Blake Walsh

17 Best Things to Do in Bernalillo County, NM

  • Published 2023/05/20

Bernalillo County is one of the best counties if you’re looking to see what New Mexico has to offer in terms of tourism.

Its county seat is the iconic city of Albuquerque, which is the most populous city in the state.

Tons of historical landmarks are found in the county, along with urban attractions and plenty of outdoor activities.

During my stay here, Albuquerque had the most awesome destinations, but there are a couple of other areas that I included in the list.

Check out my list of the best things to do in Bernalillo County, New Mexico to get a firm idea of what this place has to offer!

Go Sightseeing at the Petroglyph National Monument

Daytime view of Petroglyph National Monument

Nagel Photography /

The Petroglyph National Monument is easily my most favorite attraction in Bernalillo County, making this a can’t-miss in my opinion.

Located on the western end of Albuquerque, this national monument is home to hundreds of petroglyphs left by the indigenous Americans that first set foot in the country.

The sheer size of Petroglyph National Monument is something to marvel at—you’ll see sweeping views of desert-like fields here, complete with cactuses and rock formations.

Be sure to apply sunscreen when you venture here, as it can get blistering hot.

Still, the effort to explore such historic lands is worth it in the end—very few places in the world offer this much immersion to anthropology as petroglyph National Monument.

Closeup of a petroglyph at Petroglyph National Monument

William Silver /

Visit the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

The grounds of Nuclear Science & History

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Another favorite of mine in Bernalillo County is the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, found in Albuquerque.

This museum is huge with tons of exciting exhibits about World War II and the Cold War.

You’ll learn a lot about the history of U.S. military development, especially when it comes to nuclear warfare.

Exterior of Nuclear Science & History

FLJuJitsu, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What I really loved about this museum is it has outdoor exhibits as well, featuring huge missiles and aircrafts that really make it worthwhile to explore.

Besides its military focus, there’s also a couple of science exhibits here which make it child-friend as well.

Interior of Nuclear Science & History

Marshall Astor, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn Local History at Albuquerque Museum

Albuquerque Museum is brimming with all sorts of exhibits that warrant at least one visit here during your adventure in New Mexico.

You can learn a lot about the Mexican settlements that the city is known for, along with a bit of its political history.

Besides these, Albuquerque Museum also doubles as an art space; Mexican painters such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera have their works shown here.

Albuquerque Museum also has nice gardens to explore, along with a gorgeous amphitheater.

It didn’t take a long time for me to appreciate what this museum has to offer, so consider prioritizing it as it’s conveniently found in the heart of the city too.

See Huge Animals at ABQ BioPark Zoo

People at ABQ BioPark Zoo

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

ABQ BioPark Zoo is a nice family-oriented destination in Albuquerque, famous for its rare animals that you can see up close.

Their polar bears are their main attraction here, where you’ll see these majestic animals through their controlled sanctuaries.

Another arctic animal that you won’t normally find in other zoos are snow leopards—it’s truly a sight to see these rare species up close.

Others you’ll find here are penguins, gorillas, and the usual large land dwellers like giraffes and elephants.

There’s also an aquarium at ABQ BioPark Zoo, with plenty left to see—it’s a no-brainer to feature in any kind of itinerary.

Waters at ABQ BioPark Zoo

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Experience the Rio Grande at Tingley Beach

The waters of Tingley Beach

Richard Estrada /

Besides the petroglyphs and sprawling museums, Bernalillo County is also famous for its river attractions.

Right along the Rio Grande River, Tingley Beach is one of the best spots to do all kinds of river activities.

You can launch a kayak here, go paddle boating, or simply enjoy the scenic waters of the river.

Fishing is also permitted at Tingley Beach, and there’s a nice shoreline here where you can relax while waiting for a catch.

While I did neither of these, I enjoyed seeing the river and taking photos of the many ducks and rock formations I saw along the way.

People at Tingley Beach

Asaavedra32, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn About Animal Rescue at Wildlife West Nature Park

Personally, I’m a big fan of wildlife conservation, so finding out about Wildlife West Nature Park made me excited to visit the place.

Located in the town of Edgewood, Wildlife West Nature Park is more of a rescue shelter and less of a zoo.

You’ll find a lot of rescued bobcats, birds, and coyotes in their facility, and it’s good to see their work up close.

While the place is more of a rescue shelter, they don’t have any shortcomings in making it a welcoming destination for tourists.

I saw a lot of cool photo opportunities here, such as painted trucks and other wildlife-inspired artworks.

Check the Quirky Toys at Tinkertown Museum

Bottle wall at Tinkertown Museum

J Cardamone /

Located in the community of Sandia Park, Tinkertown Museum is one of the main attractions of Bernalillo County that’s not in Albuquerque.

The museum is renowned for having a lot of quirky toys and fun exhibits that make it great for both kids and adults.

When I went here, I had no idea it was all attributed to one local artist: Ross Ward.

Ross Ward was famous for his sculptures, woodcarvings, and plenty more—eventually, his works translated into this amazing museum.

Entering Tinkertown Museum feels like visiting a fantasy wonderland with the sheer amount of toys and color found here.

It’s one of my most underrated visits in Bernalillo County.

Experience New Mexico’s Heritage at Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

Exterior of Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

Kit Leong /

No trip to New Mexico would be complete without appreciating the pueblo heritage it’s famous for.

You can best do this at Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, housing thousands of pueblo pieces.

The place isn’t just a museum—during my time here, I also stumbled upon live cultural events and even restaurants that serve traditional pueblo food.

Statue in front of Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

Kit Leong /

The events mostly feature dance demonstrations which is a vital aspect to pueblo culture.

If you love pueblo art and architecture, they have a robust gift shop here where I bought most of my souvenirs—Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is truly a fantastic place for cultural immersion.

Interior of Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

Kit Leong /

Take a Breather at Doc Long Picnic Area

If you want to experience the mountains of the county firsthand, a beginner’s level to do it is via Doc Long Picnic Area.

The picnic area is found in Cedar Crest, a community that’s close to Sandia Park.

Doc Long Picnic Area is a straightforward experience that’s great for kids and senior citizens.

You wouldn’t have to do any trekking here, and there are ready pavilions and picnic grounds as well.

Despite its convenience, the time I spent here was as scenic as venturing into the wilderness of the mountain.

Overall, it’s a great way to spend down time during your visit.

Board the Sandia Peak Tramway

Gondola of Sandia Peak Tramway

JackKPhoto /

Located in the eastern and mountainous portion of Albuquerque, Sandia Peak Tramway is easily one of the most breathtaking attractions in the county.

The tramway takes you to an aerial ride that’s roughly almost three miles long.

It gives you sweeping views of the mountains that surround Albuquerque to the east, making it perfect for intimate dates and for photography.

Station of Sandia Peak Tramway


Sandia Peak Tramway is a complete experience as well—I stumbled upon a restaurant and a gift shop when I tried this scenic ride.

Easily one of my most memorable trips, I would say Sandia Peak Tramway is worth the time and money to visit.

Signage of Sandia Peak Tramway

Cass Tippit /

Hike and Reach the Kiwanis Cabin

Close view of Kiwanis Cabin

Raisa Nastukova /

While I appreciated Doc Long Picnic Area, I wanted to experience the mountains a lot better, and Kiwanis Cabin is the best destination for this endeavor.

Kiwanis Cabin is actually ruins of a stone cabin from centuries ago, situated at a peak atop the mountain in Cedar Crest.

This makes it a great finish line if you want to try hiking parts of the mountains surrounding the county.

Once you reach the top (which isn’t too hard), you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the mountains.

Kiwanis Cabin itself is also a great place for photography, as it’s a relic of the past that has an austere charm to it.

A person approaching Kiwanis Cabin

Skarz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bring the Family to Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum of Albuquerque

One of the most well-rounded museums in the county is the Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum of Albuquerque.

It’s mainly a science museum that has something for all ages—you won’t have to worry about going here if you’re a couple or a group of grown ups.

The Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum of Albuquerque is huge—it contains animal exhibits, art displays, and all sorts of interactive installations you can check out.

My favorites here are the cool animals that you can find in the aquariums; this is where I first saw an axolotl up close and personal!

If you have a toddler with you, the kiddie area will definitely keep them occupied as well for hours.

Drive through the Sandia Crest

Cars at Sandia Crest

Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another unforgettable time I had in Bernalillo County was driving through the Sandia Crest near Cedar Crest.

The Sandia Crest is a series of mountain peaks, but it also refers to the foothills of the mountain where you can drive through its paved roads.

The ride here is probably one of the most scenic I’ve ever experienced—the place was brimming with trees and foliage.

If you visit during the winter season, Sandia Crest becomes a winter wonderland as well.

The best part about this place is that you can actually drive up and get elevated views of the area.

This is one of my favorites in the county; I highly recommend you don’t miss out on it.

Do Wildlife Observation at Rio Grande Nature Center State Park

The waters of Rio Grande Nature Center State Park

Faina Gurevich /

Rio Grande Nature Center State Park is one of Albuquerque’s main outdoor attractions, situated right along the Rio Grande River.

The park offers a lot of different things for outdoor enthusiasts, but my favorite here is exploring the woods.

I saw plenty of different birds here along with reptiles like turtles; it was a great experience even if I’m not an avid outdoor adventurer.

Besides that, Rio Grande Nature Center State Park also has plenty of river trails that extend out from the forest.

Check out the visitor center here as well for more information.

Turtles at Rio Grande Nature Center State Park

Danita Delimont /

Watch a Concert at Isleta Amphitheater

Albuquerque isn’t just famous for its museums and outdoors, the culture of the city is also famous nationwide.

One of the best places to experience this is at Isleta Amphitheater, the go-to music venue of Albuquerque.

Tons of big names have performed here, so go check out what’s brewing up on the dates of your visit.

Isleta mphitheater is a state-of-the-art facility as well, blending modern architecture with its scenic outdoor scenery.

This is one of the funnest venues in the county for me, so try timing your visit with a concert or event that you fancy.

Do a Self-guided Tour of The University of New Mexico

Signage of The University of New Mexico

Kit Leong /

Albuquerque is home to one of the biggest public research schools in the United States: The University of New Mexico.

While known for its pedigree in academics, a tourist like me best appreciated this through its architecture.

The school has tons of pueblo buildings that’s unique to the state, giving it an aesthetic that pays tribute to its Mexican heritage.

A building at The University of New Mexico

Underawesternsky /

The university also has a ton of facilities, ranging from museums to parks inside.

My favorite attraction within the campus was Popejoy Hall, the main performing arts theater of The University of New Mexico.

Grounds of The University of New Mexico

Kit Leong /

Spend a Day at Cliff’s Amusement Park

A rollercoaster at Cliff's Amusement Park

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

Cliff’s Amusement Park may not be Six Flags, but it gets the job done if you’re raring for a pump of adrenaline.

It’s great for children of all ages as well as adults, as there’s a little bit of something here to get you excited.

What I loved the most about Cliff’s Amusement Park are its thrilling roller coaster rides and wet rides.

It’s a great way to spice up your adventure in Albuquerque, especially since the place mostly features outdoor attractions and museums.

With great prices and a nice atmosphere, Cliff’s Amusement Park is a great addition to any itinerary.

Final Thoughts

Bernalillo County is a place like no other—it’s a big highlight of my trip to New Mexico.

The museums here are endless, each having different niches that portray the rich heritage of Albuquerque and neighboring towns.

The outdoors are just as good—don’t miss out on the Sandia Crest and the tramway ride once you’re done with the urban destinations.

There are so many things to do in Bernalillo County, New Mexico—my list is just the tip of the iceberg, so use it to kickstart your itinerary!

© All rights reserved.