With slightly more than half a million inhabitants, Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and one of fastest growing cities in the USA. Founded in 1706, it was named after Don Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, Duke of Alburquerque and Viceroy of New Spain from 1653 to 1660 by the by the provincial governor Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes. In the nineteenth century, Amtrak decided to place there its main station in New Mexico and transformed the city into the biggest one in the state. An Anglo-American railroad stationmaster, who was unable to pronounce the name, dropped the first "r" in "Alburquerque" and again the city's destiny became linked to Amtrak.
Despite its important location and size, Albuquerque is overshadowed by nearby Santa Fe, the state's capital and its main tourism attraction. Being relatively low (at 4989 ft as compared with the 7000 of Santa Fe) means less natural attractions are available to the visitor; as per cultural ones, the Pueblo Revival style in which Santa Fe is constructed steals the show in New Mexico. Yet, Albuquerque is worth a short visit.
The nearby Sandia Mountain is a constant reminder of the city's importance: the Sandia National Laboratories are there, other security related sites are here as well. As in all of New Mexico, Spanish and Spanish names abound.
Albuquerque Biological Park
This park includes the Albuquerque Aquarium, the Rio Grande Botanic Garden, the Rio Grande Zoo, and Tingley Beach; it is located southwest of downtown at 903 Tenth Street SW. Combo tickets can be bought at the main entrance. The weirdest exhibits are the polar bears, seals and sea lion; probably these are the highest specimens of their species in the whole world.
The aquarium is on 2601 Central Avenue NW and features freshwater fish from the Rio Grande and saltwater species from the Gulf of Mexico. Beyond fish, the collection includes jellyfish, seahorses, sea turtles, rays, Koi fish, a Gulf shrimp fishing boat, and an eel tunnel. Other displays include plants from desert and Mediterranean zones, a farm and a butterfly garden.
Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
This museum is at 9201 Balloon Museum Dr. NE, next to the grounds of the Balloon Fiesta, and is the perfect solution for those arriving off the balloons festival season. It contains exhibits related to Albuquerque’s balloon festival; admission is free on Sunday’s mornings.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
The 19 Pueblos of New Mexico operate a cultural center on 2401 12th Street NW. "Pueblo" is a Spanish word meaning "village," it denotes the original population of the area being sedentary, unlike in other locations of North America.
The museum includes a collection of artifacts of the pueblos, an art gallery and a photographs archive.
National Hispanic Cultural Center
This center displays items dedicated to the life of the Spanish settlers prior the annexing of New Mexico by the USA; it is located on 1701 4th St SW.
Sandia Peak Tramway
Located on the northeast corner of the city, the tramway runs from a lower terminus in the northeast heights to the top of 10400-foot Sandia Peak; it is one of the longest aerial tramways in the world. The ride takes fifteen minutes, and can be enjoyed from 9 AM onwards; the trip costs $17.50 for a round trip and offers awesome views of the surroundings.
Without any doubt, the main attraction in town is the Old Town, where the city was founded; it is located east of Rio Grande Boulevard, between Central Avenue and Mountain Road. Despite its humble size, the area is charming, offering a good display of adobe 18th century architecture and narrow brick paths. Nowadays it is the home of souvenirs shops, jewelries and restaurants. The San Felipe de Neri Church, the oldest building in Albuquerque, is located there.
Albuquerque includes a surprising number of museums; most of them are near each other on Mountain Road, or near downtown. The main ones are:
* Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, at 2000 Mountain Rd. NW. Guided walking tours of Old Town and the historic Casa San Ysidro are operated from here.
* The American International Rattlesnake Museum, at 202 San Felipe St, displays a large collection of these reptiles.
* Turquoise Museum, 2107 Central Ave NW, displays exhibits of this rock, which is widely used for the local souvenirs industry.
* The University of New Mexico, on Central Avenue, includes the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, the Meteorite and Geology Museums, and the University Art Museum. These three museums are free.
* ¡Explora! Science Center and Children's Museum, 1701 Mountain Road NW, is considered one of the best such establishments in the USA, teaching science, technology, and art.
* New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, 1801 Mountain Road, displays a bit of everything, from dinosaurs to a planetarium.
* National Atomic Museum, 1905 Mountain Road NW, includes replicas of the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs dropped on Japan, and acts as a reminder of the war horrors and atrocities.