Thanks to Bugg’s “I should have turned left on 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 is known. 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. We owe a large part of this quality of life to the many attractions and things to do here. Our Native American history, geology and national laboratories are top-notch museums that will delight 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 is a list of attractions not to be missed.
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. Artefacts from ballooning’s past to recent world record attempts 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 story hours for the kids. The museum offers a variety of fun events for children, adults and seniors throughout the year.
Recommended for Best attractions and activities Because: Albuquerque is known as the Balloon 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 on the launch site for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, this is a great place to visit after all the balloons are gone.
Read more about the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque Balloon Museum →
Directly across from the Albuquerque Museum is ¡Explora!, an interactive, science-based children’s museum for children of all ages. Learn about water dynamics, aeronautics, electronics, robots, physics and light through a variety of interactive exhibits that adults will enjoy just as much as children.
Recommended for 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 modernized 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 lured young Bill Gates and Paul Allen to Albuquerque, who worked here before moving to Seattle and starting a small company called Microsoft. Of course, ranging from bytes to bones, the museum displays all aspects of New Mexico’s natural history, including colossal skeletons of dinosaurs that roamed here.
Recommended for 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.
Read more about the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science →
Stroll to the International Rattlesnakes Museum in Old Town (www.rattlesnakes.com, 202 San Felipe). A herpetologist’s dream, the museum brings our often-misunderstood rattlesnakes, as well as other reptiles from around the world, up close and personal in well-designed homes just inches from your nose. The staff aim to educate visitors about these important creatures.
Recommended for Best attractions and activities Because: Far from being a gimmick, this museum is every herpetologist’s dream, presenting a wide variety of reptile and amphibian species in an educational and respectful manner.
Steve’s expert tip: If time permits, the staff is more than happy to take some of the non-toxic residents out of their habitat for you.
Read more about the American International Rattlesnake Museum →
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 peaceful uses of atomic energy such as nuclear medicine. A B-52 bomber and other aircraft are on display at the site.
Recommended for Best attractions and activities Because: Excellent museum showing the importance of atomic energy in Albuquerque’s development, both for military and peaceful purposes.
Steve’s expert tip: Don’t miss the rocket park outside.
Read more about the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History →
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 Albuquerque Biological Park. There are numerous gift shops and food vendors throughout the park. Please note that under Albuquerque City law, smoking is prohibited on the grounds of the Zoo, Aquarium and Botanical Gardens.
Recommended for Best attractions and activities Because: This award-winning zoo is home to a variety of animals, big 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 Zoo Boo in October.
Read more about the ABQ BioPark Zoo →
Investigate traces of Albuquerque’s past at Petroglyph National Monument on Albuquerque’s west side, where centuries ago Native Americans painstakingly 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 hectares along 17 miles of Albuquerque’s western slope. Around 150,000 years ago, lava oozed out of a huge fissure here, covering the landscape like a prehistoric parking lot. Over time, the solidified lava ruptured through cooling and erosion. 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 open space is undeveloped except for signage and facilities along the few developed trails at Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, and the Volcanoes Trails. Otherwise, enjoy peace and seclusion just minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city. (6001 Our Blvd. NW, 505-899-0205, www.nps.gov/petr)
Recommended for Best attractions and activities Because: Located just minutes from the city, this beautiful, peaceful, sacred landscape is still an important site for New Mexico’s Native Americans. Please visit us with respect.
Steve’s expert tip: A wonderful walk at sunset but make sure you don’t get lost, bring a flashlight and keep an eye out for rattlesnakes although sightings are rare.
Read more about the Petroglyph National Monument →
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/). A permanent art collection not only highlights Duke City’s history from pre-Hispanic contact to the Civil War, but also includes classic works by luminaries such as Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as rotating exhibits related to New Mexico.
Recommended for Best attractions and activities Because: Great way to learn about Albuquerque’s past, from the early Native Americans to New Mexico’s artistic heritage.
Steve’s expert tip: Look for current exhibitions and be sure to check out the outdoor sculpture garden. Children will love the interactive children’s area on the ground floor.
Read more about the Albuquerque Museum →
The Albuquerque Biopark consists of a zoo, aquarium, and botanical garden connected by the Rio Line, a narrow-gauge railway that runs between the facilities. The Albuquerque Zoo is award-winning for its natural design and the aquarium features a 285,000-gallon ocean aquarium where sharks and sea turtles glide past viewers (www.cabq.gov/biopark).
Recommended for Best attractions and activities Because: Outstanding exhibits showcase the ecosystem of the Rio Grande and bring impressive marine specimens to inland New Mexico.
Steve’s expert tip: Have lunch at the Shark Reef Café and watch sea turtles, sharks and barracuda glide by as you eat.
Read more about the ABQ BioPark Aquarium →
At 2.6 miles, the Sandia Peak Tramway is the longest aerial tramway in the world. The 20 minute drive glides over the Sandia Wilderness and offers eagle views of New Mexico to the horizon. Once at the top you can hike, snowshoe or ski, have dinner at the High Finance Restaurant or simply enjoy the incredible views.
Recommended for 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 the whole family can enjoy.
Steve’s expert tip: Plan your trip to capture the sunset from 10,000 feet. Be sure to take a jacket with you, even in summer.
Read more about the Sandia Peak Tramway →