Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Albuquerque

By Jason Steele · June 12, 2023 · 10 minute read

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Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Albuquerque

Alburquerque, New Mexico, can be an exciting destination to explore, whether you’re familiar with the Southwest or a first-timer. There’s the iconic hot air balloon festival, rugged landscapes, top-notch art museums, pueblos, and more to take in.

It’s New Mexico’s biggest city, with a modern downtown, but it also sits in the high desert and has retained elements of its past, making a fascinating town to visit for a weekend away or longer.

Here, you’ll learn some of the not-to-be-missed sights, as well as savvy tips to make your travel more enjoyable and get more for your money.

Best Times to Go to Albuquerque

The best time to go to Albuquerque is during the fall, between September and November. The temperature is warm and pleasant, in the 60s to 80s. October is also when the famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta happens.

That said, the nine days of the Balloon Fiesta (the first two weekends in October, and the week between) are by far the most popular times to visit this otherwise quiet city. So expect to pay a premium for flights and hotels during this time.

Bad Times to Go to Albuquerque

June through September is the rainy season in the Southwest, but in between the rain, the city is warm and inviting. However, for some people, it may be too warm: The average daytime temperature in July can rise above 90 degrees. So that might put a damper on your summer travel.

Also keep in mind that the city isn’t all sunbaked and beautiful come winter. The average overnight temperature in January, the coldest month, is in the low 20s. Depending on your tolerance for cold and whether you plan on being outdoors much, that might be a less than ideal time to visit.

Average Cost of an Albuquerque Vacation

The estimated cost of a weeklong stay in Albuquerque for two people is $1,885 or $942 for one person. That doesn’t include transportation to get there and back, and of course prices will vary if you’re a traveler who’s happy at a basic chain hotel or one who prefers a high-end boutique location.

If you are visiting Albuquerque, you may want to look into staying in the Old Town area. Old Town is the site of the original city settlement in 1706, and has Native American and Spanish influences on the architecture and culture.

Prices to stay in Old Town will vary by time of year. For example, hotels in Old Town during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta during the first week of October will cost about $500 a night or more. If you go just two weeks later, the same hotels run $150 to $250 a night, which can be a good tactic for how to save money on hotels. And thankfully, the town’s famous New Mexican food is surprisingly affordable, especially compared to fine dining in larger cities.

In general, Albuquerque is a fairly affordable city. Most attractions cost less than $30, with some costing only a few dollars. You can also find affordable and incredibly delicious food in the city. (Don’t miss the breakfast burritos, which can keep you fueled for hours, or the red chile enchiladas; more on food below.)

When you are booking a trip, you may see a “book now pay later” travel option. Proceed with caution: You could end up paying more in interest if you use this method.

Instead, you should save money ahead of time to use to pay for your trip. Make sure to research where to keep travel fund when saving for a trip. A high-yield savings account might be your best option as your money will be accessible but will also enjoy some growth as you save.

If you are thinking about booking a trip to Albuquerque but are worried that you may have unforeseen circumstances causing you to cancel your trip, look into travel insurance as a safety net. If you pay for your trip with certain credit cards, they may provide travel insurance for certain situations. You should understand how credit card travel insurance works when deciding whether to purchase private travel insurance or use your credit card protections.

10 Fun Must-Dos in Albuquerque

Now, onto the fun part: Figuring out what fun things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This list was culled from people who visit the city often, locals, and those attractions that are top-rated online. The top 10 list includes things like museums, parks and festivals, including free and affordable options. Worth noting: Albuquerque is not a very walkable city, so you may want to look into renting a car in order to see the various attractions.

1. Be Amazed by Those Albuquerque Balloons

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is known as one of the largest and best balloon festivals in the world. The area’s dry climate is ideal for hot air ballooning. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is held every year for one week during the first week of October. You can see over 500 colored hot air balloons each morning just before sunrise. It’s a mesmerizing and memorable sight to see those brilliantly colored balloons fill the sky. Plus, there are fireworks, skydiving, and all kinds of other sky-focused attractions, as well as music and more.

General admission is typically $15 for those 13 and up; younger kids are free. You can opt for glamping and shipping container cabanas right at the Fiesta, but these can be pricey. (If you go for it, put it on your card that earns the best credit card rewards.) Hotels will also be expensive and crowded during this week.

2. Spend Some Time at the International Balloon Museum

Whether you are visiting during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and want to learn more or are visiting without seeing the balloons, the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum is a great stop. You’ll learn so much about these incredible flying machines, and there are interactive exhibits to keep kids entertained. There’s even a balloon flight simulator.

The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission usually ranges from $3 to $6; the first Friday of the month is free as are Sundays between 9 am and 1 pm.

3. Take in an Incredible View

If you want to see the beautiful Albuquerque landscape from above, the Sandia Peak Tramway delivers. You’ll see the city and the Sandia Mountains as you ride three miles on a cable car up the summit of Sandia Peak. These rugged mountains reach a peak of over 10,000 feet and are part of the distinctive landscape you’ll find in this part of New Mexico.

It’s not just the heart-stopping tram ride that you’ll enjoy. At the peak, you can take in the views, hike along the trails, or grab a snack at the restaurant. Sandia Peak Tramway is open Wednesdays through Mondays, from 11 am to 7 pm. Sandia Peak Tramway tickets cost $23 to $33 roundtrip, depending on the guest’s age.

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4. Marvel at Masterpieces

Ready to learn about the art, history, and culture of the Southwest? The Albuquerque Museum, located in Old Town, Albuquerque, has a large collection of historic artifacts from the area, and exhibitions that feature renowned artworks. Depending on when you visit and what is being shown, you might see some canvases by Georgia O’Keeffe or photographs of the Civil Rights Movement by Danny Lyon.

The Albuquerque Museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, from 9 am to 5 pm, and tickets cost $3 – $6.

5. Relive the Best “Breaking Bad” Scenes

The TV show “Breaking Bad” took place and was filmed partly in Albuquerque. If you’re a fan, hop aboard the Breaking Bad RV Tour. You can ride on a replica Bounder RV, just like Walter used as a mobile lab on the show, and visit local filming spots. The tour guides all worked as actors or crew on “Breaking Bad” or the sequel “Better Call Saul,” which makes the tour that much more fun. Tours cost $95 and start at 10 am Thursdays through Mondays.

6. Visit a Pueblo

Puebloans, or Pueblo people, are Native Americans who are indigenous to the New Mexico region and have a rich, centuries-old culture, rooted in farming and their distinctive, compactly planned communities. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is owned by the Pueblos of New Mexico, and is an educational facility where Pueblo dancers perform and the Indian Pueblo Kitchen serves traditional dishes, like fry bread and blue corn porridge, as well as Southwestern dishes. The center is located near Old Town and is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 am to 4 pm. Tickets cost $8 to $12.

7. Take a Closer Look at Turquoise

Turquoise, the mineral, has been prized for ages as a gemstone, given its brilliant, intense shade of blue. New Mexico is known for its Indigenous turquoise jewelry, and you will undoubtedly have the opportunity to purchase pieces while visiting the city. You can also trek over to the Turquoise Museum and learn the history of mining and crafting turquoise, as well as see plenty of specimens. The museum is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Admission to the museum costs $15 to $20.

8. Discover the Flora and Fauna

A great way to spend an afternoon (or longer): Head to the ABQ BioPark, located in Old Town, Albuquerque. There’s much to see here, including a zoo with elephants, flamingos, and all kinds of other animals, an aquarium, a botanic garden, and Tingley Beach, which has free public fishing ponds (a great way to afford to travel as a family). The other attractions can be visited with individual tickets, costing in the range of $5 to $15 each, or with combination tickets, which can cost up to $22. The zoo, aquarium, and botanic gardens are open from 9 am to 5 pm daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Tingley Beach is open from sunrise to sunset.

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9. Get Your Fill at a Food Hall

Of course you’ll have plenty of great food options in New Mexico’s capital, but one fun stop is the Sawmill Market, which is billed as an artisanal food hall in the historic Sawmill district. You’ll have your pick of chicken mole tacos at Flora Taco To-Go, Frito pie at Red & Green, Mexican street food at Churro Y Corn, and Blueberry Mojitos at the Botanic Bar.

10. Trek along the Paseo del Bosque Trail

Ready to get outdoors and savor being in the Southwest? The Paseo del Bosque Trail can be one of the best things to do in Albuquerque. It’s a 17-mile paved walking and biking trail through central Albuquerque, running from the northern to southern edges of the Rio Grande’s cottonwood bosque, or forest. The trail is uninterrupted by road crossings, making it a great option for strolling when traveling with pets or young children. The trail also features public art, making it a terrific free thing to do in Albuquerque.

The Takeaway

Albuquerque is more than just its famous hot air balloon festival. The city can keep you busy with its array of museums, scenic views, indigenous culture, and great food. Among the top things to do in Albuquerque are getting acquainted with the history of the Puebloans, seeing the work of Southwestern artists, and spending a day in the city’s gardens and zoo. There’s plenty of fun to fill your days and nights.

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What is Albuquerque famous for?

Albuquerque is most famous for its International Balloon Fiesta, which happens in the beginning of October each year. However, there are a lot of other things to do in Albuquerque throughout the year. It’s also famous for southwestern food, including dishes served “Christmas style,” covered in green or red chile sauce. For breakfast, go to any Wecks for huge portions of New Mexican favorites, but expect lines on the weekends.

How many days do you need to see Albuquerque?

Albuquerque is a small to mid-sized city, so you can probably see most attractions in a few days. Albuquerque is perfect for a long weekend trip.

What are things to do in Albuquerque with kids?

Albuquerque has several family-friendly attractions, like the ABQ BioPark and the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. There’s also the nature and science museum and the Explora kids museum, right next to each other. Most ticketed attractions in Albuquerque cost only a few dollars for kids, or are free.

Photo credit: iStock/Sean Pavone

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