Albuquerque has certainly put its name on the map with the creation and success of the International Balloon Fiesta that happens each fall. The nine-day event brings $80 million to the city through admission, parking, hotels, campgrounds and restaurants. Many first time visitors will leave the city wishing they had more time to explore.
If you don’t mind crowds, then I highly recommend that you visit during the balloon fiesta. But, make sure your stay extends long enough to enjoy the surrounding sights. If you’d rather avoid crowds, then visiting during the spring is a great choice to enjoy the weather before the heat tips the scale in the summer.
No matter the time of year you visit, you can still be in the spirit of hot air balloons with a visit to the Anderson Abruzzo International balloon museum. No need to become a certified pilot here, just try out the flight simulator and see if you have what it takes to launch your own balloon. www.balloonmuseum.com
However you get to the top of the Sandia Mountains northeast of Albuquerque, just get there! The views above the deep canyons and looking out onto the city are incredible. At a peak of nearly 11,000 feet, you are afforded views that you won’t get anywhere else in the area. There are miles and miles of hiking in the Sandia region and most are part of the National Forest Service. Most trailhead parking is $3, or free if you have an annual pass or interagency pass. www.sandiahiking.com
For those looking for a little more relaxed experience, make sure to visit the Sandia Peak Ski and Tramway. You can take the tram instead of driving to the top in a personal vehicle. There is even a 11,000 square-foot restaurant that you can dine at upon the peak with a spectacular view. www.sandiapeak.com
There is nothing more inspiring than being up close to ancient history. Just minutes from the fiesta grounds is Petroglyph National Monument. The visitor center is a great place to start and the rangers will give you the schedule of ranger-led events and maps to the trailheads. I highly recommend the Boca Negra Canyon Trail area if you don’t have any physical limitations. Even if you do, there are petroglyphs you can see from your car.
There are three short hikes that you can do in one to two hours, and the longest of the three is a fun rock scramble for the kids. Parking is limited and although there is small lot for RVs and buses, I wouldn’t really recommend taking your rig there. www.nps.gov/petr
The “official” question of New Mexico is “red or green?” That’s in reference to your chili preference, of course. After all that driving and hiking you will have worked up an appetite and if you ask any locals, they’ll suggest you try something with green chili because that is what New Mexico is known for. The burrito I tried with green chili sauce was too spicy for my taste, but it’s famous for a reason. There are a slew of restaurants to choose from, but when we asked around, many people suggested Sadie’s of New Mexico. www.sadiesofnewmexico.com
If you happen to hit a rainy day or two, there are some great museum choices downtown. The children in your group will love Explora Museum. It is a hands-on museum for children of all ages. Make human-sized bubbles, try your hand at many optical illusions or ride the high rope bike if you dare. www.explora.us
Directly across the street is the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. If dinosaurs and big bang theory are your interest, than you will be right at home here. www.nmnaturalhistory.org
RVs can be used for different purposes. Everything from vacations, living in and, in a very popular TV show, making illegal drugs. Albuquerque was the setting for the Breaking Bad show and, although filming is over, you can take a tour of the locations when you are in Albuquerque a variety of ways. We loved the idea of taking the tour of the locations via the Breaking Bad RV tour. www.breakingbadrvtours.com and www.visitalbuquerque.org/albuquerque/film-tourism/breaking-bad
Although slightly outside the city limits, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monuments is worth every extra mile. The Slot Canyon trail is moderately difficult and quite steep toward the end, but it was such a challenging and rewarding hike. There are small slots to squeeze through and boulders to climb over with the big prize at the end when you emerge with a breathtaking view of the canyon.
We took our rig there on our way out of town, so it is a possibility to drive to the monument. But, I will warn you that the RV/bus parking is nothing more than a small gravel lot and cars will block you in if the other parking area fills up. Please don’t ask how we know this. www.blm.gov
Founded in 1706, Old Town Albuquerque is where it all began and you can still take a stroll around this unique area. There are more than 150 one-of-a-kind local stores and galleries to make sure you find a unique gift to bring home. Whether you stay in a hotel, bed and breakfast, or commute in from your RV park, you will love taking a step back in time on the streets of Old Town. www.albuquerqueoldtown.com
Don’t forget about the free shuttle that travels between the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and Old Town. Park once and enjoy the rest of your day. www.indianpueblo.org
The Albuquerque BioPark is home to the zoo, aquarium, beach and botanical gardens. All areas are great, but I really wanted to highlight the botanical gardens. They have a very unique children’s garden area which greets you with a 14-foot tall dragon and castle sculpture. That is only the beginning of the unique scenes brought to life at ABQ BioPark. Rated by the Travel Channel as one of the Top 12 gardens in the country, this 36-acre park won’t leave you disappointed. www.cabq.gov/culturalservices/biopark
Whatever brings you to Albuquerque you will leave feeling like you haven’t seen it all! All the more reason to pay Albuquerque another visit.