Thanks to Buggs “I should have made a left at Albuquirky” Bunny, a host of country songs, T.V. shows such as “In Plain Sight” and “Breaking Bad,” our busy movie industry and more than a few episodes of “The Simpsons,” Albuquerque has name recognition. But more and more, the Duke City is being recognized beyond pop culture for what it is – an incredibly diverse, major city that offers wonderful vacations, as well as a wonderful place to live. Much of that quality of life are the many attractions and things to do here. Our Native American history, geology and national laboratories make for first-rate museums that will wow even the most easily bored (where else can to see Spanish armor and nuclear bombs in one place?). Outdoor enthusiasts rave about our mountains for biking, running and climbing, and even skiing. Families have no problem finding something to please everyone, especially at the Rio Grande Zoo and BioPark. Will all that there is to do here, here’s a list of can’t miss attractions that await you.
The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque Balloon Museum at the Balloon Fiesta grounds celebrates the history and future of ballooning, for which Albuquerque is so known. Artifacts from ballooning’s past through recent world record breaking endeavors are displayed. Interactive activities explain the science and art of ballooning, including a balloon flight simulator. Enjoy the numerous art and photography exhibits.
There’s movie nights and story times for the kids. The Museumm presents a variety of fun events throughout the year for kids, adults and seniors.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Albuquerque is known at the ballooning capital of the world, and this museum showcases the fascinating history of lighter-than-air flight and its significance to modern times.
Steve’s expert tip: Located at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta launch field, this is a great place to visit after the balloons have all drifted away.
Just across from the Albuquerque Museum is ¡Explora!, an interactive, science-based children’s museum for kids of all ages. Learn about water dynamics, aviation, electronics, robots, physics and light through a variety of interactive exhibits that adults will enjoy as much as kids.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This hands-on educational museum will enthrall kids of all ages. Parents probably have the most fun here.
Steve’s expert tip: Sign up for free classes in robotics and computer programing.
If you like to time travel, visit the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (1801 Mountain Road NW, 505-841-2800). The newly updated museum boasts a new permanent Start Up! Albuquerque and the Personal Computer Revolution. Albuquerque was where the first personal computer, the Altair 8800, was made and sold. This attracted a young Bill Gates and Paul Allen to Albuquerque, who worked here before moving to Seattle and starting a little 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 Best Attractions & Activities because: From the dinosaurs that once roamed New Mexico to Albuquerque’s role in the development of the computer age, this museum will fascinate all members of the family.
Steve’s expert tip: See what’s playing in the IMAX theater. Kids will love the nature center.
Slither over to the International Rattlesnake Museum in Old Town (www.rattlesnakes.com, 202 San Felipe). The museum is a herpetologist’s dream, featuring our oft-misunderstood rattlesnakes, as well as other reptiles from around the world, all up close and personal in well-designed homes inches from your nose. The staff’s goal is to educate its visitors about these important creatures.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Far from a gimmick, this museum is a herpetologist’s dream and showcases a variety of reptile and amphibian species in an educational, respectful manner.
Steve’s expert tip: If time permits, the staff is more than happy to take some of the non-venomous residents out of their habitat for you.
The museum highlights the history of atomic energy, from its discovery to Los Alamos’s Manhattan Project and atomic weapons to peaceful uses for atomic energy such as nuclear medicine. A B-52 bomber and other aircraft are displayed on the grounds.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Excellent museum showcasing atomic energies importance to the development of Albuquerque, both for military and peaceful purposes.
Steve’s expert tip: Don’t miss the missile park outside.
More 1,000 animals call the Rio Grande Zoo home, including cheetahs, siamangs, elephants, seals, gators, many primates, and koalas. The reptile and amphibian house and the Tropical America buildings house all manner of snakes, frogs, tarantulas, and birds. From April-September, the zoo offers an array of special programs for both kids 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 botanic gardens, all located at the Albuquerque Biological Park. There are plenty of gift shops and food vendors throughout the park. Be advised that in accordance with City of Albuquerque law, smoking is prohibited on Zoo, Aquarium and Botanic Garden property.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This award-winning zoo is home to a variety of animals big and small, from Mexican Grey wolves to its newest resident, baby elephant Jazmine.
Steve’s expert tip: Check for special concerts and other family events, such as October’s Zoo Boo.
Examine traces of Albuquerque’s past at the Petroglyph National Monument on Albuquerque’s West Side, where centuries ago Native Americans meticulously pecked thousands of images into the rocks, their meanings known only to them. Jointly managed by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division, Petroglyph National Monument comprises 7,236-acres along 17 miles of Albuquerque’s west escarpment. About 150,000 years ago lava seeped from an enormous fissure here, covering the landscape like a prehistoric parking lot. Over time, cooling and erosion cracked the hardened lava. In many areas the frozen ripples of once-hot lava can be seen in rock fragments, looking like poured cake batter. A National Park Service visitor center and bookstore is located off of Unser Boulevard, but otherwise the expanse of open space is undeveloped save for interpretive signs and facilities along the few developed trails at Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon and the Volcanoes trails. Otherwise, silence and isolation are yours just minutes from the bustle of the city. (6001 Unser Blvd. NW, 505-899-0205, www.nps.gov/petr)
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This beautiful, peaceful, sacred landscape is only minutes from the city, and is still an important site to New Mexico’s Native Americans. Please visit with respect.
Steve’s expert tip: Makes a wonderful sunset stroll, but make sure you don’t get lost, carry a flashlight and keep your eyes out for rattlesnakes, though sightings are rare.
An excellent place for Albuquerque exploration is at the Albuquerque Museum History (2000 Mountain Road NW, 505-243-7255, www.cabq.gov/museum/). In addition to highlighting the Duke City’s history from pre-Spanish contact through the Civil War, a permanent art collection contains classic works by such luminaries as Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as changing New Mexico-related exhibits.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Great way to learn about Albuquerque’s past, from its Native American first residents to New Mexico’s artistic legacy.
Steve’s expert tip: Check for current exhibits, and make sure to tour the outdoor sculpture garden. Kids will love the interactive children’s area downstairs.
The Albuquerque Biopark is collectively a zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens linked together by the Rio Line, a narrow-gauge railroad that travels between the facilities. The Albuquerque zoo is award winning for its natural designs, 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 & Activities because: Excellent exhibits showcase the Rio Grande ecosystem as well as bringing impressive ocean specimens to land-locked New Mexico.
Steve’s expert tip: Grab lunch at the Shark Reef Cafe and watch sea turtles, sharks, and barracudas glide by while you eat.
Sandia Peak Tramway is the world’s longest aerial tram at 2.6 miles. The 20-minute journey has you gliding above the Sandia Wilderness and affords eagle views of New Mexico to the horizon. At the top, hike, snowshoe, ski, have dinner at High Finance Restaurant, or just take in the incredible view.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This is a great way to appreciate both the city of Albuquerque and the Sandia Wilderness, and an adventure the entire family can enjoy.
Steve’s expert tip: Time your trip to catch the sunset from 10,000 feet. Make sure to take a jacket, even in summer.
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