Mass ascension begins at the annual Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

Best Things to Do in Albuquerque

BY Fifty Grande Editors | September 24, 2020

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Albuquerque? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Albuquerque?”

Albuquerque doesn’t beg for your attention, but it deserves it. It’s not a showy “look at me” city and it’s not self-promoting or pretentious. Its personality taps into the city’s significant Native American and Mexican influences, which you can find injected into the local cuisine, architecture and carved into its stones. While other parts of New Mexico have captured minds through UFO lore and abandoned spaceports, Albuquerque has quietly cultivated a bevy of talents — street art, culturally inspired food, hotair ballooning, even rattlesnake knowledge. If you want to take a deep dive, here are the best and coolest things to do in Albuquerque right now.

Put chile peppers on everything

“Green or red?” might be the most common question you’ll hear in New Mexico. Remember: It means chile sauce. These peppers are the New Mexico state vegetable, and Albuquerque residents rarely have a meal without them. Want sweet heat? Go red. Herby freshness? Go green. Or ask for “Christmas” and get both. 

Papa Felipe's in Albuquerque
#1
Papa Felipe's in Albuquerque

Chile relleno at Papa Felipe’s

9800 Menaul Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM, USA

This traditional Mexican dish consists of a whole green chile stuffed with cheese, deep-fried, then smothered in chile sauce. And Papa Felipe’s has been doing it for 40+ years.

Cocina Azúl in Albuquerque
#2
Cocina Azúl in Albuquerque

Green chile stew at Cocina Azúl

1134 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM, USA

Like beef stew, but loaded with green chiles. Cocina Azúl is a consistent local favorite. They also serve a hearty brisket relleno plate. 

Owl Cafe in Albuquerque
#3
Owl Cafe in Albuquerque

Green chile cheeseburger at Owl Cafe

800 Eubank Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM, USA

Owl Cafe is a throwback roadside dinner that serves classic breakfasts and lunches. Their green chile cheeseburger has used the same family recipe since 1948.

Amore Neopolitan Pizzeria
#4
Amore Neopolitan Pizzeria in Albuqueque

Green chile pizza at Amore Neopolitan Pizzeria

3600 Cutler Ave NE #3, Albuquerque, NM

Amore makes authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas, super-thin with plenty of sauce (you might need a fork and knife).

Golden Crown Panaderia in Albuquerque
#5
Golden Crown Panaderia in Albuquerque

Green chile bread at Golden Crown Panaderia

1103 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM, USA

A family-owned neighborhood bakery in Old Town. They load up their loaves with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, green chile and Parmesan cheese. 

Get outdoors

New Mexico outdoors life is where it’s at, as the kids say. Albuquerque is surrounded by mountains, forests and rivers. Plus, it gets 310 days of sunshine per year.

Petroglyph National Monument
#6
Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque. Pic via Shutterstock.

Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument, Western Trail NW, Albuquerque, NM, USA

There are better lookout points and more technical hikes than this, but you’re mainly here for the 400-to-700-year-old Native American rock carvings. It’s 17 miles long and extensive enough for advanced hikers too.

Cibola National Forest in Albuquerque
#7
Cibola National Forest in Albuquerque. Pic via Shutterstock.

Cibola National Forest

Cibola National Forest, New Mexico, USA

Big-time hikers, you’re up. In this 1.6 million-acre park, you’ll find mountains, canyons and some of Albuquerque’s best scenery. Avid hunters can go after deer, elk and antelope here, and it’s rife with campgrounds. If you’d rather see the sights from your car, you can drive Sandia Crest, Capilla Peak or Mt. Taylor for mountaintop views. 

ABQ BioPark in Albuquerque
#8
ABQ BioPark in Albuquerque

ABQ BioPark

903 10th St SW, Albuquerque, NM, USA

A huge environmental complex that includes four different attractions: the Albuquerque Aquarium, the Rio Grande Zoo, the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden and Tingley Beach.

Visit Native American pueblos

New Mexico is home to 23 sovereign Native American tribes and part of the Navajo Nation (the largest tribe in North America). This includes 19 pueblos that are open to visitors. Stop by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque to learn more before hitting the road. 

Acoma Pueblo
#9
Acoma Pueblo pic via Shutterstock

Acoma Pueblo

Acoma Pueblo, NM, USA

Built on top of a mesa, it’s one of the most visually stunning pueblos near Albuquerque. The Acoma have called it home for more than 2,000 years, making it one of America’s oldest continuously occupied areas. 

Cochití Pueblo
#10
Cochití Pueblo. Pic via Shutterstock.

Cochití Pueblo

Cochiti Pueblo, Cochiti, NM, USA

This pueblo belongs to the Cochití people. On the same land, you can visit Cochití Lake and the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. 

Drive Route 66

America’s most iconic road trip connects Chicago and Los Angeles, traversing some of the country’s most beautiful desert scenery and cutting straight through Albuquerque. The original road through downtown is now called Central Ave. and actually intersects the new Route 66 there. 

66 Diner
#11
66 Diner pic via Shutterstock.

66 Diner

1405 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM, USA

This is the type of place Elvis would’ve stopped for a soda-fountain root beer float. It’s a retro diner, a tribute to the ’50s when hot rods prowled the highway outside. Try their trademark Pile-up, which looks like a mess but pays tribute to the breakfasts served at classic Route 66 diners. 

Check out the blossoming street art scene

Burque hasn’t always been a street art destination, but resplendent murals are popping up all over the city thanks to an initiative from local artists called MurosABQ, which connects artists to walls and visitors to existing murals. Many of the themes and styles you’ll find reflect Albuquerque’s cultural heritage — the Mexican, Spanish and Native American influences that shaped the city. 

Downtown Albuquerque
#12
Downtown Albuquerque. Pic via Shutterstock.

Central Ave. and Third St. intersection (Downtown)

third street and central street, Albuquerque, NM, USA

This is where MurosABQ suggests you start a street art walking tour. This section of downtown contains the largest cluster of murals in the city. Wander around with your eyes peeled and you’ll find a bunch.

 

See a live show

In the ’70s, a dedicated collection of musicians established a jazz scene in the middle of the desert. Over the years, it flourished, attracting big names and avant-garde pioneers. Now, Albuquerque beckons artists from every genre and corner of the country.

Kimo in Albuquerque
#13
Kimo in Albuquerque. Pic Shutterstock.

KiMo Theatre

423 Central Ave NW, Albuquerque, NM, USA

This pueblo deco-style theater is Albuquerque’s most historic, and the best venue to catch big-name bands, symphonies and theater performances. 

Sister in Albuquerque
#14
Sister in Albuquerque

Sister

407 Central Ave NW, Albuquerque, NM, USA

For more of a bar/lounge aesthetic, had right next door to Sister. They’ve got a whole bunch of craft beers on tap, and they book everything from national headliners to local emerging bands. 

Launchpad
#15
Launchpad

Launchpad

618 Central Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM, USA

This is where you can get up close and personal with local bands and hip-hop artists. If you don’t like close quarters, this isn’t for you. But it’s still a top-notch venue. 

Where to stay

For an only-in-Albuquerque lodging experience, book one of these. 

Navito Lodge
#16
Navito Lodge

Navito Lodge

6000 Pan American Fwy NE, Albuquerque, NM, USA

From a distance, it might look like a resort you’ve seen before, but the “Artist Rooms” here are seriously cool. Each one is different, its walls covered in unique murals painted by Native American artists. 

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm
#17
Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm

4803 Rio Grande Blvd NW, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, NM, USA

This is a working lavender farm with stylish accommodations, farm-to-fork dining and a shop with luxury products. It’s a peaceful retreat that’s not too close or too far from the city. The best time to stay here is June/July when the lavender blooms. 

 

Must-visit nabes

These are the coolest places to wander, grab lunch or hit the town.

Old Town in Albuquerque. Pic via Shutterstock
#18
Old Town in Albuquerque. Pic via Shutterstock

Old Town

Old Town Albuquerque, Albuquerque, NM, USA

Albuquerque’s oldest neighborhood is where you can see the city as it once was. Today, trendy bars, restaurants and boutiques have taken up residence in the neighborhood’s original adobe architecture. 

Nob Hill in Albuquerque
#19
Nob Hill in Albuquerque

Nob Hill

Nob Hill, Albuquerque, NM, USA

Nob Hill draws its energy from Route 66 (Central Ave.) and the nearby University of New Mexico campus. It’s dripping in midcentury, neon-happy style and lined with hip bars. Kelly’s Pub is the spot for local craft beer, Zinc Wine Bar is the go-to for wine, and Zacatecas has tequila covered. 

Visit offbeat museums

For the most niche and peculiar pieces of Albuquerque’s character, skip the big-name museums and hit these instead. 

American International Rattlesnake Museum
#20
American International Rattlesnake Museum in Albuquerque. Pic via Shutterstock.

American International Rattlesnake Museum

202 San Felipe St NW, Albuquerque, NM, USA

This Old Town conservation museum contains 34 different live rattlesnake species, the world’s most diverse collection. It’s a whole lot more fun than finding one in the wild. 

Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
#21
Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. Pic via Shutterstock.

Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum

9201 Balloon Museum Dr NE, Albuquerque, NM, USA

Albuquerque is the self-proclaimed “hot-air ballooning capital of the world.” Every year, the city hosts the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, where hundreds of balloons lift off at once. This museum celebrates the long history of balloon flight and several prominent New Mexico balloonists. 

Something cool to check out: the musical highway

Ride the rumble strip on a lonely stretch of Route 66 outside Tijeras and you’ll enjoy a buzzy rendition of “America the Beautiful.” Just make sure you’re driving at 45 miles per hour, or it won’t work.