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Nestled at the base of the Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque is New Mexico's jewel. That's not just an empty phrase. The city of turquoise is packed with jewelry makers and artisan designers, but there's much more available than just beautiful accessories.
If you want to escape from the urban scene, Albuquerque is the perfect base for a trip into the Sandia Mountains, where you can climb, hike, ride, bike or ski when the season is right.
Back in town, this three hundred-year-old colonial town retains much of its historic charm. Wander the streets of the Old Town and visit the Turquoise Museum. Check out the Museum of Art and History and dine at high-class but affordable New Mexican restaurants like Acapulco or el Pinto.
There are even high-energy sporting events to attend, like Lobos basketball matches in "the Pit." So what are you waiting for? Albuquerque is there for you to explore, at almost any time of year.
Albuquerque is situated at the foot of the Sandia Mountains, where visitors can hike, ride horses, go rock climbing, descend mountain biking slopes or even ski when the snows arrive. If you want to blend urban activities with beautiful scenery, there aren't many better destinations.
Albuquerque has a long tradition of Native American and Spanish-influenced arts and crafts, making it a fantastic place to pick up ornaments for your home or souvenirs for friends. Head to the Turquoise Museum to find gorgeous blue jewelry, or the galleries and craft stores in Nob Hill and the Old Town to snap up unique gifts.
Visiting Albuquerque is also a great option for history lovers. The Old Town has been thriving for three hundred years, and taking a walking tour to sites like the Church of San Felipe de Neri is like traveling back in time. There are also plenty of wonderful museums, including the Museum of Art and History and the family-friendly !Explora! Science Center.
Albuquerque is home to the University of New Mexico, and students there love their sports. Head to "the Pit" to watch the Lobos compete in NCAA Basketball or catch a college football match at University Stadium.
Albuquerque has also become a dining hotspot, famous for its fiery red and green chile sauces and boasting a wide selection of high-quality eateries. Some of the best around include Beralas, el Pinto and Ortega's.
Over three hundred years old, Albuquerque's Old Town is full of attractions and beautiful sights, and it's small enough to be easily walkable. Local highlights include the Conquistador armor at the Museum of Art and History and the church of San Felipe de Neri, the oldest building in town.
Albuquerque may lack Major League or NFL action, but it does have the New Mexico Lobos, who create an intense atmosphere every time they compete in "the Pit" on the UNM campus. Tickets are cheap at around $10-20, but book ahead as they can quickly disappear.
When you are in Albuquerque, you can't miss the Sandia Mountains, which tower over the city. Drive out to take in the views from the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area, rent bikes and hit the trails or pack a picnic and ride the Sandia Aerial Tramway tight to the 11,000 feet high peak of the range.
Albuquerque's most spectacular annual event is its colorful Balloon Fiesta. Attracting hundreds of vividly designed hot air balloons in October, the event features spellbinding illuminations, mass ascensions, and even balloon races. Nothing else in America is quite like it.
Albuquerque is a center of Hispanic-American culture, and no event captures this culture better than the city's annual International Flamenco Festival (held every June across the city). But you can catch a Flamenco dancing and guitar performance almost every night at venues like Casa Flamenca.
The fall is definitely Albuquerque's most attractive season, so schedule a trip between September and November to take advantage of mild weather and a packed cultural calendar. However, winter has its appeal as well, with ski slopes opening in the Sandia Mountains. Summer can be a little too hot for some, but with lower hotel rates, it's a great time to head to Albuquerque for a relaxing break.
Albuquerque International Sunport is a major regional airport in the American west, and is served by airlines like American, Southwest, Delta, and United. The most affordable route into the center of town is to catch bus route 50, which costs just $1. Taxis into the city will cost around $20-25 and shuttle buses are also available to major hotels like the Hyatt Regency.
Albuquerque's central station is located at the Alvarado Transportation Center in the Downtown neighborhood and is a stop on the Southwest Chief service, which travels daily between Chicago and Los Angeles.
If you are driving from the west, take I-40 straight into Albuquerque. Those coming from the east can also take I-40 or I-25 from cities to the north.
Greyhound is the main intercity bus operator in Albuquerque, and their stop is at the Alvarado Transportation Center (320 First St SW). There are also services from Mexican cities, which are provided by Autobuses Americanos.
Nob Hill and Downtown Albuquerque are the neighborhoods to look at if you are seeking luxury family accommodation. If your budget stretches far enough, don't miss the stunning Hotel Andaluz, designed in a traditional Spanish-influenced style. Other reliable, comfortable options include the Sheraton, Radisson and Hyatt and there are also some lovely bed and breakfasts, including Mauger Estate and the Bottger Mansion.
Downtown – Recently targeted by a decade-long development plan, the center of Albuquerque now has it all. The area includes the city's main nightlife strip along Route 66, traditional diners like 66 Diner and plenty of museums, including the Museum of Art and History and the completely unique Rattlesnake Museum.
Nob Hill – An area filled with luxurious colonial-style mansions and chic restaurants like Elaine's, most vacationers will feel right at home in Nob Hill. The Nob Hill Shopping Center is the place to head for artisan jewelry and other souvenirs, while bars like Scalo offer live music all night, almost every night of the year.
Albuquerque Old Town – The city was founded way back in 1706, and the Old Town is its historic nucleus. Just to the north of Downtown, you can tour the city's oldest neighborhood, seeing beautiful buildings like the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe and checking out museums like the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. The Turquoise Museum is also a fantastic place to find the bright blue stones that the area around Albuquerque is famous for.
Buses in Albuquerque are provided by ABC Ride, but the service is not extensive or particularly reliable. However, routes 766 and 777 (the red and green lines) are useful for traveling along Central Avenue and day passes cost just $2.
Taxis may well be essential for many visitors who don't have access to a rental vehicle. Rates vary between companies, but will typically be around $2.70-3 for the meter drop, then $2.60 per mile after that (so taxis aren't cheap). You can travel more cheaply by using Uber, however, who charge $1 for the meter drop, then $0.85 for every subsequent mile.
Albuquerque is very much a city built around the automobile. Be aware that the street names are divided into four quadrants, separated on an east-west axis by the railroad and a north-south axis by Central Avenue. You can also get to most east-west destinations using I-40 and north-south destinations via I-25, so getting around isn't hard.
If you want to walk around a shopping district filled with souvenir stores, then Old Town is the place to visit. There you'll find galleries like Amapola, selling affordable local ornaments and paintings, Native American pottery outlets like Andrews Pueblo Pottery and stores where anything is possible, like the Old Town Emporium. Other than that, Nob Hill and Central Avenue have clusters of boutiques, while Coronado Mall in Uptown features major brands like J.C. Penney and Sears.
Self-catering vacationers can save money during their stay by shopping for groceries at stores like Walmart, John Brooks, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, while you can shop for local produce at the La Montañita Co-op as well. In general, the city is fairly cheap, with a gallon of milk costing under $3 and a pound of apples around $1.20.
The finest food in Albuquerque is, unsurprisingly, Mexican and Mexican-influenced. However, there are some subtle local differences with standard Mexican food. In particular, New Mexican cooking revolves around red or green chile sauces and sopapilla breads to soak up the sauce. Check out some of the finest examples of regional cuisine at Acapulco, Federico's and El Pinto. Looking beyond Mexican food, Asian Grill serves affordable Vietnamese dishes; Rasoi is a superb Indian option, and the Rancher's Club is an elite seafood and prime meat joint. Dining out isn't too expensive. Expect a mid-range meal to cost around $15 and gourmet meals to cost upwards of $25.