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
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,
This region of Albuquerque boomed following the Second World War when
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
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
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
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
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
The Rio Grande has always brought life to the inhabitants of the Albuquerque valley. The river provided water to traders and nomads as they made their way across the high desert. As early as 500 CE, pockets of civilization began to appear along the river that served as the principal trade route between the pre-Pueblo culture and other groups who lived to the north. For over six centuries, this culture thrived as the people developed transportation and communication networks. The bounty of the region provided rich soil for farming, and the nearby mountains harbored wildlife for hunting. Although not a city by today's standards, at least 15,000 people were cultivating the Middle Rio Grande Valley by the 15th Century.
The river that brought life to this peaceful civilization also served as a conduit for the Spanish conquest. In 1540, a group of Spanish explorers under the command of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado encountered the natives when they traveled north from Mexico in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola. At first, the Indians welcomed the new travelers with open arms, but the Spanish viewed the natives as heathens and therefore inferior. The two cultures inevitably clashed. Coronado set up his winter quarters in one of the pueblos, Tiguex (present-day Bernalillo near Albuquerque). This was a harsh winter for the Spanish as they suffered from fierce attacks by the natives. One year later, Coronado returned to Tiguex on his trip back to Mexico. This was the beginning of Spanish colonization of the area now known to Europeans as Nuevo Mexico. The remains of Tiguex now form the heart of Coronado State Monument.
More than a century passed and the American Southwest was claimed as Spanish territory. Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, the territory's provisional governor, petitioned the crown for permission to establish a villa in the area in 1706. He proposed naming the new settlement San Francisco Xavier de Alburquerque, in honor of the Duke who was responsible for preliminary approval of Cuervo's application. This settlement was nicknamed "The Duke's City" by the Spanish settlers. The 18 original families lived in a walled village in an area now known as Old Town. In later years, Anglo settlers shortened the name to Albuquerque leaving out the first "r".
The Spanish colonies grew and in 1821, Mexico declared its independence from Spain. The new government opened Nuevo Mexico to trade with the Americans. Under the spell of Jefferson's Manifest Destiny, Americans began settling in territory claimed by the young Mexican government. When the United States annexed the Texas Republic in 1845, Congress sent troops to the Rio Grande to protect the new territory. Clashes with Mexican forces eventually led to a declaration of war with Mexico in 1846. Two years later, U.S. General Stephen Kearny declared New Mexico a United States Territory and established a military outpost in Albuquerque.
Less than 20 years passed before another flag flew briefly in the skies above New Mexico, when the Confederate Army briefly occupied Albuquerque during the Civil War. 1880 marked the arrival of the railroad that changed the city dramatically and forever. The train depot divided the city into two districts, Old Town and New Town. The people who arrived in the next five years began to outnumber the original inhabitants. This brought changes in architectural style and the city's ethnic makeup. Soon afterward, telephone and electricity made their debut.
Albuquerque was incorporated as a town in 1885 and just six years later was recognized as a city. New Mexico was admitted to the United States in 1912, becoming the 47th state in the Union. Albuquerque's mild year-round weather brought about the building of sanatoriums that attracted many invalids from around the world. Two of the sanatoriums operating at that time, Presbyterian Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital, are still standing today. In 1926, the United States established the first transcontinental highway, Route 66. This transformed Albuquerque's main drag into a thriving tourist attraction. In 1928, Albuquerque's airport opened, officially internationalizing travel to the city.
World War I had very little effect on the thriving city, but this was not true for World War II. In 1942, the United States government built Kirtland Air Force Base, which became an integral part of the Manhattan Project. After the war, Sandia National Laboratories, a research and development facility, was built on Kirtland. This top-secret facility became even more important during the Cold War. Sandia Labs has helped Albuquerque establish a reputation as one of the world's top high-tech research and development cities.
Albuquerque has made a commitment in recent years to preserving both its ancient and more recent past. The city council's Quality of Life Tax has generated funds for the purchase and protection of many acres of open space and the enhancement of existing facilities. Old Town is now a thriving tourist center and downtown is the subject of an ongoing and highly successful revitalization project. The All-Indian Pueblo Council created The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center documenting and celebrating Pueblo Indian history and accomplishments.
Albuquerque is the only major city within several hundred miles and most of New Mexico relies on it for quality entertainment. The city offers activities that are as diverse as the cultures that populate the area. No matter what your tastes, there are year-round activities that will provide hours of enjoyment. The locals are particularly proud of the various venues here and contribute greatly to the success of events.
Nowhere are sports fans more loyal than in Albuquerque and evidence of this is most readily found at The Pit. The Pit is home to the UNM Lobo basketball team and is famous for its noise, energy level and pandemonium. There is no way to avoid getting immersed in the game when The Pit gets wound up. Both the Lobo men and women play in this arena and more often than not, it is before standing-room-only crowds of nearly 20,000. The Lady Lobos hold the NCAA record for the highest single-game attendance.
Up from the University, just off Central Avenue, is the busiest coliseum in the state. Tingley Coliseum is host to many events year round. Every year, the first three weeks of September welcome the New Mexico State Fair. The walls of Tingley also echo with 11 nights of Professional Rodeo performances as well as stage acts like Waylon Jennings, Def Leppard, Blood Sweat and Tears and Mark Chesnut. At other times during the year, Tingly hosts the New Mexico Scorpions hockey team, the Indian National Finals Rodeo, the Gathering of Nations, concerts, monster truck rallies and dirt bike races. The New Mexico Slam World Basketball League team just completed its first season here, and has moved its venue to the Albuquerque Convention Center. If you like basketball, the Slam provides edge-of-your-seat, high-quality basketball.
Without a doubt, the most famous spectator event in town is the annual Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. More than 1000 colorful hot air balloons fill the skies above the city during the first two weeks of October. Balloonists maneuver to win events like the key grab, during which a set of new car keys is hung from a tall pole. The first pilot able to maneuver close enough to grab the keys gets to keep the car. Spectators are treated to musical entertainment and wonderful food provided by vendors as well as a chance to see one the world's most colorful spectacles.
There is no limit to what one can see at the museums in the area. The Downtown area offers The Albuquerque Museum, Explora Science Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. New Mexico's night skies have attracted astronomers from all over the world and the LodeStar Planetarium shares its acquired knowledge with the curious public. Located on Kirtland Air Force base is the National Atomic Museum, which explains the official history of atomic science in the United States. There are a number of museums that would appeal to the person who favors oddities, such as International Rattlesnake Museum. If you are interested in the history and culture of the Pueblo Indians of the area, schedule time for the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
Music is the heartbeat of any culture and Albuquerque offers a spectrum of choices for the music lover. The haunting rhythms of Native American drums at the Gathering of Nations Powwow, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, and Mariachi Espectacular, are a sample of what the city has to offer. Popejoy Hall, on the University of New Mexico campus, hosts a variety of touring musical programs throughout the year including the Stomp percussion group. Now in its 23rd year, the New Mexico Jazz Workshop sponsors dozens of concerts and several major events during the year. When the stars come out, Albuquerque goes to the Journal Pavillion, a brand new outdoor venue that seats 8400. Although small, the Adobe Theater is an intimate local favorite for musical plays. The hands-down favorite venue for the performing arts is the KiMo Theater, a restored picture palace built in Pueblo Deco style when movie palaces like Grumman's Chinese Theater were the rage.
The New Mexico Ballet Company teams up with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra for special performances like the Nutcracker. Popejoy Hall's Ovation series often sponsors international dance troops like Ballet de l'Opera de Bordeaux. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center has Native American dancing daily and during the summer, folk dance performances can be seen at the Civic Plaza as part of Summerfest.
Theater abounds in Albuquerque, from professional traveling groups to experimental community theaters. The Vortex Theater is a community-run center that provides a venue for local amateur actors to perform. The Albuquerque Little Theater is a big favorite among locals and is in its 70th season. For family-oriented entertainment, the Strolling Players Theater Group offers a variety of performances throughout the year.
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 café, 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 )