If your family just got word that you’re heading to Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, New Mexico, you’ve come to the right place for the inside scoop.
But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill guide.
You won’t discover what schools are the best, where you should live, or the best doctor. Instead, inside these Duty Station Spotlights, you’ll find things you want to know about like favorite day trips, radio stations, and the yummy places to eat—all from military spouses who have been there and done that.
Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, New Mexico
First Things First: The Basics
We’re kicking this Duty Station Spotlight series off with one from yours truly.
I was born and raised near Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and my three kids and I lived back in the “Duke City” for the past year.
What were your first impressions of the area?
I lived here for 26 years, and I can honestly say that while I was growing up in Albuquerque I wanted nothing more than to move away as soon as possible.
It wasn’t a “big enough” city for me, it was too brown all the time (because #desertlife), and I wanted more. But I was also young and naive.
How did you feel at the the end of the tour? Did your impressions change?
I LOVE Albuquerque.
I’m incredibly thankful for living there again, and for growing up in Albuquerque; my perspective has changed immensely.
Albuquerque, New Mexico is plenty big; you can find any type of food you want, plenty of indoor and outdoor activities, all the big brands and stores are here, the weather is fantastic (and it’s actually not just brown here year-round).
The sunsets are spectacular, and there is beauty in the dessert. Find your group of people and get out and explore. If you fear where you live or have a bad attitude, any place will suck. There’s so much to do here, cultures to experience, and places to see that you’ll never be bored.
Yes, there are shady (as in not very safe) pockets around the city, but you’ll find that anywhere. Stay away from those places and familiarize yourself with the good spots. Don’t be afraid to go out and explore; this city and state has so much to offer.
What is ONE THING you wish you had known before moving to Albuquerque?
Beware of “goat heads” (stickers/thorns that will get everywhere, and even puncture bike tires…so invest in some sealant while you’re at it), and get a car shade for your windshield, otherwise things will get extra toasty in your car on a warm day!
Good (Local) Eats
If someone came to visit you, and you had to take them out to eat, what would your TOP THREE favorite places be?
*Also, here’s a quick guide to eating at a New Mexican restaurant!
Favorite place(s) for coffee and/or dessert?
Is there a farmer’s market scene in there? Tell us about it!
There are several. As of June 2020 they are all doing things a little differently because of Covid-19; check their website before showing. Many are doing pre-orders only with pick-up available.
Best place for brunch? And your favorite thing to order, please!
Oh gosh, now I’m hungry for these:
The Grove Cafe and Market: Literally, everything from there is delicious. My favorites are The Fancy Breakfast Sandwich and the Croque Madame
Frontier: anything on the menu, and do not forget a cinnamon roll and a dozen tortillas to take home with you
The Range Cafe: Huevos Con Queso and the Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs
How about a fun night out on the town for a date night?
Get Around (and out of) Town
Top five favorite things to do in Albuquerque:
Picture this: You have a whole weekend to go somewhere within driving distance: Where are you going and what are you doing?
North of Albuquerque:
We’d head up to Santa Fe for breakfast, and walk around the plaza, then we’d drive up to Taos to walk around their plaza, and have lunch at Taos Pizza Out Back. A stay at Ojo Caliente would absolutely be in the cards (if we don’t have the kids with us).
If the kids are with us, we’d take the Rail Runner up to Santa Fe, walk around the market there on Saturday mornings, and then possibly check out Meow Wolf*
*Take the New Mexico Rail Runner Express to Santa Fe Depot. Then take the #2 Bus south on Cerrillos to Calle del Cielo. Walk west on Calle del Cielo and look for the giant red robot in our parking lot!
South of Albuquerque:
We’d head three and a half hours south of Albuquerque to White Sands National Monument in Alamogordo, NM, and then explore down in that area for the weekend in Hatch and Las Cruces, NM.
What was your favorite park in town?
There are SO many parks in Albuquerque. We liked the little park near our house, but a bigger one we loved was the North Domingo Baca Park. It’s huge and there’s lots to do for all ages. If you’re on the west side, A Park Above is excellent.
Any museums worth checking out?
Explora is a favorite—it’s a hand’s on museum, and they have a special toddler time on Mondays from 9-11am, which was awesome.
All the Extras
Favorite radio station?
100.3 The Peak; specifically with Jackie, Tony, and Donnie in the mornings. It’s great for the whole family, and I literally look forward to listening to their show in the mornings, and it’s family friendly so you don’t have to worry about inappropriate conversation.
Info on your favorite hair salon/hair dresser, and place for a mani/pedi, please and thank you.
Check out anyone at Hairpins and Scissors; they’re fabulous. Tell Anna I say, “hi,” if you go over there.
Loved going to Cute.icle Lounge for a great pedicure.
Like a Local
Are there any instagramers, bloggers, or Facebook groups you followed around Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, New Mexico?
Any festivals, fairs, or events worth checking out?
The most notable is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and I’m not afraid to say that it’ll be the highlight of your time in Albuquerque. You can see all of my posts about the Balloon Fiesta here.
Tell us about the weather.
So, I’ve always joked about two things:
1. If you wait 5 minutes, the weather will change
2. You can potentially hit up all four seasons if you drive north to south across the state.
The overall feeling here is dry—really dry here—like, get yourself some lotion, humidifiers, and be prepared to possibly have nosebleeds.
But besides that, you’ll experience four full seasons (yes, it will snow), and it will get hot during the summer. It’s a dry heat, though, so keep hydrated and stay in the shade.
You’ll find a lot of wind in the spring, and monsoon season starts around June and lasts through the beginning of fall—so be prepared to see thunderstorms roll through in the afternoons/evenings.
Anything else you’d like to mention for someone who is moving here soon?
Albuquerque is what you’ll make of it. It could be a scary, hot, land-locked city with “nothing to do,” or it could be your best assignment yet. Don’t let posts you see in the FB groups about how unsafe it is “everywhere” dictate your time in Albuquerque.
Get out and explore, make friends, find your favorite (local) places to eat, and enjoy all that New Mexico has to offer.
If you’ve been stationed at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, NM, please share your favorites in the comments!