When you’re watching a rosy sunset stretch over a mountain, hot air balloons floating in the distance, it’s hard not to feel a little … bougie. But New Mexico’s largest city is more affordable than you might think.
To explore the city, stay in downtown or Old Town, two of Albuquerque’s most historic (and walkable!) neighborhoods. You’ll have easy access to public art, boutiques and day spas, and a hotel will only cost you about $145 a night — 53% cheaper than in nearby Santa Fe.
The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway takes visitors soaring past boulders, canyons and stunning desert terrain to an observation deck more than 10,000 feet in the air. (Adult round-trip tickets are $29). At dusk, stroll along Central Avenue (once a major part of Route 66), which is packed with neon signs and quirky restaurants.
When you wander into one for dinner, be prepared to answer New Mexico’s official state question: Red or green?
“It refers to which type of chile you would like on the plate, red or green,” says Brenna Moore, director of communications at Visit Albuquerque. “Order ‘Christmas’ to try both, as locals do.”
Pack plenty of layers when you visit, Moore advises, since the desert gets cool in the evenings. And since it might take a day or so to adjust to the city’s 5,300-foot elevation, drink lots of extra water — and don’t overdo it on the cocktails.
One last note on Santa Fe: Albuquerque’s neighbor to the north is just an hour and a half train ride away, and the scenery you’ll see from the Rail Runner Express train is worth the trip alone. An adult day pass is just $2.25, so you can hit up the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Meow Wolf and the New Mexican Museum of Art and be back in Albuquerque in time for another gorgeous sunset.
VISIT: The Salt Cave; Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway; Route 66; Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
SHOP: Bien Mur Indian Market; Kei & Molly Textiles
EAT: Sawmill Market; Duran Central Pharmacy; Mary & Tito’s Cafe
DRINK: Bow & Arrow Brewing Co.; Happy Accidents; Left Turn Distilling