Albuquerque, NM - Hot Air Balloons and Route 66

Diverse cultures, authentic art, hot air balloons rising with the sun, and a sunny climate enjoyed year-round summarize this destination on the Mother Road.
By Staff ,
Albuquerque's annual International Balloon Fiesta

Come experience the diverse cultures, authentic art and vibrant traditions of Albuquerque, New Mexico. From hot air balloons rising with the sun to the mild, sunny climate enjoyed year-round – adventures abound in this Southwestern city.

Albuquerque is New Mexico’s metropolitan center, but the Sandia Mountains that make up the city’s dramatic landscape allow for endless outdoor recreational opportunities as well. The mountains beckon skiers and snowboarders in the winter as well as mountain bikers and hikers from spring to fall. Year-round, they serve as a perfect backdrop to many of the city’s award-winning golf courses, and delight visitors riding the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway. Most evenings, they glow a warm, watermelon hue reflective of the Spanish translation of “Sandia.”

From the city’s Native American and Hispanic roots to its red and green chiles, Albuquerque is an authentic destination that also happens to be affordable. The city’s beer scene is really earning its place on the map as well, with award-winning breweries adding to the vibrancy of popular neighborhoods.

Scenic river near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo by MarbleStreetStudio.com

Albuquerque’s Connection with Route 66 Keeps Getting Better with Age

When you cross into New Mexico, the arid Southwestern landscape stretches across your windshield, lighting up with vintage neon signs and fabled Route 66 attractions. When you hit Albuquerque, follow the old Route 66, now called Central Avenue, which runs east to west.

But when Route 66 first came through town in 1926, it snaked through Albuquerque from south to north, eventually reaching Santa Fe. After residents lobbied the government to straighten the road, the route changed in 1931, falling in line with the rest of the route that stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica.

Today, there are still a number of neon signs lining Historic Route 66, which takes you through three distinct city districts. Start in Nob Hill, a hip, up-and-coming neighborhood with a youthful, collegial vibe. Grab a bite to eat at local favorite, Zacatecas Tacos & Tequila. From there, head downtown and look for the city’s best-known landmark, KiMo Theatre and Art Gallery, which opened in 1927 in Pueblo- Deco style. Every architectural detail has significance from the rain clouds to the birds. Continue driving to Old Town where you’ll find the Albuquerque BioPark, home to the zoo, fishing lakes, an aquarium and botanic gardens.

7 Things to Do in Albuquerque

Ride the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway to 10,378 feet to hike or take in the panoramic view. Dress in layers as the top can be 20 degrees cooler than the valley; sandiapeak.com

Fly high in a bright-colored hot air balloon, an activity that makes city residents proud to claim the unofficial title “hot air ballooning capital of the world;" rainbowryders.com

Visit the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History where the evolution of nuclear capabilities comes to life in exhibits about nuclear power and bombs; nuclearmuseum.org

Visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center which offers a world-renowned historic and contemporary collection of Pueblo art and textiles, plus dance performances; indianpueblo.org/museum

Listen to everything from Irish music to jazz at a summer concert at the ABQ BioPark, which houses the zoo and botanic gardens; cabq.gov/culturalservices/biopark

Eat at Range Cafe, a local favorite since 1992, where the menu blends southwestern fare with typical American fare; rangecafe.com

Stay at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, a 25-acre lavender farm, featuring a farm-to-table restaurant, store and elegant rooms; lospoblanos.com

For more information:
Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 284-2282
20 First Plaza NW, Suite 601, Albuquerque, NM 87102
www.visitalbuquerque.org

Download an Albuquerque Route 66 Tour Map