Nestled at the base of the Sandia Mountains, the sprawling city of Albuquerque is a gorgeous place to warm up in the cooler months, with an average of nearly 300 sunny days a year—and when we say “sunny,” we mean strong, gleaming sun and completely clear skies. The airport is even named for it—the Albuquerque International Sunport (which, by the way, is a quaint and easy airport to get in and out of). It only needs to be 40 degrees to enjoy a sunny patio sit and be completely comfortable at the many breweries and New Mexican joints. Take a hike, ride a hot air balloon, eat some chile, and enjoy the unique desert landscape and open skies of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
14. Hike the Sandias
The Sandia Mountains rise over the Albuquerque metro to the east and are named (translation: watermelon) for the pink color they take on in the evening sunset. Packed with trails and views, the Sandias are a great way to get out of the city and enjoy some fresh air and the unique desert-forest atmosphere. Whether hiking from the tram, from the base, or around the backside of the range, trails are ample in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness and Cibola National Forest. Wherever you find yourself—don’t forget a hat and sunscreen.
13. Spot the Petroglyphs
For another chance to be outside with a little history mixed in, don’t miss the Petroglyphs National Monument on the west side of the city. Great for a short, flat walk to catch some rays that are great for all ages, the outdoor monument offers glimpses of ancient petroglyphs, which are artwork and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers more than 500 years ago. The Park has several options for walks and entrances, so pick the one that suits your group (noting that dogs are only allowed on certain trails), bring your sunscreen, and be sure to cover your valuables as the parking lots have a dicey history of break-ins.
12. Explore the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History
(image via National Museum of Nuclear Science & History)
The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History covers everything from the beginnings of nuclear science to the speculative future of where the field may be headed. Along the way, exhibits examine the politics of WWII and the use of nuclear weapons as well as the build-up of arsenals during the Cold War. The Heritage park nine-acre outdoor exhibit area that displays atomic cannons, containers and casings, planes, and a replica of Trinity Tower (from the first nuclear weapons explosion). Tickets to the museum are $15 dollars for adults. Various discounts are offered for seniors, children, veterans, and active military members.
11. Drive Yourself on a ‘Breaking Bad’ Tour
(image via Twisters Burgers and Burritos)
For fans of the award-winning TV series Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Albuquerque is the place to be to see all the filming sites around the city. A quick Google search will lead you to the addresses of the hottest spots to see, including Walter White’s house (which is now occupied by real residents, so be respectful), Jesse Pinkman’s house, the car wash, Los Pollos Hermanos (which is actually a chain called Twisters), and Tuco’s headquarters, the building where Walter detonates a bomb after meeting with Tuco—in real life, an excellent cafe named Java Joe’s where you can get lunch while reminiscing about the episode. Keep your eyes peeled for members of the Better Call Saul cast along the way—most of them live in Albuquerque due to the heavy filming schedule.
10. Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
(image via Indian Pueblo Cultural Center)
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center honors and preserves the history and culture of the 19 Pueblo communities that have been living in the modern Albuquerque area since Pre-Columbian times. Inside the center is a 10,000 square foot museum that features collections of historic artifacts and contemporary art pieces in a permanent collection. The IPPC also hosts rotating exhibitions on changing topics.
One of the main highlights, however, are the traditional Indian dances and artistic demonstrations that are open to the public on the weekends. Dancers wear colorful traditional dress and explain the importance of the dances to Pueblo communities. It’s an enriching, enlightening, and respectful experience.
9. Explore the Nature of ABQ BioPark
(image via ABQ BioPark)
Located in downtown Albuquerque, the ABQ BioPark is comprised of multiple attractions. This makes it perfect for filling up your weekend getaway itinerary with activities that are close to one another. The ABQ BioPark Zoo is here with the usual animal favorites. Check out the feeding times for your chance to feed giraffes, tortoises, and more.
The Botanic Garden garden is also here with numerous gardens of beautiful flowers. You can check online which flowers are blooming throughout the year. Garden themes include a Japanese garden, butterfly garden, desert conservatory, children’s fantasy garden, and a Mediterranean conservatory.
Lastly, Tingley Beach is the perfect place to relax by the water. The fishing ponds are open to the public and free of charge. All you need is a fishing license to fish from dawn to dusk. You can also just enjoy watching the waterfowl by taking a stroll along the walking paths. Model boats are also popular at Tingley Beach.
8. New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science
(image via New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science)
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science is the perfect place to let the kids go wild. It features both permanent and temporary exhibits. Geared toward children, exhibits cover topics like the science of dogs, Mars, and dinosaurs! Hands-on learning is encouraged with ample opportunities to participate and engage in activities.
There is also an attached planetarium that shows an array of films, so check out what is showing when you are planning your visit. Most films focus on topics like space or the solar system. However, there is a celebrated “Fractals” show on the first Friday of each month. The award-winning program displays and explains beautiful rotating designs that will blow your mind!
7. Get a Geode from Mama’s
(image via Mama's Minerals)
Mama’s Minerals outshines many other crystal shops by its massive warehouse-style store, complete with high-end gleaming crystals down to cardboard boxes of dusty geodes that can be purchased for $5 and cracked open to find the crystals inside (a great gift to take home for friends and family of all ages). Mama’s also features a full section of jewelry-making goods, so crafters and novices alike can pick out their favorite crystal and find everything they need to turn it into a full set of jewelry. Be sure to check out the unpolished stones section to see what professional jewelry makers start their work with!
6. Enjoy the Food Selection at Sawmill Market
(image via Sawmill Market)
After you pick out your favorite crystal at Mama’s, walk down the street to the mega food court of Sawmill Market. Packed with a diverse collection of bars, restaurants, and cafes, patrons can order from a couple blocks’ worth of eateries to curate their perfect meal and then enjoy Sawmill’s gorgeous and spacious patio seating. Thanks to Albuquerque’s mild climate, patio dining is generally enjoyable year-round. Whether it’s chicken and waffles from XO Waffle, a classic New Mexican plate from Flora, or a Taiyaki ice cream from Neko Neko, the colorful culinary merchants have something for everyone.
5. Catch a Sunset from the Roof
(image via Hotel Chaco)
If you find yourself wrapping up at Sawmill Market on an Albuquerque evening, cross the street and head to the restaurant and bar on the rooftop of the Hotel Chaco, Level 5 restaurant (call in advance, as sometimes evening reservations are required). One of the best places to enjoy a glowing desert sunset, Level 5 offers refined dining, but the patio is also a great place to enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine. Hotel Parq Central and Hotel Andaluz also offer rooftop views, but of course, a trip up the Sandia Peak Tramway will provide the most panoramic views of all.
4. Ride the Sandia Peak Tramway
(image via Maureen Lunn)
Climbing to the 10,378-foot elevation of the Sandia Peak, the Tramway is the longest aerial tram in the United States. A stunning 15-minute tram ride up from the base lands you amidst access to hundreds of trails, a mountain top cafe, and abundant overlook points. Accessible to visitors of all ages and abilities, you can enjoy some quick views and head back down in a round trip, or the more adventurous may opt to be prepared for a long hike and just take the tram for a one-way. No matter which path you choose, the Tramway provides the best views in the area (short of our #3 entry). Tickets are around $30.
3. Ride High in a Hot Air Balloon
(image courtesy of T's NM Photography & Rainbow Ryders)
Albuquerque is the hot air ballooning capital of the world, and guest balloon flights are available year-round for anyone and everyone. Most flights take off at dawn when the air is cool and the balloons can rise, so prepare for an early morning. Many ballooners provide champagne or snacks after the ride to celebrate passengers’ first flight, but private and group flights are also available through most companies.
Rainbow Ryders is a popular choice to enjoy a ride on their balloon aptly named “Bucket List.” Their daily rides start at $169. If you’re thinking of a trip to New Mexico in the Fall, the first weekend of October is the landing zone for the International Balloon Fiesta, which draws hundreds of ballooners with whom tourists and residents can sign up for rides, see the balloons up close on the fiesta grounds, or catch panoramic views of hundreds of balloons in flight at a time from viewpoints around the city. Rainbow Ryders is the official operator for the International Balloon Fiesta.
2. Cruise Through Nob Hill, EDo, and Old Town
(image via Visit Albuquerque)
Albuquerque’s coolest neighborhoods for dining, drinking, and nightlife are located right along the historic Route 66 on modern-day Central Avenue. Find a full range of brewpubs, cafes, locally-owned shops, and all sorts of other quirky locales in both Nob Hill and EDo, or east downtown, just down the road. Grab a baked good at Flying Star, ceviche or a poke bowl at Poki Poki Cevicheria, and a beer flight at Bosque Brewing, all in Nob Hill.
Down the road into EDo, plan for a pizza at Farina Pizzeria & Wine Bar or some higher-end fare at Artichoke Cafe. Holy Burger and the Grove Cafe & Market are also popular spots in EDo. Finally, the historic Old Town area is full of aging adobes-come-souvenir shops, but don’t be dissuaded by the touristy trinket vibes. Visit the San Felipe de Neri church, take a walking tour, and hit up the many museums sprinkling the outskirts.
1. Spice Up Your Taste Buds with New Mexican Fare
(images via Range Cafe and Duran Central Pharmacy)
Much like all over the state, Albuquerque has plenty of options for red and green chile-smothered plates. Start at Range Cafe, one of the most popular and historic local chains. The popular downtown location is a refurbished 1938-Texaco station, but the chain features six locations around the area. Get the traditional breakfast dish huevos rancheros or blue corn enchiladas later in the day. Head up north for El Pinto, a massive, highly-decorative establishment with top-notch margaritas and multiple patios lined with ristras (dry chile pepper arrangments) and New Mexican ceramics and art.
For some higher-end dining, make a reservation at the Los Poblanos restaurant, where you can also stay overnight in the inn or enjoy spa services on their 25-acre lavender farm, complete with roaming peacocks and possible celebrity sightings (it’s a popular overnight option for film actors working in the area). Finally, don’t miss Duran Central Pharmacy, a local hotspot for all the best New Mexican plates.
As you can see, Albuquerque has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from nearby Albuquerque, New Mexico.
These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.