Pavilion at Old Town Plaza, Albuquerque – Photo courtesy of JoelK75
What better way to learn about Albuquerque, NM and its surrounds than knowing its history? Plan a day trip for you and your family to discover the people and cultures that have made this unique city what it is today.
Get an early start in historic Old Town Albuquerque, where the city began over 300 years ago, with a guided tour or on your own. You will see highlights such as the pavilion and the focal point of the plaza, the Church of San Felipe de Neri.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center — Photo courtesy of Mr. T in DC
Next, visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and gain more insight into New Mexico’s 19 pueblos through art, photography, and historical exhibits. One of these pueblos is Acoma, where people have lived continuously for 800 years, making it one of the oldest communities in the United States.
But before you head out to visit this fascinating place, grab a bite to eat at the Pueblo Harvest Cafe and sample dishes influenced by the heritage of the Pueblo peoples.
The author and her son visit Acoma Pueblo — Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren
West of Albuquerque, just about an hour off I-40, is Acoma Pueblo, known as the “Sky City.” Sky City is aptly named because its native residents live on a mesa several hundred feet high. It can only be reached by the tour bus, which starts at the museum. The city’s architecture and the surrounding views are an unforgettable sight for young and old alike.
The Road to Acoma Pueblo — Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren
Buy tickets for a guided tour of the Haak’u Museum at the Sky City Cultural Center and shop at the Gaits’i Indian Art Gallery for turquoise jewellery, Acoma pottery and other beautiful works of art. Board the bus and be amazed as you climb the steep road to the pueblo, perched on a 367-foot sandstone bluff.
An impressive focal point is the Mission Church of San Esteban Del Rey, built in 1641. Your guide will spend an hour explaining the history of these peoples and their early battles.
Make sure you bring a camera for the gorgeous surrounding scenery – remember locals don’t like taking photos without permission.
Author’s mother and son buy pottery at Acoma — Photo courtesy Jennifer Boren
In the pueblo there are several opportunities to buy pottery (each pueblo has its own style) from local people. Check the calendar as there are several special festival days throughout the year celebrating Acoma’s patron saints with food and dance.
Acoma Pueblo Homes — Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren
The size of some of the older doors is fascinating and suggests how small the Pueblo people must have been years ago. Many ladders are leaning against the buildings, providing a way up to the second floor.
Only a handful of natives live year-round on the mesa. Many from the nearby reservation visit the family on weekends. The thousands of tourists who visit are asked to remember they are visiting someone’s home and to behave accordingly.
Enchanted Mesa, near Acoma Pueblo — Photo courtesy Jennifer Boren
The nearby Enchanted Mesa can be seen from Acoma Pueblo. According to legend, this monolith was once home to the Acoma until a severe storm and landslide destroyed the only way to access it – a stone ladder. Arrowheads, beads, and pottery fragments were found on this 437-foot dome.
Discovering a horno where bread is baked — Photo courtesy Jennifer Boren
Families of all ages will enjoy a day trip to Acoma Pueblo where the local customs and culture can be experienced along with their way of life and beautiful surroundings. Back at the cultural center below, a gift shop and cafe complete your day’s adventure before returning to Albuquerque.