Overnight in Albuquerque

Old Town
Old historic area of Albuquerque

You want to visit Albuquerque with a one-night stay? Here are the top things to do.

While in Albuquerque, you should plan to take the tram to the top of the Sandia Mountains, see the Smithsonian-affiliated Nuclear Museum, see the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and visit Old Town. You will only be able to see two of these a day, so plan accordingly. Also, getting to these places will require a car, except for Old Town if you happen to be staying in one of the luxury hotels that are in that area.

In planning your visits, keep in mind that you can eat at the restaurant at the top of the tram (reservations required) and there is great indigenous-ingredient food at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Eating there likely will include admission to the museum and reservations are suggested.

Many people flock to the oldest capitol city in the U.S. down the road in Santa Fe for its historical downtown area, but few know that Albuquerque also has an Old Town that rivals Santa Fe’s in many respects. With a central plaza that frequently has local musical performances, to the many craft shops that surround it, the Old Town of Albuquerque is usually the first spot people head to in town.

While there, you can eat in one of many locally owned restaurants around the plaza or visit the historical church whose convent once served as a jail. Many organizations offer tours of Old Town, and the Albuquerque Museum in Old Town offers a free walking tour on Sunday in season.

Albuquerque is also home to the best tram ride in the U.S. The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway is popular with Europeans, where trams are more common. Its reputation is known far and wide. Although the ride is a bit pricey, some local Realtors give away free passes. If you’re in town shopping for a place to live, it pays to ask.

You can also hike up the popular seven-mile La Luz trail which starts at the bottom of the mountain at the tram station. The tram ticket is only sold round-trip, so this won’t save you any money, but for the more adventurous, the tram will provide a way to get back down the mountain if you only have energy or time for a one-way journey. The tram ride offers spectacular views that come with a conductor who, if you are lucky, will point out highlights. Atop the mountain, a fine dining option is available as well as vending machines. During the winter, you can ski down, but you’ll end up on the other side of the mountain from where the tram starts.

Once back on the mountain base, you’ll be on Tramway Road. Not far from the intersection of Tramway Road and Interstate 40, across the street from Costco, you’ll find the Nuclear Museum. For those interested in airplanes as well as those interested in bombs, this museum has an excellent collection which is nearly impossible to see in one visit.

Finally, back downtown, not too far from Old Town, is the one-of-a-kind Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Again, you’ll want to linger over the exhibits in this museum as they intriguingly explain how the indigenous population of the area contribute to its culture. Make sure you take in the Indian dances that are performed on a regular basis in the museum’s courtyard. The museum’s giftshop has marvelous, if somewhat pricey, local artisan works, clothing, rugs, and jewelry for sale. If you still have energy after visiting the museum, you’ll want to linger a bit in the store. Enjoy!