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Things to do in Albuquerque: the Ultimate Travel Guide

When I mention Albuquerque, New Mexico, to most people they usually say one of three things: they stopped over for one night as they drove through to a destination on either side of the state; they’ve heard about the Balloon Fiesta (and hope they can see it some day), or they flew in to the Albuquerque Sunport on their way to Santa Fe or Taos.

Visiting New Mexico? Here's the ultimate guide on things to do in Albuquerque with a three-day itinerary from a local who loves the city.

As a born and raised Albuquerquean, I’m pretty passionate about sharing my love for this city, so what better way to do that than showcase a smattering of fun stuff to this city has to offer.

Hopefully, after you read this post and see all the things to do in Albuquerque, you’ll make “The Duke City” your destination, and explore this beautiful city where the southwest comes to life.

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When to Visit Albuquerque

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With 310 days of sunshine in Albuquerque, you can’t go wrong on when to visit this beautiful city. …and even if it does snow or rain, you’re still pretty much guaranteed beauty!

Spring: Spring is gorgeous in Albuquerque! Winds sometimes rush in, but it just think of it as nature’s way of cooling things off.

Summer: It’s hot here in the summer, with temps in the 100’s most days, but every place is air conditioned, and the temperature will drop when you’re in the shade. Evenings can also cool down to the 50s, making it feel pretty perfect after a long, hot day. Since Albuquerque is situated in a valley, wildfires often bring smoke and a haze to the city.

Late Summer: Same as above, but monsoon season starts rolling in with thunderstorms in the afternoons/evenings. It’s nothing to fret about, and it’ll be gorgeous after it passes through.

Fall: The little green that we may have may wither and die in the fall/winter, but the energy in the air is what keeps this city on fire. New Mexicans long for October since it marks the beginning of the Balloon Fiesta. If you’re jonesing for some fall foliage, head up north!

Winter: New Mexicans sometimes joke that you can have all four seasons in one day, and that’s totally true during the winter. Start at the bottom of the state (where it’ll feel like summer), and work hour way up north for some snow. Albuquerque will get cold, and will get some snow, but nothing that shuts down the city.

How to Get Around Albuquerque

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Unless you plan on only staying around Old Town, I highly recommend renting a car. ABQ is really spread out, and even though it’s “easy” to get almost anywhere, you definitely want a car to get you from point A to point B.

There are two main highways (or the “freeway” as we call it here): I-25 (north and south), and I-40 (east and west), and they intersect at a point called “The Big I” (this font makes the “I” look like a one, but it’s really The Big “eye” for “interstate”).

If you’re jonesing to get out of the car there are certainly options for you, like taking an e-bike and cruising around the Old Town and Barrelas area for a couple hours.

Wanna get out in nature? You came to the right place. Head to the Petroglyphs or the volcanoes, or walk along the bosque. Jonesing for a hike? Strap up those boots and make your way up Sandia Peak on the La Luz Trail*. If you want easy take the Sandia Peak Tramway up to see the magnificent sites from 10,000 feet up.

*This is not an easy trail, just FYI. Read more about it here.

Where to Stay in Albuquerque

To make the most out of your visit to The Duke City, I recommend staying in Old Town. You’ll be in the heart of Albuquerque and close to fantastic food, all the history, cultural experiences like museums, the BioPark trio (the zoo, botanical gardens, and the aquarium), and just a stone’s throw away from downtown if you feel like going out.

If you’re staying in Albuquerque without kids, I highly suggest Hotel Albuquerque or Hotel Chaco. Here’s some quick info on Hotel ABQ.

Staying in town with kids? Look into Embassy Suites or Hometown Suites. We’ve stayed at both around town, and they’re great.

Visiting Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta? I suggest staying a little closer to the balloon park in either a hotel (book it very early; they tend to sell out months before October), or in an AirBnb near the field. You can see balloons anywhere in the city, but if you want to go to balloon fiesta park, it’s best to stay as close as possible. See more about the balloon fiesta here.

3-Day Albuquerque Itinerary at a Glance

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There’s so much to see and do in Albuquerque, so I hope this itenerary helps you when you visit. Those experiences with an asterisk means I share more about them below.

Day 1 in Albuquerque

Morning: Hot Air Balloon Ride*
Breakfast: Coffee and burritos from New Mexico Pinon Coffee House
Morning: Hike the petroglyphs/volcanoes* ….or take a nap!
Brunch: Check out Los Poblanos, and then eat there
Afternoon: Drive around and see Breaking Bad filming sites
Dinner: Dion’s Pizza

Day 2 in Albuquerque

Breakfast: Flying Star Cafe
Morning: E-bike Tour of Albuquerque*
Midmorning/lunch: Rail Market*
Afternoon: Indian Pueblo Cultural Center*
Dinner: Garduno’s at Old Town
After dinner: Sandia Peak Tram Ride (perfect at sunset)*

Day 3 in Albuquerque

Breakfast: Grab a breakfast burrito from the New Mexico Beef Jerky Company
Morning/mid morning: Pick a museum* to explore. (see below for more!)
Lunch: Church Street Cafe in Old Town (sit on the patio; they often have live music)
Afternoon: Walk around Old Town
Dinner: Sawmill Market

What to do in Albuquerque

Hot Air Balloon Ride with Rainbow Ryders

If this isn’t on your bucket list get it on there ASAP! There is absolutely nothing like floating thousands of feet in the air. And if anyone is going to take you up in a hot air balloon, then let it be Rainbow Ryders—the pilots have literally taken thousands of flights and are the best of the best.

You’ll see the city from a whole new perspective that will simply blow your mind. And if you’re scared of heights (like I am), have no fear: there’s something different and unique about floating up in a balloon. Not only is it not scary, but it’s relaxing and exhilarating.

Get Your Learn on at a Museum

If you’re with kids or are a kid at heart, check out Explora! This hands-on science museum makes learning seriously fun. There’s an outdoor area (you may get wet), fun with bubbles, arts and crafts, building adventures, the coolest elevator you’ll probably ever see, and so much more.

If you’re jonesing to go back in time, then the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science will be your jam. It’s filled with dinosaurs and dives into how/where those giants lived so long ago in New Mexico.

If you’re ready to channel your inner geek, then get over to the Nuclear Museum. You’ll learn all about New Mexico’s participation with the atom and its powerful presence in our lives. From its powerful bombs to how it’s beneficial to our everyday lives. Don’t forget to check out Little Albert’s Corner for some hands-on fun.

Experience the Indian Pueblo Culture

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is devoted to sharing the rich history of more than 19 local pueblos with visitors. You can walk around a museum and gallery area, see giant murals and artifacts, and even immerse yourself in some regional favorites when you dine at the restaurant.

Visit on a weekend and experience a cultural dance from a different tribe; see how they celebrate trhgouh prayer, song, and dance.. It’s unlike anything you’ve probably ever seen.

Hit up the Market

Every Sunday the Barelas Neighborhood comes to life at the rail yards for a thriving market. You’ll find almost anything you want here: veggies, meat, flowers, drinks, honey, chile, baked goods, and so much more.

Add in time to walk around the rail yards—what an interesting place to host a city-wide market!

Go on a Hike

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See the Three Sisters aka volcanoes

If you visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center or took an e-bike tour around the city, you likely learned about the “Three Sisters.” But, contrary to legend, we have three other sisters on the west side of the city: extinct volcanoes. The three big ones are the “three sisters,” and the two next to them are their two “cousins.”

When you visit, keep in mind that it may be drastically cooler, windier, or hotter than it was in the city before you left since it’s out on the mesa. Read more about how to see the volcanoes here.

Check out the petroglyphs

Don’t miss this national park. The hikes are easy, the views are stunning, and the petroglyphs are mesmerizing and rooted in deep history. See the trails here.

Take a Ride on the Tram

Take a ride on the Sandia Peak Tram, and in a mere 15 minutes you’ll soar up more than 10,000 feet and find yourself at the top of the Sandia Mountains. Grab a bite to eat, walk around to see the wildlife, or just marvel at the views of the city.

Tour Albuquerque on a Bike

Want to see Albuquerque in a unique way? Hope on an e-bike and cruise around different ‘Burque neighborhoods with Heritage Inspirations.

You’ll discover murals and the history behind them, learn fun facts about the city, ride along the bosque (near the river), and even see filming locations from the hit TV show, Breaking Bad.

Where to Eat in Albuquerque

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As far as things to do in Albuquerque go, eating out has to top your list. The options for delicious, local food, are endless and absolutely fantastic.

There’s one thing you need to know about eating at New Mexico restaurants: our chile is famous here, and if you order anything with red or green chile as an option, you’ll be asked, “Red or green,” when you order. Find out more about this here.

I’ll have a full list of my favorite places coming out soon, and I’ll link it here. I’ve linked the ones mentioned in the itinerary here in case you’d like to get head start on looking into them. In the meantime, feel free to comment if you need more suggestions!

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3 Comments

  1. I’ve always wanted to go to Albuquerque and take a hot air balloon ride but do have a slight fear of heights. It’s good to hear from someone else with a fear of heights that it’s not scary.

  2. There are certainly a lot of great things to do here! I would love to learn more about the Indian Pueblo culture while I was there – it’s so important to learn about different cultures!

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