Cover: Shopping in Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull
Albuquerque is a city awash in color. From brilliant blue skies to amazing pink-hewn sunsets against the Sandia mountains, to brightly colored items for sale in boutiques, Albuquerque dazzles the senses.
Richly influenced by the Native Americans, who have lived in the area for thousands of years, Albuquerque is a vibrant, yet relaxing city offering visitors numerous things to do.
Stroll through Old Town Albuquerque
Albuquerque was founded in 1706 when the Spanish settled near the Rio Grande River, in what is now referred to as Old Town. Today, Old Town is a perfect place to grab lunch and enjoy an afternoon leisurely strolling the historic district. Centered around a charming plaza, Old Town is a collection of adobe structures with long porches and bright accents of color.
Quiet paths wind through the buildings, leading to courtyards, hidden gardens, patios and water features scattered amidst the art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and museums.
A wide selection of Southwestern jewelry, paintings, artwork, crafts, and textiles are available in the 150 shops in the area.
Church of San Felipe de Neri Parish
When Spanish settlers arrived in Albuquerque, the first building they built was a church, San Felipe de Neri. Under the direction of Fray Manuel Moreno, a Franciscan priest, San Felipe de Neri was built in 1706 and first named San Francisco Xavier, after the Viceroy of New Spain. The name was soon changed to San Felipe de Neri in honor of King Philip of Spain. In 1792, the church was destroyed and rebuilt the following year. With the exception of its brick floor, south entrance and tin ceiling, the church visitors tour in Old Town today is the same as it was in 1793.
Watch 500 hot air balloons take flight at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
Every October, balloonists from around the globe gather in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the world’s largest event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
Albuquerque’s ideal flying conditions make it a favorite location for ballooning enthusiasts, bringing them back year after year. Each morning the sky fills with hundreds of hot air balloons, as thousands of onlookers watch and photograph the activities.
Go ghost hunting in downtown Albuquerque
Year-round, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk takes guests on a 90 minute, lantern-lit walking tour of downtown Albuquerque stopping at buildings along the 1.3 miles / 2.1 kms that are thought to be haunted, weaving in historic tales of the area along the way. At each stop, Albucreepy provides some history on the location, the associated folklore, and then leaves it to the group to draw their own conclusions.
View 24,000 petroglyphs at Petroglyph National Monument
Located on the west edge of Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument is the perfect place to take a hike and explore the 24,000 petroglyphs on volcanic rocks at the park. Several trail options wind through the New Mexico desert next to petroglyphs dating back 400 to 700 years.
Soar through the skies of Albuquerque
There’s nothing like soaring through the skies in a hot air balloon, taking in the panoramic views, to appreciate the beauty of a region and what better place to do so than in the hot air ballooning capital of the world, Albuquerque. The famous Albuquerque box enables balloonists to journey to the north and then, by changing elevation, find winds blowing in the opposite direction to return them to the launch site. Albuquerque’s outstanding weather and highly experienced ballooning community make it an ideal location to take flight on a hot air balloon adventure.
Things to do near Albuquerque…
Spend a day in Santa Fe
Only an hour away from Albuquerque, Santa Fe is a great day trip destination where you can explore Santa Fe’s legendary Canyon Road art galleries, visit a dozen museums, shop the boutiques and markets, drop by the oldest church in the United States, and answer the lunchtime question, “Red or green?” Referring to the common question when ordering New Mexican food, as in red or green chile sauce, the food in Santa Fe is stellar and, as to how to answer the question – try it “Christmas” or with both.
Explore the cave dwellings at Bandelier National Monument at Los Alamos
Home to the Ancestral Pueblo people between 1150-1550, Bandelier National Monument is located in Los Alamos, about two hours outside of Albuquerque. A fascinating spot to explore, Bandelier’s 33,000 acres contain cliff dwellings where the Pueblo people built homes in the rock cliffs, petroglyphs, and evidence of even earlier life when nomadic people occupied the land over 10,000 years ago.
Know before you go
Plan early for visiting during Balloon Fiesta. Hotels sell out early during Balloon Fiesta, so plan as early as possible for the best selection of accommodations, especially near Fiesta Park.
Summers are warm & tend to have some daily rain. Temperatures frequently reach the high 90s in the summer and afternoon rain showers are frequent, something to keep in mind if planning on hiking.
Drink water and put on the sunscreen. Albuquerque is at an elevation of 5,000 feet and has an arid climate, so staying well-hydrated will decrease the likelihood of altitude sickness and help your body adjust. Also, remember to reapply sunscreen often as the UV rays are stronger at elevation.
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