you have time, stop by Tingley Beach, where paddleboats await in summer and fishing happens all year long.

    What to Expect: Begin at the zoo to see the lobos and roadrunners and then take the train to the Aquarium and Botanic Gardens, making a day of it. Time it so you can see the sharks getting fed at the Aquarium, and look for the miniature trains at the Gardens. If you visit May through October, be sure to see the butterflies at the ​Butterfly Pavilion.

    Why You Should Do It: The BioPark is one of the city's cultural gems, and if you have kids it's especially appealing. In addition to exhibits, there are special shows, feedings, hands-on activities and more.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09
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    ••• Wikimedia

    At the western edge of Albuquerque, along the volcanic escarpment, the Petroglyph National Monument contains standing rocks carved with the symbols of long ago. Hike the trails to see the glyphs and discover the Visitor Center, where the history of the area comes to life. 

    What to Expect: Designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago dot the park's trails.

    Why You Should Do It: You'll not only leave the city behind but the modern day as well as you try to interpret the symbols along the trail.