Surrounded by small red mountains and steeped in art and culture. Albuquerque, New Mexico is a US destination that was designed with both children and adults in mind. There’s so much to see, do, and even eat, that you’ll quickly discover why a quick stop passing through simply isn’t enough. Family travelers will adore this city; it’s more than ideal for traveling with kids of all ages. Here are just a few of the reasons you should add Albuquerque to your family’s bucket list.
1. The museums are amazing
Museums can be a bore, and it’s always a challenge to find the ones that both kids and adults will be interested in visiting — but not in Albuquerque. The ABQ BioPark is a great place to start, but be warned, it’s a full day affair, if not more. Ticket prices are super cheap, so you can likely get the whole family in for under $50, depending on how many kiddos you have, of course. This place is all about the environment and consists of four separate parks: Albuquerque Aquarium, Rio Grande Botanic Garden, Rio Grande Zoo, and Tingley Beach (fishing lakes).
There’s a good chance kids will also dig the Rattlesnake Museum, which is self explanatory. The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science where you’ll find both dinosaur bones and a stellar planetarium. The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History is small but perfect for little ones who are interested in big planes and quick science experiments relating to the Atomic era in American history.
These are just a few of the museums you can find in town; the list goes on and on including museums dedicated to turquoise and wheels. Our favorite Museum was Explora, a children’s museum that was really focused on science. The tagline “Ideas you can touch” is spot on. From the moment we walked in, our kids had to touch everything, even the one-year-old.
We started learning about gravity at an exhibit made up of balls and ramps before moving onto a giant water table. The toddler area was next where our kids had little structures they could safely climb on, books to read, manipulatives to experiment with, and more. There were also sections where kids could experiment with light and air, and looking back, I’m not sure if it was more difficult to pull away my six-year-old or my husband from these. As a family, our favorite exhibit was probably the bubble table on the upper floor where we all got pleasantly soaked from playing with gigantic bubbles.
2. There’s no lack of cultural activities
While Explora and the Biopark were amazing, we tend to look for experiences while traveling that the kids and ourselves couldn’t easily have at home. One thing you’ll find in Albuquerque that is pretty unique is the plethora of cultural and historical sites outside the city boundaries.
Coronado Historic Site is one of these unique places. Here you’ll find ruins of the ancient Pueblo of Kuana along with a reconstructed ceremonial chamber. While the adults can bask in the awe of such a spectacular piece of human history, the kids can stretch their legs and run about on the trail. Win-win.
The cultural experience isn’t limited to cultural sites, however. The food in Albuquerque itself is a fabulous testament to the southwest. Basically everywhere you go will have dishes smothered in green chilies, and it’s something both you and the kids should try out — they are delicious. Our favorite meal in Albuquerque was at the restaurant in Hotel Andaluz downtown. Admittedly, you might want to only visit here if your kids are older and save yourself the sanctimonious stares of elderly patrons paying $36 a plate, but if you get the chance you should go. I had no idea that bruschetta could be made with mushrooms and a fried egg, and it’s the most delightful thing I’ve ever eaten in my life, for real.
3. Every kid should experience the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
The whole reason Albuquerque was even on our radar is because we went there for the Balloon Fiesta, which happens to be the largest hot air balloon festival in the world and takes place in the fall. My husband was skeptical; he thought is was probably going to be boring. He was wrong.
Before the sun begins peaking over the horizon, balloons are blown up and take to the sky. They perform a little light show in the morning with the fire that propels them upward, and by the time the sun does show its face, spectators can enjoy watching hundreds of balloons take shape all over the field. Trust me, the kids will be enthralled as they notice a basketball blowing up on the right and the biggest cow they’ve ever seen moving toward the sky on the left.
It takes a few hours for all the balloons to get airborne, and half of the fun is those moments when massive Angry Birds and baby whales go soaring over your head. If you get the chance to take a ride, do it, but if not, don’t ever think that your kids won’t be entertained. You will be too. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere in my life.
You need to plan to attend the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta as early as possible. We had to stay an hour away in Santa Fe because the hotels were booked solid when we started planning two month sin advance. The Drury in Santa Fe was an amazing choice.
If there’s any downside to Albuquerque, it’s that you absolutely HAVE to spend upwards of three days there so you don’t miss out on all the fun. Start saving your pennies, and plan on taking the kids for an epic southwest experience this year.