Albuquerque is the most populous city in the state of New Mexico and a fascinating mix between Spanish colonial and Native American cultures. Better still, its surroundings feature imposing peaks and stunning desert landscapes. On this basis, here are the best things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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Welcome to Albuquerque: New Mexico’s Cultural and Economic Hub
Albuquerque was founded in 1706 as an outpost of the Spanish Empire, linking Mexico City with the Empire’s northernmost territories. At the end of the Mexican-American War (1848), the United States annexed the modern-day region of New Mexico.
The current state of New Mexico was a US territory between 1848 and 1912 – when it was admitted to the Union as a fully-fledged state.
Today, Albuquerque is the state capital of New Mexico and its most populous city. It’s home to a variety of universities – as well as technological centers,
Apart from that, Albuquerque’s stunning surroundings make it an attractive destination for tourists from all over the country.
Internationally, Albuquerque is well-known thanks to the TV series Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. And if I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t have stopped here on my Atlanta-LA road trip if I hadn’t seen these series.
After visiting the city and surroundings, however, I can safely say that there are a lot of things to see in Albuquerque – and that New Mexico’s state capital is undoubtedly worth a stop.
On this basis, here are the best things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Best Things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico
The city is highly sprawling, and most of the top things to see in Albuquerque are quite far away from each. As such, a car is indispensable when visiting Albuquerque.
Start your Albuquerque visit in the Old Town (downtown) before making your way to places further out.
Explore Albuquerque’s Historic Old Town
One of the top places to visit in Albuquerque is the city’s old town. Founded in 1706, the area is brimming with adobe buildings, little shops, and restaurants. It’s also home to the city’s oldest building, San Felipe de Neri Church (1793).
Ascend the Sandia Peak by Using the Tram
The Sandia Peak is one of the most jaw-dropping natural sights in the vicinity of Albuquerque.
The best way to get up is to take the Sandia Peak Tram, a modern cable car system that will get you to the 10,378-foot (3,163m) high peak in great comfort.
At the top, you can enjoy one of the many hiking trails and also ski in winter.
Learn About Native American Culture at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
The Pueblo Cultural Center is one of the best places to visit in Albuquerque as it offers tourists and locals a chance to learn something about the unique Indian Pueblo culture.
The center explains the Pueblo history, showcases their pottery and art, and offers classes about Native American culture.
Expand Your Knowledge in the Best Museums in Albuquerque
Apart from the Pueblo Cultural Center, other museums are well worth a stop.
In this context, the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, the Explora Science Center, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, the Albuquerque Museum, and the Balloon Museum are worthy additions to any Albuquerque itinerary.
Marvel at the Petroglyph National Monument
When it comes to the best things to do in Albuquerque, visiting the Petroglyph National Monument is a must.
Located on the western outskirts of the city, the monument features more than 15,000 prehistoric and historic Native American and Hispanic Petroglyphs.
Go on a Tour of the Best Breaking Bad Locations in Albuquerque
If you’ve seen Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, you’ll be interested in checking out some of the series’ most iconic locations. In the video below, I go on a tour of the most well-known filming locations and also check out Sandia Peak.
If you don’t have a lot of time for Breaking Bad locations in Albuquerque, I recommend breakfast at Loyola’s and dinner at Twister’s (the Pollos Hermanos restaurant).
See the Stunning Surroundings From a Hot Air Balloon
Even when the Balloon Fiesta isn’t on, there are many ways to take a hot air balloon in the city, and seeing the beautiful landscapes from above is undoubtedly among the top things to do in Albuquerque.
Rainbow Ryders is one of the best companies to take a hot air balloon in Albuquerque.
Go for a Stroll at ABQ Biopark
ABQ Biopark has been a zoo since 1927 and hosts over 200 animal species.
It’s one of the best places to go in Albuquerque for a stroll and its conservation efforts play a crucial role in helping protect local wildlife.
Shop at Coronado Center
If you want to go shopping, Coronado Center is one of the best malls in Albuquerque. Compared to other big cities in the US, I found the prices here super-affordable, especially when it comes to fashion.
Santa Fe and White Sands: Day Trips from Albuquerque
Finally, visiting Albuquerque will allow you to travel around the gorgeous state of New Mexico.
In this context, the historic city of Santa Fe (about one hour away) and the stunning White Sands National Park (about 3.5 hours away) are two of the best day trips from Albuquerque.
Where to Stay in Albuquerque
When it comes to the best neighborhoods in Albuquerque, two work well for short-term visitors.
First, Historic Old Town and Downtown are great in terms of location.
Secondly, Midtown’s strategic location and proximity to the University of New Mexico University make it an excellent place to stay as well.
I stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton Downtown and would recommend it.
Nothing is walkable in the city, so as long as you are in one of the safe places to stay in Albuquerque, any major hotel chain will do. Find more places to stay in Albuquerque here.
Things to do in Albuquerque: Know Before You Go
Albuquerque isn’t the safest city in the US. Objectively, New Mexico has one of the highest crime rates in the country and subjectively, I saw huge disparities between the city’s wealthy and not-so-wealthy neighborhoods.
Always keep your wits about you and don’t walk around too much at night. In that same vein, choose a hotel in a safe neighborhood like Historic Old Town or Midtown/Nob Hill.
How to Get to Albuquerque
Albuquerque’s international airport has daily flights to most large US airports as well as some cities in Mexico and Canada.
Albuquerque is also reachable by rail as a stop on the Southwest Chief traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Finally, Albuquerque is well-connected in terms of highways in every direction.
How to Get Around Albuquerque
Three ways to get around Albuquerque: cars, cars, and more cars.
The Best Time to Visit Albuquerque
You can enjoy the city year-round even though the winter months are cold.
The best time to visit Albuquerque are arguably September to November when the weather is pleasant and the festival season is on.