The largest city in New Mexico, Albuquerque is a destination for travelers looking to savor the distinctive history of the Southwest, explore the diverse city roots, or tap the casinos and shopping. The sightseeing is easy in the Duke City, which boasts a sunny climate, 300-plus years of history and a kaleidoscope of natural wonders.
The city is divided into four quadrants (northwest, northeast, southeast and southwest), with the northwest sector claiming a majority of Albuquerque attractions that include the 7,000-acre Petroglyph National Monument. Flat rocks along 17 miles of Albuquerque's west escarpment contain approximately 24,000 images, many depicting crosses and animals carved by ancient Pueblo natives and early Spanish explorers. The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, located nearby, traces the history of the area with thousands of artifacts, including Navajo and Pueblo blankets, Colonial Period European armor and a one-of-a-kind 17th-century tapestry. Art—ranging from works in an outdoor sculpture garden to paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe—round out the collection.
Top among things to do in Albuquerque is a walking tour of colorful Old Town, which covers roughly ten blocks comprised of historic adobe structures. Most of the flat-roof buildings in Old Town have narrow porches stretched across their front, providing places to rest and an ideal walking environment. Specialty shops dominate the area, many of them decorative trading posts, gift boutiques or galleries selling Southwestern art and handcrafted jewelry. Quaint area restaurants generally emphasize Mexican food, but other options, such as Native American cuisine or café fare, are featured in select venues.
Learn about the earthly workings of the Rio Grande Valley at the Rio Grande Botanic Garden, part of the ABQ BioPark, situated on 52 acres. Visitors can tour a spacious exhibit farm, complete with adobe farmhouse, crops and farm animals, or browse the glass conservatories, where plants from the desert contrast with plants from Mediterranean climates.
The northeast quadrant is the setting for one of the most unusual attractions in Albuquerque, Balloon Fiesta Park. Each October during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, local skies fill with colorful balloons from around the world. Throughout the year, visitors can learn about the history and uses of hot-air balloons at a dedicated balloon museum adjacent to the park.
For down-to-earth things to do in the Albuquerque outback, head to one of the outdoor recreation areas around the Sandia and Manzano foothills. Hiking and biking trails can be used to explore the terrain, or visitors can head into the sky via the Sandia Peak Tramway. Reaching nearly three miles in the air, the tram lifts passengers up to sweeping views of the mountain and refreshments at the bar at the top. Sunset is the ideal time of day to experience the vivid spectrum of colors that bathe the landscape. At night, head back to Albuquerque to experience the city’s distinctive natural lighting scheme, one that seems to set the buildings aglow in a mellow halo of color.