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Top 10 Best Things to Do in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque is one of the most interesting cities in New Mexico, with a unique balance of stunning nature, preserved culture, and modern attractions. For such a large city, Albuquerque retains a fascinating charm that draws in curious travelers looking for adventure and exploration. If you’re planning your first trip to Albuquerque, make sure to check out these top 10 things to do.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Hot Air Balloons fly over the city of Albuquerque New Mexico during the mass ascension at the annual International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta
Credit: Hot Air Balloons fly over the city of Albuquerque New Mexico during the mass ascension at the annual International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta by bigstock.com

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

What Is It? Albuquerque is world-famous for its annual hot air balloon festival, which takes place in October and is truly a sight to see. 

Why Do It? Thousands of balloon enthusiasts and interested visitors come to town for the International Balloon Fiesta during a week-long celebration of flight. Balloon Fiesta Park is a huge space that accommodates the balloons and has lots of food and souvenir vendors set up along the sides. You can attend a session in the evening to see the balloons up-close, on the ground, and illuminated. Or get up before dawn to see the mass ascension when the balloons are inflated and take to the sky.

Good to Know: Even if you don’t visit during the festival week, you can still visit the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum to learn about the history of ballooning and its presence in Albuquerque.

Old Town Neighborhood
Credit: by bigstock.com

Old Town Neighborhood

What Is It? Old Town Albuquerque has been inhabited for hundreds of years and reflects the shifts from Native American to Spanish and other Latin and European cultures. 

Why Do It? There is a central plaza in this neighborhood surrounded by cobblestone streets and colorful buildings that will get you in the mood to shop and dine. This is a great place to find souvenirs and jewelry before checking out a local restaurant for lunch or dinner. You can also see the oldest building in town, the San Felipe de Neri Church. 

Good to Know: If you’ve been to Santa Fe, you may draw parallels between the downtowns of these two cities. However, Albuquerque’s Old Town is refreshingly less crowded and less expensive, and you can usually find free or cheap parking nearby.

“Breaking Bad” Film Tour “Breaking Bad” Film Tour
Credit: “Breaking Bad” Film Tour by “Breaking Bad” Film Tour

“Breaking Bad” Film Tour

What Is It? TV and movies often make cities famous, and AMC’s hit show “Breaking Bad” certainly did that for Albuquerque. 

Why Do It? Local guide companies offer film location tours of “Breaking Bad” and also its spinoff show, “Better Call Saul.” These are must-dos for fans of the AMC shows because they’ll take you to all the spots you remember from the episodes so you can relive your favorite moments. You can even tour the RV where Walter and Jesse made their famous product and enjoy a meal at the restaurant that served as Los Pollo’s Hermanos in the show. 

Good to Know: Alternatively, you can take a DIY “Breaking Bad” tour by driving to the various film locations yourself based on numerous blogs that detail the spots and their relevance.

Hike in the Sandia Mountains Sandia Mountains
Credit: Sandia Mountains by bigstock.com

Hike in the Sandia Mountains

What Is It? Hiking in the Sandia Mountains is a top activity for nature lovers. 

Why Do It? This is a great place to get outdoors and experience the natural beauty of the area. 

Good to Know: Popular trails to check out include the easy four-mile Armijo Trail, the moderate six-mile Strip Mine Trail, and the more difficult eight-mile Chimney Canyon Trail.

Sandia Peak Tramway The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway
Credit: The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway by bigstock.com

Sandia Peak Tramway

What Is It? If hiking isn’t really your thing, you can also see Albuquerque’s natural beauty by taking a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway.

Why Do It? This is an aerial tramway with cable cars that carry passengers up a suspended cable. 

Good to Know: The ride is about three miles long, takes about 15 minutes from dock to dock, and offers lovely views of New Mexico landscapes from the top.

Petroglyph National Monument Petroglyph National Monument
Credit: Petroglyph National Monument by bigstock.com

Petroglyph National Monument

What Is It? There are lots of these ancient rock carvings in New Mexico, and they’re very prominently displayed at the Petroglyph National Monument just northwest of downtown Albuquerque. 

Why Do It? You’ll find thousands of images carved into the rock sides here that tell the stories of the region’s first inhabitants. There are some very accessible and scenic hiking trails here you can explore to see the petroglyphs up close. 

Good to Know: Stop at the visitor’s center for recommendations, and plan to spend about two hours at the park.

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
Credit: Indian Pueblo Cultural Center by Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

What Is It? Native American culture is still strong in Albuquerque, and a great place to learn about these traditions is at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. 

Why Do It? This facility is a couple of miles northeast of the Old Town neighborhood and offers exhibits of art and history, as well as regularly scheduled workshops and cultural events. 

Good to Know: On certain days, Pueblo dancers perform here as well.

Turquoise Museum Turquoise jewelry
Credit: Turquoise jewelry by bigstock.com

Turquoise Museum

What Is It? Something you’ll notice while traveling around Albuquerque and elsewhere in New Mexico is all of the beautiful turquoise jewelry sold in stores and in roadside shops. 

Why Do It? The Turquoise Museum, founded in 1993 by the Lowry/Zachary family, offers a fun way to learn about turquoise mining and traditions. 

Good to Know: The museum is open by guided tour on select days, so check the official website for updates.

American International Rattlesnake Museum American International Rattlesnake Museum
Credit: American International Rattlesnake Museum by American International Rattlesnake Museum

American International Rattlesnake Museum

What Is It? The American International Rattlesnake Museum gets you up close with New Mexico’s fiercest creatures. 

Why Do It? You can learn more about (and even appreciate) this desert creature while in the safety and comfort of a museum. 

Good to Know: The American International Rattlesnake Museum is an animal conversation museum located on San Felipe Street.

Bike on Paseo del Bosque Trail Paseo del Bosque Trail
Credit: Paseo del Bosque Trail by City of Albuquerque via Flickr

Bike on Paseo del Bosque Trail

What Is It? Another excellent way to get outside and active while in Albuquerque is to take a bike ride on the Paseo del Bosque Trail. 

Why Do It? This is a 16-mile paved path that is smooth, scenic, and perfect for biking. It’s easy to make a day trip out of this bike path when you hop off the trail to check out other city attractions, such as ABQ BioPark. It’s pretty flat, so the trail is easy for beginner cyclists. 

Good to Know: Be aware that it gets crowded on weekends, so you may need to call out “on your left!” a few times while pedaling along.

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