While visiting the set of Universal Cable Productions’ new action thriller series DIG, I had the chance to explore the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico for the first time. I went solo without my husband and kids, so was able to explore a lot in just 24 hours of free time in Albuquerque. Here are some of my highlights and recommendations:
For Film & TV Buffs
Off of Route 66 in the high desert, Albuquerque is quickly becoming one of the country’s most active film locations for movies and TV shows. Most famously would be AMC’s Breaking Bad, which wrapped in 2013, but still attracts fans of the show seeking out location tours of coffee shops, local fast food locations, motels and a car wash that were often featured in the show. I didn’t have time for a tour, but my friend Emma at Fanbolt.com did, Check out her review: ABQ Trolley Company’s ‘Bad Tour’ Is a Must for ‘Breaking Bad’ Fans.
In addition, Disney’s The Lone Ranger, Marvel’s The Avengers and We’re the Millers have all recently filmed in and outside the city. Why? The sun shines in Albuquerque 310 days per year on average and the weather is mild all year.
For Foodies and Hipsters
Foodies and hipsters will especially enjoy the artsy Nob Hill neighborhood, where you’ll find many of the city’s best restaurants, distinctive shops and boutiques. I know I was delighted to see how diverse and trendy the bustling area was with several vegan eateries, breweries and even a bubble tea store (Boba Tea Company).
I dined at Zacatecas Tacos + Tequila (3423 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106) featuring delicious tacos, specialty cocktails and more.
For Art Lovers and Historians
New Mexico is home to 22 Native American Tribes, including 19 Indian pueblos and three reservations. The Native American influence can be seen in the architecture, clothing and food, but I especially experienced that part of the culture when visiting Old Town.
A visit to the charming Old Town is a must! It’s a great spot to be if you don’t have a car, which I didn’t have. There’s a church that was built in 1793, a beautiful plaza with a central gazebo, shops and restaurants, and several museums within walking distance, including Rattlesnake Museum, Turquoise Museum, New Mexico Museum of Natural Science & History, Explora (hands-on kids museum) and Albuquerque Museum (art and history). Seeing the pueblo architecture alone is worth the visit. There are also local artisans and Native Americans selling handmade jewelry and pottery displayed on colorful blankets out on the sidewalks.
My favorite part of Old Town though was eating at La Placita Dining Rooms, which has been serving New Mexican-styled Mexican food since 1935. My cab driver recommended it to me and I was not disappointed. I especially enjoyed the atmosphere too as inside are impressive wooden beams and a tree in the middle of one of the dining rooms cutting into a tin roof overhead, it was all very rustic and charming. There was even a fireplace blazing in the entryway. I ordered chicken and beef tacos with rice and beans. All orders come with an additional plate of Sopapillas, which is served as bread at New Mexican restaurants. These deep-fried but hollow dough pastries come with honey, which you then drizzle on top. After traveling all day, these were heaven. I would go back and order the exact same thing again.
Meanwhile, historic neon signs still glow on the famous old Route 66 through Albuquerque, which is now Central Avenue. Alongside the vintage signs, you’ll see new versions put up by businesses that are continuing the aesthetic traditions of old Route 66, adorning their shops with bright, buzzing neon. The vintage look to the buildings and signs transport visitors to a different time of Americana.
For Visitors with More than 24 Hours
Ride the 2.7-mile aerial tramway, which is the longest in North America. In about 15 minutes, the tram whisks visitors from the base of the Sandia Mountains to 10,378 feet in elevation.
Go for a balloon ride. Ballooning is an everyday event in ABQ. The city is known as the Hot Air Ballooning Capital of the World and provides the opportunity for year-round balloon rides. The city is also home to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest annual hot air ballooning festival.
I had also wanted to check out the St. James Tearoom for a full afternoon tea experience, but they are closed on Mondays. If you go, you’ll have to let me know what I missed.