New Mexico has been high on my list of states to visit for a few years now and this June, I finally got a chance to check it off (only eight more to go!) Before our trip, when I thought about what to do in Albuquerque, all I knew about was the hot air balloon festival in the fall and nearby Native American pueblos. It took some research from some of my favorite bloggers and friends to come up with our list of things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which I’m happy to share with you.
We started off our New Mexico road trip in the south, after driving over from Tucson to Las Cruces, New Mexico. After a fantastic visit to White Sands National Monument and a tour of Spaceport, we spent the night in Truth or Consequences, before heading up to Albuquerque. On the way, we stopped off at the Very Large Array, home to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a perfect detour for my astronomy buff.
All these stops left us with only 24 hours in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so we needed to pack a lot into just one day. Next time I hope to see a bit more of Albuquerque and also get further north and explore Santa Fe.
What to do in Albuquerque New Mexico
Note: Our trip was hosted by Visit Albuquerque and Nativo Lodge, including accommodations and entrance to attractions. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission.
Where to Stay in Albuquerque
We were hosted at the Nativo Lodge, which is conveniently located just off of the highway and features “artist” rooms with paintings from local Native American artists (like our Star Wars-themed room.) However, I think I would have preferred to stay in a downtown location, where we could walk to Old Town or other attractions, such as the Hotel Albuquerque, or the Hotel Parq Central (recommended by a friend.)
You can also enjoy more space with an Airbnb such as those offered by Coveted Casitas.
Morning in Albuquerque
If you are visiting Albuquerque in the summer, I would recommend getting an early start to beat the heat. We fueled up with fresh juices at Juice It Up, which was located right near our hotel (but they have multiple locations.)
We then headed over to the Petroglyph National Monument Visitor Center. While you can see hundreds of petroglyphs carved by Native American and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago, you won’t find any of them at the visitor center. But that is ok, because the rangers there will help you figure out what trails you want to follow and direct you to those locations.
Boca Negra Canyon is perfect for families that don’t want to spend the day on the trails, or for those with limited time. There are three short trails with 100 petroglyphs that you can cover in an hour. Just keep in mind that one is a pretty steep hike without any barriers between the trail and the edge of the mountain. However, once you get to the top you are rewarded with views across Albuquerque.
For this with more time, you can head to Rinconada Canyon, which has 300 petroglyphs over a 2.2 mile desert hike. Or, Piedras Marcadas Canyon is a 1.5 hour loop featuring 300 petroglyphs.
After your hike, I would suggest cooling off with a visit to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. This beautiful museum in downtown Albuquerque provides insight into the 19 Indian Pueblos of New Mexico.
Lunch in Albuquerque
El Pinto has been voted the Best New Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque and it is a clearly an Albuquerque landmark. They say they have the “best nachos in America,” but I’d say go for the chili con queso. There is abundant seating inside and outside on the shaded patio, making it a nice spot for a mid-day meal or dinner.
If you prefer to stay in town, try the Church Street Cafe in Old Town, which has a mix of sandwiches, salads, and New Mexican entrees.
Afternoon in Albuquerque
Spend the afternoon exploring the 100 specialty shops and galleries that cover the 10 blocks of historic buildings in Old Town Albuquerque. Be sure to poke down the side alleys, where the quaint architecture is as appealing as the shops within. If you get tired of gift shops, peek your head into the San Felipe de Neri Church, which was built in 1793 or people watch in the central plaza.
When the sun begins to dip, head out to the Sandia Peak Tramway. The 2.7 mile Tramway is not for those afraid of heights, but it will give you amazing views of the city and beyond. In fact, you can see eight percent of New Mexico from the top. The ride takes 15 minutes each way. At the top, there is a small visitor center with overlooks across both sides of the mountain. You may be able to hike down or part way, weather permitting. When we were there, all trails were closed because of high risk of forest fires.
Dinner in Albuquerque
When you come down the mountain, head over to Devon’s Wood Fired Grill. This gastropub has an excellent selection of craft beers, specialty sodas, and upscale comfort foods. Be sure to order the pork belly bao bao buns and tater tots!
- Extend your trip to include a visit to White Sands National Monument
- Find out more things to do in Albuquerque from my friend Kim
- Along for the Trip also has some good ideas for what to do with kids in Albuquerque
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