A trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, would not be complete without exploring its historic “Old Town.” This very touristy sector is surrounded by some great places most people miss, but you should include these gems on your sightseeing list if you visit Old Town.
Two of Albuquerque’s nicest hotels, Hotel Albuquerque and Hotel Chaco, are located right at the edge of Old Town. The concierges at either hotel can direct you to the standard tourist destinations with ease, but they probably won’t know about these hidden gems. I will use these hotels as a point of reference.
One of Albuquerque’s trendiest tourist destinations—Sawmill Market—is located directly across the street from the hotels, so you can’t not check it out at some point. A food court with occasional music, its food truck-sized kitchens rarely put out top-notch food, and it is frequently lukewarm by the time it reaches the customer’s table. Choose a great alternative by starting your day at the opposite end of Old Town where it caresses Central Avenue—the famous Route 66—and you’ll encounter our first hidden gem, Duran’s. In the back of this working pharmacy and eclectic retail store you’ll find an old-time grill and soda fountain. Here, breakfast or lunch offer comfort food memories. Parking is available at Duran’s or stroll through Old Town to get there from the recommended hotels. Don’t rush to start your touring as things get going a little late in laid-back Albuquerque. Duran’s opens at 9am.
Back toward Old Town you’ll be near the main plaza. If you are lucky, the plaza will be buzzing with activity. Drop some coin at nearby touristy shops. When you’re ready for the next hidden gem, halfway back toward Sawmill Market, you’ll find it—Spurline. Here, find high-end art and New Mexico décor displayed and sold. You’ll want to linger. Then, rest at its open-air patio with a delicious craft coffee from the in-store café.
To reach the next gem, you’ll want a car or bicycle even though it’s only three minutes away from Old Town. Starting at Rio Grande Blvd.—the main street that traverses Old Town—take Mountain Rd. west (away from the hotels) and follow signs to Old Town Farm, a working farm and frequent wedding destination. Being near a hike and bike trail, the farm is popular with bicyclists who flock to rest, eat, and use the bicycle repair facility there. Vendors of used books, jewelry makers, and artisans display their wares creating a hometown fair atmosphere. Excellent live music is a staple. The farm’s centerpiece is “Bike in Coffee,” a farm-to-market eatery offering food from its farm at reasonable prices and serving delicious bottomless coffee. You’ll enjoy the tranquil atmosphere as you lunch. Being entirely outdoors, COVID concerns evaporate.
If bicycling is your pleasure, there are bicycle touring companies that lead trips starting at Bike in Coffee onto the trails of the “bosque”—the forested area along the Rio Grande. Other biking companies operate out of the hotels and focus on the touristy areas of Old Town. Who says there’s no choice of bicycling experiences?
For dinner, head around the corner from Spurline to Season’s Grill. Sit upstairs on the outdoor patio if the weather is good. The food is casual but delicious, as are the drinks. You can also sit downstairs and enjoy fine dining. Head straight out the front door of Seasons directly back to Old Town.
Hotel Chaco offers a restful rooftop restaurant/bar with a great view of Albuquerque and private cabanas if you need a respite. Plan to take a stroll through Old Town by night when decorative lighting creates a festive, Mexican atmosphere. Albuquerque evenings usually have perfect weather, cool even in the top heat of summer.