Albuquerque's unique mixture of Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo heritages provides visitors with a variety of activities. Albuquerque's spiritual heart is Old Town, dating to the city's founding in 1706, where an arts community flourishes. Old Town is an atmospheric area of quaint adobe-style buildings with flat roofs and rounded edges, with windows frequently decorated with strings of dried chili peppers for good luck, and winding cobblestone or brick walkways leading to tucked-away patios and gardens. Old Town's Plaza features an outdoor Native American market offering traditional arts and crafts such as textiles, jewelry, and pottery. Also located in Old Town is San Felipe de Neri church, the city's oldest building, enclosing the adobe walls of the original presidio (fort).
The landscape surrounding the city is particularly scenic and provides some of the area's principal attractions. To the west is a high mesa and five extinct volcanos; to the east are the magnificent Sandia and Manzano mountains. Sandia Crest in the Cibola National Forest, 30 miles from Albuquerque, offers a breathtaking view that encompasses 11,000 square miles. A skylift operates there throughout the year, carrying skiers and hikers up the mountain. The Aerial Tramway, 2.7 miles in length and the longest tramway in the world, runs to the top of 10,378-foot Sandia Peak.
Evidence of Albuquerque's Native American roots can be found in the numerous pueblos around the city, many of them at least a thousand years old and some still inhabited. Active pueblos within an hour's drive of Albuquerque include Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Sandia, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Santo Domingo, and Zia. Acoma is perhaps the most spectacular; a walled adobe village atop a sheer rock mesa, the community dates to the eleventh century or earlier and is thought to be the longest continuously-occupied community in the country. Reminders of the ancient native civilization also exist in dozens of ruins and archaeological sites, among them Petroglyph State Monument, where some 25,000 prehistoric images, some as much as 3,000 years old, can be found in the rocks.
The Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, located a few miles north of Old Town, offers 2 miles of nature trails through the Southwest bosque, the grove of cottonwood growing along the Rio Grande. The Albuquerque Biological Park consists of three separate facilities: Rio Grande Zoological Park, Albuquerque Aquarium, and Rio Grande Botanic Garden. The zoo sits on 64 acres and is an oasis for both exotic and native species, such as seals and sea lions, gorillas, orangutans, elephants, polar bears, giraffes, camels, tamarins, koalas, Mexican wolves, mountain lions, monkeys, jaguars, zebras, and rhinoceros; one of the missions of the zoo is the breeding of endangered species. The zoo's Africa wing, opened in 2004, has 17 separate exhibits and 23 species of mammals and birds, including chimpanzees, warthogs, red river hogs, cheetahs, hippopotamus, DeBrazza's monkeys, spotted hyenas, African wild dogs, Marabou storks, Cape griffon vultures, lappet-faced vultures, wattled cranes, white-faced whistling ducks, Lady Ross's turacos, and golden-breasted starlings. At the Albuquerque Aquarium visitors can follow the story of a drop of water as it enters the upper Rio Grande high in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and flows past canyons, deserts, and valleys in New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico, before reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The aquarium features exhibits of Gulf of Mexico saltwater species; a highlight is the 285,000 gallon tank housing brown, sandtiger, blacktip, and nurse sharks; brightly-colored reef fish; eels; and sea turtles. The Botanic Garden is 20 acres of developed land that includes a 10,000-square-foot conservatory divided into a Desert Pavilion and a Mediterranean Pavilion. New at the botanic garden in 2004 is Rio Grande Heritage Farm, a 1920s-style farm with an adobe farmhouse, barn, farm animals, orchard, grape vineyard, flowers, and vegetable crops.
Glancing skyward in Albuquerque, spectators frequently see the colorful spectacle of hang-gliders and hot-air balloons drifting slowly past. A combination of sunshine and topography produces steady geothermal winds, making the area ideal for wind sports and earning for the city the nickname of "Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World."
Albuquerque's Central Avenue, which runs east-west through the city, is considered one of the best-preserved sections of historic Route 66 in the state. Along the avenue are more than 100 classic structures, including diners, motor courts, and theaters, in architectural styles ranging from Streamline Moderne to Pueblo Deco.
Albuquerque actively promotes its rich cultural community. In 1979 City Council created an ordinance that assigns 1 percent of monies generated by revenue bonds and general obligation bonds to public construction and public art. Consequently, Albuquerque abounds with sculptures and murals attesting to the city's artistic energies. Along Central Avenue, from historic Old Town on the east through downtown and the university area to Nob Hill on the west, is Albuquerque's "cultural corridor." In the numerous theaters, museums, galleries, and cafes, and at other sites along this
Albuquerque has more than 30 performing arts centers and groups. The KiMo Theater, an ornate 1927 Pueblo Deco-style landmark downtown, is on the National Register of Historic Places; it serves as a performing arts theater, hosting a number of groups, with seating for 700. The Albuquerque Little Theatre presents comedies, mysteries, and light classics in its own playhouse near Old Town. La Compañía de Teatro de Albuquerque—one of the few major Hispanic companies in the United States and Puerto Rico—stages a series of bilingual productions including comedies, dramas, and musicals. Vortex Theatre offers off-Broadway original and classic plays.
Albuquerque is home to the New Mexico Ballet Company, founded in 1972, which performs classic dances in the KiMo Theatre and in Popejoy Hall on the University of New Mexico campus. Dance performances by visiting artists and groups can also be seen at KiMo Theatre. Popejoy Hall, the primary facility in the city for the performance of orchestral music and opera, is home to the Ovation Series—which offers a variety of events including drama and comedy, and ballet and modern dance—and the New Mexico Symphony. Based in the city and one of the southwest's most prestigious orchestras, the symphony presents classical, baroque, and pops, as well as Symphony Under the Stars and other special concerts. Musical Theatre Southwest, formerly the Civic Light Opera, performs classical and new musicals and is one of the largest producers of community theater in the country. Chamber Music Albuquerque, established in 1942, brings chamber ensembles from around the world to Albuquerque.
Many of Albuquerque's museums concentrate on area history and culture. The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science features exhibits exploring the geological and anthropological history of New Mexico, through Paleozoic-era fossils, full-scale dinosaur models, a walk-through volcano, and a replica of an ice-age cave. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center specializes in the authentic history and culture of the Pueblo peoples; the center includes exhibits tracing the history, artifacts, and contemporary art of New Mexico's 19 pueblos, the Pueblo House Children's Museum, a restaurant serving Native American foods, and an outdoor arena where Native American dancers perform on weekends. The National Hispanic Cultural Center, opened in 2000, explores Hispanic history and literature as well as visual, performing, media, and culinary arts. Located on the University of New Mexico campus, the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology displays ethnic, anthropological, and archaeological artifacts. Some date back 10,000 years, with especially strong collections from Southwestern cultures. The National Atomic Museum exhibits the history of atomic energy, including the Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic bomb, as well as non-military applications of nuclear energy.
The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History displays southwest art and explores 400 years of Albuquerque history. The museum features works by New Mexican artists from the early 20th century to the present, and numerous artifacts from the area's Spanish-American period, such as swords, helmets, and horse armor. A 40,000 square-foot expansion, completed in 2005, allows the museum to display more of its permanent collection. With an emphasis on the early modernist period, the University of New Mexico Art Museum houses a collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American and European art, including one of the largest university-owned photography collections in the nation. The Jonson Gallery, located on the University of New Mexico campus, is the home of the late New Mexico modernist painter Raymond Jonson and exhibits more than 2,000 of his works. The National Hispanic Cultural Center's 11,000 square-foot gallery space displays contemporary and traditional Hispanic art. The KiMo Gallery at KiMo Theatre presents the work of local artists. The South Broadway Cultural Center Gallery mounts exhibitions by local and regional artists; workshops are available for emerging artists of all ages.
In 2006 Albuquerque will be 300 years old. The city is celebrating its tricentennial for 18 months, from April 2005 to October 2006, with events and exhibits honoring Albuquerque's art, history, and culture. Many of Albuquerque's yearly events celebrate the city's ethnic heritage. At the National Fiery Foods/Barbeque Show, held in early March, attendees can sample spicy sauces, salsas, candies, and more. The Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival, held in mid-March, features some 200 artists and crafters from across the country. Native American dancing and feast-day observances take place at numerous pueblos located within an hour's drive of the city. In April, the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, held on the University of New Mexico campus, features more than 3,000 Native American dancers and singers representing some 500 tribes; more than 800 artists, crafters, and traders at its Indian Traders Market; and a Miss Indian World pageant. The New Mexico Arts and Crafts Fair, in June, showcases the works of some 200 New Mexican artisans. Each Saturday during the summer, Summerfest at Civic Plaza celebrates the food and culture of the city's various ethnic groups, and presents live music and entertainment. In September, the New Mexico Wine Festival in nearby Bernillo offers wine tastings, an art show, and entertainment. Also in September, the 17-day New Mexico State Fair, regarded as one of the top fairs in the United States, presents a professional rodeo, concerts, livestock shows, and other events. Feria Artistica, held in October, is a juried Spanish Market observing Albuquerque's Spanish roots, reaching back more than 400 years. The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is one of the most-photographed events in the world. A 9-day festival in October, it features the mass ascension of some 800 balloons; at night, balloons filled with luminous gas light the sky. The Weems Artfest, in November, is billed as New Mexico's number one arts and crafts festival; a three-day event, the Artfest shows the works of approximately 260 artisans from around the world. Albuquerque is known as the "City of Little Lights," during the annual Luminaria festival in December. Tours are available.
The Albuquerque Isotopes, part of the Pacific Coast League, bring minor league baseball to Albuquerque at the new Isotopes Park (a $25 million renovation of Albuquerque Sports Stadium), which has seating for 12,215. The New Mexico Slam is a basketball team in the World Basketball League; they play at the Albuquerque Convention Center. The city is famous for the University of New Mexico Lobos, especially the football and basketball teams; the football team plays a September-to-November season at the university's 30,000 seat Stadium, and the basketball team plays from November to March at "The Pit," the university's 17,121-seat Arena. The New Mexico Scorpions, part of the Western Professional Hockey League, play at Tingley Coliseum. Rodeos and horse racing are other popular spectator sports in Albuquerque.
With 800 neighborhood parks, 12 public swimming pools, 4 public and 7 private golf courses, 220 outdoor tennis courts, 23 ball fields, 43 miles of bikeways, and 20 community centers, Albuquerque has much to offer the outdoor enthusiast. Los Altos Park, the city's largest park, offers baseball and softball diamonds, an enclosed heated pool, tennis courts, a lighted golf course, and a children's recreational area. The Los Altos Skate Park, designed for BMX bikers, skateboarders, and in-line skaters, is the largest park of its kind in the southwest. Biking trails can be found at Sandia Peak and the Rio Grande Nature Center. Fishing is available in irrigation and drainage ditches, stocked with trout by the state, and in nearby mountain streams. Among other favorite outdoor adventures are hiking the trails in Cibola National Forest, camping, horseback riding, and downhill and cross-country skiing at Sandia Peak Ski area. Albuquerque's calm, steady winds also provide perfect conditions for hang gliding and hot-air ballooning.
Albuquerque is a shopper's paradise. Numerous shops and galleries in Old Town specialize in art items and crafts produced by local artisans, such as textiles and the turquoise and silver jewelry for which the region is famous. Authentic prehistoric, historic, and contemporary Native American pottery, paintings, photography, and furniture are also for sale in Albuquerque. Sandia Pueblo, just north of Albuquerque, runs its own crafts market, Bien Mur Indian Market Center.
Other shopping needs can be met at Coronado Center, Winrock Center, and Cottonwood Mall, three of New Mexico's largest shopping centers; the historic Nob Hill district, offering some 130 shops, galleries, and restaurants; the underground First Plaza Galleria in the historic downtown district; and the Flea Market held every weekend at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds.
For dining pleasure Albuquerque offers a diverse range of restaurants, from family to fancy. Many feature regional specialties, including authentic Native American food, Hispanic and Mexican cuisine, and western barbecue. The core ingredients of what is known as Northern New Mexican Cuisine—a blending of Hispanic and Pueblo cuisines—are beans, corn, and chili. Several restaurants in Old Town are housed in picturesque adobe buildings.
Visitor Information: Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau, 20 First Plaza Center NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102; telephone (505)842-9918; toll-free (800)284-2282