Downtown Albuquerque with mountains in background

Downtown Albuquerque at sunset. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Find History, Nature and Plenty of Adventure in Historic Albuquerque, New Mexico

Whether you’re interested in history, nature, art or Southwestern style and cuisine — or maybe all of the above —it exists in ABQ. The largest city in New Mexico, Albuquerque is known for sunny skies that transition to a painted, pale pink at sunset, as well as a vibrant mix of cultures that color the city with a wonderful diversity.

Plus, as a one-time popular stop on Route 66, there’s plenty of charming kitsch to go around. Over the course of three days, explore ABQ’s signature mix of natural beauty and interesting city culture, along with plenty of its signature Southwestern food.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Get a Sense of Southwestern History

San Felipe de Neri Church during the day
The pastel-hued church is an Albuquerque attraction. (Photo: Getty Images)

Let’s get started with Albuquerque’s modern-day roots. Pay a visit to Old Town to stroll through Old Town Plaza where Francisco Cuervo y Valdés, the Spanish governor of New Mexico, certified the city’s founding.

Order a locally roasted coffee and a sweet cream biscuit from The Blackbird Coffee House, then continue toward Romero Street to see the church of San Felipe de Neri, part of the community for more than 300 years.

Wander down a few of the narrow passages before heading to ABQ Biopark where there’s a zoo, aquarium, garden and even a fishing pond. Make your way through the garden, and spend some time inspecting the rare and endangered native plants — with any luck you’ll enjoy one of ABQ’s more than 300 sunny days every year.

Then head for downtown’s Central Avenue. Formerly part of Route 66, the thoroughfare still shows its road-tripping history in eclectic shops, neon signs and unique restaurants. Families and groups like lunching at 505 Central Food Hall with vendors selling everything from tacos and pizza to burgers and ramen.

For the remainder of the afternoon and evening, venture a few miles west of downtown on Central Avenue to Nob Hill, just east of the University of New Mexico. Look for the neon arches that mark both ends of the area.

Nob Hill retains its retro Route 66 style with historic buildings and quirky shops like Cowboys & Indians Antiques where you can find jewelry, baskets, Pueblo pottery and Hopi Kachinas.

Also want to check out the 1940s Nob Hill Shopping Center, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and home to a handful of restaurants and specialty shops, including Color Wheel Toys and Organic Books.

Still in that throw-back mood? Head to 66 Diner for the Friday special, a fried catfish dinner served in a vintage building that was once a Route 66 service garage.

Saturday: Get Outside

This is your day to leave the city for nature and wildlife on a trip north to the Rio Grande Valley. The fertile land along the river attracted early farmers and this rural culture is still alive with orchards, vineyards and farms lining the roads.

Depending on the day, you might pass farmers’ markets selling seasonal produce. Or you can stop at the Farm Shop at Los Poblanos for coffee while you browse their local products.

Pass rows of grapevines in this historic wine-producing area, and a visit to Casa Rondeña would be an ideal spot for a taste and perhaps a bottle to take home.

Sandia Mountains and pink wildflowers
Stunning Sandia Mountains. (Photo: Getty Images)

With views of the Sandia Mountains as your backdrop, hike or stroll through Rio Grande Nature Center State Park to see native wildlife, birds and plants. If you’re in the mood for more hiking, the park connects to the Paseo del Bosque Trail, a 16-mile paved urban trail that passes natural areas and public art.

Later, visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center for fascinating exhibits, art, performances, a teaching kitchen and a restaurant serving Native American cuisine. There’s plenty of handmade jewelry, pottery and art in the shop.

For another glimpse into local history, stop at Casa San Ysidro, a recreated 18th/19th-century adobe house filled with folk art, furniture, Spanish-Colonial iron tools and hand-woven floor coverings.

Head south after your day in the North Valley, and relax with dinner at Mary & Tito’s. This authentic Southwestern restaurant has been serving chile-laced dishes since 1963 and has earned an American Classics Award from the James Beard Foundation.

Sunday: Take to the Skies in a Hot Air Balloon

Hot air ballon over Albuquerque
Soar above Albuquerque in a hot air balloon. (Photo: Getty Images)

Begin your day with a sunrise hot air balloon ride, drifting high above the Albuquerque area’s stunning landscape. In the Balloon Fiesta Park area, operators offer private, group and specialty trips (reserve in advance).

Following a smooth landing and a celebratory glass of champagne, head about five miles west to explore Petroglyph National Monument with a hike along historical trails. There are a wide variety of paths— from easy to challenging — many of which have ancient rock carvings on display.

If your colorful morning ride inspired a deeper interest in hot air balloons, browse the artifacts, photos, hands-on exhibits, interactive games and immersive experiences at the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque Balloon Museum.

While you’re there, stop at one of the wineries, cafés, or Pyramid 51 Restaurant & Bar for a quick lunch while you plan your evening.

It’s your last night in ABQ, so make it a good one. Enjoy your favorite New Mexico cuisine at a Nob Hill or downtown restaurant. Head to the family-run, local-favorite La Salita for a casual meal of chile rellenos or splurge on a center-cut ribeye steak at the upscale Antiquity Restaurant.

End your weekend Western-style with music and dancing at the Dirty Bourbon Dance Hall & Saloon. If singing is more your style, Uptown Funk features dueling piano players, who will play your requests as you belt out the tunes.