12 Fantastic Things To Do in Albuquerque, New Mexico [Bucket List]

Melanie Haiken

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Lively Albuquerque, New Mexico is an hour south of Santa Fe. There are seemingly endless opportunities for a variety of activities in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque is known for vibrant, painted mountains & elevations galore, but so much more defines this destination. Southwestern Sanctuary where guests gather yearly to partake in some of the best hot air ballooning, hiking trails, restaurants, culture, and art around.

Built in the high desert of New Mexico, Albuquerque has roots that lay deep in both Pueblo and Spanish history. 300 A.D.: Expanded by 1300 A.D., New Mexico’s network of rivers harbored ADET raft-navigating Pueblo mobiles. In 1540 the Spanish, heading up the Rio Grande, reached the site of Albuquerque with Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. New Mexico Today is a real melting pot of contemporary metropolises filled with a mixture of Native American, Hispanic, Cowboy, and Modern cultures.

Amazing food, amazing culture, amazing people. The Hemisphere Trilogy: Part Two Don’t Miss Out On New Mexico’s Modernly Inspiring Capital! Read on for all the best things to do in Albuquerque (The Duke City).

Finding the Hippest Places to Stay in Albuquerque

Crowd-Free Pick Downtown: Hyatt Regency Albuquerque

Located downtown only 0.1 miles from the city center and 1.9 miles from Historic Old Town Albuquerque. In true Hyatt Regency fashion, there are alluring amenities including an outdoor rooftop pool, complete with a hot tub and sauna.

Best Old Town: Casas de Suenos Old Town Historic Inn

Casas de Suenos Old Town Historic Inn – Travel back in time with this charming Bed & Breakfast that was originally established circa 1938. Featuring large and accommodating casitas, hot tub suites, wood-burning fireplaces, adobe walls, hidden courtyards, and lush gardens, it’s a peaceful escape in Albuquerque’s Old Town Historic District.

Best Budget Pick: Sandia Peak Inn in Old Town Albuquerque

But the budget-friendly Sandia Peak Inn at Old Town Albuquerque does a nicer job of keeping prices low while still ensuring a good night’s sleep. Its positive reviews support its name, which includes a heated pool and fitness room and a decent breakfast, Everything one needs to spend the night comfortably.

Top 11 Things To Do in Albuquerque

1. Hot Air Ballooning in Albuquerque

With great weather all year long, Albuquerque proudly claims its title as the“Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World. Nothing says New Mexico like a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Sandia Mountains.

Every October 500 hot air balloons decorate the sky to celebrate the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta — one of the oldest and most well-known balloon festivals in the world, attracting more than 75,000 onlookers. This nine-day affair features more than just hot air balloons, with amazing light shows, skydiving demonstrations, breathtaking fireworks, and much more. Due to it being such a popular event, it would be very wise to buy 2023 tickets and accommodation.

Even off the dates of the festival, visitors get to indulge in beautiful sights and experience electrifying glides. These include Fly Albuquerque and Rainbow Ryders out of Albuquerque.

Looking to explore further? Other interesting activities include:

Rio Grande Valley Hot Air Balloon Ride: Hop in a hot air balloon for a bird’s-eye view of the Rio Grande Valley.

Turquoise Museum: Explore the beauty and legacy of turquoise with a visit to this castle-like museum featuring beautiful jewelry and art pieces.

Old Town Culture & Heritage Walking Tour: Delight in the mishmash of cultures and histories found in Albuquerque’s Old Town, and finish the tour with a local beer or wine.

2. Exploring Old Town Albuquerque

Old Town, known as the “Heart of Albuquerque,” once a bustling commercial center, roared with life when it was founded in 1706. Today it has become a bustling nucleus of galleries, shops, restaurants, cafes, and nightlife.

This original architecture is a treat for anyone interested in the original Pueblo-Spanish-style buildings that the town has retained. Now more than 100 establishments, these colonial structures and Victorian-era homes that arrived on the first railcars contain a wealth of eateries, galleries, and shops.

Old Town has stayed pretty much the same all these years, amid Detroit’s many changes, and still retains a walkable, friendly ambiance. Walking in its streets, tourists can experience different times, such as Pueblo-Spanish, Victoria, or our current days.

Old Town highlights include the 18th-century San Felipe de Neri Church, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and Albuquerque Museum’s stunning regional Southwestern art collection.

3. Petroglyph National Monument Park, Albuquerque

One of the biggest concentrations of petroglyphs can be found at Petroglyph National Monument in North America. These ancient symbols are engraved into volcanic rock, some dating back to Native Americans and others to Spanish settlers anywhere from 400 to 700 years ago and provide an important look into their daily lives.

The Boca Negra Canyon, also northwest of Santa Fe, allows visitors the opportunity to see about 100 petroglyphs on three somewhat short and only moderately difficult trails. Set aside about an hour to complete all three hikes.

The Rinconada Canyon loop is a longer hike at 2.2 miles and includes about 300 petroglyphs. We recommend bringing binoculars at the National Park Service.

The Piedras Marcadas Canyon Trail A more challenging 1.5-mile loop over rocky, uneven terrain. This part of the hike is rather challenging but provides the incentive of 400 petroglyphs to be discovered along the way.

4. San Felipe De Neri Church: A Peek At Albuquerque’s Past

One of Albuquerque’s oldest buildings, San Felipe De Neri Church dates back to 1793. Incidentally, it is the only structure in Old Town that can be unequivocally traced to the Spanish colonial era. Although the church that originated in 1706 fell into disrepair in 1972, San Felipe De Neri has remained in large part unchanged since it was rebuilt in 1793.

Its premises also contain a museum about the history of the church and of its long-playing staff. Visitors can also discover a veritable treasury of liturgical vestments, sacred vessels, and religious art. The Cristo used during the annual Good Friday celebration of El Descendimiento presently at the parish

The Catholic church is open daily to visitors from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM, so you have plenty of time to marvel at its architectural and historical importance. The temple offers a mass throughout the week and specifically dedicates Thursdays to worshipers who look to find physical and spiritual to solace.

5. Visiting the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is located next door to the Old Town Plaza. The exhibitions held at this institution are all in permanent exhibitions which include The Naturalist Center and FossilWorks. In addition, the museum hosts guest exhibitions, which change regularly, and the museum offers virtual tours which can be accessed on the museum website.

Aesthetic highlights include an all-dome planetarium offering multi-media experiences. Visitors can also experience 3-D films shown on the five-story white screen of the DynaTheater

One thing that caught my attention about the museum is the Relaxed Nights at the Museum, it offers a safe space for guests who might be anxious to be in busy places. In keeping with the concept of quiet enjoyment, availability for these events is severely restricted to maintain comfort levels.

This makes the New Mexico Museum definitely worth the visit, as there was something for everyone to learn and have fun with.

6. American International Rattlesnake Museum – Beyond the Myth, into the World of Education

Committed to changing perceptions of these misunderstood creatures and raising awareness about the rattlesnake, the American International Rattlesnake Museum is an immersive and educational experience for all who visit.

With the largest collection of rattlesnake species on Earth, the museum manifests both live and preserved specimens from North, Central, and South America displayed in exacting, life-like habitats.

Fun Fact: Our museum actually has more kinds of snakes than Bronx Zoo, Denver Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo, San Francisco Zoo, and San Diego Zoo altogether, which is pretty cool.

Visitors ought to show up prepared to learn a lot more about these fascinating creatures and also discover previous artifacts, and this is indeed carried out by using live creatures.

7. A Journey to Well-Preserving Native American Heritage – The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center puts New Mexico’s Native American history and accomplishments in the spotlight.

The permanent exhibition of the center “We Are Of This Place: The Pueblo Story” tells the story of the Pueblo people and their 1,000-year history in their own words. This was the Cultural Center’s first permanent display following a compelling showcase that opened in 2016 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Cultural Center.

Aside from permanent displays, the Cultural Center builds a variety of rotating exhibits, which explore topics from the contributions of women in Pueblo successes, to Pueblo migration. Guests are even invited to discover the exhibit of the moment during their stay.

The center also includes four unique art galleries that highlight the work of contemporary Pueblo artists, a beautiful mural collection, pueblo art traditions, and a display featuring student artwork. Collectively, these galleries honor the rich culture and deep-rooted history that the Pueblo people have left in New Mexico.

8. ABQ BioPark – Discovering the Wild Side Along the Rio Grande

Dramatically situated on the banks of the world-famous Rio Grande River, the BioPark, dating from the 1920s, includes The Rio Grande Zoo, Botanic Gardens, Aquarium, and Tingley Beach.

Rio Grande Zoo Covering a large 64-acre area, the Rio Grande Zoo is rich in wildlife, the park playing host to 1,100 animals from 250 species. Some residents include a collection of koalas, while others are large and majestic animals such as elephants.

You also have access to numerous events and activities that occur throughout the week. One such experience occurs each Friday at 11:30 AM with a special “komodo walk”: currents walk a docile Idah on a leash, so guests can see the animal up-close.

In addition to these unique events, visitors can participate in daily animal feedings, Story Time at the Zoo programs, keeper talks, or rent a pedal boat to float around the zoo pond.

Botanic Garden – Peaceful Natural Oasis

At 36 acres, the Botanic Garden is one of the largest botanical gardens. The nursery commended its variety of interests, incorporating a youngsters’ plant, two wonderful glass centers, a butterfly garden, and a peaceful dragonfly safe haven. Plus, you just have to see the whimsical pair of 400-foot loops of free-floating track — offering passengers a fun ride on a miniature railroad!

Garden Railroad Volunteers – All ages will enjoy chatting with members of the Garden Railroad Volunteers who bring these little locomotives to life and can answer all your questions.

Aquarium: An Eye Under Water

In this case, it is best to pass your time on two visits to the ABQ BioPark facilities as we would recommend the Rio Grande Zoo and Botanic Gardens. But if you have extra time to kill, a visit to the Aquarium offers an interesting look into the world of water.

Beneath the expanse of the aquarium, visitors can gaze in wonder at such beloved marine residents as nurse sharks, tiger sharks, stingrays, and beautifully arranged coral exhibits, in addition to the delightful plays of river otters. While the exhibit may not share the same level of grandeur as those found in major cities like New York or Chicago, it still provides a uniquely engaging experience for anyone seeking a better understanding of marine life.

Tingley Beach: A Tranquil Getaway

Finish up your BioPark experience with a trip to Tingley Beach – a peaceful place for a walk, picnic, boat rentals, and even a dip-however, be careful as this swimming is considered “at your own risk” with no lifeguards on duty. Remember this, before you cast the line, get a fishing license.

9. Albuquerque Museum, Keeping Southwest Heritage Alive

Once known as the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, the Albuquerque Museum is a cultural institution rooted in celebrating and preserving the arts and culture of the American Southwest, as well as the 400-year history of Albuquerque.

Located right in the heart of Old Town, the museum houses more than 10,000 art objects, and 35,000 historical artifacts and boasts an impressive collection of 130,000 items in its photo archives.

Aside from the traditional exhibit space of the museum, the museum offers an art gallery, an outdoor sculpture garden, and rotating exhibitions in an additional gallery in downstairs of the museum. These include family fun programs for preschoolers, with hands-on activities geared for this age group. But for history buffs who want to see and learn more, there are guided tours (enhanced by live worship and amphitheater presentations).

In addition, the Albuquerque Museum includes the Gutiérrez/Minge House, a historic home located north of Albuquerque. This is the only location in New Mexico where both the house and its interiors are State-registered cultural Properties.

10. Sandia Peak Tramway: Rise to the Top of the World

Albuquerque, The Highest Metropolitan City in the U.S.

Ride the Sandia Peak Tramway to the 10,378-foot summit of the breathtaking Sandia Mountains. The 10,378-foot summit is a short 15-minute, 2.7-mile trip that opens up onto panoramic views of an 11,000-square-mile area.

A number of well-trodden hiking and skiing paths greet you at the summit. Remember that up at the crest the temperatures are typically 15 to 20 degrees cooler, so be sure to wear appropriate apparel for your outdoor activities.

If hiking isn’t your preference, have lunch at the cliff-top jewel, TEN 3 restaurant. Offering craft brews and signature cocktails, you are sure to have an unforgettable dining experience. Take time to check out the gifts at the gift shop before going down.

Both the rails and deck at the summit are wheelchair accessible for all. The tramway is available for service every day, but it is closed in April and Nov for maintenance. During these months, make sure to check the updated schedule that can be found online and plan your visit accordingly.

11. National Museum of Nuclear Science & History: Exploring the Atomic Heritage

As the most known hub of all things atomics and the home of the ultimate A-bomb, New Mexico embraces that historical aura somewhat reverently.

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History has worked to tell the story of the Atomic Age since its establishment in 1969. Today, visitors are enveloped in an examination of the ways in which nuclear science influences the modern world and the uses of nuclear research for peaceful purposes. It regularly features traveling exhibits, many of which come from the Smithsonian Institution.

In addition to planes, rockets, and missiles are displayed in a large outdoor exhibition that occupies 9 acres of the museum. Permanent exhibits take visitors deep into the Atomic Age’s impact on pop culture, radiation, WWII, and the dangers of the Cold War.

Consistent with its ever-changing nature, the Museum of Nuclear Science & History frequently shows traveling exhibits. Slated to open that winter are the following two fascinating traveling exhibitions: “To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA” and “Nuclear by Mail.”

12. Rio Grande Nature Center State Park

Experience the beauty of Rio Grande Nature Center State Park (formerly Rio Grande Valley State Park) located in Albuquerque, a city park that provides day-use outdoor recreation opportunities. Enjoy hiking trips, sightings of wildlife, and a glance of the beauty of nature, all closer to the city.

Relax and enjoy the park while viewing the resident wildlife from indoor or outdoor viewing areas. Walk through the Native Plant Garden, Pollinator Garden, and tranquil pond, showcasing the wide variety of living organisms flourishing inside the park.

To experience more of the environment around it, take a trip on the Paseo del Bosque Path. This 16-mile trail takes visitors on a non-continuous eco-journey free of traffic, with nothing to disturb them from nature, surrounded by nothing but the untouched beauty of the region.

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