Culture + Style

5 Things You Need to Know Before You Break for Albuquerque

In case, you didn’t know: Albuquerque is home to the world’s largest hot air balloon festival. (Photo: Getty Images)

First time in Albuquerque? If all you know about the city is what you learned while binge-watching “Breaking Bad,” fear not. Here’s an insider’s guide to local quirks, little known facts and beloved sites. And, more importantly, how to answer New Mexico’s official state question: Red or green?

1. Learn the lingo. First things first. The name “Albuquerque” is a mouthful, so locals generally shorten it to Burque or ABQ. It’s also referred to as Duke City, a nod to the Duke of Albuquerque, Spain, who was the city’s namesake.

2. Get outside. Albuquerque frequently tops national “fittest cities” lists thanks to its warm climate and many opportunities for outdoor adventures. Burqueños flock to the Sandia Mountains, east of the city, for hiking in warm weather and skiing in winter.

The highest point, Sandia Crest, is at an elevation of 10,678 feet. You can take the Sandia Peak Tramway to go skiing or mountain biking, or drive up the mountain to Sandia Crest House, where there’s a cafe and hiking trail access. Either option rewards you with spectacular views of Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley.

3. Explore Old Town. There’s no better place to get a sense of Albuquerque’s history and culture than the walkable Old Town. You can see where it all began at the Albuquerque Museum and pause for reflection at the 300-year-old San Felipe de Neri church. Shop for souvenirs or hang out in the large plaza and people-watch.

Longstanding favorite The Candy Lady is the place to go for a sweet treat, including “Blue Sky” candy, which the shop first produced as a prop for “Breaking Bad.” It’s also the starting point for fans of the show with a limo tour of the filming locations around the city.

4. Eat like a local. In most of the United States, chili refers to a tomato-based stew with beef and beans. New Mexican chile, on the other hand, is a sauce made from chile peppers and served on dishes like huevos rancheros and enchiladas.

Green chile is made from roasted and skinned green peppers, while red chile comes from peppers that have been left on the vine to mellow and sweeten. If you can’t decide which to have when your server inevitably asks you “Red or green?” answer “Christmas-style” and get both.

ABQ has an active craft beer scene and several breweries, so consider cooling your palate with something locally brewed. Good bets include Marble, La Cumbre and Bosque.

5. Score a great deal. The best time to find hotel deals in Albuquerque is during the off-season, roughly January to April. Temperatures aren’t too frigid, and you have more chances to interact with locals when the city isn’t overrun with visitors.