Why I went here? I decided on including this on the itinerary primarily because of the Petroglyph National Park, Indian Pueblo Center where I can learn more about Native American Indian tribes, and to quote my friend “so mother can get TWO magnets”.
Best time to visit? Summer and fall are the best seasons to visit. Summer has the majority of outdoor and family events and fall for the international balloon festival.
Best way to get there? Fly into Albuquerque (ABQ) airport and rent a car. It is a little bit difficult to go around town without your own vehicle. Besides, the views are scenic.
What to see/do? Begin your sightseeing in downtown Albuquerque, where the old Route 66 passes through. There are a few historical buildings and neon signs lining up the street, now called Central Ave. Head to Old Town Albuquerque next, a mere five-minute drive from the downtown area. This is where you can find the church of San Felipe de Neri, one of the oldest colonial churches still standing in the United States. Walk around the square to see some of the best-preserved and oldest pueblo style structures in New Mexico. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is also worth a visit, in my opinion. It is not a grand structure nor is it in prime location spot, but it is likely the most comprehensive compilation of information relating to the 19 Native American tribes that call New Mexico home, outside of visiting the pueblos themselves. There is also a decent café that serves traditional southwestern cuisine with lovely views of the Sandia mountain range. For those looking for some outdoor fun, spend a few hours in the Petroglyph National Monument and/or check out the Sandia Peak and Ski and Tramway. The former contains one of the highest concentrations of petroglyphs in North America. Petroglyphs are images of cultural and spiritual importance carved in stone by Native Americans and early Spanish settlers some 400-700 years back. Keep in mind that the hiking trails are unguided so make sure to stop by the Visitor Center prior to entering the park. The Sandia tram is a 2.7-mile vertical tram ride with unparalleled views of the Rio Grande valley. Upon reaching the summit, there are guided hiking trails you can take or you can just enjoy the breathtaking views.
Food and drinks: Albuquerque is not exactly a thriving foodie town. That distinction is reserved for its sister city 60 miles north, however, there are a couple of notables one should try when in Albuquerque. The first one is the hotel restaurant, Lucia, located in the historic Hotel Andaluz. The restaurant is not big and has a pretty decent and unique selection of southwestern offerings. Definitely try their tortilla soup. My three-course dinner here was around $40 with tax and a glass of wine so not terribly expensive. If you fancy an after dinner drink, head upstairs to Ibiza. It is likely the place to be seen in this “small” town. The décor is modern chic and the drink prices are reasonable. For a more casual and thoroughly different dining experience, have brunch at the Pueblo Harvest Café located in the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. The menu here is local southwestern cuisine. They have pueblo events related events on certain days, jazz on Sundays, and the patio has great views of the Sandia mountain range. Get an order of fry bread and try it with red and green sauce.
Where to sleep? My visit here was rather short to begin with so I decided to stay close to the airport for convenience. I opted for the Town Place Suites and was very pleased with it. The service was thoroughly welcoming and the rooms were spacious and clean. The breakfast that came with it was standard continental, so nothing to brag about, although they did serve Starbucks coffee. The location is very accessible to the freeway and is only a 10-minute drive from downtown Albuquerque. Room rates range from $59-$120. I will definitely consider staying here again.
Day Trips: If you only have a few days to spare in Albuquerque, consider heading up to Santa Fe for a day. The commute has never been easier, or cheaper with New Mexico Rail Runner service. Also consider visiting one of the Native American pueblos. New Mexico is also home to 19 of them and there are several within a 50 mile radius of Albuquerque. The two closest ones are Sandia and Isleta pueblos.
Why I would go back? A return visit is warranted if only to experience the International Balloon Festival. It is the largest congregation of hot air balloons in the world.