Thanks to Bugg’s “I’d have been at Albuquirky” bunny, a plethora of country songs, TV shows like In Plain Sight and Breaking Bad, our busy movie industry, and more than a few episodes of The Simpsons, Albuquerque has one notoriety. But more and more, Duke City is being recognized beyond pop culture for what it is – an incredibly diverse metropolis that offers both a wonderful vacation and a wonderful place to live. A big part of this quality of life is the many attractions and activities here. Our Native American history, geology and national laboratories make for top-notch museums that will impress even the most bored (where else can you see Spanish armor and atomic bombs in one place?). Outdoor enthusiasts rave about our mountains for biking, running, climbing and even skiing. Families will have no problem finding something for everyone, especially at the Rio Grande Zoo and BioPark. Here’s everything there is to do here, here’s a list of the attractions that await you.
Located on the grounds of the Balloon Fiesta, the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque Balloon Museum celebrates the history and future of the ballooning that Albuquerque is so well known for. Artifacts from ballooning’s past to recent efforts to break world records are on display. Interactive activities explain the science and art of ballooning, including a balloon flight simulator. Enjoy the numerous art and photo exhibitions. There are movie nights and storytelling hours for the kids. The museum offers a variety of fun events for children, adults and seniors throughout the year.
Recommended for The best attractions and activities because: Albuquerque is known as the ballooning capital of the world, and this museum showcases the fascinating history of lighter-than-air flight and its relevance to modern times.
Steve’s expert tip: Located at the launch site for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, this is a great place to visit after the balloons have all flown away.
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Just across from the Albuquerque Museum is ¡Explora!, an interactive science-based children’s museum for kids of all ages. Learn about water dynamics, aeronautics, electronics, robots, physics, and light through a variety of interactive exhibits that are as fun for adults as they are for children.
Recommended for The best attractions and activities because: This hands-on educational museum will delight children of all ages. Parents probably have the most fun here.
Steve’s expert tip: Sign up for free courses in robotics and computer programming.
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If you enjoy time travel, visit the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (1801 Mountain Road NW, 505-841-2800). The newly updated museum features a new permanent Start Up! Albuquerque and the Personal Computer Revolution. The first personal computer, the Altair 8800, was manufactured and sold in Albuquerque. This drew a young Bill Gates and Paul Allen to Albuquerque who worked here before moving to Seattle and starting a small company called Microsoft. Of course, the museum goes from Bytes to Bones and features all aspects of New Mexico’s natural history, including colossal skeletons of dinosaurs that roamed here.
Recommended for The best attractions and activities because: From the dinosaurs that once roamed New Mexico to Albuquerque’s role in developing the computer age, this museum will fascinate all members of the family.
Steve’s expert tip: See what’s on at the IMAX theater. Kids will love the nature center.
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Stroll over to the International Rattlesnake Museum in Old Town (www.rattlesnakes.com, 202 San Felipe). The museum is a herpetologist’s dream, with our often misunderstood rattlesnakes as well as other reptiles from around the world up close and personal in well designed houses just inches from your nose. The goal of the staff is to educate its visitors about these important creatures.
Recommended for The best attractions and activities because: Far from a gimmick, this museum is a herpetologist’s dream, displaying a wide variety of reptile and amphibian species in an educational and respectful manner.
Steve’s expert tip: Time permitting, the staff will be more than happy to retrieve some of the non-toxic residents from their habitat for you.
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Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History
The museum sheds light on the history of atomic energy, from its discovery to the Los Alamos Manhattan Project and nuclear weapons to the peaceful uses of atomic energy such as nuclear medicine. A B-52 bomber and other aircraft are on display at the site.
Recommended for The best attractions and activities because: Excellent museum showing the importance of atomic energy in the development of Albuquerque for both military and peaceful uses.
Steve’s expert tip: Don’t miss the rocket park outside.
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The Rio Grande Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals, including cheetahs, siamangs, elephants, seals, alligators, many primates and koalas. The reptile and amphibian house and the Tropical America buildings house all kinds of snakes, frogs, tarantulas and birds. From April through September, the zoo offers a number of special programs for children and adults, including lectures, animal shows, craft workshops, storytelling, and a summer concert series. For a full day of fun, visit the zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens, all located within the Albuquerque Biological Park. There are many gift shops and food stands throughout the park. Please note that under Albuquerque City law, smoking is not permitted on the premises of the Zoo, Aquarium and Botanical Gardens.
Recommended for The best attractions and activities because: This award-winning zoo is home to a variety of animals large and small, from Mexican gray wolves to its newest resident, baby elephant Jazmine.
Steve’s expert tip: Look for special concerts and other family events, such as B. Zoo Boo in October.
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Investigate the traces of Albuquerque’s past at the Petroglyph National Monument on Albuquerque’s west side, where centuries ago Native Americans meticulously carved thousands of images into the rocks, meanings known only to them. Jointly managed by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque’s Open Space Division, the Petroglyph National Monument covers 7,236 acres along 17 miles of Albuquerque’s western flank. Around 150,000 years ago, lava oozed out of a huge fissure here, covering the landscape like a prehistoric parking lot. Over time, cooling and erosion ruptured the hardened lava. In many areas, the frozen waves of once-hot lava can be seen in rock fragments that look like cast cake batter. A National Park Service visitor center and bookstore are located on Our Boulevard, but otherwise the expanse of open space is undeveloped except for signage and facilities along the few developed trails in Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, and the Volcanoes Trails. Otherwise, tranquility and seclusion are just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city. (6001 Our Blvd. NW, 505-899-0205, www.nps.gov/petr)
Recommended for The best attractions and activities because: This beautiful, peaceful, sacred landscape is just minutes from the city and is still an important site for New Mexico’s Native Americans. Please visit with respect.
Steve’s expert tip: Makes a wonderful sunset walk but make sure you don’t get lost, carry a flashlight and keep an eye out for rattlesnakes although sightings are rare.
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Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Museum
An excellent place for exploring Albuquerque is the Albuquerque Museum History (2000 Mountain Road NW, 505-243-7255, www.cabq.gov/museum/). In addition to highlighting Duke City’s history from pre-Hispanic contact through the Civil War, a permanent art collection includes classic works by luminaries like Georgia O’Keeffe as well as rotating exhibits related to New Mexico.
Recommended for The best attractions and activities because: A great way to learn about Albuquerque’s past, from the early Native Americans to New Mexico’s artistic legacy.
Steve’s expert tip: Look for current exhibits and be sure to visit the outdoor sculpture garden. Children will love the interactive children’s area on the ground floor.
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Albuquerque Biopark is a zoo, aquarium, and botanical garden connected by the Rio Line, a narrow-gauge railway that runs between facilities. The Albuquerque Zoo is award-winning for its natural design, and the aquarium features a 285,000-gallon marine aquarium where sharks and sea turtles glide past viewers (www.cabq.gov/biopark).
Recommended for The best attractions and activities because: Excellent exhibits showcase the Rio Grande ecosystem and bring impressive specimens of the ocean to inland New Mexico.
Steve’s expert tip: Have lunch at the Shark Reef Cafe and watch sea turtles, sharks and barracuda while eating.
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Sandia Peak Tramway is the longest aerial tramway in the world at 2.6 miles. The 20-minute drive glides you over the Sandia Wilderness and offers eagle views of New Mexico to the horizon. At the top you can hike, snowshoe, ski, have dinner at High Finance Restaurant or just enjoy the incredible views.
Recommended for The best attractions and activities because: This is a great way to learn about both the city of Albuquerque and the Sandia Wilderness, and an adventure for the whole family.
Steve’s expert tip: Plan your trip to enjoy the sunset from 10,000 feet. Take a jacket with you, even in summer.
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