Best Things To Do In Albuquerque, New Mexico: 12 Top Attractions

by Jen
Best Things To Do In Albuquerque, New Mexico
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Thinking about going to the Southwest this year? If so, Albuquerque, New Mexico, should be at the top of your list. Here are some of the most fun, scenic, and unique things to do in Albuquerque. Known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes, Albuquerque offers a unique blend of experiences that are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation.

Nestled in the heart of New Mexico, Albuquerque is a city steeped in Native American and Spanish heritage. From the historic adobe buildings of Old Town Albuquerque to the modern vibrancy of Downtown, there is a wide variety of things to do in Albuquerque as the city is a melting pot of old and new. But what truly sets Albuquerque apart is its breathtaking natural beauty. With the Sandia Mountains as its backdrop and the Rio Grande running through its heart, the city is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

Whether you’re exploring the ancient petroglyphs, riding the Sandia Peak Tramway, or attending the world-renowned Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, there’s no shortage of things to do and places to visit in Albuquerque. There truly is something for everyone. That’s why it’s so important to know which places are best suited for your particular interests. To help, I’ve compiled a list of some of my personal favorite Albuquerque attractions. Let’s dive in!

With its rich cultural history, stunning landscapes, and a plethora of attractions, Albuquerque is a city that will appeal to history buffs, nature lovers, and adventure seekers alike. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun Albuquerque things to do.

The top places to visit in Albuquerque, New Mexico right now
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Best Places to Visit in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Albuquerque? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this underrated tourist destination. So keep reading to discover all these unique Albuquerque places to visit.

Are you looking for heritage attractions and cultural sites? Or would you prefer a tranquil and relaxing getaway admiring breathtaking landscapes? Whatever you’re planning, these must sees in Albuquerque can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Albuquerque that you should know about.

1. Old Town Albuquerque

Looking for the best things to do in Albuquerque? Don’t miss this one! Step back in time as you wander through the narrow, tree-lined streets of Old Town Albuquerque. Established in 1706, this historic district is the heart of Albuquerque’s rich cultural heritage. The area has charming adobe buildings, some of which date back centuries, and its vibrant Spanish and Native American influences.

Old Town is home to several museums. This includes the Albuquerque Museum, which offers a fascinating look into the city’s history, and the American International Rattlesnake Museum, where you can learn all about these intriguing creatures. Don’t miss the San Felipe de Neri Church, one of the oldest surviving structures in the city, built in 1793 during the Spanish colonial period.

But Old Town isn’t just about history. It’s also a bustling hub of activity, with a plethora of shops selling everything from Native American jewelry to local art, and restaurants serving up New Mexican cuisine. Be sure to try the local specialty, green chile, which is added to everything from burgers to pizza.

Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or a shopaholic, Old Town Albuquerque has something for everyone. It’s a must-visit destination that encapsulates the spirit of Albuquerque. With so much charm and personality, Old Town Albuquerque is one of the top places to visit in Albuquerque.

Step back in time in Old Town Albuquerque, with charming adobe buildings and vibrant Spanish and Native American influences.
Step back in time in Old Town Albuquerque, with charming adobe buildings and vibrant Spanish and Native American influences.

2. Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

A visit to Albuquerque would be incomplete without a trip to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. It offers a deep dive into the rich history and culture of the Pueblo peoples. This remarkable institution is owned and operated by the 19 Pueblo tribes of New Mexico. This makes it a truly authentic representation of their traditions and way of life.

The center features a museum with a vast collection of Pueblo art and artifacts, as well as exhibits that tell the story of the Pueblo people from prehistoric times to the present day. You’ll learn about their unique architecture, agricultural practices, and spiritual beliefs, among other aspects of their culture.

In addition to the museum, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center also hosts traditional Native American dances and art demonstrations, giving visitors a chance to experience Pueblo culture firsthand. Don’t forget to check out the center’s restaurant, which serves traditional Pueblo cuisine, and the gift shop, where you can buy authentic Pueblo pottery, jewelry, and other crafts.

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is more than just a museum; it’s a living testament to the resilience and creativity of the Pueblo people. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in Native American history and culture. It’s easy to see why this is one of the unique things to do in Albuquerque.

Visit Albuquerque's Indian Pueblo Cultural Center for an authentic representation of the rich history and culture of the 19 Pueblo tribes.
Visit Albuquerque’s Indian Pueblo Cultural Center for an authentic representation of the rich history and culture of the 19 Pueblo tribes.

3. Sandia Peak Tramway

For a unique experience like no other, you’ll want to check out this top place to visit in Albuquerque. For an unforgettable view of Albuquerque and the surrounding landscape, take a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway. As the longest aerial tramway in the Americas, it offers a unique and thrilling way to experience the beauty of New Mexico.

The tramway takes you on a 2.7-mile journey up the east side of the Sandia Mountains, reaching an altitude of over 10,000 feet at the peak. As you ascend, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Rio Grande Valley, the city of Albuquerque, and the vast desert landscape stretching out as far as the eye can see.

Once you reach the top, there are plenty of activities to enjoy. In the summer, you can hike along the numerous trails, have a picnic while enjoying the view, or even go mountain biking. In the winter, the peak turns into a ski resort, with slopes suitable for both beginners and experienced skiers.

Whether you’re an adventure seeker looking for your next thrill, a nature lover wanting to explore the great outdoors, or simply someone who appreciates stunning views, visiting the Sandia Peak Tramway is one of the coolest things to do in Albuquerque.

Experience the unmatched beauty of Albuquerque from the Sandia Peak Tramway, the longest aerial tramway in the Americas.
Experience the unmatched beauty of Albuquerque from the Sandia Peak Tramway, the longest aerial tramway in the Americas.

4. ABQ BioPark

If you’re a nature lover or traveling with kids, you will love this top thing to do in Albuquerque: visiting the ABQ BioPark. This environmental museum comprises an aquarium, a botanical garden, a zoo, and Tingley Beach. This makes it a fantastic destination for a day of family fun.

The BioPark’s aquarium showcases a variety of marine life. This includes sharks, stingrays, and colorful tropical fish. The botanical garden, on the other hand, is home to more than 1.5 million plants. This includes a Japanese garden and a butterfly pavilion.

The zoo is another highlight, housing over 900 animals from around the world. This includes elephants, giraffes, and polar bears. Don’t miss the chance to feed the giraffes or watch the sea lions being trained.

Finally, Tingley Beach offers a peaceful retreat where you can fish, boat, or simply relax by the water. There are also several picnic areas and walking trails for you to enjoy.

With so much to see and do, the ABQ BioPark offers a fun and educational experience for visitors of all ages. It’s a place where you can connect with nature without leaving the city. Is this one of the coolest things to do in Albuquerque? You bet!

ABQ BioPark: A perfect family destination with aquarium, garden, zoo, and beach.
ABQ BioPark: A perfect family destination in Albuquerque with aquarium, garden, zoo, and beach.

5. Petroglyph National Monument

Looking to visit one of the best places in Albuquerque? Add this to your bucket list! For a unique and immersive cultural experience, head to the Petroglyph National Monument. This archaeological site is home to one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, with over 24,000 images etched into volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers hundreds of years ago.

The petroglyphs, or rock carvings, depict a variety of images. This includes animals, people, and geometric and abstract designs. They provide a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, beliefs, and daily life of the people who created them.

The monument extends over 17 miles and includes three main hiking trails: Rinconada Canyon, Piedras Marcadas Canyon, and Boca Negra Canyon. Each trail offers a different perspective of the petroglyphs and the surrounding landscape.

In addition to viewing the petroglyphs, you can also learn about the area’s geology and wildlife, making it a great destination for both history buffs and nature lovers.

The Petroglyph National Monument is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Albuquerque and a must-visit for anyone interested in archaeology, history, or art. As such, this Albuquerque attraction is one of the most popular sights in New Mexico.

Petroglyph National Monument: North America's largest petroglyph site, an immersive cultural experience.
Petroglyph National Monument: North America’s largest petroglyph site, an immersive cultural experience.

6. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

As far as things to do in Albuquerque go, this activity is among the coolest! If your visit to Albuquerque coincides with the first week of October, you’re in for a treat. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest hot air balloon festival in the world, is an event like no other.

For nine days, the skies above Albuquerque are filled with hundreds of colorful hot air balloons, creating a spectacle that’s as breathtaking as it is unforgettable. The event attracts pilots from all over the world, and the variety of balloon designs is a sight to behold.

But the Balloon Fiesta is more than just a visual feast. It offers activities for the whole family. You can watch the awe-inspiring mass ascensions, where all the balloons take off at once, or the thrilling balloon races. There’s also a night glow event, where the balloons are illuminated against the night sky, followed by a fireworks display.

In addition to the balloon events, there’s live music, food vendors serving local and international cuisine, and a variety of craft stalls. You can even take a hot air balloon ride yourself!

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a celebration of flight, color, and creativity. It’s a must-see event that’s sure to be a highlight of your trip to Albuquerque.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta: The world's largest hot air balloon festival in October.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta: The world’s largest hot air balloon festival in October.

7. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

This is one of the best things to do in Albuquerque, hands down. If you’re a science enthusiast or traveling with curious kids, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is a must-visit. This museum offers a fascinating journey through time, from the birth of the universe to the Ice Age.

One of the highlights of the museum is the dinosaur exhibit, which features a T-Rex and a Seismosaurus, one of the longest dinosaurs ever discovered. You can also explore a volcano, walk through a cave, and learn about New Mexico’s diverse ecosystems in the museum’s interactive exhibits.

The museum also houses a planetarium, where you can learn about the stars and planets, and a 3D theater that shows educational films. Don’t miss the “Hall of Stars,” which showcases the work of New Mexico scientists.

Whether you’re interested in paleontology, geology, astronomy, or just love learning new things, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science offers a wealth of knowledge and fun. There’s so much to see at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, that it’s no wonder that visiting this is among the unique things to do in Albuquerque.

New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is a captivating journey from the universe's birth to the Ice Age in Albuquerque.
New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is a captivating journey from the universe’s birth to the Ice Age in Albuquerque.

8. San Felipe de Neri Church

History lovers will love this top thing to do in Albuquerque. Located in the heart of Old Town Albuquerque, the San Felipe de Neri Church is a testament to the city’s Spanish colonial past. Built in 1793, it’s one of the oldest surviving structures in Albuquerque and a must-visit for history buffs.

The church is named after King Philip of Spain and Saint Philip Neri, the patron saint of Rome. It’s built in the traditional Spanish colonial style, with thick adobe walls and a beautiful wooden altar. The church is recently renovated, but it still retains its original charm and sense of history that a visit to this is considered by many to be  one of the best things to do in Albuquerque.

Inside, you’ll find a peaceful sanctuary adorned with religious art and statues. The church is still active, with daily Mass and special services for holidays. Outside, the church’s courtyard is a tranquil spot, with a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi and a garden filled with roses and other native plants.

The San Felipe de Neri Church is not just a place of worship, but also a symbol of Albuquerque’s enduring spirit and rich cultural heritage. It’s a peaceful oasis in the bustling city and a reminder of the city’s deep roots. As one of the top Albuquerque attractions, you’ll definitely want to add this to your travel itinerary.

History lovers must visit San Felipe de Neri Church in Old Town Albuquerque, a testament to the city's Spanish colonial past since 1793.
History lovers must visit San Felipe de Neri Church in Old Town Albuquerque, a testament to the city’s Spanish colonial past since 1793.

9. Albuquerque Museum

It would be a crime to write an article on the top things to do in Albuquerque without mentioning the Albuquerque Museum. To truly understand the soul of Albuquerque, a visit to the Albuquerque Museum is a must. This museum offers a comprehensive look into the history, culture, and art of the city and the Southwest region.

The museum’s permanent collection includes art and artifacts from the colonial period to the present day. You’ll find everything from Spanish colonial religious art to contemporary New Mexican art, as well as historical artifacts that tell the story of Albuquerque’s past.

One of the highlights of the museum is the “Only in Albuquerque” exhibit, which explores the city’s unique character and identity. The exhibit is interactive, with multimedia displays and hands-on activities that make history come alive.

In addition to its permanent collection, the museum also hosts rotating exhibits, so there’s always something new to see. And don’t forget to check out the museum’s sculpture garden, which features works by local and international artists.

The Albuquerque Museum is more than just a museum; it’s a gateway to the city’s past and a celebration of its vibrant present. It’s a must-visit for anyone who wants to delve deeper into Albuquerque’s rich cultural tapestry. As such, I recommend this thing to do in Albuquerque to everyone I meet.

This museum is a must-visit for a comprehensive look into the city's history, culture, and art.
Albuquerque Museum is a must-visit for a comprehensive look into the city’s history, culture, and art.

10. American International Rattlesnake Museum

Attractions in Albuquerque come in all shapes and sizes, but this one is among the best! For a truly unique experience, head to the American International Rattlesnake Museum. This museum is dedicated to the preservation and understanding of rattlesnakes and their role in the ecosystem.

The museum boasts the world’s largest collection of different species of live rattlesnakes. You’ll have the chance to see these fascinating creatures up close and learn about their behavior, biology, and conservation. The museum also features exhibits on other reptiles. This includes lizards, turtles, and spiders.

But the museum isn’t just about rattlesnakes. It also aims to dispel myths and misconceptions about these often misunderstood creatures. Through its exhibits, the museum educates visitors about the importance of rattlesnakes in the ecosystem and the need for their conservation.

Whether you’re a reptile enthusiast or just looking for a unique and educational experience, the American International Rattlesnake Museum is one of the top places to visit in Albuquerque. It’s a place where you can learn, explore, and gain a new appreciation for these remarkable creatures.

American International Rattlesnake Museum: A unique Albuquerque attraction preserving rattlesnakes' ecosystem role.
American International Rattlesnake Museum: A unique Albuquerque attraction preserving rattlesnakes’ ecosystem role.

11. Casa Rondena Winery

Experience New Mexico in style at this unique place to visit in Albuquerque. If you’re a wine lover, a visit to the Casa Rondena Winery is a must. Nestled in the North Valley of Albuquerque, this winery offers a taste of New Mexico’s burgeoning wine industry.

Casa Rondena Winery is known for its award-winning wines, which include a variety of reds, whites, and rosés. The winery uses traditional European winemaking techniques to create wines that reflect the unique terroir of New Mexico.

Visitors can enjoy a wine tasting in the winery’s beautiful tasting room, which is designed in the traditional Spanish colonial style. The winery also offers tours, where you can learn about the winemaking process and the history of wine in New Mexico.

But Casa Rondena is more than just a winery. It’s also a hub for the arts, hosting concerts, art exhibits, and other cultural events. The winery’s beautiful grounds, complete with vineyards, gardens, and Spanish-style buildings, make it a peaceful retreat from the city.

Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or just enjoy a good glass of wine, Casa Rondena Winery offers a delightful and relaxing experience, making a visit to this one of the best things to do in Albuquerque.

Casa Rondena Winery: A stylish must-visit in Albuquerque for wine lovers to experience New Mexico's burgeoning wine industry.
Casa Rondena Winery: A stylish must-visit in Albuquerque for wine lovers to experience New Mexico’s burgeoning wine industry.

12. Turquoise Museum

Yearning for a getaway like no other? This thing to do in Albuquerque has got you covered. For a sparkling end to your Albuquerque adventure, make sure to visit the Turquoise Museum. This family-owned museum is dedicated to educating visitors about the history, geology, and artistry of turquoise, one of New Mexico’s most iconic gemstones.

The museum’s collection includes turquoise from over 80 locations around the world, showcasing the gem’s incredible variety of colors and qualities. You’ll also learn about the process of mining and cutting turquoise, as well as its significance in Native American culture.

But the museum isn’t just about turquoise. It’s also housed in a stunning castle-like building that’s a sight to behold. Inside, you’ll find a variety of exhibits. This includes a replica mine, a lapidary workshop, and a display of turquoise jewelry from different periods and cultures.

Whether you’re a gem enthusiast or just appreciate beautiful things, the Turquoise Museum offers a fascinating and visually stunning experience. It’s a fitting tribute to a gem that’s as unique and colorful as Albuquerque itself.

Turquoise Museum is Albuquerque's iconic gemstone attraction, educating visitors about the history and artistry of turquoise.
Turquoise Museum is Albuquerque’s iconic gemstone attraction, educating visitors about the history and artistry of turquoise.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Albuquerque? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Albuquerque:

What is Albuquerque famous for?

Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, is famous for several unique attributes:

  1. International Balloon Fiesta: Every October, the skies of Albuquerque come alive with hundreds of hot air balloons during the International Balloon Fiesta, the largest ballooning event in the world. It’s a vibrant, week-long festival that attracts pilots and spectators from all over the globe.
  2. Historic Route 66: Albuquerque is home to a significant stretch of this iconic American highway. The city’s Central Avenue is lined with neon signs and historic landmarks from the heyday of cross-country road trips.
  3. Breaking Bad: This critically acclaimed television series was set and filmed in Albuquerque, showcasing many local businesses and landmarks.
  4. Sandia Mountains: Dominating the city’s eastern skyline, the Sandia Mountains offer recreational opportunities and a tramway—the Sandia Peak Tramway—that provides breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding landscape.
  5. Pueblo Culture & Architecture: The city’s rich Native American heritage is evident in its architecture, art, and cultural centers.
  6. New Mexican Cuisine: Albuquerque is a hotspot for New Mexican dishes, especially those featuring green and red chiles.

These elements, combined with its rich blend of Native American and Spanish cultures, make Albuquerque a unique and noteworthy destination.

What is the best time to visit Albuquerque?

The best time to visit Albuquerque is during the fall, from September to November. The weather is pleasant, and the city hosts the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October.

Is Albuquerque worth visiting?

Absolutely! Albuquerque offers a unique blend of cultures, attractions, and natural beauty that sets it apart. Visitors can immerse themselves in the city’s rich tapestry of Native American and Spanish heritages, evident in its architecture, art, and local festivities. A highlight is the International Balloon Fiesta. This is an annual event that paints the sky with vibrant colors, making it a dream for photographers and families alike.

The historic stretch of Route 66 provides a nostalgic journey, while fans of the “Breaking Bad” series can explore filming locations scattered throughout the city. For nature enthusiasts, the Sandia Mountains offer hiking, skiing, and the Sandia Peak Tramway, boasting panoramic views of the Rio Grande Valley.

Adding to its charm, Albuquerque’s New Mexican cuisine, especially dishes laden with green and red chiles, promises a unique food experience. Given its cultural depth, natural beauty, and diverse attractions, Albuquerque is undoubtedly worth a visit.

How many days do I need in Albuquerque?

A three-day trip is usually sufficient to explore the main attractions of Albuquerque. However, if you plan to attend events like the Balloon Fiesta or want to explore the surrounding areas, you might want to stay longer.

Is Albuquerque safe for tourists?

Like any city, Albuquerque has safe areas and areas where you should be more cautious. It’s always a good idea to research and plan ahead, and to take basic safety precautions, such as not leaving valuables in your car and being aware of your surroundings.

The city at night.
Albuquerque, New Mexico at night.

What food is Albuquerque known for?

Albuquerque is known for its New Mexican cuisine, which is a blend of Native American and Spanish flavors. The city is particularly famous for its green chile, which is used in a variety of dishes.

What is there to do in Albuquerque for kids?

Albuquerque offers many family-friendly attractions. This includes the ABQ BioPark, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Petroglyph National Monument. The city also has several parks and outdoor spaces where kids can run around and play.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico

From its rich cultural heritage to its stunning natural beauty, Albuquerque is a city that has something for everyone. Whether you’re exploring the historic streets of Old Town, taking in the breathtaking views from the Sandia Peak Tramway, or immersing yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the International Balloon Fiesta, you’re sure to leave with unforgettable memories.

So why wait? Start planning your Albuquerque adventure today, and discover for yourself why this city is one of the hidden gems of the Southwest.

The top things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico for all types of travelers
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