Albuquerque: Like No Place Else

Explore the sights and traditions that make this Southwestern city unique.
Hot Air Balloons Over Albuquerque

Hot Air Balloons Over Albuquerque

For nine days in October, the city’s population doubles as people come from all over the planet to watch squadrons of colorful hot air balloons fly over the city. 

Photo by: Sandi Parks

Sandi Parks

For nine days in October, the city’s population doubles as people come from all over the planet to watch squadrons of colorful hot air balloons fly over the city. 

By: Tamara Shope
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There are many good reasons to visit Albuquerque, New Mexico, but these features and places are particularly unique:


Albuquerque is ready for its closeup. Not only does the city appear frequently in food shows, but it also is home to a burgeoning film industry. Streets are occasionally blocked off for movie shoots, and locals love to tell stories about run-ins with celebrities. Around local blogs and diners, this isn’t Little Hollywood, it’s Tamalewood. TV shows currently filmed in Albuquerque include Starz’s Crash and AMC’s Breaking Bad.

International Balloon Fiesta

Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque

Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque

Excited spectators gather to watch hot air balloons lifting off at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Photo by: Sandi Parks

Sandi Parks

For nine days in October, the city’s population doubles as people come from all over the planet to watch squadrons of colorful hot air balloons fly over the city. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is not only Albuquerque’s best chance to showcase its beautiful weather, mountain views, understated river and culture, but it’s also huge business for everyone from restaurateurs to portable toilet companies.

The fiesta is a hot air ballooning celebration, when nearly 1,000 balloons and their pilots visit Albuquerque. The city is the ballooning capital of the world because of a weather phenomenon called the “Albuquerque box effect,” which means a pilot can ascend from a point in the city, float south, west and north again, and land in nearly the same location. The weather pattern gives pilots ultimate control over their globes.

Sandia Peak Tramway

The Sandia Peak Tramway is the world’s longest aerial tramway, featuring a vertical climb of about 4,000 feet. The ride up provides unique views of the city and its beloved mountains and, once at the top, dinner at the restaurant at the mountain crest is a must for visitors. For outdoor enthusiasts, a hike down via the La Luz Trail can be just as satisfying.

Diversity Rules

Albuquerque is a minority-majority city, which means that according to the most recent Census Bureau statistics, there are fewer non-Hispanic whites in the city than there are other ethnic groups (by a hair: 50.1 percent). Its earliest settlers were Pueblo Indians; the Spanish came in the late 1600s.

Cowboy Culture

The Wild West never really left Albuquerque. Cowboys still live and breathe in these parts, and rodeos are very much a part of the urban culture. Combine that with local shootout groups and performers, continued reverence for the days of Billy the Kid (who called southern New Mexico home) and the two-stepping that takes place every weekend somewhere in town, and it’s proof that cowboy legends don’t die.

Native American Culture

Tribal land borders Albuquerque on all sides, making American Indian culture accessible to the entire city and all who visit. Feast days on the reservations provide genuine encounters with the many different native cultures nearby, and some pueblos offer tours. Albuquerque is also surrounded by Native American-owned casinos, some of which have become among the area’s premiere performance venues. The annual Gathering of Nations Native American Powwow in April is billed as North America’s biggest powwow and offers spectators and participants the opportunity to witness sacred dances, music and traditions.

Sacred Stones

The Petroglyph National Monument on Albuquerque’s West Side features 20,000 rock carvings, several dormant volcanoes and abundant wildlife. There are walking trails where you can get a close look at the glyphs carved by the ancients centuries ago.

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