As it’s a city with so much history and natural beauty, it’s easy to find amazing things to do in Albuquerque. Albuquerque, commonly abbreviated to ABQ, is the largest city in the state of New Mexico. The city and state lie in the south western portion of the United States. Albuquerque has a long tribal history, and it’s known that Tanoan and Keresan people lived in the area well before the arrival of the Spanish in 1706. The city has one of the highest elevations in the US and has a beautiful backdrop of the Sandia and Manzano Mountain ranges. The majestic Rio Grande River also runs through the city. The population of ABQ is around 558,000 people, and it has the nickname Duke City. This is because it was named for Viceroy Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva who was the Duke of Albuquerque. ABQ is famous for its annual International Balloon Fiesta.
So, let’s take a quick journey and explore all the great things to do in Albuquerque on your visit.
Petroglyph National Monument
The Petroglyph National Monument covers more than 7,000 acres of land in Albuquerque’s West Mesa. It reaches for 17 miles and comprises more than 24,000 carved images, numerous archaeological sites, and five volcanic cones along its length. The carvings were made by early Spanish settlers and the native Pueblo people. The entire area has been protected to preserve the lands and their treasures. The national monument is split into four distinct sections. These are Marcadas Canyon, Volcano Day Use Trails, Boca Negra Canyon, and Rinconada Canyon. Wandering the site is a fantastic thing to do in Albuquerque and gives you a true sense of its history.
The streets of Old Town are lined with ancient Adobe houses, which span off from a beautiful central plaza. It’s a relaxing place to take a walk, and there are many places to eat and drink along the sidewalks. If you’re looking for authentic gifts, you’ll find them in abundance here. If you want to learn more about the area, there are few trolley tours in Old Town that will whisk you around and tell you all about the history and culture. Stepping into Old Town is like going back in time, and it feels like you’re a million miles away from the modern areas of Albuquerque city center. If you want to chill out and relax, then an afternoon or evening in Old Town is the perfect thing to do in Albuquerque.
Sandia Peak Tramway
The Sandia Peak Tramway sits on the edge of the Sandia Mountain range, a little outside the city. It’s the world’s third longest single span tramway and offers incredible views of the city and surrounding desert landscape. The journey, which starts outside of Old Town Albuquerque, takes around 20 minutes to reach the peak. The line is 2.7 kilometers long and reaches a height of almost 4,000 feet. At the top, there’s a restaurant to get a drink to calm your nerves after the climb, and a host of walking and hiking trails. Taking a trip to the sky is one of the best things to do in Albuquerque.
National Museum of Nuclear Science and History
This museum is the only nationally recognized facility of its kind to be endorsed by the United States Congress. It exists to educate and document the US’ progress in the age of nuclear power and technology. New Mexico has a long history with nuclear energy and, in particular, nuclear bombs. After all, the Enola Gay bomber, which dropped the first ever atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Japan, was based at the army airfield in Roswell. Furthermore, the first ever nuclear test in the US was conducted in the New Mexico desert in 1945.
It’s fair to say the state knows a thing or two about nuclear science. In the museum, visitors can learn about the research that led to the creation of the atom bomb, as well as first-hand statements from scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project. You don’t have to be a science geek to visit. Just finding out a little more about the decision to drop the first-ever atomic bomb, which changed the course of history, is enough to make this museum one of the best things to do in Albuquerque.
Albuquerque Zoo is set over 64 acres of land next to the Rio Grande River. The Zoo is home to a range of native animals, such as the Mexican Gray Wolf and the Roadrunner (meep meep!). As well as species from the Southwest and the wider United States, there’s also Polar Bears, Lions, and Elephants. One of the most popular areas of the zoo is the Ape Walk, where visitors can view the apes in naturalized surroundings. Also popular are the daily feeding times for giraffes and hippos. The zoo is a great thing to do in Albuquerque with kids and adults thoroughly enjoy it, too.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
This museum exists to preserve and progress the culture of the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico. The cultural center displays a range of art, and details the history of the Pueblo Indian Culture in the state. As well as learning about the history of the Pueblo people, the center also showcases art throughout the ages. This includes the work of contemporary artists, which are often displayed in a range of special exhibitions. It’s a tranquil and beautiful center to visit and gain an understanding of the people that shaped the city of Albuquerque into the culturally diverse city it is today.
Tickets required, available at the entrance, $5.40-$8.40
Rio Grande Nature Center State Park
This 38-acre park sits on the shores of the Rio Grande River and is primarily used as a wildlife preserve. Most of the park is natural, while around a third has been developed to allow residents and visitors the chance to learn and view native creatures in their natural habitats. It’s an excellent thing to do in Albuquerque with kids, and a great way to get out and about into natural surroundings outside the city center. There’s a visitor center, ponds, walking trails, and viewing areas, and enough to keep the little ones amused for hours.
Off-beat things to do in Albuquerque
Looking for odd things to do in Albuquerque? Well, get a load of this! Did you know that along of stretch of the famous Route ‘66 in ABQ, there’s a musical highway? On a strip of road near Tijeras, a series of rumble strips play a segment of America the Beautiful. And we’re not even kidding. If you happen to be a fan of Breaking Bad (and if not, why?), then head out to Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse to visit the grave of Walter White. The simple stone doesn’t mention White’s extracurricular activities, but simply tells of his role as father, husband, teacher, and ‘entrepreneur.’
FAQs About Albuquerque
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the city and things to do in Albuquerque. These will help your research, planning, and general knowledge about all this beautiful south western city has to offer.
What is there to do in Albuquerque in the winter?
As the city is in the shadow of the Sandia Mountains, there’s a ton of winter activities to indulge in. Skiing and snowboarding are always popular, as is ice skating. However, you don’t have to like winter sports to find things to do in Albuquerque in the winter. The city benefits from its location in the southwest, which means it’s never too cold during the day. Although winter might be cooler, it’s also way less crowded. Visiting in winter means you can enjoy everything the city has to offer in relative peace and quiet.
What can you do for free in Albuquerque?
Visit the city flea market on the weekend and see what vendors have to offer. It’s New Mexico’s largest flea market and is set over 25 acres. Just think of all that stuff! Take a trip over to Maxwell Museum of Anthropology to find out more about life in the southwest. The museum has more than 10,000 items on display to teach you about the lives and stories of people across the world. There are so many free things to do in Albuquerque, which makes it ideal for budget travelers.
What is Albuquerque famous for?
In recent years, Albuquerque gained world-wide attention as being the location of legendary TV show, Breaking Bad. There are numerous filming locations throughout the city that can be visited as part of a self-guided tour. It’s also famous for its excellent weather, which is largely due to the fact that it’s located in the desert. Albuquerque is also famous for being a friendly and laid-back city with incredible cultural diversity.
Does Albuquerque have snow?
Not really. Any snow it does get melts very quickly due to the temperature. However, as the city sits in the shadows of the Sandia Mountains, it does have easy access to snow. The mountains average around 110 inches of snow each year and are a haven for winter sports enthusiasts.
Albuquerque is a beautiful, historic city, with fantastic weather and a rich, diverse mix of cultures. It’s known for being open and friendly and has some of the best food in the United States. It has a great blend of urban living and rugged terrain, making the perfect place to get the best of big city life and wide open spaces. Albuquerque is a pretty cheap city to visit in terms of accommodation costs, eating and drinking. This means it can be quite attractive to travelers on a tight budget. However, it also has its fair share of luxury hotels, spas, and shopping. Albuquerque International Airport serves the city, and it’s only an hour’s drive from beautiful Santa Fe.
We hope we’ve given you enough great things to do in Albuquerque to inspire you to hop a flight and pay a visit.