48 Hours In Albuquerque: Things To Do

ALBUQUERQUE | Founded in 1706 as La Villa de Alburquerque by Santa Fe de Nuevo México governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdés, Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico, and one that’s full of history. It’s a history that goes back well before European settlement, with Puebloans settling in the area from around 1250, and the historic Navajo, Apache, and Comanche peoples also passing through the area.

The first time I was made aware of Albuquerque was when I would watch Looney Tunes cartoons as a child. There was the ‘wrong turn at Albuquerque’ gag that Bugs Bunny would make, and it stuck. As an adult, it was Breaking Bad, and later Better Call Saul, that brought the city to my attention.

When it came time to do my third US road trip in 2023, I decided I’d plan a route that took me to places that I’d heard about, but knew very little, if anything, about. Albuquerque was on of the cities that made the cut, and in September that year, I found myself staying in motel on Route 66, ready to explore.

I knew that the architecture was unique, I knew that I wanted to learn more about New Mexican cuisine, and I wanted to learn more about the culture and the history of the city. I fit a lot into my three days in Albuquerque, and have put together a list of things that you can choose to do if you have 48 hours in Albuquerque.

Be Captivated By The Vintage Motel Signs Of Route 66

The historic and famous Route 66 runs directly through Albuquerque. The street is lined with several motels, recognisable for their large vintage neon signs. The signs are a unique part of the city, and route’s history.

Several are in great shape, but many have fallen into disrepair. In 2023, through the Revamp Route 66: Sign Improvement Grant Program, the city provided financial grants to businesses to help them restore their signs to their former glory.

Break Bad

As you’d expect, there are plenty of touristy activities related to Breaking Bad. If that’s your thing, go for it, but it’s not for me. As a fan of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, I was quite content to simply walk around town and chance upon things that evoked imagery and a feel from the show.

There’s the vast emptiness of the desert as you leave town, the big billboards where lawyers are advertising their services alongside car washes and unassuming strip malls. You don’t need to spend a cent to get your Breaking Bad fix in Albuquerque.

Check Out The Petroglyphs

Located just outside the city, the La Cieneguilla Petroglyphs are a must see when visiting Santa Fe. Hundreds of petroglyphs (native rock art), created by Keresan-speaking Puebloan people living in the area between the 13th and 17th centuries, can be found here. You’ll find representations of things like birds, deer, hunters, and early Native flute players.

Eat New Mexican Food

New Mexican cuisine originated in Santa Fe de Nuevo México, a province of the Spanish empire, later a part of Mexico, and today part of the US states of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. New Mexican food has much in common with Mexican food, but is a distinct cuisine it its own right.

It’s a cuisine that’s been influenced by the culinary history of the region’s native Pueblo inhabitants (in particular the the Apache and Navajo tribes), and New Mexican spices, herbs, flavours, and vegetables. In particular, red and green New Mexico chile peppers, anise, and piñon (pine nuts).

In Santa Fe, you can find small family-run spots like Duran Central Pharmacy, Mary & Tito’s, and El Modelo Mexican Foods, serving up traditional New Mexican food. There’s also new restaurants, like Campo at Los Poblanos, that are putting a contemporary spin on things.

For a more detailed look at the food of New Mexico, and places to find it not just in Albuquerque, but in the wider region, check out my article, Discovering New Mexican Food: Places To Try.

Explore The Great Outdoors

Albuquerque’s climate is characterised by cool, dry winters, hot summers, and little rain. This makes it a great option for outdoor activities no matter the time of year. Riding the rapids of the Rio Grande and going for a hike in the Sandia Mountains, just east of the city, are both great options.

It’s a high altitude place, so even more so than usual be sure to remember your hat and sunscreen.

Have A Multisensory Experience

Underground Art Collective Meow Wolf might be well known for their large scale experiences in cities like Las Vegas and Denver, but it all started in Santa Fe in 2008. House of Eternal Return is their all-ages multisensory experience, where visitors explore a curious family home. It’s a dream-like place, a self described “expression of punk subversion and magical humanness”. It’s about a 50 minute drive from Albuquerque, just outside Santa Fe.

Learn About The Area’s Flora & Fauna

ABQ BioPark is home to the city’s zoo, botanic garden, and aquarium. It’s an American Humane Certified refuge for thousands of animals and plants, and gives visitors an insight into New Mexico’s native flora and fauna. You can purchase tickets for just the Aquarium/Botanic Garden, or the zoo, or a combined pass which gets you access to all three.

Sample Local Craft Beer

Albuquerque is home to several excellent craft breweries. Many of them produce beers that are well suited to the weather, and incorporate local and native ingredients. Bow And Arrow Brewing Co serves what I think is the best beer in town, while Gravity Bound Brewing Company is the best option if you’re looking to chill. Head to Marble Brewery if you want one of the largest and most consistent ranges in town, and also hosts food trucks and has a small stage where local bands play live music.

Visit A Museum

There are several museums of note in Albuquerque. The Albuquerque Museum of Art & History features art of the Southwest and covers over 400 years of regional history. The National Hispanic Cultural Center is dedicated to the study, advancement and presentation of Hispanic culture, arts and humanities, while the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of Pueblo Native American culture, history and art. 

If you’re interested in nuclear science, visit the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, the only congressionally chartered museum in the nuclear field. Exhibits deal with nuclear history, science applications, and future developments of nuclear energy.

Walk Through Old Town

Old Town was Albuquerque’s first neighbourhood. It’s home to plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants, but most of these are quite tourist focused. The real reason to visit Old Town is for it’s layout, architecture, and feel, which is unlike anywhere else in the US.

Old Town Albuquerque’s architectural heritage is protected, and the area looks very much like it did when it was built upon the city’s founding in 1706. Back then it was the main town linking Mexico City to the northernmost territories of New Spain. The architectural style is Pueblo-Spanish, with flat-roofed buildings and soft contours of adobe, that mirror the Southwestern landscape.



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