Why Go To Albuquerque
Exploring Albuquerque’s history is like reading the rings on a tree trunk: The city has expanded outward over time. At its heart is Old Town, the site where the original city was founded in 1706 and where Native American and Spanish cultures still mingle. You’ll also find a certain level of kitsch, deposited from the heyday of the bona fide Route 66 that runs through the heart of town. Head farther out and you’ll find expansive homes and lush vineyards in the North Valley and Corrales.
Despite this ongoing urban sprawl, Albuquerque stays true to its roots. Hispanic flavors can be found in many of the city’s restaurants (prepare for the ear-popping heat of New Mexico’s favorite ingredient, the chile pepper). Native American arts adorn many a gallery window. But despite its old age – the city celebrated its 300th birthday in 2006 – Albuquerque is nothing short of cosmopolitan, boasting funky boutiques, top-notch performance venues and exciting nightlife. To top it all off, the city’s proximity to the stunning Sandia Mountains makes it a great home base for Southwest discovery.
Best Months to Visit
The best time to visit Albuquerque is from September to November. The fall season sees pleasantly warm temperatures (ideal for a stroll on the Paseo del Bosque Trail) and many a party as festival season goes into full swing. Skiers flock to town in the winter months, hitting the slopes of the Sandia Mountains and contributing to the raised hotel rates. However, tourists often overlook spring and summer, meaning hotel deals are plentiful at those times.
What to Eat
When dining in Albuquerque, you’ll encounter your fair share of strong and spicy flavors, and in doing so you’ll also gain a deeper understanding of how food plays into the city and state’s history and defines its identity. New Mexican cuisine is a combination of Mexican, Native American and Spanish flavors. Dishes are built on a foundation of native ingredients, namely corn, beans, squash and, perhaps most importantly, chiles. The chile comes in two varieties: red and green. If you’re at a restaurant that serves New Mexican cuisine, you’ll likely be asked, “Red or green?” If you want to taste both, say you’d like your dish served “Christmas-style.” High Noon Restaurant and Saloon in Old Town is a favorite New Mexican eatery that’s as popular for its steak as it is its tequila. But if you really want to heat things up, plan on attending the annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show in March, which features more than 200 booths filled with more than 1,000 products related to chile peppers.
Another element that makes Albuquerque’s food scene so unique is the city’s wine. Spanish missionaries planted the first grape vines in New Mexico in 1629, which means the Rio Grande Valley is the oldest wine making region in the country. You’ll find a variety of wineries around Albuquerque and Corrales, New Mexico (the visitors bureau offers a directory), but if you want to sample a bit of everything, consider visiting during the Albuquerque Wine Festival, which takes place in May. Prefer suds to grapes? The city is also home to a variety of craft breweries. You can map out your own brewery crawl, or attend one of the city’s beer events like ABQ Beer Week, ABQ Blues and Brews or the Albuquerque Hopfest.
Beyond its New Mexican eateries, Albuquerque offers a variety of fine dining restaurants. Travelers and locals particularly enjoy Restaurant Antiquity and Artichoke Cafe. If you’d like to sample some authentic Native American cuisine, both travelers and the visitors bureau suggest you head to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, which has its own cafe and bakery.
Getting Around Albuquerque
The best way to get around Albuquerque is by bus. ABQ RIDE operates bus routes throughout the city, making it easy and affordable to get from one neighborhood to another. Once you’ve reached a specific district, you’ll find it fairly easy to explore on foot. ABQ RIDE also offers transportation to and from Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ), which is located less than 5 miles south of the downtown area. If you’d like to take the bus into town from the airport, head to the west end of the lower level and look for the No. 50 bus. Keep in mind: If you’re looking to take a daytrip into the mountains, a rental car will come in handy. Rental agencies are available at the airport and in town. Ride-hailing apps, such as Uber and Lyft, also operate in the Albuquerque area.
Albuquerque’s individual neighborhoods are relatively easy to navigate on foot. Old Town attractions are close together: Several notable museums and kid-friendly attractions – including the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and the ABQ BioPark – are within walking distance. If your feet need a break, you can hop on one of the downtown area’s bike-share rentals, BICI. Trips less than 90 minutes are free; each hour after that costs $3. But if you’re trying to reach attractions outside the downtown area, such as the Sandia Peak Tramway or the Paseo del Bosque Trail, you’ll need a set of wheels.
ABQ RIDE operates numerous bus routes throughout downtown Albuquerque and the immediate suburbs. Most buses run every day from around 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., depending on the route. Bus route No. 66, which runs along Central Avenue, runs from 5:30 a.m. to 12:45 a.m. during the week and until 1:45 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. On Sundays, it operates from 6 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. One-way rides cost $1 for adults with discounts for seniors, students and children. If you plan on using the bus frequently, consider investing in a multiday pass; prices range from $2 to $6, depending on the number of days. ABQ RIDE also offers free, looped shuttle service, the D-RIDE, around the downtown area. Shuttles operate from 6:30 a.m. to 5:33 p.m., Monday through Friday. The New Mexico Rail Runner Express offers commuter rail service, which connects downtown Albuquerque to Santa Fe and Belen, New Mexico.
You’ll need a car for traveling outside the city limits. Rentals are available in town or at Albuquerque International Sunport. There are two main arteries through Albuquerque: Interstate 40 runs east to west, while Interstate 25 runs north to south. However, to get a taste of historic Albuquerque, you can also rely on old Route 66, which connects such major areas as Old Town, downtown and the University of New Mexico.
If you don’t rent a car, but still need to reach attractions outside the downtown area, relying on taxis or ride-hailing apps may be your best bet. Taxis congregate around hotels, but are few and far between elsewhere. Ride-hailing apps, such as Uber and Lyft, service the Albuquerque area and will be easier to rely on than local cabs.
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