Ready to Explore Albuquerque Culture


Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Balloons inflate at Balloon Fiesta Park at sunrise. (Photo Courtesy of

In just a couple of weeks we’ll be exploring New Mexico, where we’ll try to figure out if we prefer red or green chile, gaze at beautiful art in Santa Fe and on The High Road to Taos, explore ancient geologic wonders at Tent Rocks National Monument, see one of the  most photographed events in the world at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and even get our kicks on Route 66. But as we get closer to the trip and the excitement that awaits, I’ve been stressed about planning our time exploring Albuquerque culture.

When we decided to fly into Albuquerque to kick off our week in New Mexico, I planned to spend some time in the state’s largest city, but it really wasn’t going to be a major focus. That was reserved for Santa Fe. But I quickly realized how perfect our timing was as one of the world’s most photographed events would be taking place all week: the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

More than 600 balloons will take to the sky during morning ascensions. (Photo Courtesy of Ron Behrmann)

Our time in Albuquerque will be spent over parts of four days on two weekends. My stress is trying to figure out how we’ll visit all the historic sites of Albuquerque while also experiencing the Balloon Fiesta. We’ll arrive on a Sunday at lunchtime and try to cram in as much of the city’s history, arts, food and fun over the next 24 hours, not to mention some of the region’s beauty with nearby Sandia Peak. Our return visit at the end of the week will be focused on the Balloon Fiesta while trying to fit in anything else we might have missed on the first weekend.

So what’s the plan for ABQ? Food, it all starts with food.

Albuquerque chile

Red or green chile? Or maybe both, otherwise known as Christmas? (Photo Courtesy of

I haven’t settled on all the restaurants we’ll visit, but I’m really interested in trying a breakfast burrito and a sweet roll at Frontier, located along Route 66 across from the University of New Mexico.

After a late lunch, I think we’ll explore Old Town, a neighborhood on the west side of Downtown where the city originated. I’m not sure what we’ll find there, but something tells me there will be lots of Native American art and other handiwork to check out.

Native American Jewelry sold on the sidewalk by La Placita in Old Town. (Photo Courtesy of

Native American Jewelry sold on the sidewalk by La Placita in Old Town. (Photo Courtesy of

If time permits, we’ll consider checking out the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, and maybe pop in next door at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

Albuquerque Old Town

Albuquerque Museum of Art & History’s Sculpture Garden in Historic Old Town.
(Photo Courtesy of

After Old Town I think we’ll board an ABQ Ride bus for the quick ride east along historic Route 66 to Nob Hill to check out its arts, shopping and dining scene, all lit up in the glorious neon of the Mother Road’s past.

Route 66 Nob Hill

The storefronts along Route 66 in Nob Hill will be really cool lit up in the evening I’m sure. (Photo Courtesy of

Before driving north to experience Taos and Santa Fe, I’m really looking forward to a tram ride up the 10,000-foot-high Sandia Peak, which towers over the city just to the east. In the winter, it’s a skiing and winter sports spot. During the warmer months there is plenty of hiking, mountain biking and the like to be enjoyed. I think we’ll just enjoy the amazing views.

Sandia Peak

The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway travels to the 10,378-foot Sandia Peak. (Photo Courtesy of Michael Hayes)

You’re not thinking I forgot about the Balloon Fiesta, are you? There’s no way we can forget one of the entries in the book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.” The plan is to return to Albuquerque for the closing weekend of the Fiesta. After checking out any other city attractions we might have missed on the first weekend — I’m betting we return to the boutiques and galleries of Nob Hill — we’ll join the masses and drive to Balloon Fiesta Park on the north side of the city to take in the Balloon Glow and maybe the fireworks that follow.

Balloon Glow

The Balloon Glow is a nighttime event. (Photo Courtesy of

And before we depart the city Saturday afternoon, we’ll wake up at 4 a.m. (wow that hurts just to write that) and bundle up for the cold early morning temps to take in the morning ascension.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Hundreds of balloons will take off around 7 a.m. Saturday from Balloon Fiesta Park. (Photo Courtesy of Ron Behrmann)

26 thoughts on “Ready to Explore Albuquerque Culture

  1. I’m so jealous you get to experience the balloon festival :) I can just imagine the sights and all that activity. We flew into ABQ and only spent a couple of days there and spent more time in Santa Fe. If you can, make a quick trip to Petroglyphs NM too. I think your son will enjoy all the petroglyphs. We loved Kasha-Katuwe. Don’t forget to try green chile cheeseburger and Sopaipilla. Can’t wait to read all about your experience.
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted…The King of the California Missions: Mission San Luis ReyMy Profile

  2. Looking forward to you coming to our area. I’m glad to help with more suggestions for you and your family. Don’t forget the Llama Treks, and there’s always the Turquoise Trail on the way from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, where Shugarman’s Little Chocolate Shop awaits (YUM!)

    Maria is a local expert on Northern New Mexico and curates and compiles a helpful Travel Guide and blog called Santa Fe Selection and offers free trip advice to travelers to the area.

  3. Lindsay, it’s quite OK to not be prepared. I’m not sure I would’ve looked at planning Albuquerque as closely if not for the Balloon Fiesta adding huge crowds to our time there.

  4. Albuquerque is a pretty happening town – there’s a lot of great eateries and shops. Old Town is fun to roam. I think the city gets overshadowed by Santa Fe, which, don’t get me wrong is an amazing place as is Taos. We love the area and actually came very close to purchasing a B&B just outside of Albuquerque, but we ended up here in southern Oregon. In Santa Fe be sure to visit the Loretto Chapel and visit the pueblo in Taos. We also took a guided jeep tour out into the desert to a ghost town and we hiked up to some cliff drawings, really interesting area! Enjoy!
    Patti recently posted…Route 66: The End of the Road ~My Profile

  5. Jenna, I’m not sure if we’d be going to New Mexico if not for my wife’s fascination with the art of Santa Fe. I’m really excited about all the opportunities that exist throughout the state.

  6. I think it will be a fabulous time. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and the winds won’t prevent the balloons from flying. I hear that can happen. But just seeing hundreds of balloons will be amazing.

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  8. Pingback: Discover Santa Fe and Taos Art

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