Albuquerque is a city of diversity, with geographic and historic circumstances that brought Native American, Hispanic and Anglo cultures together to create a unique multicultural community. The land awes and inspires with the Sandia and Manzano Mountains to the east, the river valley cutting through the city and the West Mesa escarpment with its ghosts of volcanic activity. In spite of the size of the city and all of the amenities that go along with big city life, Albuquerque manages to retain a small town charm.
Whether you stroll through this historic district on your own, or take a tour with the Albuquerque Museum , Old Town is the perfect place to begin exploring The Duke City. At the heart of this district is the original central plaza that is lined with over 100 quaint little shops. Like everything else in Albuquerque, a visit to Old Town is a delightful mix of old and new, with sights that range from Civil War cannons to the Church of San Felipe de Neri. Stop in at The Candy Lady for a delectable chocolate. Go further back in time with a trip through the New Mexico Museum of Natural History , or satisfy your childlike curiosity in the Explora! Science Center . You can stay in the area in the modern luxury of the Sheraton Old Town, or in the elegance of a bed and breakfast like the Bottger-Koch Mansion .
The hub of business and government activity in the city is the bustling downtown area. The Civic Plaza also plays host to a myriad of other activities and during summer months, Summerfest is held. This is a celebration of New Mexico's many cultures that showcases the food, music and dance of a different ethnic group every Saturday. While the Civic Plaza is downtown's outdoor venue, the KiMo Theater , renovated in 1999-2000, is the city's crown jewel of indoor venues for the performing arts. The Hyatt Regency , one of the city's newest luxury hotels dominates the downtown skyline. With two lounges and a restaurant that offers fine dining, this is the ultimate hotel for the business traveler.
This region of Albuquerque boomed following the Second World War when Route 66 became an artery for interstate travel and migration to the west. The residential neighborhoods are quaint, tree-lined streets with sprawling, 1950s ranch-style homes and a sprinkling of well-groomed parks. The uptown district is the retail center of the city, home to the Coronado Center . Restaurateurs have taken advantage of the traffic generated by these centers. The Japanese Kitchen sushi bar caters to local businessmen and shoppers alike. The Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown offers a range of rates for all levels of business travelers.
Nob Hill and University
This eccentric area is a mix of art deco, Spanish colonial, Pueblo and modern architectural styles. It has undergone a recent facelift and the Nob Hill Merchants Association has revitalized and reclaimed this formerly run-down neighborhood. Once-bland strip malls now house a mix of retailers, galleries and coffee houses that cater to students from the nearby University of New Mexico as well as the locals who drop in for a little gossip. Closer to the university are a variety of restaurants, delis and sidewalk cafes that offer fare from the far reaches of the world. The award-winning Olympia Cafe has served authentic Greek cuisine from the same location since 1972. Just east of the Nob Hill area lie the New Mexico State Fair grounds, home of the sixth largest state fair in the US.
The sheer, pink granite Sandia Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop for this sprawling area, which contains some of the newest developments within the city limits. One of Albuquerque's landmark features is the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway . For an unforgettable evening, punctuated by one of the most awe-inspiring views in the western United States, catch a ride on the tram to the top of the mountains where you can enjoy a sunset meal at the High Finance Restaurant . A drive past the opulent mansions that perch on the boulder-strewn foothills of the mountains will take you to the hikers' Mecca of Albuquerque. Elena Gallegos Park offers miles of trails through the sage and juniper hills. On the north end of the mountains, La Luz Trail winds to the soaring heights of Sandia Crest, where hang gliders ride the warm air currents that rise from the valley floor.
The silicon age drives the economy of one of the fastest growing regions in the country. The Intel Corporation has sparked a massive boom on the city's west side. As new neighborhoods sprawl across the mesa, their growth is steered by the basalt escarpment of Petroglyph National Monument . A hike down the trails of this unique treasure offers visitors a glimpse into New Mexico's prehistoric past. Shopping abounds at the new Cottonwood Mall , the state's largest indoor mall. The Hilton Garden Inn, across the street from the Intel complex, offers a central location for the visitor with business on the west side. A drive down Coors Boulevard after dark offers a remarkable vista. The city becomes a sea of light that stretches from the distant mountains to the cottonwood Bosque of the Rio Grande.
North Valley/South Valley
The Rio Grande Valley offers the visitor a glimpse of what the Spanish explorers saw in the 15th century when they rode north along the Rio Grande del Norte. The economic diversity of the city unravels as you follow Rio Grande Boulevard from north to south. Some of the homes in the South Valley have withstood the test of time for hundreds of years. Nestled among these ancient dwellings are the Albuquerque Country Club. A new addition to the South Valley is the Rio Grande Botanic Gardens , where you can dine with the sharks in their exclusive restaurant.
The North Valley is home to some of the city's more prominent families. The world famous racing family, the Unsers, have an estate here. Set in the adobe walls that surround the estate are wheels from cars that actually ran at the Indianapolis 500. Giant, ancient cottonwoods shade bridle paths and walking trails. A nice way to end the day is a visit to the Anderson Vineyards, where you can taste one of New Mexico's premier wines.
Surrounded by majestic Ponderosa Pines and expansive vistas, this area is growing faster than some people like. Populated with a mix of income brackets, age groups, and ethnic backgrounds, the east mountain area is seen as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the big city. You can ski Sandia Peak Ski Area in the morning and golf at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in the afternoon. Lodging in the East Mountains is limited to bed and breakfasts. The frenetic pace of the city is forgotten as visitors can enjoy a hot drink by the fire or sit on the porch watching the hummingbirds chase each other among the pines.
The rich cultural diversity of New Mexico has created a culinary melting pot. Finding something to eat is easy, but choosing from all of the options may take awhile. There are a variety of ethnic restaurants, and for every one of these, there are at least three restaurants offering New Mexican cuisine.
Offering the finest New Mexico beef, wild game and poultry, the High Noon Restaurant and Saloon serves gourmet meals in a casual atmosphere. No trip to this area of town would be complete without a stop at one of the restaurants on the plaza. Casa de Fiesta Mexican Grill offers fine New Mexican dining with a full view of the plaza. Old Town's bars and pubs reflect the quiet atmosphere of this historical district and rowdier nightlife needs to be sought in another part of town.
After the sun goes down in Old Town, the lights go on Downtown. Loosen your collar and lose the tie at Burt's Tiki Lounge , where tropical drinks are the specialty of the house and the kitchen remains open until 2a. For something a little more upscale, the Downtown Distillery offers live music, billiards and a restaurant that serves a wide variety of sandwiches. A popular hangout for the downtown lunch crowd is the Artichoke Cafe , a French bistro located on historic Route 66 , which offers gourmet meals in a casual atmosphere.
There is a bustling energy to this fast-paced region of the city. On-the-go business people, salesmen and executives in search of a quality meal have inspired a wide variety of coffee houses, fine restaurants and nightclubs.
A recent addition to this part of town and an instant favorite is Vic's Daily Cafe . Owned by the son of a long-time coffee house operator, the Greek heritage of the family is apparent in the three-page menu that offers huge hamburgers, meatloaf with mushroom gravy and Greek-style roasted chicken on a bed of rice pilaf.
For local food in Midtown, try Los Cuates , which specializes in New Mexican cuisine. The portions are large and the prices small, but that is not the only reason to stop in. It is the best authentic New Mexican food in the neighborhood.
Northeast Heights and Foothills
Family-owned restaurants, local taverns and hole-in-the-wall eateries are sprinkled across this section of town that slopes upward toward the Sandia Mountains. Garduno's of Mexico is a local favorite. For a four-course gourmet meal with a twist, try the Mystery Cafe , a murder mystery dinner theater. If this doesn't provide enough entertainment, head up the street to Laff's Comedy Caffe where locals go to find themselves or their friends taking the brunt of a good joke.
Nob Hill and University
In this part of town, the dining experience ranges from great, cheap fast food to the most expensive in town. In the University area, the coffee shops, cafes and diners may cater to the student's budget but everyone in town enjoys the fare. For some of the best Italian food in town, sample some of the offerings at Scalo .
The area around the airport is alive twenty-four hours a day. A taste of New Mexico awaits you even before you have to worry about finding a rental car or a shuttle to get away from the Sunport. Garduno's of Mexico , a local favorite with several locations throughout the city, has staked out a spot in the airport itself. This restaurant will definitely acclimate visitors to chili, New-Mexico-style. Down the street near the motels, you will find Quarters Barbecue . You will also find the Rio Grande Yacht Club, one of Albuquerque's most respected seafood establishments.
North Valley and South Valley
Along the Rio Grande, old haciendas hint of the history at the heart of Albuquerque. A number of these distinguished old homes have been converted into restaurants. El Pinto , located in the far North Valley, is such a place. Dinner on the patio while watching the setting sun illuminate the Sandia Mountains can only be topped by the accompanying mariachi music.
For a close encounter with recent celebrities, visit one of the most revered Mexican restaurants in the city, Sadie's . Johnny Carson and other visiting celebrities make this a must on their to-do list in Albuquerque and it could be because of the margaritas. Another option is a combination plate and an imported beer on the patio at Geezamboni's BBQ, the North Valley's most popular barbecue spot.
This quaint village wedged between Rio Rancho and north Albuquerque has maintained its atmosphere despite the burgeoning metropolis on its fringes. For true four-star dining, try Jim White's Casa Vieja , where there is no established menu, just an inventive chef with open-minded customers. Enjoy dinner and cocktails in this 300-year-old Spanish land grant home.
Exponential growth is the hallmark of this part of the metro area. And no fast-growing town worth its salt would go up without Texas barbecue. Rudy's Country Store and Barbecue offers pit-roasted meat cut and served right before your eyes. For authentic Italian food washed down with micro brew, the Turtle Mountain Brewing Company has just the thing. Famous among the locals for its impressive breakfast spread is Weck's. If you're really hungry, try Twister's for a burrito so big it is sold as whole, 1/2, 1/4, or 1/8 size.
Standing at Sandia Peak, above Albuquerque, the splendor of New Mexico spreads before you in green, beige and magenta. This point above the city lets you see the area in much the same way as the people of the past saw the region. Mt. Taylor, a dormant volcano, dominates the western horizon 70 miles/115 kilometers distant. To the north, Santa Fe nestles in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. To the south you can almost see the eco-zone change as the climate becomes visibly more arid.
Old Town Few American cities have been able to preserve their history the way Albuquerque has. The original town center, Old Town Plaza is surrounded by structures built in the early 18th Century. One of the best ways to experience this area is through a guided walking tour, and the Albuquerque Museum offers an excellent one. Many visitors prefer seeing this historic district at their own pace. If you choose the self-guided tour, do not leave out a stop at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History , then have lunch in an Old Town cafe, such as Chef du Jour , and visit any of the more than 100 shops and galleries. Tiguex Park , on the west side of Old Town, offers a place to rest after a stroll through the Albuquerque Museum Sculpture Garden.
Downtown At the heart of this vibrant business district is Civic Plaza . In the shadows of the high-rise buildings, this gathering area is lined with little shops and cafes. In the summer months, the city of Albuquerque hosts Summerfest , the place to go for entertainment with international flare. South of the nearby Convention Center is the Albuquerque Convention & Visitor's Bureau . Downstairs, in the basement of the Visitor's Bureau, you'll discover the First Plaza Galeria , an assortment of specialty shops and boutiques. No visit to downtown would be complete without a stop at the KiMo Theater . This Pueblo-Deco picture palace was the epitome of entertainment when it was built, and was restored to its original condition during 1999 and 2000.
Rio Grande Nature Center The Rio Grande Nature Center is one of the most visited parks in the state of New Mexico. Located at the west end of Candelaria just past Rio Grande Boulevard, this 270-acre/110-hectare park is a back-to-nature retreat right in the heart of the city. Outside, you can hike the trails and enjoy the river, woods and wildlife. At the other end of town is La Luz Trail . The trailhead is located off Tramway on Forest Service Road 333A. It rises 3700 feet/1120 meters and is difficult to traverse, but it is well worth the climb. You can hike one way and make arrangements to be picked up at Sandia Crest, or you can ride the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway back down. The Sandia Peak Ski Area is also nearby, if you would like to hit the slopes. Drive past the ski area and continue up 6 miles/9.5 kilometers of switchbacks to the summit. On the west side of town, beyond the tree-lined river valley, a black escarpment juts from the sagebrush-covered mesa. This is Petroglyph National Monument , where thousands of prehistoric examples of rock art have been preserved through the centuries for all to see.
Rio Grande Zoological Park Rio Grande Zoological Park has hundreds of exotic animal species and offers the chance to feed the sea lions. The 23 different kinds of rides at Cliff's Amusement Park , just a short drive away, make it a popular spot for kids and the young at heart. The Downtown Growers Market & Festival takes place in Robinson Park, just a few blocks away from the Zoo. Here you can explore the stalls and grab something to eat. The Harwood Art Center has displays of all kinds open to the public. You will also walk past the Sunshine Building on Central Southwest.
St. Augustine Mission Church St. Augustine Mission Church is almost 400 years old, one of the oldest Spanish mission churches in the country. A great place to eat near here is Vic's Daily Cafe , where the prices are reasonable and the food is fantastic. The popular Zoo Music Concert Series is held in nearby Barelas each year, as is the music festival iGlobalquerque! . Many locals choose to go to the Journal Pavilion with a picnic lunch and relax.
There are many ways to navigate the neighborhoods and sights in Albuquerque, from guided all-day tours to self-paced, self-guided hikes and walks
Walking Tours Destinations Southwest ( +1 505 766 9068 / http://www.destinationsouthwest.com/ ) Enchantment Tours ( +1 505 299 0344 ) Tour New Mexico ( +1 505 883 9178 )
Museum Tours Albuquerque Museum Old Town Tour ( +1 505-243-7255/ http://www.cabq.gov/museum/oldtowntour/)
Bus Tours Grayline Tours ( +1 800 256 8991 )
Nature Tours Rio Grande Nature Center Walks ( +1 505 344 7240 )
Air Tours Above It All Tours ( +1 800 955 3715 )
Jeep Tours Above It All Tours ( +1 800 955 3715 )