Having been an east coaster for most of my life, one of the things that excited me most about moving to Denver was the opportunity to explore and learn more about parts of the country that I’d never really seen or experienced before.
So with the Southwest now being right down the road from me, I had to pay a visit to New Mexico. I’ve been a few different times now and, I’ll be honest, with each trip to the Land of Enchantment my mind is blown a little more by the stunning views, things to do, cultural experiences and delicious food. Here’s my weekend guide to a place that I truly think is an under-the-radar travel gem: Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Getting to Albuquerque
From my homebase in Denver, Albuquerque really is just a hop, skip and a jump away. Take an easy hour and fifteen minute flight, or drive 7ish hours down I-25 South to get there. (And look out for tumbleweeds along the way!)
Things to Do in Albuquerque
Sandia Peak Tram
The city of Albuquerque sits at the base of the gorgeous Sandia Mountains. The Sandia Peak Tram is an absolute must to experience. Considered the longest aerial tram in North America, it takes you 10,300 feet up to the peak. There, you’ll find the Ten 3 restaurant & bar but most importantly, some absolutely breathtaking views and unbeatable photo opportunities.
Explore Historic Old Town
Stroll around Historic Old Town and explore some really cool and unique shops, art galleries, museums. I was slightly scared to enter the Rattlesnake Museum, but it was absolutely worth it! Plus, it has breweries, wineries and restaurants. Old Town gives you a great snapshot of the 300+ year history of the city and its distinctive culture. Plus, breweries and wineries are just steps away. Don’t miss the San Felipe de Neri Church in the middle of Old Town plaza, built in 1793!
Yoga in a yurt at Los Poblanos
Los Poblanos is an absolutely stunning property that’s part organic farm, part special events venue, part wellness spa, part historic & luxury inn…you get the idea. They have a lot going on, and there are many reasons to put a visit to Los Poblanos on your itinerary. The top reason on my list is experiencing a gentle yoga class in their Wellness Yurt. Nestled in a quiet, wooded area of the property, the Wellness Yurt is full of peaceful vibes for some yoga practice. It’d been a while since I’d been in warrior pose, but the class was just the right mix of restorative and focusing. Even my husband (known to be yoga resistant) was a fan!
Rio Grande Bike Tour
Albuquerque is pretty much split in half by the Rio Grande River, which makes for some really gorgeous scenery that you don’t even have to leave the city to discover! As a native Pittsburgh girl, I’m always a fan of a good river city. Featured in Sunset Magazine as one of the best bike trails in the west, the Paseo Del Bosque Trail runs right along the Rio Grande and from the north to south edges of metro Albuquerque. Book a Rio Grande Bike tour through Routes Bicycle Tours and pick up some great historical and cultural tidbits about the city, while also seeing the unique flora & fauna of Albuquerque’s river landscape.
After yoga and biking, it’s time to relax and unwind at Betty’s Bath and Day Spa. Founded in 2000, Betty’s remains true to its original concept: to provide Albuquerque residents and visitors with a relaxation and wellness retreat in a professional, welcoming, and friendly spa setting. Betty’s is known in ABQ for outdoor salt water hot tubs, massage and facials. And let me tell you, a soak in one of their outdoor hot tubs was pretty much the PERFECT way to wind down and reflect after a jam packed weekend full of exploring, eating and exercising.
Where to Eat in Albuquerque
New Mexican cuisine is hard to describe, and really is something you have to experience for yourself. It’s not just your standard Mexican food or Tex Mex. It’s a glorious blend of flavors from Spanish and Native American cultures, dating back 400 years (like the city of Albuquerque itself!).
There’s no question that everything we ate was absolutely DELICIOUS. Some must-try New Mexican dishes include breakfast burritos (typically smothered in red or green chile. Want both red & green? Ask for Christmas style!), carne adovada, green chile chicken enchiladas, chile relleños and stuffed sopapillas. Here’s a run down of a few of the great places in town where we chowed down.
A true New Mexican classic, El Pinto has been serving up authentic New Mexican cuisine since the 1960’s. El Pinto feels like an old hacienda with five patios, three indoor dining rooms, a cantina and wood-burning fires throughout. While you enjoy some sopapillas and homemade salsas, you may just spy a celebrity digging into some enchiladas. Their Wall of Fame photos at the front of the restaurant are pretty impressive!
Indian Pueblo Kitchen
Now this was truly a unique (and tasty) experience. Located inside the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the iconic Indian Pueblo Kitchen showcases the creative Native American culinary traditions along with the celebrated Pueblo hospitality. Owned and operated by New Mexico’s 19 Pueblos, the center restaurant features the flavors of those Native communities in incredible homemade stews, fresh breads, baked goods, delicious dishes and savory sauces. Inspired by historical Pueblo traditions and recipes, the menu showcases ingredients such as red and green chile, blue corn and a seasonal harvest of fresh local produce and spices. This is really a must-try while you’re in Albuquerque!
Farm & Table
For an elegant dining experience on a beautiful plot of farm land, Farm & Table is really a treat. They source up to 80% of their menu from local farmers, ranchers, dairies and food artisans while putting an emphasis on working with farmers who grow food without the use of herbicides and pesticides and employ sustainable farming practices. Their menu changes with the growing seasons of New Mexico, but you really can’t go wrong with anything that they may be featuring (especially the housemade desserts!).
My husband and I are slightly obsessed with food hall style markets, so we had to checkout Sawmill Market! With 27 individual local food vendors, find a brewpub, cocktail and wine bar, and a mercantile all under one roof. Once upon a time, Sawmill Market was actually a sawmill! The building is a former lumberyard-turned-gathering space that showcases the beauty of New Mexico through food, diversity, and eclectic art. There’s also an expansive outdoor dining area along with games and room for community events.
Where to Stay
The Desert Compass
We stayed at The Desert Compass, and it had ALLLLL the Southwest vibes perfect for our weekend getaway. The Desert Compass is a boutique property located right in the heart of Old Town with multiple adobe suites. Each suite is designed and decorated with local artwork, antique and designer furnishings and awesome amenities. Staying here meant we were walkable to so many of the best things to see and do in Albuquerque. At the end of each day, we couldn’t wait to relax in the hot tub, cowboy pool, and fire pit area.
As you can tell, Albuquerque blew me away with everything it has to offer. From the great outdoors to the fine dining to the local flair, it’s such an eclectic and exciting destination. I’m already planning my next trip to hit spots we didn’t get to this time. Do yourself a favor and book a trip to explore Albuquerque.