I am such a big “Breaking Bad” fan that when I got to know we would have a layover in Albuquerque, I knew I had to get a selfie at the De Anza Motor Lodge. But little did I know what the city had in store for me. Let me tell you all about everything I went through while in ABQ.
Albuquerque Adventures: Puebloan Sites, Balloon Rides, Skiing Slopes!
I didn’t know what to expect from Duke City on my first layover in Albuquerque, but I had a good feeling about it. So the crew & I went sightseeing. And What we saw blew our minds away; from then on, I ensured to explore at least one new place every time. Some of my favorite experiences include:
Old Town Plaza & The Indian Pueblo Center
ABQ has plenty of touring options to introduce you to the prominent sites resonating with the Puebloan culture. As we were new, we took a golf cart tour by the ABQ Trolley Co. to show us around the historic Old Town. The starting point of Albuquerque also became the starting point of our ABQ exploration.
ABQ’s Old Town is accessible by winding brick paths leading to green gardens and patio restaurants offering delicious Spanish and Indian flavor blends. It is so much more than just the historic buildings! But obviously, while you are there, you can’t help getting curious about these historical relics oozing with enchanting tales. San Felipe de Neri Church perfectly represents the signature red adobe buildings.
While there are so many historical sites to check out, The Indian Pueblo Center is the best of all, in my opinion. The museum inside has a vibrant display of pottery and sculpture, while the courtyard displays rotating Puebloan artwork. But the best part is that the place hosts uncountable events all year long, with food, songs, and dances, transporting you to a totally different era. Along with a joyful experience, it’s also the perfect place for souvenir shopping, especially turquoise gemstone jewelry!
ABQ’s International Balloon Fiesta and Balloon Rides
Even though I get to spend so much time in the skies, I would never want to miss the ABQ International Balloon Fiesta if given a chance of a layover during October.
This 9-day festival paints the skies with thousands of beautifully colored and uniquely shaped Hot Air Balloons. With night-glowing balloons, photo contests, ballooning competitions, afterglow fireworks, and whatnot, this event is the hallmark of having visited Albuquerque.
Also, how can you stay on the ground when there are so many balloons to take you up in the sky? Even with all the latest planes and technological advancements, nothing beats the thrill of a hot air balloon ride! So, grab your tickets to the balloon rides by the Rainbow Ryders, and glide through the beautiful skies.
Sandia Peak Tram Way, Ski Resort & Hiking Trails
ABQ has infinite ways of amazing even cabin crew members by taking them up high in the sky. Sandia Peak Tramway is one such way. The tramway offers 11,000 square mile panoramic views through aerial cable spanning close to 8000 feet, making it the world’s longest single-span ride.
The view is worth capturing every season, but the experience doesn’t end there. If you are traveling in winter, the snow-abundant slopes await you at the Sandia Ski Resort. And if you visit during summers, hundreds of hiking trails are at your service to offer an incredible outdoor adventure.
So no matter when I have a layover in Albuquerque, Sandia has an itinerary spot reserved.
Albuquerque’s Nightlife Extravaganza: Wines, Brews, Burgers, and Gambling!
While the days in ABQ are adventurous, the nights are mirthful! First of all, there is live music everywhere you go, be it a tiny shack or a classy winery. And second of all, the city knows how to party. So, if you are a fun-loving crew like ours, a layover in Albuquerque is fantabulous! Some best places include:
Casa Rondeña Winery
Red Wine and New Mexico go hand in hand, but where in the whole of New Mexico do you find the best Red Wine? The answer to that question is Casa Rondeña Winery. While red is their specialty, they haven’t left the Blanco behind. Their whites have won several awards too. So, this place is a shrine for wine connoisseurs.
Head to their tasting room any day to sample some of these deliciously-aged award-winning wines, or stroll through the vineyards to witness the ingredients being sourced.
Also, the place hosts some fantastic live music events because the vinter, John Calvin, is a musician by heart and a vinter by trade. Whatever lures you to this place, you are guaranteed a pleasure-filled experience.
Marble Brewery & Holy Cow Burgers
While Casa Rondeña is an elite experience, Marble Brewery is where the heart of Albuquerque lies; after all, the city is known for its patio bars and unabashedly bold craft beers! And this brewery spoils you for choice, offering Classics, Seasonals, Small Batches, and Hard Seltzers.
The taproom has rotating beers with daily live music, DJ events, and food specials. And if you land up there on a Saturday, you are in for a brewery tour treat where you find out all about the brewing ingredients, process, and brewery history.
Finally, just a short walk away from the brewery awaits the holiest burger in the whole of Albuquerque. With choices of pecan wood smoked bacon or sushi-grade tuna, or even the fried avocado, no matter what food preference you live by, Holy Cow Burger deliciously caters to all. For me, their Jalapeño Burger is a must-have every time I have a layover in Albuquerque.
Sandia Resort & Casino
Don’t worry if you didn’t get to go to Vegas; Albuquerque has no dearth of gambling options, and Sandia is one of the best ones the crew and I love to go to, offering almost all forms of gambling under one roof. With a whopping 1700+ slots, considered the best in New Mexico, Pai Gow Poker, and a weekly jackpot of $3.5 million, the casino is a gambling heaven.
But the non-gambling folks needn’t worry; the Bingo-themed nights, live concerts, numerous dining options, Golf, and Spa are all at your service. For short layovers, this is the best place to stay and experience a nightlife extravaganza.
Unique Museums of Albuquerque – From Racing Cars to Rattlesnakes!
While there is no shortage of historic sites speaking of Puebloan culture, ABQ offers some very unique museum experiences. Even if you are not a museum buff, these will surely blow your mind. The two best ones I would recommend to any first-timer are:
Unser Racing Museum
Dedicated to the First Racing Family of New Mexico, The Unsers, this museum hosts a fantastic line-up of racing vehicles and is shaped like a steering wheel! Also, it uses modern technologies to give an immersive racing experience to visitors.
You can indulge in a simulated racing experience, putting you in the driver’s seat and experiencing racing first-hand, well, almost! On top of that, the car collection offers an unmatchable selfie backdrop for social media lovers.
American International Rattlesnake Museum
Like most of us, I thought of snakes as creepy and crawly, but a visit to this unique museum completely changed my perspective. The pitch-white albino rattlesnake made me go wow! It is definitely the most beautiful reptile I’ve ever seen.
I picked up some fascinating trivia about these snakes and this unique museum. First of all, this museum hosts the largest collection of rattlesnakes globally! And second of all, when the rattlesnakes rattle, they are actually scared, contrary to the common belief that it is trying to scare you.
Although entering this museum takes strong willpower, you exit here as a snake-lover. The visit is genuinely transformative.
Hasta La Próxima Albuquerque: You’re A Delight!
Although Albuquerque is never-ending, you’ll be surprised at the abundance of nearby day-tour attractions just a few hours away. So, on our next layover in Albuquerque, we are all pumped up to head south to explore the Gila Cliff Dwellings, offering incredible outdoor adventures, and the Very Large Array that featured in Jodie Foster’s blockbuster movie ‘Contact.’ I simply can’t wait to be back to ABQ soon!
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