8 attractions you can count on in Albuquerque, New Mexico

How much do I love Albuquerque? Let me count the ways. My friends and I have visited countless times, with a seemingly endless number of attractions left for us to discover. We’ve explored zoos and aquariums, as well as museums, shops, and side streets.

Inspired by the immeasurable amount of love we all have for the city, here are some favorite attractions that people of all numbers—I mean ages—will enjoy.

250: number of species at ABQ BioPark Zoo

Number one in my heart? Thorn, the fourth Asian elephant born at the ABQ BioPark Zoo since 1992. Thorn was born in early May after a 659-day gestation period and is slowly eating his way up to the weight of his momma, Rozie. Animal families are popular at ABQ BioPark Zoo. Polar bear twins Kiska and Koluk have been residents since 1997 and play together on a 20-foot water slide, cool off in an air-conditioned ice cave, and refresh under waterfalls and in a 14-foot-deep pool—not a bad place to hang! Sibling lions Kenya and Dixie can be found in the Africa section of the zoo, looking regal.

This menagerie also includes chimpanzees, mountain lions, cheetahs, hippopotamuses, an ocelot, hyenas, zebras, giraffes, capybaras, an Asian snow leopard, and the only Tasmanian wombats in the United States, among others.

11: brews on tap at La Cumbre

This brewery is worth a pilgrimage. Arguably the most well-known brewery in New Mexico, La Cumbre is for libation lovers. I’m not alone in being a huge fan of the popular Elevated IPA—it won first place at the American Beer Festival recently thanks to its refreshing citrus flavors and hint of bitterness. There are seven beers available year-round, including the punny A Slice of Hefen and the direct Beer. Four annual special releases keep locals and fans returning since its opening in 2010.

But it’s the people here who make a visit special, as you’re bound to make a friend when you’re belly-to-bar.

The environment at La Cumbre is comfortable and welcoming—farmhouse tables and twinkle lights outside, galvanized metal accents and chalkboard menus inside. But it’s the people here who make a visit special, as you’re bound to make a friend when you’re belly-to-bar. Also admirable: the artwork that covers the walls and cans. It’s a distinctive style that makes La Cumbre recognizable all over the city and beyond.

400: number of petroglyphs at Petroglyph National Monument

This archaeological attraction—one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America—showcases hundreds of drawings carved onto volcanic rocks by American Indians and Spanish settlers. Bring a large, cold water bottle and wear a hat, closed-toed shoes, and sunscreen to explore the four trails—Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, Piedras Marcadas Canyon, and Volcanoes Day Use Area. Allow yourself the time to fully embrace what you see, as these images are valuable historically, culturally, and spiritually for American Indians and for the descendants of the early Spanish settlers.

Within Boca Negra Canyon, the Mesa Point, Macaw, and Cliff Base trails reveal about 100 petroglyphs. It takes about an hour to complete the three easy trails. More petroglyphs means a bit more of a workout—walk through Rinconada Canyon to see the remnants of volcanic eruptions from 200,000 years ago, area wildlife, and approximately 300 prehistoric and historic petroglyphs. The 2.2-mile round-trip trail is strenuous for even the more-sprightly.

20: miles per hour at which I ran from the American International Rattlesnake Museum

While this animal conservation museum claims to cure phobias, I have to admit I took a hard pass from visiting. I probably would have enjoyed browsing the artifacts and memorabilia. But walking through the largest collection of different species of live rattlesnakes in the world? No, thanks! Species from North, Central, and South America are presented in re-created habitats. Exhibits include collections of snake-themed toys, ceramics, jewelry, clothing, food and beverages, art, license plates, snakebite kits, and more—if you’re into that kind of thing.

50+: stores to browse in Old Town Albuquerque

The heart of Albuquerque since the city was founded in 1706, Old Town is the city’s inherently walkable cultural center. Between attractions, look around: the mixture of architecture here ranges from Pueblo-Spanish-style adobe to 1880s Victorian buildings.

In addition to dozens of shops, there are galleries and restaurants to round out a full day. The Candy Lady, which is famous for its “Bad Candy Lady” range of Breaking Bad-inspired products, is a must. Fans—including my friends and me—clamor for the crushed crystal rock candy (cotton-candy-flavored), which was used as the methamphetamine prop on seasons one and two of the show. Souvenir score!

2.7: miles of track on the Sandia Peak Tramway

The world’s longest aerial tram ride includes mountain vistas, valley views, and the city skyline in the distance as you ascend to an observation deck atop 10,378-foot Sandia Peak (about 30 minutes from downtown Albuquerque in the Cibola National Forest). Some might say sunset is the best time to take a ride, but the view is great at all times of day.

A cable-car operator educates riders on the 15-minute ride up, including this fun fact: you’ll pass through four climate zones on the trip. From the top, admire an 11,000-square-mile panoramic view of the Rio Grande Valley and the Land of Enchantment.

During the winter, you can ride the tram up and ski the Sandia Ski Area on the other side. Ambitious folks can also hike up the mountain and then take the tram down for free.

13: count of themed gardens at ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden

It’s no wonder Travel Channel listed ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden as one of the 12 Best Botanical Gardens in the United States. My friends and I certainly agree, as beautiful sights—and certainly scents—can be found along the 1.5 miles of paths. Here are some highlights:

Built in honor of Sasebo, one of Albuquerque’s Sister Cities, the four-acre Sasebo Japanese Garden includes a triumphant waterfall, traditional koi pond, and elegantly displayed Japanese and local plants among pagodas and wooden bridges.

Colorful tilework covers the Old World Walled Garden, a Spanish-Moorish garden featuring 70 award-winning rose varieties and a large shaded arbor made of clematis, wisteria, and climbing roses. (Pro tip: it’s an Instagram photo op.)

What’s the 411?

Each time my friends and I leave Albuquerque, we create a list of things to check out next time we’re in town. Currently on the list: Cliff’s Amusement Park, Explora, and the Unser Racing Museum.

The countdown is already on!

Start the countdown to your Albuquerque getaway.

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