Albuquerque, the Land of Enchantment crossed my mind when Wes and I were planning a month visit on each cities during our US road trip. Four years ago we attended the International Balloon Fiesta. The visit was filled with beautiful landscape, interesting culture, zoos, museums and botanical garden were just a few things we enjoyed.
About an hour south of Santa Fe, New Mexico’s capital lies Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico. But what comes to mind when one thinks of the city of Albuquerque is that most people generally think of the hit TV show Breaking Bad or the International Balloon Fiesta held in October each year. We found this sprawling city has much more than its two most popular mentions.
Here are 8 experiences to have in Albuquerque, New Mexico
1.Stepping into the 17th – century San Felipe de Neri Church
Built centuries ago, it serves as the anchor of Old Town and includes the church, a school, rectory, and a museum. Only a limited number of people are allowed to enter, and everyone will have to wear a mask. On top of that, there are a lot of other rules people have to abide like abiding by social distancing and no singing. There are also some beautiful historical religious artifacts that are worth a look while you’re there.
Next door to the Catholic church, a short walk away is the Cottonwood Madonna–or the Virgin in the Tree. In 1970 a parishioner of the 300 year old San Felipe de Neri, carved the image of the Virgin de Guadalupe into a cottonwood tree. Some call it the Virgin of the Tree. It is one of the hidden treasures of Old Town. The carving sometimes appears to change, and people wondered if it was haunted. But the change in appearance simply reflects the condition of the tree.
2.Riding the Sandia Peak Tram
This is the world’s longest aerial tram ride taking visitors nearly three miles to the top of the 10,000-foot summit of the Sandia Mountains. While the tramway ride itself is only about 15 minutes in one direction, there’s plenty to do once you’re there. At the top you will find several recreational activities (miles of hiking and mountain biking trails), an observation deck, as well as a restaurant with beautiful views.
3.Walk through Old Town
Old Town Albuquerque is a historic district that retains the city’s historic charm and distinctive culture. You’ll find adobe buildings that are the city’s best shops, restaurants, galleries, and museums in this area.
There is always something going on here, however, due to Covid-19 not all the dining, shopping, coffee shops and entertainment are open. You can take a narrated RV tour of Breaking Bad filming locations as well.
4.Picnic at Tingley Beach
Tingley Beach is a recreational area in New Mexico, located on the east side of the Rio Grande. It is part of the Albuquerque Biological Park complex.
It isn’t a ‘beach’ at all,” but it was a beach until 1951, when it was closed due to “ bacteria and the fear of contracting polio.” Access is free. There are three ponds which are regularly stocked with catfish and trout. All anglers 12 years and older must have a current fishing license. There is a vending machine with live baits for purchase. Licesnces can be purchased online with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Licenses can be purchased for one day, five days or the year.
In addition to picnic tables with grills, there is model boat pond, kids and adult fishing pond, Bob Gerding Catch & Release pond, train depot, playground, walking paths and paddle boat rentals, indoor food area & bathrooms.
5.Attend The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
For a week every fall, more than 500 colorful hot air balloons designed to look like everything from the stars and stripes to Darth Vader dot the skies of Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta. It is world renowned and is the largest balloon event in the World!
Back in 1972 with just 13 balloons, now it draws hundreds of thousands of guests watching the colored balloons take over the sky and ground below. This year’s festivities is postponed until 2021 due to Covid-19
Get there in the early morning to watch the balloons ascending into the dawn, then if you have a chance go on a balloon ride for an aerial view of the fall colors along the Rio Grande River. In the evening, don’t miss the “Glow-deo” where the inflated balloons are lit up with their burners that looks like a giant floating lanterns.
6.Petroglyph National Monument
Petroglyph National Monument occupies 17 square miles on 3 distinct sites west of the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of the largest known petroglyph sites in North America. The city of Albuquerque and the federal government work together to run this park. There is fee to visit. There is a Visitor’s Center that is currently open allowing 2 people inside at one time and several hikes that allow you to see thousands of ancient petroglyphs.
The ABQ BioPark is one of the top attractions for nature lovers and includes The ABQ BioPark Zoo, Botanic Garden, Aquarium and Tingley Beach. The Zoo and aquarium are currently closed.
ABQ BioPark Zoo- Home to more than 900 animals, a great day to spend with exotic and native animals. Before 12pm you can get all four parks for only $20. The zoo is located within the neighborhood and the layout of this zoo is very convenient as everything are a close walk. My favorite exhibits are the apes ( gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees).
The Africa exhibit had zebras, rhinos, giraffes and elephants. We saw the feeding of the hippos and Moe, one of the hippo is so hilarious, he always kept his mouth open for food and when his name was called he would open his mouth, so smart and cute!
Food is a little expensive, but you can bring your own food and picnic on the grass. There is a nice grassy place to snack and relax.
Botanic Garden- The BioPark Botanic Garden is a wonderland of nature and includes the Children’s Fantasy Garden, a butterfly pavilion, two glass conservatories, a Japanese garden, a large duck pond, and an impressive model railroad I’ve ever seen.
Aquarium- We came the last time we visited Albuquerque. Currently it is closed until further notice.
The aquarium is small, but is easy to get around, informative and makes good use of its limited space. A lot of different fish species. The entire Aquarium is indoors (except for one small outdoor section of the river otter enclosure). You can spend about 30 minutes or much longer of course. Despite the small size, the Aquarium was dense in terms of number and variety of animals. They also have a nice cafe, a gift shop and some interesting ship displays.
8.UNM Duck Pond
This is a hidden gem worth visiting. A tranquil place in the middle of The University of New Mexico. The pond was ridiculed during its construction, being called things like the “Pond of No Return.” This is a picturesque area with ducks, hummingbirds, lush greenery, fountain among other things. It is free to enjoy this area and cost $1 an hour at the meter parking.
Have you explored any of these attractions mentioned above? What are some of your favorite activities & attractions in the area?