Heading down New Mexico way? Then carve out time to explore the top things to do in Albuquerque, the beating heart of the Land of Enchantment. The largest city in New Mexico, Albuquerque is a fascinating melting pot that’s steeped in Native American and Spanish history.
Surrounded by breathtaking desert landscapes, pink-hued mountains, and a legendary river, Albuquerque is a gorgeous green oasis. And with its unique architecture, amazing museums, and mouthwatering cuisine, “ABQ” is the cultural hub of the American Southwest.
Get your kicks with a road trip on Route 66. Hike the stunning Sandia foothills. Kayak the waters of the iconic Rio Grande. Immerse yourself in history in Old Town.
Ready to explore the ABCs of ABQ? Grab this guide to the best places to visit in Albuquerque, NM, and head out!
Must-see places to visit in Albuquerque, NM
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
Want to dive right into the fascinating multicultural heritage of Albuquerque on your holiday? Set your sights on the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, located just two miles north of the heart of Old Town. This must-see site highlights the rich legacy of Pueblo Indian art and culture that’s flourished in Albuquerque and the Southwest for thousands of years.
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center preserves and promotes the Pueblo peoples’ vibrant culture and traditions. Explore the past and the living present in the center’s museum and art galleries. Take in lively cultural events, traditional dances and performances, and intriguing hands-on exhibits. (Check the center’s events calendar to see what’s on during your vacation.)
Savor delicious traditional food at the Indian Pueblos Kitchen, a unique teaching kitchen and restaurant where you can learn about Indigenous culinary methods – and enjoy the fruits of your labor with a tasty lunch!
Looking for a one-of-a-kind gift? Browse the Indian Pueblo Store’s fantastic selection of contemporary and traditional pottery, jewelry, woven works, and more from local and international artists.
Petroglyph National Monument
History buffs: want to unleash your inner Indiana Jones? Then gear up for an expedition to the Petroglyph National Monument. Set 10 miles northwest of downtown Albuquerque on the west side of the Rio Grande, this amazing cultural treasure will transport you hundreds of years into the past.
Spanning more than 7.000 acres, Petroglyph National Monument is the site of over 24,000 jaw-dropping images that were chiseled into the volcanic rock by the first native Puebloans of the Rio Grande Valley. Depicting everything from humans and animals to religious and ceremonial symbols, some of these works date back over a thousand years.
There are no illustrative labels here, so first, check out the interpretive exhibits at the visitor center to get some insight into the site’s ancient rock art. Staff can even direct you to specific attractions within the park and give you a rundown on hiking trails.
(Tip: Rinconada Canyon is a visitor favorite among the monument’s hikes: 2.2 miles, 1.5 hours trek time, 300 petroglyphs along the way!)
Looking for a fun family destination that’ll hit the spot with the nature enthusiasts in your crew? Round up the whole gang and head down to the ABQ Biopark. Set along the Rio Grande southeast of Old Town, this sprawling park is home to four of the top attractions in Albuquerque. With an aquarium, a zoo, a beach, and botanical gardens to explore, you’re in for a jam-packed day!
Start your visit to one of Albuquerque’s most popular parks by going nose-to-nose with marine life at the ABQ BioPark Aquarium. You’ll get spectacular up-close views of species ranging from sea turtles to stingrays to sharks.
After seeing the colorful sea creatures, don’t miss a chance to take a walk on the wild side at the Albuquerque Zoo. Although it’s hardly one of the largest zoos in the country, kids will love visiting to check out feathered and furry residents like pink flamingos, kangaroos, snow leopards, and polar bears.
Up for some outdoor activity while exploring ABQ BioPark? Hit up Tingley Beach. In a state not known for its beaches, the only “beach” in Albuquerque is perfect you’re in the mood to fish, hike, bike, or pedal boat. (Just don’t expect to go swimming here!)
Or while away an afternoon strolling ABQ Biopark’s lush 36-acre botanical gardens, home to exotic plant species, manicured lawns, and scenic pathways. Butterflies abound!
New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
Want to delve deep into New Mexico’s past – or venture out to the Final Frontier? You can do both at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque. Set on the edge of Old Town, this site is home to a fascinating permanent installation that tracks New Mexico’s natural history over 12 billion years.
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science houses a vast array of awesome artifacts and exhibits, including a fantastic collection of fossils. (Jurassic Park fans will be thrilled to view the life-sized dinosaur skeletons!) Have a hands-on experience at the Naturalist Center, and get an insider’s look at just how dino fossils are dug up.
Up for an out-of-this-world experience? Settle back in a seat at the museum’s planetarium, and prepare for liftoff. This 55-foot full-dome theater features exciting interactive programming about everything from star constellations to moon missions.
Check out “Incoming” – a thrilling 3D journey tracking the history of asteroids and comets, narrated by none other than Mr. Sulu himself.
If you’re smitten by Albuquerque, you’ll want to get to know it better. There’s no better place to get acquainted than at the Albuquerque Museum. Spend time in this family-friendly museum, and you’ll uncover a rich history that goes back over 400 years.
Discover the region’s diverse cultural roots as you explore the Albuquerque Museum’s fascinating interactive and historical exhibits. Browse thousands of carefully curated artifacts, works of art, and photographs highlighting the influences of Spanish and Native American cultures in shaping New Mexico and the American Southwest.
You’ll find everything from Spanish conquistador armor to exquisite Native American jewelry and textiles to stunning works by the iconic painter of the Southwest, Georgia O’Keefe.
Head outside to stroll through the site’s sculpture garden. Enjoy a lively docent-led tour, then browse the museum’s shop for gorgeous jewelry, gourmet food, and home goods created by local artisans.
Rio Grande Nature Center State Park
If you’re feeling the urge to get back in touch with the natural world, the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park is the perfect place to do it. Set on the central Rio Grande flyway, this 38-acre urban wildlife preserve commits two-thirds of its land to wildlife habitat and is one of the most popular day trips from Albuquerque.
Birds flock to this rehabilitated wetlands of the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park throughout the year – and so do birders! Bring the binoculars for great viewing of 250 feathered species ranging from wood ducks to road runners. (Yes, they’re really a thing!)
Explore the park’s scenic riverside trails as they wind through tall cottonwood stands, past willow thickets, and across the sand flats along the Rio Grande. Keep your eyes peeled for Sandhill cranes along the riverbanks, porcupines perched in the trees, and Canada geese flying overhead. A special summer treat: the sight of hummingbirds hovering over flowering plants.
Take a stroll through a demonstration garden featuring native plants, then check out the Visitor Center to learn more about this intriguing wildlife oasis.
On the hunt for a family-friendly spot that features fun, hands-on learning? You’ll find it at Explora, a unique experiential learning hub next to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History in Old Town.
With more than 250 interactive exhibits and activities around science, art, engineering, and technology, the Explora Center is a treasure trove of discovery. Grab a guide at the entrance and map out your journey.
Kids (and adults) of all ages can explore concepts like gravity, shadow and light, math, and electricity with engaging, interactive exhibits.
Get to know H20 at the Water Flow Patio. Have a hands-on experience with solar power. Get a buzz by creating electricity. Go next-level DIY in Studio Inventivo. The name says it all: Explore!
Old Town Plaza
Want to see where and how ABQ began? Put on your walking shoes and stroll down to Old Town Plaza, one of Albuquerque’s top tourist destinations. Set on the site of the original Spanish settlement, this community was shaped over the centuries by its Spanish, Mexican, and indigenous populations.
Today, Old Town Plaza is a vibrant cultural hub for locals and tourists alike. Spanning ten blocks, this historic neighborhood exudes a laid-back Southwestern vibe. Soak it up! Enjoy a sunny afternoon stroll along the cobblestone streets past massive old cottonwood trees and eye-catching adobe buildings. Grab a seat in the square as you tap your toe to the sounds of Old Town buskers.
Browse Old Town’s many art galleries and boutique shops for their rich selection of Southwestern souvenirs and Native American art. If you’re a fan of the hit TV show Breaking Bad, stock up on Walter White merch at The Breaking Bad Store ABQ. Or go shopping for more typical New Mexico souvenirs at the Old Town Emporium.
One of the most memorable experiences around Old Town is to explore its museums and landmark buildings. Be sure to make time for an architectural gem: the centuries-old San Felipe de Neri Church, a beautifully preserved example of Spanish Colonial architecture.
Ready for a break? The blocks surrounding Old Town Plaza are chock-loaded with cafes, restaurants, and bars. Treat yourself to a stop on the sun-splashed patio of Church Street Cafe to savor some mouthwatering local fare like carne adovada or chile rellenos. Quench your thirst with some craft beer at Outpost 1706 Brewhouse, featuring pints from some of the most popular craft breweries in the area. Or enjoy cocktails and fine dining to fantastic views over Old Town from the rooftop bar at Level 5.
Looking for a little more evening action? Venture a couple of miles east to Downtown ABQ to soak up the nightlife of New Mexico’s largest city. Sneak in a show at performing arts venues like the Kimo Theatre. Catch concerts at live music venues like Launchpad or The Historic El Rey Theater. Or dance the night away at raucous clubs like Cake Nightclub.
National Museum of Nuclear Science & History
If you’re a science and/or history geek, you’ll want to carve out time on your itinerary for the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. This one-of-a-kind Smithsonian affiliate tracks the sometimes explosive story of nuclear science. As the testing ground for the atomic bomb during World War II, New Mexico has been a major player in that story.
The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History casts a light on both past and present, looks into the future, and presents the stories of pioneers in the field. Before you head in, explore Heritage Park, an outdoor exhibit featuring carefully preserved missiles, military aircraft, and decommissioned rockets.
Step inside and browse a hefty collection of artifacts and displays to learn about the history of research in nuclear energy, the Cold War, and how nuclear energy has been used post-WWII. You’ll see replicas of infamous Second World War bombs – but you’ll also find thought-provoking exhibits that question the weaponization of nuclear energy.
Sandia Peak Tramway
If you’re in the mood to ooh and aah at some of the most breathtaking views in New Mexico, it’s time to step aboard the Sandia Peak Tramway. The longest aerial tramway in North America, this high-in-the-sky ride carries passengers nearly three miles along a cable suspended between eastern Albuquerque and the 10,378-foot-high summit of Sandia Peak, the highest point in the Sandia Mountains.
Sit back (or press your nose against the glass) and take in jaw-dropping views during your 15-minute ride. Get off at the Sandia Peak Tramway summit, and you’ll discover even more to amaze. Soak in breathtaking panoramas of the Rio Grande Valley and beyond. On a clear day, you can see up to 11,000 square miles!
Feeling energetic? Hit the summit’s hiking and biking trails during warmer months, or schuss the ski slopes during winter. Either way, you’ll work up an appetite – so snag a table at the Ten 3 Restaurant, enjoy some scrumptious fare, and toast the stunning view.
Want to experience more of New Mexico’s natural beauty? Extend your visit to Sandia Mountains and the surrounding Cibola National Forest with a camping adventure under the stars!
Cliff’s Amusement Park
Ready to get the adrenaline pumping – or just gently rolling? Either way, Cliff’s Amusement Park will give you a perfect kickstart. Whether you’re looking for low-key laughs or blow-your-hair-back thrills, this multi-tasking attraction will fit the bill.
If little ones are part of your crew, Kiddyland attractions like the Frog Hopper and the Happy Swing will keep them smiling. For the more adventurous, Cliff’s Amusement Park offers spine-tinglers like the Cliffhanger, the Falling Star, the New Mexico Rattler, and the Super Fire roller coaster. Fast and furious!
Kids (and adults) of all ages can have fun and chill out in the splash pad and water park. When you’re ready for a break, hit the food trucks for a shot of classic, greasy, and totally irresistible carnival-style food. Did you want fries with that?
If you’ve been itching to pull a Huck Finn and put out a “gone fishin’” sign, here’s what to do: take a ramble down to Tingley Beach. Nestled in the ABQ Biopark, this is one of Albuquerque’s most popular places to visit.
For fishing in the city, nothing else comes close. Tingley Beach is open from sunrise to sunset year-round, and its ponds are packed with rainbow trout and catfish. There’s a children’s pond for fledglings, a larger central pond, and a catch-and-release pool for fly fishing.
Fishing’s not your thing? No problem! Hike or bike the beautiful nature trails in picture-perfect weather. Hop onto a paddle boat. Fire up the barbeque grill and spread out the picnic blanket for an afternoon picnicking with the family.
Want to see more? Just snag a seat on the narrow-gauge railroad, and you’ll be transported to your pick of other choice attractions, including the Rio Grande Botanic Garden, the Albuquerque Aquarium, and the Rio Grande Zoo. All aboard!
Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
If you see yourself as a high-flier, the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum has to be on your bucket list. Think of it as a “high-rise” museum. C’mon – this is the hot air ballooning capital of the world!
ABQ’s high desert environment makes it ideal for those who love to soar skyward in baskets – and the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum is a testament to Albuquerque’s legendary status. It’s set on the site of the International Balloon Fiesta, a nine-day balloon blowout in October that sees hundreds of colorful hot air balloons drift across Albuquerque’s beautiful azure skies.
If you want to bone up on ballooning, the museum is the place to do it. Check out historical exhibits, the Hall of Fame, fun hands-on exhibits at the Elevation Station, and thrilling virtual flights in the 4-D theater.
Sign up for Balloon School and become an aerial artist. Kids can even learn to craft and fly their own mini-sized lighter-than-air concoctions.
The sky’s the limit!
If your idea of a great ball game is all about high-flying hits, Isotopes Park will score high on your list of top attractions in Albuquerque. Home to the Albuquerque Isotopes – the town’s minor league baseball phenoms – this park’s high elevations helps those hits really soar.
Affectionately known by locals as “The Lab,” Isotopes Park is an 11,000-seater that manages to combine state-of-the-art amenities with old-school, family-friendly charm. Set just past the right field fence is the berm, a perfect spot to stretch out on a blanket and catch a home game under the stars. Or round your gang up and settle in at the Picnic Pavilion to catch the action from right behind the bullpen.
And there’s more fun stuff. Stake out a spot in the Ozone for birthday celebrations, or hit the Fun Zone for rides and games for kids of all ages.
Dig into a meal at the Jimador Fiesta Deck, or get your party on while taking in amazing views at Tecate Light Terrace.
Rattlesnakes may not top your must-see list when it comes to sightseeing. But the Rattlesnake Museum is betting they can turn your “eeews” into “aahs” (or, at least, into “a-has”). Tucked away amidst the galleries on San Felipe in Old Town, this one-of-a-kind attraction hopes to rattle your misconceptions and dispel some myths.
With 100 snakes and over 30 species, the Rattlesnake Museum boasts one of the largest collections of live rattlers in the world. And in case you’re wondering: it’s all in a safe, controlled environment where each resident has his/her own cozy enclosed vivarium, complete with informative inscriptions for visitors.
While you’re there, check out the museum’s awesome array of snake-centered artifacts, artwork, and memorabilia. And there’s more – including clothing, books, toys, and jewelry. Perhaps something slinky in silver?
Arroyo del Oso Park
If you’ve been craving some down-to-earth outdoor activity to add to your list of things to do in Albuquerque, set your sights on Arroyo del Oso Park. Just a 15-minute drive from downtown Albuquerque, this family-friendly getaway offers plenty of recreational options.
If you’re ready to hike, bike, or run – hit the trails. Arroyo del Oso Park offers a selection of paved and unpaved pathways to suit just about any skill level.
Hit the courts to shoot some hoops or swing a racquet. Take to the fields for a round of soccer, or line up your putt at the nearby Arroyo del Oso Golf Course. Got youngsters in tow? Let them loose on the playground for some freestyle fun.
Now that everyone’s worked up an appetite, it’s time to fire up a BBQ grill, stake out a picnic table, and chow down.
Where to stay in Albuquerque for sightseeing
Although it’s the largest city in New Mexico, choosing where to stay in Albuquerque isn’t such a challenge. Most visitors opt for the centralmost areas, particularly Old Town and Downtown ABQ. These neighborhoods are home to many of the city’s top-rated hotels and offer easy access to ABQ’s top points of interest.
One of the first motels in New Mexico, these accommodations are the perfect place to lay down your head on the ultimate Southwest USA road trip. The motel is located in Old Town, featuring whitewashed adobe buildings with blue accents that give off an Andalusian vibe. Cool off in the outdoor pool before letting your tastebuds explore the rotating line-up of local food pods.
Immerse yourself in the charms of Old Town with a night at this lovely historic inn, dating back to 1938 and on the National Register of Historic Places. During your stay, explore the lush gardens, courtyards, and patios before spending the evening in comfort in one of the inn’s traditional casitas.
Add a dash of luxury to your ABQ travel itinerary with a night at this modern hotel. After a long day of sightseeing, cool down in the luxurious outdoor or enjoy a meal at one of the on-site eateries. Art lovers will find plenty to poke around here, too, with the wide variety of local artwork displayed throughout the property.