Your Trip to Albuquerque: The Complete Guide

Albuquerque boasts a thriving arts, culture, and culinary scene that makes it a standout Southwestern city. The Duke City’s founding neighborhood in Old Town consists of 17th-century adobe buildings, which contrasts with its downtown skyscrapers that nod to its status as New Mexico’s largest city. Art galleries, flamenco tablaos, and places to see Native American dances dot the city. Restaurants for chowing down on red chile-smothered breakfast burritos or craft beer—both staples in Albuquerque—are around every corner. The Sandia Mountains and dormant volcanic mesas bookend the city, while the Rio Grande ribbons through the center like a spine. It’s an idyllic setting for the outdoorsy set, who’ll find plenty of terrain for hiking, biking, and paddling. 

Read on for more about planning your trip to Albuquerque, including the best time to visit, how to get there, what to see and do, and where to eat and drink.

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: With four distinct seasons and ample sunshine, there’s hardly a bad time to visit Albuquerque. However, travelers will find that late spring (May) and early fall (September through October) offer both excellent weather conditions and a full calendar of cultural events. 

Language: English, but Spanish is New Mexico’s second official language 

Currency: U.S. Dollar

Getting Around: Popular neighborhoods, such as Old Town, Downtown, and Nob Hill, are compact and easily walkable. However, if you plan to explore the city’s fringes or head out on a hike, you’ll need public transportation, via ABQ RIDE, or a car. 

Travel Tip: If you’re headed to the Duke City for its most popular event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, plan to make your travel plans six months in advance. Hotels sell out during this period. Expect to pay premium rates for accommodations during that event, too. 

Things to Do

Most activities in Albuquerque involve the arts or the outdoors. The city is flooded with cultural centers, museums, galleries, shops, and concert venues dedicated to showcasing visual and performing arts. Native American artisans, Hispanic performers, spoken word poets, and musicians all make their homes in the city and have their days in the spotlight. If you’re looking for fresh air, Albuquerque is an ideal location. You can be hiking, trail-running, kayaking, or even skiing within an hour or less of the city center. As for what you can’t miss: 

  • Ride the Sandia Peak Tramway. This is a can’t-miss attraction in New Mexico. One of the longest aerial tramways in North America, the tram glides to the top of the Sandia Mountains 15 minutes. The trip to the top is memorable, as are the picturesque views from the Ten 3 restaurant. 
  • Visit the National Hispanic Cultural Center and Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. These significant cultural centers celebrate Albuquerque’s cornerstone cultures with visual art and history exhibits, music and dance, and heritage foods. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s Pueblo Harvest Café serves a pre-contact menu, featuring ingredients and dishes indigenous people ate prior to the arrival of Europeans.  
  • Explore the Petroglyph National Monument. Easy hiking trails lead to one of the largest collections of Native American and Spanish petroglyphs in North America. The majority of visitors head to Boca Negra Canyon, but if you want to enjoy the etchings with less company try Piedras Marcadas or Rinconada Canyons.     

Check out our complete guides to Albuquerque’s hikes, shopping, and things to do.

What to Eat and Drink

Many travelers come to Albuquerque to eat, and they aren’t disappointed. Albuquerque is smothered with New Mexico’s chile-centric regional cuisine. You’ll find restaurants serving red and green chile enchiladas, breakfast burritos, biscochitos (New Mexico’s state cookie), and plenty of other chile-laced dishes around every corner. El Pinto Restaurant and Sadie’s of New Mexico are popular destinations for these favorite dishes. If you’re worried about burning out on all that sizzling chile, don’t worry. Albuquerque has fine farm-to-table establishments and a global palate, particularly for Vietnamese cuisine. 

As for drinking, craft beer overflows in the city. There are dozens of breweries, but the state’s first Brewery District, has a good concentration of them. Several breweries, including Marble Brewery, La Cumbre Brewing Co., and Toltec Brewing Co., are all Great American Beer Festival medal winners. Craft spirits are on the rise here, with local distillers serving their creations at Left Turn Distilling and Broken Trail Distillery. Downtown cocktail bars such as Safe House Distilling and Still Spirits are popular gathering spots. 

Plan your trip with our guide to the top dishes to try in Albuquerque

Where to Stay

Chain hotels dot all of Albuquerque’s neighborhoods, particularly near the airport and in the Midtown, Uptown, and Eastside neighborhoods. If you’re looking for boutique hotels, Hotel Albuquerque and Hotel Chaco offer distinctly New Mexican style within walking distance of Old Town. In Downtown, Hotel Andaluz and Hotel Parq Central occupy historic buildings and deliver luxurious guest rooms and roof-top cocktail lounges. 

If you want to get outside the city center, Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm delivers posh accommodations in a bucolic farm setting, complete with a field-to-fork restaurant on site. A bit further afield, Hyatt Tamaya nestles along the Rio Grande Bosque between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The full-service resort has tons of activities to keep you busy, including cultural activities such as pottery and bread baking since the hotel is Pueblo owned. 

Getting There

Albuquerque is served by the Albuquerque International Sunport, 6 miles southeast of the city center. More than five million passengers fly through the well-designed, midsized airport each year. It offers direct flights to and from several major U.S. cities, including Phoenix, Dallas, Denver, and New York, and service from most of the top airlines in the U.S. More than half of the flights are from Southwest airlines. 

Individual neighborhoods, such as Old Town, Downtown, and Nob Hill are walkable, with easy access to restaurants and shops. Ride shares, like Uber and Lyft, are available within the city. However, if you want to explore the city’s outskirts, including destinations such as the Sandia Peak Tramway and Petroglyph National Monument, renting a car is a good idea. 

Money Saving Tips

  • Albuquerque has a packed calendar with citywide festivals, cultural events, and performing arts. Check the calendar before your trip so you don’t miss top (and free!) events such as Route 66 Summerfest. 
  • For a restful day, head to the outdoor hot tubs at Betty’s Bath. Day-long access to the communal tubs will cost you $16. 
  • Hike around the City of Albuquerque's Open Space. Stop in the Open Space Visitors Center to get a map and an overview of the available areas—and to trek riverside forest trails. Popular destinations are Elena Gallegos Picnic Area and Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. 
  • Visit the Albuquerque Museum. The museum provides a great overview of Rio Grande Valley history, from ancient times to present, and a permanent art collection featuring top regional artists. Admission is less than $6. 
  • With four locations, tickets to the ABQ BioPark facilities can add up. Opt for a combo pass for $22 for admission to the Zoo, Aquarium, and Botanic Garden. 
  • Browse world-class Native American, Western, and contemporary art, in the galleries in Old Town and Downtown. During Albuquerque’s citywide First Friday Art Walks, new exhibitions open and galleries stay open late to welcome visitors. 
Was this page helpful?