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Albuquerque is widely viewed as the cultural capital of the Southwestern United States and it is often said that if you want to experience the authentic Southwest, visiting Albuquerque is a must. Fondly called ‘The Q’ or ‘The Duke City’ by locals, Albuquerque boasts a unique multicultural population with strong Hispanic, Latino, and Native American influences. Experience its rich cultural heritage, flavorsome chile-blessed cuisine, and warm New Mexico hospitality by spending at least three days to a week at this Southwestern gem. Car rental prices start from just $27 per day, with economy vehicles like a Chevrolet Spark costing a daily average of $43. For extra space, a Jeep Compass SUV will cost about $87 per day. Book your Albuquerque car rental in advance with Enjoy Travel for a seamless trip.
Guide to Albuquerque
Found in north-central New Mexico, Albuquerque is nestled in the Rio Grande Valley, through which the majestic Rio Grande River flows. To the west, the Sandia-Manzano Mountains flank the city. Albuquerque’s altitude ranges from 4,900 feet above sea level near the Rio Grande to over 6,700 feet at the foothills of Sandia Heights and Glenwood Hills. The metropolitan area’s highest point is the summit of the Sandia Mountains at an elevation of 10,678 feet.
Climate in Albuquerque
Albuquerque has a semi-arid desert-type climate. Summers are quite hot while winters can get chilly, especially at night. Due to low humidity, both the heat and the cold are mostly Albuquerque experiences a dry heat that may not make you sweat but feels oppressive nonetheless. As such, we recommend visiting the city during autumn from September till November as that is when the weather is most pleasant and there are exciting festivals happening like the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
Before the arrival of the settlers in 1540, Albuquerque was inhabited by First Nation pueblos. The city of Albuquerque was officially founded in 1706 by Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes, the governor and captain-general of New Mexico. Albuquerque’s name was derived from a Spanish town of the same name.
Today, Albuquerque is New Mexico’s largest city and commercial capital. The city boasts significant Hispanic and Native American populations, as well as a growing community of Asians. It is one of the major cultural centers of the Southwest and is recognized for its numerous museums, art galleries, and cultural performance venues.
Things To Do in Albuquerque
Enjoy panoramic views of the city
One of the topmost tourist attractions in Albuquerque is the Sandia Peak Tramway, the longest aerial tram in the United States. The tram runs at 12mph from the northeast corner of Albuquerque and reaches the peak of the Sandia Mountains, offering you a picturesque 15-minute ride. Once you reach the Observation Deck at 10,378 feet, you will be greeted by panoramic views of the entire city of Albuquerque as well as surrounding pueblos in New Mexico. Experienced hikers can climb the 7.5-mile La Luz Trail to the top for even more glorious views before taking the tramway back down. At the top of the mountain, you can swing by TEN3 restaurant for a classy gastronomic affair.
Hover over the city in a balloon
Every year in October, thousands of tourists visit Albuquerque to witness a spectacular extravaganza where the sky fills up with almost 600 huge hot air balloons. Just before sunrise, the balloons are launched into the air from the 78-acre Balloon Fiesta Park in northern Albuquerque and their pretty designs and vibrant colors are visible from miles away. At night, the balloons are breathtakingly illuminated. You can book a ride in these balloons at sunrise or sunset, however, the most popular choice is the ‘Dawn Patrol Ride’ which lifts off half an hour before sunrise, providing the ideal viewing platform to watch the sun emerge from the horizon and witness the sky come alive with these balloons. In case your itinerary doesn’t coincide with the Balloon Fiesta, you can always visit the Albuquerque Balloon Museum.
Take a trip into the past
On the outskirts of Old Town stands the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, an immensely educational and informative experience that will take you on a journey through time and allow you to discover how the universe was created some 13.6 billion years ago. There are 8 exhibitions that start at the beginning of time and end at the Ice Age, containing a treasure trove of dinosaur fossils collected from all across New Mexico. It also has a planetarium as well as a section dedicated to astronomy and space exploration. The Hall of the Stars exhibit attempts to explain the organization of the night sky via a tapestry equipped with UV reactive thread. Last but not least, Albuquerque is the birthplace of Microsoft, and a section of the museum deals with the history of the personal computer.
Discover fascinating species
A must-visit place for animal lovers and nature enthusiasts, the gigantic Albuquerque BioPark is the perfect outdoor entertainment for the whole family. It is demarcated into 4 sections: an aquarium, a botanic garden, a zoo, and a beach. The aquarium is a firm favorite with kids with its 285,000-gallon ocean tank containing saltwater species, coral reefs, and other exhibits. The 64-acre zoo, which is home to more than 250 species of exotic and native animals, is another wildly popular attraction within the BioPark. The most popular attractions in the zoo are, arguably, ‘The Cat Walk,’ which hosts African lions, leopards, jaguars, and others from the cat family, and the Polar Bear Exhibit, where you can watch these gentle arctic giants playing in the water through underwater viewing windows. The 36-acre botanic garden has a 10,000-square-foot glass conservatory housing plants from various biomes, from deserts to lush tropical jungles. At Tingley Beach, you can enjoy fishing, boating, or sharing a picnic with friends or family during the summer.
Eating Out in Albuquerque
Albuquerque is proud of its distinct New Mexico and Native American influences on its cuisines. Dishes are typically colorful and savory with a lot of chiles thrown in for flavor. Here are some of our top restaurant recommendations in Albuquerque:
The steak, blue corn enchiladas, and bourbon roasted chicken served at High Noon Restaurant and Salon deserve a special mention for just how melt-in-your-mouth delicious they are. At Bien Shur, enjoy the Mexican white shrimp or the pinon-crusted salmon to name just a couple of their delicacies. This luxurious restaurant is found within the Sandia Resort and Casino. Indigo Crow serves mouthwatering beef skewers for starters and, come the main course, opt for their grilled salmon with red chile puree served and vegetable risotto stuffed poblano with crispy blue corn strips. At Antiquity, our top suggestions include the Chateaubriand that can be carved tableside and is served with béarnaise sauce. Farm and Table serves a scrumptious cider glazed pork chop and pan-seared duck breast.
Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) is the primary international airport serving the state of New Mexico (including the Albuquerque metropolitan area) and the Albuquerque–Santa Fe-Las Vegas CSA. It is located 3 miles southeast of downtown Albuquerque. The airport itself is an architectural treat as it was built in a distinct southwestern style, with curated cultural decor.
Getting Around Albuquerque
The best way to get around in Albuquerque is by buses operated by ABQ Ride. The buses run throughout the city and they are convenient and affordable.
Many visitors traveling through Albuquerque prefer to hire a car as it offers increased comfort, flexibility, and convenience. The extensive highway system in the United States makes it a breeze to get from place to place via car and, if you’re traveling in a large group, a 7 seater or a 9 seater van would actually work out to be more cost-effective than taking the train. You can also do a one-way hire, which means that you can pick up your vehicle in one city – say Albuquerque – and drop it off in another – like Phoenix – before flying out, saving you the hassle of driving it back.