Whether you're looking for something to do outdoors or want to spend time inside, there are great places in Albuquerque to spend time with the kids. Family-friendly activities such as visiting the aquarium, looking at hot-air balloons, and walking through botanical gardens are just a few of the options.
Albuquerque lies along the Rio Grande, so the Aquarium's exhibits highlight the river's life-giving journey. From its headwaters in Colorado to its final destination in the Gulf of Mexico, the river is home to a vast array of plants and creatures. At the aquarium, you can observe stingrays at close range, meet bamboo sharks, and watch barracudas. There are fresh and saltwater tanks, so look for the sharks, turtles, and lobsters in the deep ocean tank. You'll find luminous jellyfish, a shrimp boat, and an eel tunnel where eels slither overhead.
The Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum features a step-in balloon basket where kids can take a virtual ride in a balloon gondola, exhibits on the history of ballooning, actual balloons, and balloon instruments such as altimeters and aeronautic radios. Kids can also learn about barnstorming and the popular International Balloon Fiesta held in Albuquerque every fall.
Explora is a hands-on science museum where kids can interact with exhibits. They'll spend lots of time exploring ideas, like how to change a river's flow or what works best to create a marble run. They will make giant bubbles, create animated mini movies, or ride a bike on a suspended high wire. The science is everywhere at Explora, where kids of all ages can play, learn, and have fun. The Explora Science Center is located along what's locally called Museum Row, so it's close to other Albuquerque museums as well.
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center presents the world of 19 Indian Pueblos, with museum exhibits that take visitors on a walk through time. There are arts and crafts on display, rotating artistic exhibits, drumming, and a variety of dances. Check ahead to see if there will be bread baking demonstrations in the traditional horno oven when you plan to stop by. The Center is close to downtown Albuquerque and other local attractions.
You won't want to miss the diverse dinosaurs of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, from the one flying overhead in the atrium to the brontosaurus on the second floor. Prehistoric dinosaurs roam the halls, but there are also computer exhibits, where kids can make their own videos, and exhibits on the exploration of space. There is even a life-sized model of the Mars rover, and kids can pan its camera to look at themselves. With a Dynatheater and a planetarium, there are shows that will captivate the kids. The Discovery Center houses hands-on activities and live creatures that children can touch. One of the oldest of the Albuquerque museums, there are always new and exciting exhibits.
At the Petroglyph National Monument, there are approximately 20,000 carved images in stone that depict animals, people, crosses, and other images. Set on the western edge of Albuquerque, a hike up the park trail teaches about the local geology, which is dotted with ancient volcanoes. Kids can explore and earn a junior ranger badge; check in at the visitor center. There are other reasons to choose this attraction for kids. It's rarely if ever crowded at this attraction, and looking west across the mesas, kids can see some of the oldest volcanoes and learn about the geology of the area.
From the mock gunfights put on every Sunday afternoon, to the ghost tours in its historic buildings, Old Town offers kids fun during their visit to Old Town. With several candy and ice cream shops, there's also treats for them as well. But for kids, the most exciting place to visit in Old Town is the International Rattlesnake Museum, where there are more different species of live snakes housed under one roof than anywhere else in the world. Stroll through the museum to find out about snake skins, fangs, tail rattles, and more. And get a certificate of bravery for completing the tour. As far as the kids are concerned, there's nothing stuffy about this local attraction.
Children will be enchanted by the Rio Grande Botanic Garden's Fantasy Garden, where seed packets and bees are larger than life, and a pumpkin is big enough to be a house. Pop out of eggs in a bird's nest, slide down a potato, and clamber up the watering can. Or visit the Heritage Farm, where a pair of draft horses still does the plowing, and the farm animals roam the barn. The Butterfly Pavilion is open from late May through September. The many varied gardens offer cool shade, a pond, a model railroad, and plenty of seasonal flower displays. And it's right next door to another great attraction, the Albuquerque Aquarium.
While in Albuquerque, kids will enjoy a visit to the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. Nestled along the Rio Grande, the park has a visitor center, walking and hiking trails, an herb garden, a discovery pond, and lots of observation areas. Kids can watch ducks, geese, and sometimes even turtles. An observation room in the visitor center lets kids watch pond life close up while safely indoors. Interpretive exhibits explain the wildlife and ecosystem, and a hands-on discovery center gives kids a chance to explore through interactive games.
The Rio Grande Zoo has more than 250 species of exotic and local animals. The 64-acre facility offers a good day's outing, and a large central park allows kids to run off steam or just roll in the grass. The Cottonwood Cafe has lots of kid-friendly food. Take the Thunderbird Express on a ride around the entire zoo. There are daily shows on animals and the natural world. A favorite pastime with zoo visitors is watching the zookeepers feed the animals. Check for feeding times and watch the elephants, seals, and polar bears get a meal. Or feed the animals yourself at the Australian Lorikeet exhibit. The camel rides are available spring through fall. There are talks and shows throughout the day.
Get a bird's eye view of Albuquerque while the world's longest aerial tramway takes you to the top of the Sandia Mountains. The 2.7-mile journey in a tram car is fun by itself, but once you reach the top, you'll see the world from 10,378 feet. Spend time on the observation deck looking at Albuquerque below. Visit the Sandia Ranger Station where maps are available to help you discover the trails and animals that live at such high altitudes. Take a hike, or see the ski museum at the base of the tram.
Tingley Beach has fishing, a model boat pond, and in the summer, paddle boats. Rent some bicycles and ride along the bosque (wooded) trail near the river. The Rio Line train leaves the Tingley Station daily and takes riders to the Zoo or the Aquarium and Botanic Gardens. Pick up a hot dog or snack at the Tingley Cafe, or get your picture taken with the World's Largest Trout. There is no fee to access Tingley Beach, and for anyone over 12 who wants to fish, it's easy to rent gear and buy a fishing license. For kids who enjoy the outdoors, this is a great attraction.