Photograph by Peter Unger, Getty Images
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The KiMo Theatre has been an Albuquerque landmark since it was built in 1927.

Photograph by Peter Unger, Getty Images

Discover the Best of Albuquerque

Explore New Mexico's biggest city with these top 10 tips.

Stunning landscapes, rich cultural experiences, and spicy cuisine make Albuquerque an exciting destination.


The cottonwood forest along the Rio Grande is habitat for a variety of animals such as sandhill cranes, porcupines, raccoons, Canada geese, Mexican free-tailed bats, and bald eagles. In the Sandia Mountains and foothills, mule deer, snakes, bears, bobcats, roadrunners, and coyotes are commonly seen. The Rio Grande Nature Center is an excellent introduction to Albuquerque’s riparian areas and wildlife.

Natural Wonder

Located 52 miles north of Albuquerque near Cochiti Pueblo, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument contains surreal, cone-shaped geological formations created seven million years ago when volcanically ejected rocks landed on a layer of volcanic ash. Three trails wend through a surreal landscape of formations that can reach up to 90 feet tall, often with the caprock still visible on top.

National Park

Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque’s Westside contains thousands of images pecked into basalt boulders by Native Americans some 700 years ago. Anthropomorphic, animal, and abstract designs are found throughout this 7,236-acre archaeological site. The visitors center explains the volcanic geology of the area and the long relationship between the land and today’s Pueblo tribes that consider the area sacred.

Archaeological Site

Coronado Historic Site protects the 700-year-old ruins of Kuaua Pueblo, a multistoried adobe village of approximately 1,200 rooms north of Albuquerque overlooking the Rio Grande. Artifacts found at the site are displayed in the visitors center, and throughout the year demonstrations such as flint knapping and pottery making are presented, as well as star parties led by local astronomy clubs.

Cultural Site

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center conveys the history, culture, and traditions of New Mexico’s 19 Native American Pueblos through artifacts, interactive kiosks, live performances, and video interviews with elders. Pueblo dance demonstrations take place on weekends, and the Pueblo Harvest Café blends traditional Pueblo ingredients with contemporary recipes. Shumakolowa Native Arts gallery sells pottery and jewelry crafted by Pueblo artisans.

Best Day Trip

The Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway (NM 14) travels along the eastern side of the Sandia Mountains from Tijeras to Santa Fe. Quirky roadside attractions such as Tinkertown Museum abound, and access to the Sandia Mountains summit offers expansive views of Albuquerque below. The former mining towns of Madrid and Cerrillos now house colorful art galleries, restaurants, and fun shops.

Off the Beaten Path

Just north of Albuquerque, the bucolic Village of Corrales is filled with historic adobe buildings, local restaurants, and shops. Art galleries are sprinkled along Main Street, and the Historic Old Church hosts art shows and musical performances. The Albuquerque Museum satellite Casa San Ysidro is a restored 19th-century rancho filled with artifacts from colonial and territorial New Mexico.

Most Iconic Experience

The Sandia Peak Aerial Tram travels to its terminal on Sandia Mountain at 10,378 feet above sea level, passing over plunging views of the mountain’s many canyons. Once at the top, visitors enjoy sweeping views of Albuquerque and the Rio Grande below, as well as 11,000 square miles of New Mexico landscape beyond. Also, a balloon ride is considered an Albuquerque must-do.

Late Night

Central Avenue between 1st and 8th Streets downtown is Albuquerque’s epicenter for nightlife. Theater and concert goers enjoy productions at the historic KiMo Theater and the Convention Center’s Kiva Auditorium, and live music fills a variety of venues. Albuquerque’s nationally recognized microbrew industry is well represented downtown, and dive bars here accept that classification with pride.

Annual Event

Taking place in Albuquerque every first full week of October, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the world’s largest annual hot-air ballooning event. Albuquerque’s cool mornings, open spaces, and favorable wind conditions bring hundreds of balloonists from around the world to New Mexico, with special balloons shaped like Darth Vader, flying cows, and other whimsical creations.

Travel journalist Steve Larese has hung his hat in Albuquerque since 1993 and frequently takes advantage of New Mexico’s outdoor adventure offerings. Check out his New Mexico images on Instagram.