Located in the middle of New Mexico, Albuquerque is the largest city in the state. The bulk of it is sandwiched between the Sandia Mountains to the east and a volcanic escarpment along the west side. The Rio Grande ribbons through the center.
While the Duke City may be best known for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta—which hosts more than 500 hot air balloons every October—it has many other interesting attractions to enjoy throughout the year. Albuquerque offers up a vibrant cultural scene and a hearty helping of historical attractions, including one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America. Of course, the outdoors always beckon here. Whether you hike the foothills of the Sandia Mountains or take the tramway to their peak, you'll be rewarded with stunning views.
Read on to find out the top 18 things to see and do in Albuquerque.
The Sandia Peak Tramway is one of North America’s longest aerial tramways. It rises from the city's foothills to a scenic urban peak. The 15-minute ride to the top carries passengers to an elevation of more than 10,300 feet, granting them panoramic views over the city and the Rio Grande valley below. At the top, the new Ten 3 restaurant serves either a fine-dining menu or bar fare, depending on your mood. If you're here to ski, head to the Sandia Peak Ski area, which glides down the east side of the mountain.
Explore Old Town
Spanish settlers founded modern-day Albuquerque in 1706, and many of the hacienda-style adobes surrounding today’s Old Town date to that period. Today, boutiques, galleries, and tourist souvenir shops fill these former homes. Enjoy wandering the patios and back-alley shops for a few hours or join a historic tour offered by the Albuquerque Museum or Tours of Old Town. The San Felipe de Neri Church, which has a 300-year-old parish, presides over the plaza’s north side.
The Albuquerque Museum is a must-see for history buffs and art fans alike. Located on the edge of Old Town, the museum chronicles the history of the Rio Grande valley and offers an extensive collection of works by top artists in the state. Visiting exhibitions draw upon top works from national and international partner museums. When planning your itinerary, keep in mind that the Albuquerque Museum is closed on Mondays.
Ride in a Hot Air Balloon
Mild weather makes flying possible nearly year-round, which is partly why Albuquerque is considered one of the hot air ballooning capitals of the world. Flights above the Duke City are a can’t-miss experience. Rainbow Ryders, World Balloon, and Above and Beyond Balloon Flights are three of the top outfitters.
The Turquoise Museum features the world’s largest, private turquoise collection—including some of the rarest pieces of turquoise and turquoise jewelry. These pieces are displayed in a castle (formerly a private home) in downtown Albuquerque.
Ancient Puebloans etched the black volcanic rock on the city’s west side with handprints, faces, geographic designs, and animal figures some 400 to 700 years ago. When the Spanish arrived, they added their pictographs to the mix. The Petroglyph National Monument now protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America. Most visitors head to Boca Negra Canyon, which offers a large number of petroglyphs and an accessible trail.
Pro tip: Check out the monument’s website for driving directions as online maps don’t guide you to the right location.
Albuquerque has a close connection to atomic history. The Manhattan Project, a research and development enterprise that built the world's first atomic bomb, had a laboratory just up the road in Los Alamos. Artifacts from the Manhattan Project are centerpieces of the museum’s collection; however, the exhibitions extend far beyond that to pop culture, weaponry, airplanes, and other uses of nuclear science.
The ABQ BioPark encompasses four discrete destinations: the Botanic Garden, the Aquarium, the Zoo, and Tingley Beach. The latter is a trio of fishing and model boating lakes set along the Rio Grande. A scenic, passenger train connects all four locations, so it’s easy to travel between all of them.
New Mexico’s 19 Pueblos collectively own this center, which retells the history of the Pueblo people from their perspective. Before you visit, check the schedule for Native American dance performances. Don’t miss Pueblo Harvest for Pueblo and Southwestern cuisine served with a modern twist (think blue corn chicken & waffles and corned bison sandwiches).
The National Hispanic Cultural Center celebrates Spanish, Mexican, and Latin X cultures from across the world on one campus. Here, a visual arts museum displays the work of historical artists and the biggest talents of today. The cultural center is also home to one of the top performing arts venues in the city. It hosts various performances throughout the year, including during ¡Globalquerque!, a world music festival held each September.
Tour "Breaking Bad" Filming Locations
For better or worse, Albuquerque is known as the setting for “Breaking Bad;” The TV show may have gone off the air more than five years ago, but its storyline still has a hold on pop culture. Locations seen on the show litter the city, and local tour companies guide visitors to them. Breaking Bad RV Tours, Albuquerque Tourism & Sightseeing Factory, and Routes Bicycles Tours are a few top outfitters.
Take a Hike Through the City's Natural Beauty
Albuquerqueans love the outdoors—and why wouldn’t they? The foothills of the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande are within minutes of downtown. At the base of the Sandia Mountains, hikers often head to the Elena Gallegos Open Space. The nature trails in this 640-acre park can easily be extended into day hikes as the routes head into the Sandia Mountain wilderness. Along the Rio Grande, the Paseo del Bosque Trail offers 16 miles of trails, tracing the riverside forest through most of the city.
Watch Flamenco Dance
Albuquerque claims one of the most vibrant flamenco dance and music scenes outside of Spain. Visitors can experience the dramatic art form throughout the year at Casa Flamenco and Tablao Flamenco, where dance is presented in an intimate environment with tapas and sangria.
Sip Craft Beer
Albuquerque has a craft beer scene on par with the biggest cities in the U.S. The city is known for IPAs, which have hoppy flavors that stand up to the spicy local cuisine. Don't care for IPAs? You’ll find beers of every variety at top breweries like Marble Brewery, Tractor Brewing, and Bow & Arrow Brewing.
Stroll Nob Hill
Set east of the University of New Mexico, Nob Hill is a walkable neighborhood overflowing with independent spots for dining, shopping, and entertaining. Locals flock to cafés and restaurants like Little Bear Coffee, Nob Hill Bar + Grill, and Frenchish. Top shops include Retail Therapy Albuquerque and Ooh Aah! Jewelry.
Taste New Mexican Cuisine
Albuquerque—and New Mexico—has a distinct regional cuisine. From burritos to cheeseburgers, many dishes are topped, slathered, and smothered in piquant chile. The sauce or chopped pepper gives most dishes here a sizzle. El Pinto Restaurant, Sadie’s of New Mexico, and Cocina Azul all serve classic New Mexican cuisine.
The Albuquerque Rail Yards were once the largest repair station for the AT&SF railroad between Chicago and Los Angeles. The Rail Yards sat derelict for decades, but are now home to farmers' and artists' markets on Sundays from May to October. It’s a great place to see the fascinating Rail Yard buildings, as well as to shop for locally-made souvenirs.
Both Albuquerque’s professional baseball and soccer teams play at Isotopes Park, aka The Lab. Albuquerque Isotopes Baseball, the triple-A farm team for the Colorado Rockies, are up at bat April to September. The New Mexico United, a member of the United Soccer League, play March through October.