Known best for the International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque is an enchanting Southwestern city with a mix of diverse cultures that translates to unique museums showcasing their traditions and vibrant events held throughout the year. From flamenco dances held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center to watching Native American dances held every weekend at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, this is an idyllic setting for history buffs and those that want to learn about this city’s distinct past.
Check out Albuquerque’s founding neighborhood in Old Town and admire its 18th-century adobe buildings, visit a museum about the city’s history, or check out one of the largest petroglyph sites. In contrast, among the modern skyscrapers, you’ll find a thriving arts scene and world-class restaurants.
If you love the outdoors, hike up the Sandia Mountains or take the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway up to the peak for panoramic views of the colorful hot air balloons overhead. At night, party under the glow of neon signs along historic Route 66 or catch a show at one of the many theaters or performance venues found in the bustling entertainment district.
With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin, so we’ve put together a list of the 15 best things to do in Albuquerque to help you make the most of your visit. Stick to these fun and unique Albuquerque bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this gorgeous Southwestern oasis!
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15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Albuquerque, NM
1. Learn about the Fascinating Indian Pueblo Culture at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
Take a trip to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center to learn about and experience the rich cultural heritage of the 19 Pueblo tribes of New Mexico. With its combination of interactive exhibits, events, workshops, and authentic cuisine, it offers a truly immersive experience that provides you with a glimpse into New Mexico’s Native American Nations and Pueblos.
If you are intrigued by Native American culture and history, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is one of the many must-do Albuquerque activities. The on-site Indian Pueblo Kitchen is a great introduction to Indigenous foodways, Native American dishes made with traditional Pueblo ingredients, and also some New Mexico signature plates.
The restaurant is famous for its bold and rich flavors, making it the perfect spot to experience the unique tastes of Native American cuisine. Will you choose their hearty bison chili or real blue corn enchiladas? For the ultimate indulgence, try a Navajo taco, which uses traditional fry bread instead of a tortilla.
It’s also the only place in the country that showcases Native American dances, held every weekend throughout the year. Stop by any weekend to see the dance groups from the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico and witness the performers up close.
Standing side by side, the Pueblo singers and drummers fill the air with their deep melodic voices and drumming in perfect unison. Dressed in traditional regalia, the dancers tell stories with their bodies. Bells, shells, rumbling drums, and traditional cultural songs make this one of the most memorable things to do in Albuquerque.
Don’t leave without checking out their fabulous gift shop, where you can pick up authentic handmade souvenirs like intricate silver jewelry, handcrafted pottery, kachina dolls, colorful textiles, and folk art. Each piece sold in the shop supports local artists and the Native American community.
2. Visit the Quirky Museums of Albuquerque
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Albuquerque, the American International Rattlesnake Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated solely to rattlesnakes. At this animal conservation museum, you can see over 30 different varieties of live rattlesnakes, educational exhibits about these fascinating creatures, and an array of snake-related artwork, artifacts, and memorabilia.
If you’re interested in reptiles or just want to experience something unique, the museum is a great place to learn about them, their behavior, and their important role in the ecosystem. It is also a great opportunity to confront and overcome any fears you may have about these misunderstood reptiles. Plus, at the end of your tour, you’ll even receive a certificate of bravery signed and witnessed by the museum owner!
The Tinkertown Museum is an eccentric museum that showcases the imaginative creations of its founder and builder, Ross Ward. The museum is housed in a building made of over 20 tons of glass bottles and features a whimsical collection of antique circus and carnival memorabilia, antique toys, and other oddities.
One of the most notable features of Tinkertown is its collection of hand-carved, hand-painted wooden figures, which depict scenes from American life, miniatures of the Wild West, and folklore, as well as various characters from popular culture. Visitors can also see the antique circus and carnival memorabilia, including hand-painted signs, posters, and equipment, which provide a fascinating look into the history of these American institutions.
3. Admire the Pueblo Deco Design in the Haunted KiMo Theatre.
Are you interested in unique architecture, rich cultural history, and a touch of the paranormal? Then you need to see one of the coolest Albuquerque attractions, the KiMo Theatre!
Built in 1927, this historic venue is a prime and rare example of Pueblo Deco design, a blend of Pueblo Indian and Art Deco styles that create an atmosphere that is both elegant and impressive. It used to host everything from silent films to vaudeville acts and live performances. Today, you can still catch live performances like concerts, films, plays, ballets, and artist lectures here.
Countless big-name celebrities have passed through KiMo over the years, but the most famous resident is Bobby, the ghost that is believed to haunt the theater! It is said that if the performers in a show don’t leave a gift of some sort for Bobby, then he will prank them during their shows. Be sure to go on the intimate backstage tour so you can visit Bobby’s shrine, that’s full of candy and toys left by performers to keep him happy.
The KiMo Theatre is one of the most unique Albuquerque attractions and is an important part of the city’s cultural heritage. If you’re interested in theater, stunning architecture that fuses geometric southwestern motifs with Art Deco design, or just want to befriend a ghost, the KiMo Theatre should be on your Albuquerque bucket list!
4. Drive Down Interstate 40 for Some Tunes on the Musical Highway
Get ready for a one-of-a-kind road trip on the “Musical Highway” in New Mexico. This stretch of road, located on the eastbound lanes of the historic Route 66 between Albuquerque and Tijeras, features rumble strips that play the tune of “America the Beautiful ” when you drive over them at a certain speed.
Created in 2008 as part of a road improvement project, the Musical Highway is one of the most fun things to do in Albuquerque for anyone looking for a unique and interactive way to enjoy the scenic beauty of New Mexico. Turn off your radio, roll down your windows, and be sure to align your right tire to hit the rumble strips on the passenger side of the road for the best musical experience.
This innovative road is a tribute to New Mexico’s rich musical heritage, as well as to the iconic Route 66. With most of the signs having been removed, be sure to put it in your GPS, as it’s about 10 minutes east of Albuquerque. Be sure to drive the speed limit at 45 miles per hour, so you don’t miss out on this unique piece of Americana!
If you’re looking for a quirky and fun way to explore Route 66 and the beauty of New Mexico, the Musical Highway is a must-visit. This musical road will leave you humming the tune long after your drive is over, making it a highlight of any road trip along Route 66.
5. Ride the 2.7-Mile Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway for Striking Valley Views
If you don’t consider yourself a hiker and don’t want to trek all the way to the top of the Sandía Mountains, consider taking the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway. It’s a scenic 2.7-mile-long cable car ride that will take you from the foothills of the mountains to the peak. Feast your eyes on the blueish granite rocky landscapes and the impressive Rio Grande Valley below.
Enjoy the panoramic views from the spacious cable car cabin, the perfect place to experience the natural beauty of the area. Those 15 minutes will fly by as you embrace having a bird’s-eye view of Albuquerque. Consider going in the evening, when you can see the lights of the city below, with a blend of spectacular pink and orange hues at sunset.
Once you arrive at the top, you can hike one of the beautiful trails, and if you are a total fitness enthusiast, then you could even hike back down the mountain, but it’s not for the faint of heart! Sandia Peak is also a haven for bird-watchers as it is home to golden eagles and many other birds of prey.
If you prefer to just unwind, then you can enjoy a lovely picnic in the picnic area. Forgot to bring food? Don’t worry, there are several restaurants at the summit for you to relax and enjoy.
6. Explore the History of Albuquerque’s Old Town
Founded in 1706, the Old Town neighborhood is the city’s most historic neighborhood, and today it remains the cultural heart of the city and one of the must-do things in Albuquerque.
Most of the architecture in Old Town is adobe. These centuries-old Pueblo-Spanish-style buildings, with their flat roofs and stucco walls, now house shops and restaurants. The neighborhood is also dotted with several Victorian buildings, and despite centuries of change, it has kept its original charm.
Today, it’s one of the area’s top Albuquerque attractions, and you can easily walk to more than 150 shops and galleries in the plaza and the surrounding area, where there are treasures found around every corner! Along the sidewalks bordering the plaza, you’ll find local artists selling their goods, including Native American artists and vendors selling their authentic handmade jewelry and pottery.
A highlight of the neighborhood is the museum at San Felipe de Neri Church, the oldest church found in the city that’s located near the plaza. Built in 1793, it still is used today by parishioners. Opt for the Heritage Walking Tour, which will give you the chance to discover the cultural hotspots of the area with an experienced local guide.
The guides will tell you all about the history and will introduce you to local artists and gallerists –and you’ll see some fantastic artwork. It’s the perfect way to experience the beauty and charm of Old Town Albuquerque.
In addition to the tour, you can stroll the Plaza, dine at great restaurants, stay at a bed & breakfast or nearby hotel, take a bicycle or trolley tour, and discover the hidden chapel tucked away in the heart of Old Town.
The Old Town is also a great place to relax and soak up the unique atmosphere. You’ll find adobe houses, hidden patios, winding brick paths, manicured gardens, cobblestone alleyways, and fountains. Plus, every weekend, be sure not to miss out on the Folklorico dancing, live music, and other events that take place throughout the year.
7. Wander through the Themed Gardens of ABQ BioPark Botanic Gardens
The ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden is a 36-acre public garden. It features a diverse collection of plant species from around the world in its themed gardens, including a Mediterranean and desert conservatory and formal manicured gardens.
While you are there, you can also visit more attractions found within the ABQ BioPark that are worthy of a stop. Here you’ll also find the Albuquerque Aquarium, Zoo, Tingley Beach, and the Rio Grande Heritage Farm, which represents 1920s-era farm life.
Experience a piece of the Far East with the stunning Sasebo Japanese gardens. Stroll along the traditional wooden bridges to hear the rush of waterfalls gently flowing into the colorful koi-filled pond. Intricate stone lanterns are dotted around the four-acre park among the delicately blooming flowers. Just being here will put you into a calm, zen-like state!
Head to the butterfly pavilion to see a variety of colorful native butterflies and learn all about these precious pollinators. Traveling with children? Little ones will love the Bugarium, which is home to all manner of creepy crawlies.
There’s also a whimsical children’s fantasy garden complete with a giant 14-foot dragon that guards the castle, among other huge sculptures of insects, veggies, and a two-story large pumpkin that you can walk through.
8. See the City from Above at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Known as the “Ballooning Capital of the World,” Albuquerque holds the largest hot air balloon festival in the world, the International Balloon Fiesta. Every year on the first Saturday of October, the balloon fiesta kicks off and lasts for nine whole days. If you want to take advantage of the most amazing photo op, you’ll need to head there before 6 am to see the balloons take off and fill the bright blue sky with pops of color.
Waking up early has other perks, it’s also the perfect time to catch a balloon ride yourself as the sky is crystal clear and the wind is at its calmest. Plus, seeing the sunrise with 360-degree views of the city and the Sandia Mountains while floating in the sky is a magical experience and a top Albuquerque bucket list activity.
Weather conditions are great year-round, so you can book your balloon ride pretty much any time of the year. Just be sure to do it well in advance because this activity is insanely popular! Post-landing, you can enjoy a celebratory champagne toast to your flight and bravery.
If you’re afraid of heights, don’t worry, you can still see all the wonders of ballooning with your feet planted firmly on the ground. The Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum is a fabulous museum that focuses on the history of ballooning.
They have a collection of fascinating artifacts, photographs, and interactive exhibits that showcase the evolution of ballooning as a sport and science. You can even learn how to pilot a balloon yourself in their interactive exhibit! Find out about the brave pioneers of ballooning, the crazy technology behind modern hot air balloons, and the cultural significance of balloons in different parts of the world.
9. Be Amazed by the Ancient Wonders of Albuquerque
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Albuquerque, you can see 700-year-old symbols, messages, and drawings carved into rocks by Spanish settlers and Native Americans at the Petroglyph National Monument. Discover over 15,000 petroglyphs, which are ancient images carved into rocks, mainly by the Native American Pueblo people.
Later on, the Spanish settlers added their own unique carvings to the mix. Archaeologists have dated some of the carvings as far back as 3,000 years ago, making it believed to be older than the Colosseum in Rome and the Parthenon in Athens.
To get the most out of your time there, first head to the small visitors center and pick up a map of the area, a brochure, and a bottle of water if you didn’t already have one. Then you just need to take a short drive to Boca Negra Canyon, which is located off Unser Boulevard. Boca Negra offers access to over 100 petroglyphs.
You’ll enjoy their three short trails, which offer petroglyph viewing, including the Boca Negra Canyon Trail, the Rinconada Canyon Trail, and the Piedras Marcadas Canyon Trail. You could easily do all three in under two hours, so even those strapped for time will get to enjoy hiking through this ancient art gallery.
Besides Boca Negra, there are other main points of interest nearby. Here, you’ll find the Three Sisters Volcanoes, remnants of dormant volcanic activity. There are no petroglyphs there, but it offers stunning vistas of Rinconada Canyon and the Piedras Marcadas Canyon.
10. Immerse Yourself in Arts and Heritage at the National Hispanic Cultural Center
The National Hispanic Cultural Center holds over 700 events and exhibitions every year that do an amazing job of showcasing the diverse Hispanic culture and heritage of the region and beyond. Tucked away in one of the original Spanish settlements of the city in the lively Barelas neighborhood, the center hosts everything from plays to musical performances, dance ensembles, art exhibitions, visual arts, and literary arts that celebrate Hispanic culture.
The center also features an art museum, a library, restaurants, and multiple exhibition spaces that display the work of local and international Hispanic artists. We recommend taking a guided tour of El Torreón, the Tower, which took about 10 years to complete.
This 4,000-square-foot mega fresco was painted by native New Mexico artist Frederico Vigil and depicts thousands of years of Mestizo history. The work is titled “Mundo de Mestizaje” meaning “the Mestizo world.” The stunning ceiling is all about the Mestizo people, depicting over 200 of them, while the circular side walls depict their vibrant history. You could visit this place 1,000 times and still discover something new hidden in its gloriously intricate depths. Plus, the NHCC also features artwork by world-renowned artists like Mexican artist Diego Riviera.
11. Visit the Fascinating Albuquerque Museum
Located just off Route 66, this museum offers a unique insight into the city’s past, present, and future through its impressive collection of artifacts and art pieces. Celebrating Albuquerque’s unique history and diverse cultures, this museum features permanent art and history collections, traveling exhibits, and exhibits curated locally.
A must on any Albuquerque bucket list, the Albuquerque Museum is a great way to learn about New Mexico’s artistic side and the city’s roots, from its first Native American origins to the Civil War. Art lovers will be in their element because the museum features approximately 7,000 pieces of art, including work by renowned American artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Peter Hurd.
If you’re a history buff, you’ll love the “Only in Albuquerque” gallery, and the “Wit, Humor, and Satire” exhibit will be right up your alley if you need a laugh. There are regular temporary exhibitions, so each visit will be totally unique. Be sure to check out the sculpture garden outside, and if you have kids, they will love the interactive children’s area downstairs.
12. Bike the Paseo del Bosque Trail
For a city escape, take a ride on the 16-mile Paseo del Bosque Trail, which simply means “forest stroll.” Motorized vehicles aren’t allowed on the trail, so you are guaranteed to enjoy the peace and quiet that this riverside trail has to offer.
Rent a bike and enjoy a leisurely cycle in this peaceful cottonwood forest. You can begin the trail in the Old Town and bike the loop for as little or as long as you like. The trail is paved and mostly flat, making it ideal no matter what your fitness level is.
If you are planning to take a longer, more scenic route, you need to make a stop at Los Poblanos Organic farm, a historic property that’s set among 15 acres of dreamy lavender fields, where you’ll smell the place long before you arrive!
Other notable rest stops are the blooming Botanic Gardens, seeing the splash-happy ducks at Tingley Beach, Rio Grande State Park, and the zoo, where you can even spot llamas and elephants from the trail. For more local wildlife, be sure to look up every once in a while because you might see a porcupine taking a nap in one of the trees or a great horned owl hunting for its dinner.
13. See Rescued Wild Animals Up Close at the Wildlife West Nature Park
Located just a short drive from Albuquerque, the Wildlife West Nature Park is not a zoo, it’s a sanctuary for over 20 species of native animals. The majority of these wild animals have been in accidents or rescued from inhumane treatment and have been offered a second chance at life in this wholesome and family-friendly park.
Bobcats, black bears, cougars, eagles, and turkey vultures have all found their forever home in this amazing animal sanctuary. Visit Oreo, the mischievous raccoon, and Tonto, the curious pronghorn antelope. This wildlife paradise wouldn’t be possible without the help of a dedicated group of selfless volunteers that really care for the animals and their well-being.
Just 20 miles east of Albuquerque, this 122-acre park provides a glimpse into the wild side of New Mexico that you can’t find anywhere else. You’ll get to observe native species in their natural habitats, from a safe distance, of course. Plus, the kids will love the children-centric Imagination Trail’s playground equipment.
Beyond housing the animals, they also have a broad range of educational opportunities and events held over the course of the year. The park hosts raptor flight demonstrations, a Music and Arts Festival, and Mud Runs. Check out their Saturday night Chuckwagon Supper Shows for a home-cooked BBQ meal, a wildlife presentation, and a live bluegrass music concert.
14. Get Hands-On at Explora’s 250 Interactive Exhibits and Activities
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Albuquerque, leave your adulting at the door and embrace your childish sense of wonder in over 250 interactive exhibits and activities at Explora. Explora is a science, engineering, art, and technology museum with a twist, and you are guaranteed to have a blast!
Discover the science of sound, play with shadows, and create your own musical instrument. Spark your imagination while you build machines and other structures. Manipulate electricity to do your bidding by turning on a lightbulb with only two wires and a little bit of ingenuity.
Exactly how stretchy is a bubble? Find out as you beat your friends by blowing the biggest bubble in the Bubble Room. Why is water wet? Find out the answer to this question and many more at Explora. Test your balance while 12 feet in the air while on the high-wire balance bike, and bring your doodles to life on the big screen in the Sketch Aquarium.
With so many inventive hands-on experiments in one place, you’ll find it hard to leave! Plus, they now have Explora Adult Nights. Check out the adult-only performances, lectures, and hands-on experiments while sipping on beverages for the 21+ crowd.
Nights like the Science of Beer allow you the opportunity to learn about the brewing process with surprising interactive beer-related activities while tasting some of New Mexico’s best craft brews.
15. Get Tipsy While Doing Yoga at Casa Rondeña Winery
Standing here among the rows of lush green vines and blossoming flowers, you could easily forget that you are in Albuquerque. With its inviting archways, hand-painted tiles, and rustic wooden doors, Casa Rondeña has all the charm of a quaint Spanish village, nestled away from the hectic traffic and noise of the city. A world of its own, Casa Rondeña is one of the coolest things to do in Albuquerque if you’ve got extra time.
Here you can also take a gentle yoga class that invites you to relax your mind and body and let all of your stress melt away. After you finish your session, you’ll be given a refreshing glass of their famous wine.
Casa Rondeña is a family-owned and operated business that has perfected the art of making mouth-watering wine. How about a crisp Pinot Noir to accompany your downward-facing dog? This is the perfect activity for a girly day out or even a quirky yet romantic date idea. It’s easily one of the most unique things to do in Albuquerque!
This area is one of the oldest winemaking regions in North America, known for its bold, dry reds and classic, crisp whites that impress and are known internationally. If you’re not up for doing yoga, many of the other wineries and vineyards nearby offer free tastings.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Albuquerque! What’s your favorite thing to do in Albuquerque? Let us know in the comments below!
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