An hour from Santa Fe is the vibrant city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The list of things to do in Albuquerque is seemingly endless.
You may know Albuquerque for its stunningly painted mountains and high elevation, but it offers so much more. Every year visitors enjoy world-class hot air ballooning, hiking trails, dining, culture, and art all in this southwestern paradise.
Albuquerque is a desert metropolis that both Pueblo and Spanish history have heavily influenced. By 1300 A.D. New Mexico’s significant network of rivers was supporting the nomadic Pueblo tribes. By 1540 A.D. It is believed that the Spanish came to Albuquerque, led by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. Today, New Mexico is a modern metropolis that has taken a lot from both worlds and more.
The food is incredible, the culture is unparalleled, and the people are even better. Don’t skip out on New Mexico’s contemporary yet charming capital city. Keep reading for all of The Duke City’s must-do activities.
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN ALBUQUERQUE
- Best Downtown. Hyatt Regency Albuquerque is 0.1 miles from city-center and 1.9 miles from Historic Old Town Albuquerque. As typical with the proven Hyatt Regency brand, an outdoor rooftop pool, hot tub and sauna are amongst the perks available.
- Best Old Town Option. Casas de Suenos Old Town Historic Inn is a circa 1938 Bed & Breakfast that features spacious casitas, hot tub suites, glowing fireplaces, soft adobe walls, hidden courtyards, inviting patios and beautiful gardens. And all within the classic Old Town Historic Albuquerque.
- Best Budget Option. Sandia Peak Inn at Old Town Albuquerque advertises affordable rates, but not without quality, and the ratings back that up. The hotel offers a heated swimming pool, fitness room, and free breakfast.
HOT AIR BALLOONING
Due to Albuquerque’s superb year-round weather, it has earned itself the title of the “Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World.” Albuquerque visitors must enjoy a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the stunning Sandia Mountains to complete their New Mexico experience.
The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta generally takes place the first week of October. Over 75,000 spectators make their way to Albuquerque to see 500 hot air balloons fill the sky. Visitors can enjoy hot air balloon rides, light shows, skydivers, fireworks, and more during this nine-day festival. This festival is extremely popular – be sure to book your 2023 festival tickets and accommodations as soon as possible.
If you aren’t in town for the festival, you’re still guaranteed to enjoy spectacular views and have an amazing flight. Albuquerque is home to many reputable Hot Air Balloon operators including Fly Albuquerque, and Rainbow Ryders.
Looking for more fun in Albuquerque? Try one of these awesome activities!
- Take to the skies on a Rio Grande Valley Hot Air Balloon Ride. Enjoy a spectacular hot air balloon adventure over the Rio Grand Valley. Imagine experiencing the Rio Grande Valley while peacefully flying in a first class hot air balloon.
- Check out the Turquoise Museum. Discover the beauty and heritage of turquoise with an admission ticket to the Turquoise Museum, a castle-like museum filled with turquoise jewelry and art.
- Explore the area on an Old Town Culture & Heritage Walking Tour. Explore Old Town Albuquerque’s mix of cultures and heritages on this guided walking tour. Enjoy one local beer or wine at the end of the tour.
Old Town is known as the “Heart of Albuquerque.” Since its conception in 1706, Old Town has been home to art galleries, shops, restaurants, cafes, nightlife, and more.
The town’s original Pueblo-Spanish-style buildings will tickle architecture geeks. The colonial homes, shops, and government buildings that surround Old Town’s central plaza have been converted into over 100 restaurants, art galleries, and shops for you to enjoy.
But, of course, the railroad’s arrival brought with it new, Victorian-style homes. Yet, despite the city’s change throughout the centuries, it retains its delightful walkable charm. When walking through Albuquerque’s Old Town one can truly transport to the era they wish to visit: Pueblo-Spanish, Victorian, or present day.
Old Town’s points of interest include the 18th-century San Felipe de Neri Church, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Southwestern art exhibit inside the Albuquerque Museum.
PETROGLYPH NATIONAL MONUMENT
The Petroglyph National Monument is home to one of North America’s largest petroglyph sites. Native Americans and Spanish settlers carved these designs and symbols between 400-700 years ago into volcanic rock. These early images have provided historians with invaluable insight into the daily lives of both early Native Americans and Spanish settlers.
The Boca Negra Canyon area offers access to three short yet moderately strenuous trails to see 100 petroglyphs between the three. Allow up to an hour to complete all three hikes.
If you’re feeling up to a longer hike, try the easy 2.2-mile loop Rinconada Canyon to view 300 petroglyphs. The National Park Service suggests you bring a pair of binoculars.
Lastly, the Piedras Marcadas Canyon Trail is a moderate 1.5-mile loop on uneven surfaces. If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll see 400 petroglyphs on this hike.
SAN FELIPE DE NERI CHURCH
Constructed in 1793, San Felipe De Neri Church is one of the oldest buildings in Albuquerque. Additionally, it is the only building in Old Town to verifiably date back to the Spanish colonial period. The original church was constructed in 1706 but collapsed in 1972 due to inclement weather. Except for some slight renovations, much of San Felipe De Neri remains as it was in 1793.
Onsite is a museum that covers the church’s history and those who served it. It also houses many vestments, sacred vessels, and religious art pieces. Currently, the Cristo that is used during the Good Friday celebration of El Descendimiento is being housed at the parish.
The Catholic church is open daily from 10:00 AM-4:30 PM to visitors. Worshipers may attend mass any day but Thursdays.
NEW MEXICO MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY AND SCIENCE
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is located just a few minutes from the Old Town Plaza. It offers two permanent exhibits titled “FossilWorks” and “The Naturalist Center.” In addition to the museum’s rotating guest exhibitions, online tours are also available.
The museum boasts a full-dome planetarium with multimedia presentations, and guests can enjoy 3D films in the DynaTheater’s five-story white screen.
A particularly unique aspect of the Museum is its “Relaxed Nights at the Museum.” These special nights welcome visitors who may not feel comfortable visiting the Museum with regular crowds. Tickets are limited to keep guests feeling comfortable.
The New Mexico Museum offers activities and exhibits for all ages and interests.
AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL RATTLESNAKE MUSEUM
The American International Rattlesnake Museum is dedicated to busting myths about these frequently unloved creatures and promoting rattlesnake education.
The museum is home to the most extensive collection of diverse species of living rattlesnakes on the globe. Guests will experience snakes from North, Central, and South America in elaborate recreations of their natural habitats.
A fun fact: the museum is home to more different species of snakes than the Bronx Zoo, Denver Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo, San Francisco Zoo, and San Diego Zoo combined.
Visitors will leave with a whole new perception of these scaly creatures through historical artifacts and face-to-face meetings with snakes.
INDIAN PUEBLO CULTURAL CENTER
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center celebrates the history and accomplishments of New Mexico’s Native Americans.
The center’s permanent exhibit “We Are Of This Place: The Pueblo Story” tells the history of the Pueblo people’s resilience in their own words. The show opened in 2016 on the 40th anniversary of the Cultural Center’s opening and marked its first permanent exhibit.
The Cultural Center hosts an array of rotating exhibits that in the past have included topics such as women’s role in Pueblo accomplishments, Pueblo migration, and more. Be sure to check out the latest exhibit when you visit.
Additionally, four rotating art galleries feature contemporary pueblo artists, a mural collection, traditional pueblo art, and a spotlight on student art that all celebrate the Pueblo’s culture and imprint on New Mexico history.
ABQ BioPark sits along the famous Rio Grande River. The BioPark is actually four separate facilities: The Rio Grande Zoo, botanical gardens, aquarium, and Tingley Beach.
RIO GRANDE ZOO
The Rio Grande Zoo sits on 64 acres and is home to 1,100 animals across 250 species. Star residents of the zoo include their collection of koalas and elephants.
There are many daily events and activities. On Fridays at 11:30 AM, guests can enjoy a “komodo walk.” Here trainers will take a beloved komodo dragon, Idah, out on a stroll to introduce her to guests.
Guests can also enjoy daily feedings of animals, Story Time at the Zoo, a carousel ride, zookeeper talks, or rent a pedal boat to take around the zoo pond.
The Botanic Garden is 36 acres and one of the country’s top-rated botanical gardens. It offers a children’s garden, two glass conservatories, a butterfly garden, a dragonfly sanctuary, and more. Plus, it is home to two 400-foot loops of free-floating track for a miniature railroad.
If you’re a tiny train enthusiast, members of the Garden Railroad Volunteers will be around to introduce you to the ways and answer any questions.
If you only have time for two of the four BioPark facilities, we suggest visiting the Rio Grande Zoo and Botanic Gardens. However, if you have the time, visit the Aquarium for a decent display of aquatic creatures.
The aquarium has fan-favorites such as nurse and tiger sharks, stingray, coral, and river otters. Although if you’re from a major city like New York or Chicago, the exhibit pales in comparison to the home aquariums of those cities. Still, it’s an enjoyable experience if you have the time.
End your day at the BioPark with a visit to the accessible Tingley Beach to enjoy a nice walk, picnic, boat rentals, or a swim. Be sure to grab a fishing license if you’d like to cast a line on your Albuquerque trip.
Formerly known as the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, the Albuquerque Museum is a beloved public art and history museum.
Located in central Old Town, it is dedicated to preserving the art and culture of the historic southwest and over 400 years of Albuquerque history. It is home to over 10,000 works of art, 35,000 historical objects, and 130,000 items in photo archives.
In addition to its permanent exhibits, the museum offers art galleries, an outdoor sculpture garden, and rotating visiting exhibits. Guests visiting with children can enjoy educational programs designed especially for little hands. Those looking for a deeper dive can sign-up for a guided visit and attend live performances in the museum’s amphitheater.
The Albuquerque Museum also operates the Casa San Ysidro: The Gutiérrez/Minge House. The home is an addition to the museum located just north of Albuquerque. Interestingly, the home is the only historic property in New Mexico where both the structure and the collection inside are listed on the State Register of Cultural Properties.
SANDIA PEAK TRAMWAY
Did you know that Albuquerque is the highest metropolitan city in the United States?
Albuquerque is the perfect place to enjoy a beautiful climb up the Sandia Mountains by cable car. In just 15 minutes and 2.7 miles of vertical travel, you’ll reach the 10,378-foot crest of the mountains. From here, you’ll soak in panoramic views of over 11,000 square miles.
Upon your summit, you’ll gain access to a plethora of hiking and ski trails. It’s generally 15-20 degrees cooler on the mountain than at the base, so pack accordingly.
If you’re not interested in hiking, enjoy a meal at the cliff-top TEN 3 restaurant. TEN 3 is known for its specialty cocktails and craft brews. Be sure to stop at the gift shop before heading back down.
The trams and deck across the top are all wheelchair accessible. The tramway is open every day except 2-weeks in April and November for maintenance. Check their updated schedule online if you plan a visit during those months.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NUCLEAR SCIENCE & HISTORY
New Mexico is well known for its role in atomics and the development of the infamous A-bomb.
The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History was opened in 1969 to tell the story of the Atomic Age. Today visitors learn how nuclear science impacts the modern world and how atomic science can be used peacefully. The museum also hosts traveling exhibits, frequently from the Smithsonian.
On-site, a permanent 9-acre outdoor exhibition features planes, rockets, mussels, and more. Other permanent exhibits include the Atomic Age’s influence on pop culture, information on radiation, World War II, and the threats of the Cold War.
Like most museums, the Museum of Nuclear Science & History welcomes guest exhibits. Opening in winter 2022 are the traveling exhibits “To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA” and “Nuclear by Mail.”
RIO GRANDE NATURE CENTER STATE PARK
The Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, formerly known as Rio Grande Valley State Park, is a day use park in Albuquerque that offers hiking, wildlife viewing, a visitor center, picnic areas, and gardens.
Enjoy watching wildlife from the indoor and outdoor viewing areas. You’ll find a pond, native plant garden, and pollinator garden here as well.
Make time to explore the Paseo del Bosque Trail, a 16-mile, multi-use trail uninterrupted by roadways that passes through the state park.
What is Albuquerque best known for?
Albuquerque is best known for the International Balloon Fiesta that’s held every October for 9 days. Over 500 hot air balloons take to the skies above Albuquerque at this awesome event.
Is Albuquerque worth a visit?
Yes, Albuquerque is definitely worth a visit. You’ll find plenty of family-friendly events, outdoor activities, fun attractions, and so much more here.
When is the best time of year to visit Albuquerque?
The fall season is generally considered the best time of year to visit Albuquerque. You’ll find pleasant temps, so you can make the most of the outdoor recreation offered here, and the International Balloon Fiesta takes place in October.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO NEW MEXICO
- YOUR NEW MEXICO VACATION
- ROSWELL: 13 Things To Do In Roswell NM For Extraterrestrial Fun
- NEW MEXICO RV PARKS: 15 Awesome New Mexico RV Parks Worth A Visit
- EL PASO: 16 Thrilling Things To Do In El Paso
WHERE TO STAY IN ALBUQUERQUE
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