Straddling the Rio Grande, Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and has plenty of free things to do on an affordable family vacation.

Albuquerque averages more than 300 sunny days per year. Men’s Health Magazine has repeatedly named Albuquerque one of America’s fittest cities, its high desert climate being conducive to athletes, many of whom settle in Albuquerque to train.

This area is known for a range of outdoor activities, including golf, hiking, mountain climbing, cycling, and hot air ballooning. It is referred to by some as the Ballooning Capital of the World, and has a museum (one of the free family-friendly attractions) dedicated entirely to this unique mode of transportation.

Additionally, Albuquerque is richly diverse, showcasing a history which includes both Native-American and Hispanic elements.

1. The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum – Dedicated to the art, culture, history, science and sport of lighter-than-air crafts. Free every Sunday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and the first Friday of every month.

2. The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History – Celebrates New Mexico’s diverse history and Albquerque’s appreciation for art. The museum features several walking tours, a sculpture garden, and special summer exhibits, including Experimental Geography and Imagenes de la Frontera, which explores border images from the Mexican Revolution. Free every Sunday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and the first Wednesday of every month. Children 3 and under are always free.

3. Petroglyph National Monument – Walk or hike throughout this protected landscape to view volcanoes, architectural sites, and over 20,000 drawings that reflect the area’s native culture.

4. Trails – Miles of public trails crisscross Albuquerque’s metro area. High dessert conditions make these areas conducive to hiking, cycling, rock-climbing, and golf.

5. The National Hispanic Cultural Center – Learn about Hispanic culture throughout the world through art exhibits and live performances. The museum hosts various free events throughout the year – check the website calendar for details.

6. Tingley Beach – Offers free fishing days each month as part of Albuquerque Bio Park.

7. Summerfest – Concerts at Civic Plaza, along with free music, games and carnival rides. Check website for full schedule.

8. Old Town, New Fun – During late spring, summer, and early fall, enjoy live music and history honoring Albuquerque’s elders (Wednesdays), a showcase of Albuquerque’s diverse culture (Thursdays), live Latin music and dancing (Fridays), live poetry, music and workshops (Saturdays), and theatrical patio performances (Sundays).

9. BMX Riding – Visit the largest covered bike track in the country during its free family days. Check website for complete schedule.

10. Civic Cinema – Classic films played free on a giant screen at Civic Plaza on selected Friday nights throughout the summer. Movies begin at approximately 9 p.m. Bring a picnic – no alcohol. Pets allowed if leashed. Check website for full film schedule.

11. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center – Offers live music plus authentic Native-American art and dance demonstrations year round. The museum hosts several free family events – check website for schedule.

12. Poetry Slams – Check this website for poetry events in and around Albuquerque, including competitions, readings, and open mike nights.