Great Things to do in Albuquerque

So many states in the US are true hidden gems. In my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, I’ve been able to visit some of the lesser visited states and found out just how much of a hidden gem they truly are.

New Mexico is definitely one of these states. If you love history, the outdoors and some Mexican culture, then you must book a trip to New Mexico. Albuquerque and Santa Fe are just an hour apart and make for a great long weekend trip.

I spent the majority of my trip in New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque and there was so much to see and do in and around the city.

Old Town Albuquerque

Old Town Plaza

Full of history and culture, Old Town Albuquerque is a must visit! While the Albuquerque area has been occupied for thousands of years, it wasn’t until 1706 when Albuquerque officially became a city. At that time, it was under Spanish rule. In 1821, during the Mexican War of Independence, Albuquerque and the rest of New Mexico Territory became under the rule of Mexico. During the Mexican-American War in 1846, the US took control of New Mexico Territory and then in 1912, New Mexico became the 47th state of the United States of America.

Old Town Albuquerque celebrates the rich history of Albuquerque. The three flags from Spain, Mexico and the United States are flown in Old Town to signify the three countries that it was a part of. Old Town was where the city got its start back in 1706 and it’s very evident when you walk around the area. The centerpiece of the city was the Old Town Plaza which was surrounded by homes and buildings made of adobe. As you walk thru Old Town you can still see that the Plaza is the focal point and it’s not only beautiful to see during the day, but it’s definitely not to be missed at night when it’s lit up.

While most of the buildings in Old Town date back to the late 1800s or later, there is one building that while it has been remodeled since, dates back to 1793. This is the San Felipe de Neri Church. This church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the New Mexico Register of Cultural Properties. While the building that you see today dates back to 1793 when New Mexico was under Spanish rule, it’s actually the second building on this site. The first church was built in 1706 when Albuquerque was formed but collapsed in the winter of 1792-1793.

San Felipe de Neri Church is a beautiful piece of architecture mixing in the traditional adobe walls with Victorian and Gothic Revival elements.

Along with the history in Old Town, you will find restaurants and independent shops, not just selling your typical souvenirs but also beautiful locally made products. I was slightly disappointed to see so many empty store fronts and closed restaurants, a sad result of the pandemic. But there was still plenty to see, and you could definitely feel and see the Mexican Influence throughout Old Town, which I absolutely loved, it somewhat made me feel as if I was no longer in the US.

Scattered throughout Old Town there are little side alleys called patios. These patios would include a number of stores and would have fountains, plants and decorations. They were truly beautiful to see.

Albuquerque Ghost Tour

I recommend visiting Old Town in the late afternoon to walk around and do some shopping and then grab dinner. Then you must take a Ghost Tour of Old Town Albuquerque.

Offered nightly at 8pm and 10pm, these ghost stories you will hear on the tour have been heard on such tv shows as the Travel Channel’s Dead Files. In fact, the Travel Channel has called New Mexico the haunted capital of the Southwest and with so much history dating back thousands of years, it’s no wonder!

On the tour, you will hear of ghosts that have been seen in Old Town such as the civil war soldier on his horse, a future bride who was cheated on and known as the hatchet lady, and a prostitute who was killed in a house across from the Plaza. The spookiest thing to me was the burial ground that was 15 feet below Old Town where ghost hunters came and actually heard voices from the ground as if the spirits were speaking to them.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it’s an interesting tour to take and brings out some of the history of Old Town as well. Make sure to make your reservations in advance if you can, for this not to be missed tour.

Sandia Peak Tramway

New Mexico has some beautiful scenery and when visiting Albuquerque, you must get out of downtown and head to the Sandia Mountains. Located just east of the city, the Sandia Mountains are just a quick 20-minute ride from downtown.

I never really think about how they come up with names for such things as mountain ranges, but it was pretty interesting to hear the reason behind the name Sandia Mountains. The word sandia means watermelon in Spanish, and at sunset, these mountains turn a pink hue from the setting sun shining on them which reminded them of the color of a watermelon, hence the name Sandia Mountains.

The Sandia Mountains offer your typical mountain activities like hiking trails and even the Sandia Peak Ski Area. Unfortunately, due to a lack of snow and shortage of staff the Sandia Peak Ski Area will remain closed for the 2022/2023 season. This will mark the second year in a row it will be closed.

The big attraction in the Sandia Mountains though is definitely the Sandia Peak Tramway. The tramway opened in 1966 and was the longest aerial tram in the world until 2010 when it lost that title to a new aerial tram in Armenia. To this day it’s still the longest aerial tram in the Americas. The tramway covers 2.7 miles starting at 5,000 feet and rising to the top of the mountain at 10,378 feet. The ride up takes about 15 minutes and passes two towers, the distance between the second tower and the top is a mile and a half. It’s quite the impressive ride up there. As I’m sure you can imagine, the tram is fairly high above the ground as well. At one point the guide in the tram said that we were so high off the ground that you could fit the Eifel Tower between the tram and the ground below.

The 15-minute ride up the mountain seems relatively short, but imagine if you got stuck on your way down just like what happened to a number of the employees of the tramway and the restaurant on top of the mountain did this past New Year’s Eve? A winter storm caused a cable to ice over and caused the tram to stop on its way down the mountain after the New Year’s Eve festivities. The 21 people were stuck in the unheated tram overnight. They were not alone though; they were also stuck on there with the trash from the restaurant that they were bringing down the mountain at the end of the night, just to make the situation not only cold and scary but also probably a bit smelly.

They were able to get the tram to one of the towers where they used helicopters to rescue the people and bring them to a clearing and then they hiked down the mountain. It took 12 hours before they were rescued and down the mountain. According to the guide, of the 21 people, all but 5 (who all still work there) of them pretty much quit immediately. Quite the scary experience!

Definitely do not let that unusual experience scare you away from taking the tramway. The tram is closed every Tuesday for regular maintenance, and they are closed for two weeks in April and November of each year for more extensive maintenance. The New Year’s Eve event was obviously a rare event due to the weather, in fact they do close for bad weather like ice, wind and thunderstorms, so always check the website before heading there.

Once on top of the mountain, the views are absolutely stunning and definitely worth the ride up, especially if you happen to visit in the fall.

The Ten3 Restaurant is located up top and a great place to grab a meal or a drink. They offer lunch in the bar area and in the evenings, they serve dinner in their fine dining restaurant.

When you head back down the mountain, make sure to check out the gift shop and also take a look at the photos on the wall with the history of the tramway, they were pretty interesting to see.

Street Art and Other Interesting Things to See Downtown

Street art is becoming more and more popular in cities around the world and Albuquerque is no different. Compared to other downtown areas, downtown Albuquerque was a bit quiet which made it the perfect place to walk around and enjoy the street art.

From your typical street art to Mexican inspired street art, there was plenty to see as you walk thru downtown. Just take a walk thru downtown and you’re sure to come across quite a few pieces.

Street art is not the only interesting thing to see while walking around downtown. If you happen to be in the convention center, make sure to check out the statue in honor or the famous tv show Breaking Bad which was filmed right here in Albuquerque. I did enjoy the show, but the convention center did seem like an odd spot for the statue.

Breaking Bad is not the only celebrity connection to Albuquerque. Such well known people as actor Neil Patrick Harris and the Founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos were born in Albuquerque. In the Doubletree Hotel, which is connected to the convention center, they have a large mural featuring all the well-known people, places and events associated with Albuquerque.

Albuquerque Beer Tour

If you are a beer lover, then Albuquerque is the place for you. Albuquerque has over 30 craft breweries for you to explore. A great way to check out a few of the best is to take the ABQ Beer Tour. Run by a retired history teacher and homebrewer, Gordon will take you to a few different breweries in town where you will be given a flight at each brewery. Also at each brewery, he will show you each brewery’s brewing process.

It’s a great way to try and learn about some of the local breweries in town. We started off the tour at Gravity Bound Brewery. This local brewery was started by two brothers and focuses on sustainability and also brews kombucha. They also have an award-winning IPA that is a must try!

Next, we went to the Craftroom which is located in an interesting location that oddly enough, many breweries around the country seem to end up in at the start, an office park. While it might be a difficult location to find, I’m sure it gets rather busy with the after-work crowd from the office park. They specialize not just in beer, but ciders as well.

For our final stop we headed to High and Dry Brewing. This small local brewery focuses on small batch brewing and has a passion for the local community and culture. While we were there, they were hosting an open mic night which was definitely interesting.

A beer tour is a great way to help and support local businesses while traveling and definitely a relaxing way to enjoy a city.

Albuquerque – so much to see and do

These are just a few of the many great things you can experience in this wonderful city of Albuquerque. From history to the great outdoors to art to beer, there is something for everyone. Are you ready to plan your trip there?

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