From natural splendors to rich culture to quirky attractions—with all that Albuquerque, New Mexico, has to offer, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that the desert destination landed on Kayak’s list of cheap places to travel this year. Read on to learn about the things you must see and do, and find out why early October is the best time to visit Albuquerque.
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
Whether you watch from afar or get up close and personal with the gentle giants as they rise into the bright blue sky, the nine-day Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an experience like no other in the world.
The incredible gathering takes place every year during the first week of October (the 3rd through the 11th for 2020), and features mass ascensions of more than 500 balloons, competitions, a special shape rodeo, balloon glows and a gas balloon race. And while watching all of the balloon festival events unfold is enchanting enough, spectators can also enjoy live music, chainsaw carving, skydiving performances, a balloon discovery center, photo contests, fair food and more.
But you don’t have to be on site to get in on the action. Nearby parks, rooftop restaurants and even the side of the road are perfectly good places to watch the colorful balloons float across the southwest landscape from dawn until dusk. Just be sure to find out which direction the balloons are flying each day, as it can change based on the weather.
Old Town Albuquerque
Start your exploration of this 300-plus-year-old Spanish colonial neighborhood at the Old Town Plaza, where cobbled streets are lined with earthy pueblo-style buildings trimmed with vibrant hues. Shops and galleries here highlight Native American and Spanish inspired art and wares. Restaurants serve quintessential New Mexico fare like chile rellenos, sopaipillas and more.
And live music and dancing are commonplace around the gazebo outside of the San Felipe de Neri Church, the anchor of Old Town Albuquerque.
San Felipe de Neri Church
Though it has undergone many repairs since it was built 1793, the structure of the San Felipe de Neri Church has remained the same. The 5-ft.-thick adobe walls form the shape of a cross, and the crisp white accents draw the eye up to the intricate details along the roofline.
Stepping away from the bustle of the plaza to admire the peaceful atmosphere of the church and its pristinely kept grounds is a must when in Old Town Albuquerque.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
Another must-see spot in Old Town Albuquerque is the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Get to know more about the history of the 19 Pueblo tribes in New Mexico by checking out the museum, which features thousands of historical artifacts. Then taste traditional Native American flavors at the Pueblo Harvest restaurant. And before you leave, stop into the Shumakolowa Native Arts shop, which is owned and operated by the 19 tribes, for an authentic handcrafted souvenir.
Paseo del Bosque Trail
With several access points, including one along the south end of Old Town, it’s easy to hop onto the Paseo del Bosque Trail and explore more of the city on foot or bicycle. The 16-mile trail runs north and south along the Rio Grande through much of the Albuquerque metropolitan area.
While the bustle of the city is just steps away, the Paseo del Bosque Trail proffers fresh air, parks, wetlands, sandbars and wildlife sightings. The Rio Grande Nature Center and the ABQ BioPark, both located along the trail, are also great spots to learn more about the city’s unique environment.
Plus: Read about an earth-sheltered Airbnb in New Mexico that is completely off-grid.
Sandia Peak Tramway
Perhaps the best way to take in all of Albuquerque’s natural beauty and then some is to ride the Scandia Peak Tramway to the top of the Scandia Mountains. The 2.7-mile scenic ride takes about 15 minutes. Once at the peak, you can hike several trails, ski during winter months or take in the incredible views while sipping and snacking at the mountaintop restaurant.
Next, read about Las Vegas, Nevada, another southwest city that landed on Kayak’s wallet-friendly list.