Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Albuquerque, NM

  • Published 2023/02/22

Well-known for its moniker ABQ, the city of Albuquerque in New Mexico has a colorful history and endless fascinating attractions to see.

This key city is the most populated area in the state, skirted on the east by the Sandia Mountains range and the West Mesa on its west side.

The Governor of Nuevo Mexico, Francisco Cuervo y Valdes, founded the city of Albuquerque in 1706.

He named the place “La Villa de Albuquerque” in honor of the Viceroy of New Spain.

Its nicknames, Duke City and Burque, also came from this name.

The city of Albuquerque was once a thriving farming and herding area with a strategic location for trade.

It was also an important military outpost.

But now, the populous city has plenty of attractions like historic landmarks, fun and specialized museums, and even exciting events like the International Balloon Fiesta.

Here are the best things to do in Albuquerque, NM:

See Archeological Engravings at the Petroglyph National Monument

Welcome sign of Petroglyph National Monument

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Stretching 17 miles on the volcanic lava cliff of the West Mesa area, the Petroglyph National Monument is one of the famous attractions in ABQ.

The park spans over 7,000 acres, authorized in 1990.

Today, the City of Albuquerque and the National Park Service manage the monument.

It protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America.

Native Americans and early Spanish settlers etched carvings and symbols on volcanic rocks 400 to 700 years ago.

Carvings on a boulder at Petroglyph National Monument

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The images have spiritual significance and represent valuable records of their early culture.

Present-day Native Americans and descendants of the early Spanish settlers value these images greatly.

To reach the exact location, you can get park brochures and trail maps at the visitor center.

You’ll also need a vehicle to reach the petroglyph sites.

You can visit the Boca Negra Canyon to view almost a hundred prehistoric and historic petroglyphs on the main trails: Mesa Point, Macaw, and Cliff Base.

Other areas in the monument where you can see more of these engravings are the Rinconada Canyon and Piedras Marcadas Canyon.

Carvings at Petroglyph National Monument

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Discover History at Albuquerque Museum

Welcome sign of Albuquerque Museum of Art and History

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Formerly called the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, you can find the Albuquerque Museum in the Old Town area.

The history and public museum houses exhibits and artwork installations reflect the American Southwest and the history of the Albuquerque and Middle Rio Grande areas.

The institution holds over 10,000 works of art and contributes to the city’s cultural and educational programs.

A sculpture on the grounds of Albuquerque Museum of Art and History

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View interesting permanent collections like the Common Ground: Art in New Mexico, the display of Alburquerque’s decades of leadership, the William A. and Loretta Barrett Keleher Gallery, and Marilyn Y. Scott’s September 11 Weaving.

Check out various displays of Native American jewelry and ceramic pieces and learn about Hispanic folk arts.

Marvel at 19th and 20th-century works of Taos and Santa Fe artisans and other regional artists.

Visit the fantastic outdoor Sculpture Garden with various aesthetic works on metal, stone, and earthen mediums.

Outdoor sculpture at Albuquerque Museum of Art and History

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Enjoy the View of the Sandia Mountains at Sandia Peak Tramway

Scenic view of Sandia Peak Tramway

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The Sandia Peak Tramway is the longest aerial tramway in the country, which stretches from the city’s northeast area to the ridgeline at Sandia Peak.

It took 24 months to construct this prestigious project with more than two months of rigid testing.

Ride a cable car and view one of America’s majestic urban peaks, reaching almost 10,000 feet at the crest of Sandia Mountain.

A gondola at Sandia Peak Tramway

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The ride lasts for 15 minutes and will give you a stunning 11,000-square-mile panoramic view.

At Sandia Peak, you can have a memorable dining experience at Ten 3, with sumptuous meals prepared from scratch by award-winning Chef J Martin Torrez and his team.

Savor American, Mediterranean, and International Cuisine, or drink craft beers and specialty cocktails.

Mountain views from Sandia Peak Tramway

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Check Out the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

Entrance of New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

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If you want to discover the wonders of science, visit the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Old Town.

Built in 1986, this natural history and science museum is the revenue facility of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.

Observe the full-dome theater Planetarium that presents an educational yet fun way of learning about astronomy.

Dinosaur statue at New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

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Drop by the FossilWorks exhibit to return to the prehistoric era or test your science knowledge at the Naturalist Center.

You can also catch featured events that will spark the scientist in you.

Check the NatureWorks Discovery Store for a wide selection of educational and unique gifts and souvenirs, books, interactive games, toys, science kits, and apparel.

Exhibit of a dinosaur skeleton at New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

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Meet Fascinating Animals at the ABQ BioPark Zoo

Flamingos at ABQ BioPark Zoo

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One of the most visited attractions in Albuquerque, the ABQ BioPark Zoo offers an up-close experience with an array of animal species.

The zoo used to be the Rio Grande Zoo, a 64-acre location that opened in 1927.

The park reserve houses over 200 animal species and birds.

You can meet the safari animals of the Africa Exhibit, the unique creatures at the Australia Exhibit, the Big Cats of the Cat Walk area, and the odd reptiles and amphibians at the Herpetology area.

Cattle egret at ABQ BioPark Zoo

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They also feature exotic and endangered animals like the golden lion tamari, African painted dog, Grand Cayman blue iguana, and the Andean condor.

Visit the whimsical Botanic Garden, the fascinating Aquarium, and Atlantic Coral Reef.

Check out the other exhibits like the Eels, Inside the Shipwreck, and the Salt Marsh.

View of ABQ BioPark Zoo

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You can also meet the charming otters, Chaos and Mayhem, and see the exciting jellyfish, stingrays, sea turtles, and sharks at the aquariums.

Then, grab some snacks and meals at Matunda Café or Cottonwood Café, or cool off with tasty ice cream at Cones.

Visitors enjoying their day at ABQ BioPark Zoo

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Learn About the Pueblo People at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

Exterior of Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

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One of the great places to learn about the colorful life and rich culture of the Indian Pueblos is the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

The institution promotes and preservees the Pueblo peoples’ culture, history, and art.

You’ll appreciate the unique Pueblo culture through the museum exhibits and galleries like the Pueblo Art Collection and Artists Circle Gallery.

Likewise, you can join guided and mural tours.

Interior of Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

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Check out the artistic murals from Pueblo artists at the Mural Collection.

You can shop at the Indian Pueblo Store for some creatively unique traditional jewelry, pottery pieces, rugs, and other art objects.

You can also get authentic American art in the center’s courtyard.

If you also want to try some authentic Pueblo dishes and learn about their indigenous ways of cooking, visit the Indian Pueblo Kitchen, the center’s teaching kitchen and restaurant.

Display in Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

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Learn about Nuclear Science at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Exterior of National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

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Established in 1969, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History is one of Albuquerque’s unique museums.

This museum features the story of the Atomic Age and the development of nuclear science.

The institution is a Smithsonian Affiliate with accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums.

It’s also the only public museum dedicated to preserving the history of the nuclear industry.

Nuclear bomb in National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

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You can do a self-guided tour at the Museum Galleries or join a docent-guided tour to give you insights behind the displays.

Take the History Tour showcasing the scientific discovery of the atom, the launch of the Manhattan Project, and the Trinity Test.

Get a close view of the missiles, rockets, and airplanes on display at the Museum’s Heritage Park.

You can join the Science Tour, which focuses on nuclear chemistry’s application in nuclear medicine and nuclear power.

Fat man bomb in National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

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Bring Your Kids to Explora

Exterior of Explora

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If you want your kids to have a cool and fun way to explore and learn about science, art, and math, a tour to Explora is worth the visit.

The science center has operated since 1995.

It offers more than 250 interactive exhibits that will satisfy curious young minds and stir their learning for science, technology, and art.

Some highlights of the center include the experiment bar, the arts and crafts area, and the high wire bike.

Your family will have a great time learning together at Explora.

They also offer events like Adult Night, seasonal camps, and educational programs like Family Science Nights and Youth Intern Program.

You might even catch the Annual Fiesta event hosted by the science center.

Explore Classic Racecar Exhibits at the Unser Racing Museum

Exterior of Unser Racing Museum

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Unser Racing Museum is a specialized, non-profit museum highlighting the racing accomplishments of the Unser family.

Visitors can enjoy a unique multi-dimensional experience of learning about the racing world.

Take time to learn about the history of the Unser family and the chronicles of racing.

A race car in Unser Racing Museum

Dick Thompson from Albuquerque NM, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can learn about the earliest racing days, from Pikes Peak and the Indianapolis state to today’s modern racecar technologies.

Get in the driver’s seat with the racing simulator or drop by the interactive kiosks with your kids to learn together about racing.

View the different vintage cars, prized pace cars, and excellent race cars at the annex, the trophy room full of unique items from books about racing to original artworks.

Drop by the gift shop and find souvenirs you can bring home, like a specialized brick with your name engraved on them.

Appreciate Colorful Culture at the National Hispanic Cultural Center

Albuquerque truly represents uniquely diverse cultures; just visit the National Hispanic Cultural Center along the Rio Grande.

Opened to the public in 2000, the institution promotes Hispanic humanities, culture, and arts.

It hosts 700 events annually, and you’ll see exhibitions and programs presented through music, dance, theatre, film, visual arts, and more.

View galleries that feature permanent installations with over 3,000 artworks from New Mexico’s artists and rotating exhibits.

Widen your interest in Hispanic and pre-Hispanic history with the Mundos de Mestizaje collection.

Visit the American International Rattlesnake Museum and Gift Shop

Exterior of American International Rattlesnake Museum

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The American International Rattlesnake Museum is an exciting out-of-this-world museum showcasing the rattlesnake, one of nature’s most-feared creatures.

This animal observation museum holds a diverse and extensive collection of live rattlesnakes and comprehensive educational tools and materials.

Diamond rattlesnake in American International Rattlesnake Museum

Steve Lagreca / Shutterstock.com

You’ll also see a vast display of artworks, artifacts, and memorabilia about this unique reptile.

You can also see a venomous Gila monster at this museum.

Visit their gift shop for some fantastic items, Old Town wares, along with some rattlesnake fangs and skins.

South american rattlesnake in American International Rattlesnake Museum

Steve Lagreca / Shutterstock.com

Savor Great Wines at Gruet Winery

Founded in 1984, the family-owned Gruet Winery specializes in Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines.

The winery produces top-quality, award-winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay-based sparkling wines.

Likewise, it continues to be a favorite of top sommeliers in the country.

The winery boasts of rich fruit flavor wines from grapes grown in New Mexico’s soil at their Engle, Luna Rossa, and Tamaya vineyards.

Guests can enjoy a lovely wine tasting at the winery’s Tasting Room, perfect for intimate gatherings and celebrations.

Their Barrel Room offers guests a warm ambiance with the view of the winery’s racked barrels and a classic chandelier to set the evening mood.

The Seasonal Patio welcomes guests with excellent wine service and catered appetizers for an outdoor and reception-style event.

Enjoy the Nightlife at Nob Hill

Street fair at Nob Hill

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Nob Hill was a promising suburban area in downtown Albuquerque, east of the University of New Mexico.

It spans Central Avenue with the famous neon arches on both ends.

The district bursts with lively activity, from dining establishments to nightlife attractions.

Enjoy the stretch of Nob Hill with rows of old and new businesses that present a retro vibe, with many neon store signs and deco-inspired structures.

The district features the Nob Hill Shopping Center.

Nob Hill Shopping Center

John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The distinguished architect Louis Hesselden designed the shopping center, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places as a classic example of the 1940s US shopping center.

Enjoy an endless line of upscale stores and boutiques for some shopping spree, dine at the restaurants, visit art galleries in the area, or make the most of the nightlife spots.

Learn Everything about Ballooning at the Balloon Museum

Exterior of Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum

Steve Lagreca / Shutterstock.com

Albuquerque is the ballooning capital of the United States and the favorite location for many balloon enthusiasts.

If you’re interested, check out the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum.

It opened in 2005 and has earned renown as the world’s premier balloon museum facility.

A hot air balloon of Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum

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The museum presents everything about ballooning from art, culture, science, history, and more.

It gets its name from two Albuquerque pilots, Ben Abruzzo and Maxie Anderson, who pioneered the long-distance balloon flight through the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Check out notable collections of balloon equipment, memorabilia displays, interactive exhibits, multi-media presentations, and featured exhibitions.

Night view of Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum

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Have Classic Fun at the Hinkle Family Fun Center

You can bring your kids to Hinkle Family Fun Center for some classic family fun time.

Race your kids at the Go Cart Track, splash and bump at the Wet and Wild Bumper Boats, or play a game of Miniature Golf at the 18-hole course.

Play more family games at the Blacklight Laser Tag Arena, Hinkle Family Fun Center Paintball, Battletech, and Bumper Cars.

Get active at the Rock Climbing Wall, Bungee Jump, and the Trampoline.

Other highlights of the fun center include the hi-tech Game Rooms, arcade games, Lazer Frenzy, and the Light Space.

Of course, you can enjoy some snacks and drinks with two Snack Bars available at the venue.

Spend a Day at Cliff’s Amusement Park

Rides at Cliff’s Amusement Park

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This sure can be a lot of fun!

At Cliff’s Amusement Park, your entire family can spend a fun and exciting day with lots of rides, games, and a waterpark.

More than 20 rides are available for all ages, including roller coasters, water rides, thrill rides, family rides, and kiddy rides.

Roller coaster ride at Cliff’s Amusement Park

Cathy from USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Opened in 1959, the park also features a seasonal waterpark called WaterMania!, which operates from May to September.

When things get a little hungry, the park has several concessions that appeal to all kids and adults.

Plan your visit to Cliff’s Amusement Park and have a blast with your family!

Get Closer to Wildlife at the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park

Visitors exploring the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park

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Nestled next to the Rio Grande, the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park sits on 38 acres of land, where urban wildlife is preserved.

The center features a visitor center, wildlife observation areas, two gardens, and several outbuildings.

It’s where you can get closer to wildlife and smell nature.

Landscape of the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park

Martina Roth / Shutterstock.com

Opened in 1982, the center is home to many different species of flora and fauna, including 300+ species of birds.

You can observe the wildlife from one of the overlooks and take a guided bird and nature walks.

The Rio Grande Nature Center State Park is located at Candelaria Road Northwest.

Turtles at Rio Grande Nature Center State Park

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Cast Your Fishing Line at Tingley Beach

Transquil water at Tingley Beach

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Stocked with large rainbow trout and channel catfish each year, Tingley Beach offers fishing with baits and lures.

Assuming that you have a fishing license, you can cast your fishing line at the designated fishing area of the beach and must follow the catch limit.

The beach offers fishing for all ages, including kids who can fish at the Children’s Pond, which is stocked regularly.

Families enjoying their day at Tingley Beach

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In warmer months, you may catch more channel catfish while trout is more prevalent in the colder season.

You can find Tingley Beach in the east section of the Rio Grande.

Driftwoods at Tingley Beach

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Explore the Historic Old Town Plaza

Gazebo at Old Town Plaza

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The site where Spanish Governor Cuervo y Valdes founded Albuquerque, the historic Old Town Plaza is a mix of history and entertainment.

It’s where you can find quirky shops, restaurants, boutiques, galleries, museums, and a lot more.

Stunning view of Old Town Plaza

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What makes it more unique and interesting is its modern vibe mixing with the classic atmosphere that you can still feel way back from the 1700s.

Explore the Old Town Plaza and experience the good ‘ole days!

It’s located off North Plaza Street Northwest.

Canon at Old Town Plaza

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Catch a Show at KiMo Theatre

Exterior view of KiMo Theatre

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Hosting live shows, Old Hollywood films, operas, and other intimate shows, KiMo Theatre is filled with history and culture.

Built in 1927 in a Pueblo Deco architectural style, the theatre is still active in hosting different performances to this day.

And if you’re into classic shows or live performances, this is your place.

Entrance at KiMo Theatre

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Constructed in a three-story stucco building, KiMo Theatre entered the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 due to its historical significance.

The name KiMo means “mountain lion”.

You can find KiMo Theatre on Central Avenue Northwest.

Feel Inspired by the Works Presented at Amapola Gallery

If you ever need to feel inspired by a diverse set of artworks, drop by Amapola Gallery.

Opened in 1980, this quaint gallery brings together the beauty of New Mexican art from at least 40 members.

Its art on display includes gourd art, glass art, and woodwork.

Prefer acrylics and paintings?

This gallery has it, too!

Browse through paper cutouts, quilt designs, and pottery pieces.

And to commemorate your trip, bring home a one-of-a-kind artwork with you!

You can find Amapola Gallery on Romero Street NorthWest.

Take Your Party-Hosting to the Next Level at the Turquoise Museum

The Turquoise Museum gets you closer to a fairytale-like historical trip in all of Albuquerque.

Founded in 1993, this museum-slash-repository houses a collection of natural turquoise jewelry within the surrounding area.

Its full-on exhibits come with a tour you can take advantage of.

So, you can dive deep into the intricacies of turquoise, including its uses and origins.

But perhaps what makes this site a hit among tourists and newcomers to the city is its stunning architecture and interior.

The Gothic mansion is the ideal venue for any formal event and gathering.

From glossy chandeliers to a rustic outdoor meeting space, every corner of this mansion can be a good hangout spot.

The Turquoise Museum is on 2nd Street South West.

Learn About Railroad History at Wheels Museum

Wheels Museum offers a different historical escapade for visitors and residents.

This museum specializes in railroad and train history.

It shines a spotlight on model trains and vehicles, including gas pumps, horse buggies, and wagons.

There are also life-sized vehicles you can view.

Get a glimpse of what transportation was like during the early 1900s with a showcase of a fire truck and an airplane.

There’s also a gift shop onsite for your memento purchases.

Wheels Museum sits where the 1914 Santa Fe Railyards once stood on 2nd Street South West.

Go Hiking at Elena Gallegos Open Space

An impressive natural landscape is awaiting you at Elena Gallegos Open Space.

This 640-acre nature jewel offers several multi-use trails for you to traverse.

With an elevation of about 6,500 feet, its peak gets you a glimpse of the pink sunsets of the Sandia Mountains.

Its wide range of native plants includes piñon-junipers, scrub oaks, and cane cholla cacti.

Complete with two picnic facilities, the park is a massive hit among those into recreational hiking with wide-open views of mountains all throughout the route.

To get to Elena Gallegos Open Space, drive along Tramway Boulevard before turning right to Simms Road.

Practice Your Swing at Arroyo del Oso Golf Course

One of Albuquerque’s charming points is its mountain vistas.

And this is more prominent when you come by Arroyo del Oso Golf Course.

Opened in 1965, this 27-hole course boasts rolling fairways and breathtaking water obstacles.

Its primary courses have sand traps and stunning topography.

This makes the golf course suitable for intermediate players, but any first-time player might find the course just as fun and challenging.

You can find Arroyo del Oso Golf Course on Osuna Road North East.

Final Thoughts

Albuquerque features a diverse cultural heritage representing various peoples who contribute to its uniqueness.

Many attractions provide fun learning experiences.

Overall, the city has endless activities you and your family can enjoy together.

Experience the sights and colors of Albuquerque’s history and its people.

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