Albuquerque is New Mexico’s city full of enchantment. It has historic culture, vast nature, and nightlife. Here’s your guide to plan your visit to the Burque, now with direct flights from Austin.
When some people think of Albuquerque, they may think of the Sandia Mountains, named for their watermelon shade at sunset. Others may think of the balloon festival, with hopes of crossing “hot air balloon ride” off of their bucket list.
Real fans of New Mexico even know the meaning of the Zia, representing the four cardinal directions, the four seasons of the year, the four periods of each day (morning, noon, evening, and night), and the four seasons of life (childhood, youth, middle age, and old age). No matter how much you already know, I urge you to leave whatever expectations you had in mind for a trip to ABQ, New Mexico, because you will experience so many hidden gems that this city has to offer.
Where To Stay
Hotel Chaco is the perfect place to immerse yourself into the rich culture of Albuquerque, while enjoying comfortable amenities and authentic arts and goods. It is right across the street from Sawmill Market, a wonderful food court that is sure to make you feel indecisive with all of their diverse options.
This adobe style-influenced hotel is also a short walk from historic Old Town, an area that is one of Albuquerque’s proudest and, of course, oldest spots.
Level 5 is Hotel Chaco’s rooftop dining option, where you can watch the mountains turn pink at sunset, enjoy fine dining and some crafty cocktails.
This hotel will put you right in the heart of what city life, natural elements and history mean to ABQ.
Nature of ABQ
New Mexico Jeep Tours
While there’s so much land to be explored in ABQ, it can be overwhelming when you’re deciding where to begin. Start with an off-roading jeep tour through a private ranch if you like to live on the wild side.
New Mexico Jeep Tours will give you a tour through one of Albuquerque’s vast ranches where wild horses run free, petroglyphs and ancient ruins can be found, and you can even take a tour through an old western set of a show which still remains intact (ABQ is a big hotspot for filming shows and movies, since there is so much land and the houses are all diverse in style). If all of that isn’t exciting enough for you, the dips and turns through the rocky ranch will be. You can drive with the top down and take some picturesque pit stops as well.
Hot Air Balloon Ride with Rainbow Ryders
This is definitely something that I strongly feel everyone should do at least once in their lives – a hot air balloon ride. And the good news is that the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta isn’t the only time you can take this excursion. Rainbow Ryders offers private and group tours as long as the weather is nice.
Take off and landing will surprise you with how smooth and effortless it is, the views are indescribable, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll even get to do a “splash-n-dash” which is where your balloon dips down and splashes in the Rio Grande River and then returns to the clouds. Since this is a sunrise experience, you touch down by brunch time and, yes, fresh mimosas are waiting for your return.
Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway
This experience is one that will pop your ears, astonish your eyes, and fulfill your dream of feeling on top of the world. The tramway at Sandia Peak goes up, up, up and swings back and forth occasionally – and from the tram you can even see part of a metal plane that crashed in the mountains during combat – till it reaches the peak of the Sandias. So, this is not one for the faint of heart. Passengers can then dismount and enjoy the picturesque view, hike around, and also ski in the wintertime. You can even eat at the peak at their restaurant, TEN 3, which gets its name from the elevation of the Sandia Mountains at 10,300 feet. But be careful with drinks, as the elevation can be strong.
Flora & Fauna
At Valle de Oro you can take a tour of the Southwest’s newest and first urban wildlife refuge. They protect the land of the Tiwa People and all the nature that is naturally there. The new refuge was established due to the partnership efforts of many in the community who recognized the importance of having a wildlife refuge in this urban setting.
The Botanic Gardens at ABQ Bio Park are full of beautiful nature that can be seen all around ABQ, and you can even find Henrietta the Porcupine in these gardens if you look hard enough. Here you can explore over one and a half miles of gardens. Exhibits include Mediterranean and Desert Conservatories, 1920s farm, Japanese and formal gardens and a BUGarium.
Food – The Three Sisters and Christmas
Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm
In the heart of the Rio Grande River Valley, set among 25 acres of lavender fields, cottonwood trees and gardens, Los Poblanos is one of the most stunning historical properties in the Southwest. Here you can enjoy the gardens, see peacocks, and eat healthy, fresh, organic food. I’m willing to bet they have one of the best lavender lattes too.
Routes Bicycle Tours
You probably don’t think about delicious food when you hear you’re going on a bike tour, but in ABQ that’s just the case, as Routes Bicycle Tours offers taco tours. This way you can take a riding tour of the city, see art, history, and culture, and stop periodically for some of the best tacos in town. They’ve selected the best taco joints in ABQ to showcase this guided scenic journey through the Burque art & food scene. Plus experience a booming craft-beer scene at one of the most iconic breweries on Route 66, at El Vado Motel. Come HUNGRY for this 3.5 hour tour!
Indian Pueblo Kitchen
The Indian Pueblo Kitchen is centered around Indigenous cuisine, education and exploration, and carries on the tradition of creative, Native American culinary artistry and Pueblo hospitality. They offer guests an unforgettable Indigenous dining experience inside the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, featuring culinary events and education, a bakery, teaching kitchen, and the renowned meal pick-up event, the Pante Project.
The Cultural Center has exhibits that teach you about Native American culture, present and past, and beautiful turquoise jewelry can be found here as well. The Kitchen can tell you about the three sisters, near and dear to the heart of ABQ. This story is about the Iroquois and the Cherokee, and how they called corn, bean, and squash “the three sisters” because they nurture each other like family when planted together. Of course you can taste these here too! What’s better than being educated while you eat?
Located in the stylish Hotel Andaluz, MÁS is a full-service restaurant and tapas bar inspired by the bold flavors, rich history and exuberance of Spanish cooking. MÁS offers fresh reinventions of traditional Spanish cuisine with an emphasis on organic, fresh and locally-sourced foods and high quality ingredients.
Twin brothers Jim and John Thomas purchased the El Pinto restaurant from their parents in 1994 and continue to use the same family recipes created by their grandmother, Josephina Chavez-Griggs. To build on the success of the restaurant and to meet the strong demand for their sauces, Jim and John were motivated to produce them for retail distribution. Now this restaurant is known for its green and red salsa – mix them together for Christmas – and their vast collection of some of the finest tequilas.
The El Vado Motel first opened in 1937 and was one of New Mexico’s first Route 66 motor courts. It reopened to the public in 2018, as well as sister property Monterey Motel, which includes the MOMO Lounge. This lounge has awesome El Vado-inspired cocktails.
Electric Playhouse and SOMOS Parties
Feel like a kid again at Electric Playhouse as you sit down for fine dining and find yourself immersed in art that displays against the table and the walls, matches with music, and even moves with your body movements. It is the definition of trippy. After dinner, head through the neon tunnel to play interactive air hockey, paintball and so much more, all with the illusion of light. To continue your night of fun, keep up with SOMOS ABQ and see what events they’re putting on to see how the ABQ locals really do it.
Lounges and Speakeasies
If this article hasn’t convinced you that there’s plenty enough to do in ABQ, maybe all of their exciting bars and rooftop lounges with unique cocktails and stories will. Start off at Ibiza Rooftop, also inside Hotel Andaluz, where you can feel the Spanish influences under purple lights.
Next, you can head to Apothecary Rooftop Lounge, which totally plays into the whole hauntedness of ABQ which you may hear about upon visiting. This place used to be a psychiatric ward, and now they’ve converted it to a rooftop lounge, but there’s still all kinds of spirits present. You can even enjoy your cocktails around a gurney here.
End your night at what appears to be a normal convenience store, but upon giving the codeword of the night, actually turns into a speakeasy. Head into the fridge and downstairs to a dimly lit bar at Founders Speakeasy.
And the best part is, that’s not even all there is to do in the city of enchantment.
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Cover photo Gracie Watt
Gracie Watt is the Editorial Assistant at Texas Lifestyle Magazine and a graduate of St. Edward’s University in Austin, with a degree in Journalism. Watt is also a Lifestyle Producer at NBC-affiliate KXAN’s Studio 512. When she’s not writing, Watt enjoys singing, playing the guitar and doing volunteer work.