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This is a basic itinerary for visitors with children planning to spend three overnights in Albuquerque. Since it includes a day trip, too, this article might also be useful for those using Albuquerque at the beginning or end of a longer trip that includes other places in New Mexico, Arizona or southern Colorado. Albuquerque is a good place to serve as a base for longer trips, as it's centrally located and its airport is among the very best. This article provides choices, but is also not meant to include everything. It assumes you are driving to Albuquerque or have flown in and are renting a car.
Some of this material is adopted from Visiting with Family. Screenshots provide links to the official websites; bold, highlighted Place Names are also linked to official websites. Where there is no official website, a place may automatically link to a TripAdvisor review.
See Getting Around by Car. This rather extensive Travel Guide discusses the city's quadrants, the landmarks that serve as compass points, and major arteries and areas of the city.
Albuquerque has all the chains. Many are new or recently renovated. You’ll find several of all the major brands spread throughout the city, many near the airport, many along the northern I-25 corridor, several along I-40 near midtown and uptown, and a couple next door to Old Town. There are wonderful bed-and-breakfast accommodations, too, especially near Old Town and in the valley. Here are some suggestions with links.
Hyatt Tamaya. This is a high-end resort, with all the amenities, north of Albuquerque, but it may be perfect for family getaways. Children love the pool areas, the chess tables in the lounge, and the bicycle and horseback trails in the bosque. You will love the views.
One of a couple of suites hotels with access to the ABQ Uptown outdoor shopping and restaurant district right across the street.
A Midtown hotel with new indoor water park.
Nativo Lodge in northern corridor. It has an indoor/outdoor swimming pool and even a tepee.
Depending on what time of day you arrive, here's some ideas you might fit into a few hours to get you started.
Sandia Tram. Take the drive to the foothills in far northeastern Albuquerque for an adventurous gondola ride through four life zones to the Sandia peak. The flight operator can answer questions and point out features. Bring extra layers, as it's over 10,000 feet at the top. You can hang out for the views but for extra fun, plan on hiking the forested mountain trails on top, which are easy enough for everyone without many complaints. You can adjust your hiking to accommodate your children's abilities and interest. There's often a ranger at the top, too. There are restaurants at both the base and at the top. (The one at the base, Sandiago's, is popular for dining at sunset; the one at top, High Finance, is best for lunch fare and a microbrew.) A $1 fee at the gate gets you to the tram base. Tickets for the tram flights are upstairs and leave every 15-20 minutes.
Pueblo Indian Cultural Center. Near 12th Street NW and I-40, this museum provides an excellent and easy introduction to the New Mexico pueblo culture. Check their calendar for dances. There's a good, modest restaurant for fry bread entrees and posole.
Stroll Old Town. West of downtown, off of Central and Rio Grande Blvd, is the small plaza of the original La Villa de Alburquerque, founded in 1706, featuring adobe buildings, may in the Territorial style. Like Santa Fe's, you can find Pueblo and Navajo jewelry being sold under the porticos . It's a pretty plaza with a handful of touristy shops and restaurants, anchored by the historic San Felipe de Neri Church. Visit the Rattlesnake Museum on the plaza for something different. You can take your time exploring Old Town or just make it a quick visit, particularly if your planning to visit Santa Fe. During the winter holiday season, when the luminarias are glowing in the evening, Old Town is especially lovely for a stroll.
You and your family must sample New Mexican fare, but first here's some fun, casual spots for your first night.
A good place to start might be 66 Diner or Frontier Restaurant. Both of these are on Central, the old Highway 66. The first is just east of I-25, near the hospital, and features burgers, blue plate specials, and soda fountain concoctions. The second is a landmark across the street from the University of New Mexico, the quintessential late-night student hangout, with people-watching, burgers, breakfast, homemade tortillas, a very infamous sweetroll, and more.
Plan on a stop at I Scream Ice Cream. It closes by 8 p.m. The ice cream is good and generous (choose 3 flavors plus a topping), the people are friendly, and it's an amazing visual treat as you enter. Your children will gravitate immediatley to the abundant toys and books. A short drive up Carlisle if you're already in the UNM or Nob Hill area or one light south of I-40 at the Carlisle exit. Find it in the southeastern corner of the intersection with Indian School, kitty corner from Whole Foods.
For local pizza favorites, try Dion's (many locations), Il Vicino (a couple of locations; try the original one in Nob Hill), and Saggios (another place across from UNM that is also a visual feast). Il Vicino and Saggios offer some adult atlernatives, too, such as wine and beer. Il Vicino has a bistro feel to it and is a fun way to get to the Nob Hill area.
The many locations of the local Flying Star are good to keep in mind just in case, whether it's breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. Like a Starbucks with food.
Old Town Museums. Off the plaza center and nestled around Tiguex Park on Mountain Road are two excellent children's musuems: Explora, a wonderfully fun museum with hands-on activities, and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, another delight for children with dinosaurs, a dyna-theater, and a planetarium. Explora is all about going from station to station, exploring such things as motion, sound, water and puzzles, and riding the living room elevator. There's a small store filled with science "toys". The Natural History Museum takes you on a journey through time, including fossils of dinosaurs found in New Mexico. There's also exhibits on minerals, space and computers, as well as a room for hands-on discovery and a store. These museums are next door to each other. It would be wonderful if your children could do both, but that requires a little more time and more admission fees. Expect admission for a family of four to be a little more than $20 for each museum. Add about another $20 if you do the dyna-theater or planetarium. For a break in between, you could picnic in Tiguex Park, go to the cafe inside the Natural History Musuem, walk to Old Town, go east on Mountain Road to the Little Red Hamburger Hut (Wimpy's), or a bit further south to Duran's Central Pharmacy. Old Town restaurants get mixed reviews, but two with New Mexican fare often recommended are Church Street Cafe and Little Anita's, which is also on Mountain. Nearby is also the Albuquerque Museum of Art & History, which has consistenty good exhibits from its collection and is highly recommended. Incidentally, Hotel Albuquerque is also a short walk from here.
Albuquerque Bio Park. Situated along the eastern bank of the Rio Grande, not far from Old Town, is a string of parks perfect for families. The jewel of the parks for many years has been the Rio Grande Zoo, a charming place to walk and picnic under the cottonwoods, with wonderful exhibits and its own Thunderbird Express train. Be sure to see the polar bears. The zoo's bandshell hosts family concerts on weekends and evenings during the summer. To the north is the modest but excellent Albuquerque Aquarium and the adjoining Rio Grande Botanic Garden, which includes among its many exhibits a child’s fantasy garden, a butterfly pavilion, a farm, and a Japanese garden. The garden is also the home of a light display during the holidays. The Zoo and the Aquarium/Botanic Garden are connected by another train that also stops at Tingley Beach, a renovated centerpiece of small lakes for fishing, model boating, and even paddleboats. A bicycle trail also parallels this stretch, continuing for miles along the river bosque, the wooded area along the banks of the Rio Grande. You can park at the zoo or in two lots at the aquarium (one lot is next to the main entrance; the other is next to the train depot). The zoo and the aquarium/garden are separate admission (about $20 for family of four to each) or you can get combo tickets that also include a train ride (about $34 for a family of four). There's a snack bar at the aquarium next to a tank, as well as a gift shop, you can access without admission, and there's also a snack bar and gift shop inside the zoo. You can bring strollers, wagons, blankets, food and beverages inside, and you can rent strollers and wagons, too.
For other ideas, including hikes, petroglyphs, nature centers, annual or seasonal events, performances for children, sports, and links to other sources, see Visiting with Family.
Breakfast. If your hotel doesn't provide breakfast, check out these: Weck's is a local favorite, now with several locations. Wolfe's is a local bagel bakery, but with only one retail cafe. Near downtown is the funky Java Joe's. There are many, many more good places for breakfast. Add your favorite here. And look for a place with good breakfast burritos.
Lunch. Here' a good chance to eat at good restaurants, including New Mexican, without high cost or strange gazes. Some of these are not open in the evening. If your near downtown, try Barelas Coffee House. It closes midafternoon and Sundays and offers New Mexican fare at its most authentic. It's located on Fourth Street, south of Central, near the National Hispanic Cultural Center on Bridge/Avenida Cesar Chavez. Near Old Town, an unexpected place for New Mexican food is Duran's Central Pharmacy.
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