publicartAlbuquerque is hardly the first place most people think of when they consider a family vacation in New Mexico. Santa Fe and Taos are more likely to top that list. But Albuquerque has plenty to offer families traveling with kids and its central location makes it a great place to anchor a variety of day trips around New Mexico. Best of all for family travel: It’s affordable.

Albuquerque is located in the high desert (its elevation is higher than the mile-high city, Denver) and gets just 10 inches of rain a year. So be sure to drink plenty of water, use sun screen and plan your outdoor activities early in the day.

The city is filled with art–from the publicly financed murals and sculptures that dot the downtown to the movies and television shows that are made around town. Abluquerque is the newest darling of Hollywood, which uses its plentiful sunshine (the sun shines 310 days a year here) and varied neighborhood architecture and natural geology to make a growing number of movies and television shows, including “Breaking Bad” and “In Plain Sight.” The 25 percent state tax rebate is a big draw, too.

Outdoor Fun in Albuquerque


Start your family vacation in Albuquerque by seeing the city and learning a little about its history onboard the open air ABQ Trolley, a city tour operated by two young Albuquerque natives who call their tour “the best first thing to do” in the city. Even kids will take to the warm, funny presentation and offbeat sites featured on this quirky city tour.

The Sandia Mountains, named that because they turn the color of red watermelon at sunset, offer plenty of opportunity for hiking. The elevation is 6,500-plus, which can be a little daunting for a flatlander like me (Chicago elevation: 500 feet). But the views are incredible and the desert terrain easily mastered.

If you would rather bike, rent a bike at Tingley Beach and tour the 16-mile Bosque Trail. It runs alongside the Rio Grande in the Bosque National Forest, the largest stand of cottonwood trees in the world.

tramFor another sort of overview, take a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway above the Cibola National Forest. It’s billed as the longest aerial tramway in the world, so I was surprised to find the 2.7-mile trip took only about 15 minutes. It was magical to look down at the pine trees that tower 50 feet high, but from the tram look small enough to decorate a miniature train set. The tram was built to serve skiers from Albuquerque who didn’t want to drive all the way around the mountain to ski in the winter but it’s fun for a afternoon excursion. Wander around the mountain top, or have dinner at the restaurant, then get in line to catch the next tram back down the mountain into town.

Indoor Fun in AlbuquerqueIf you need a break from the harsh afternoon sun, head inside to one of Albuquerque’s museums. If you’re traveling with younger kids, opt for the unique and wonderful Explora, a children’s museum that encourages family togetherness and is so popular with adults that it offers an adults-only night every month.(link to blog) The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, next door to Explora, also is geared toward kids and families and well worth a visit.

Also located in the Old Town area is the American International Rattlesnake Museum. Not being a snake officiando, I didn’t venture in. Had I been traveling with my son, I doubt I could have kept him out.

Take a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque or check out this list of 12 free things to do in Albuquerque.