Is Albuquerque primed to be the next Austin? Our Gnational Gnomad and travel expert Meagan Wristen of Mommy Travels ventured out to Albuquerque to discover the answer.
It has been almost two decades since I stepped foot in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I decided to take a trip here after reading Mayor Richard Berry’s public letter to Amazon on Twitter back in September. He passionately tried to sway the company to open a second headquarters in his city. This did not sound like the Albuquerque I remembered, so I set off to see this transformation in person.
As the plane descended into the desert, I thought this is exactly how I remember it… dry, hot, and brown. But I tried to keep an open mind as I headed to Hotel Andaluz, an adorable boutique hotel in downtown. As we drove, the Uber driver pointed out various locations where Breaking Bad had been filmed. In the years since my last visit, Albuquerque, home to Albuquerque Studios, has turned into a thriving film industry. There are many tours offered around the area to see where popular shows and movies were filmed.
Foodies Will Not Run Out of Options
Once settled into my hotel, I set out in search of New Mexico cuisine. The one thing I had no issue recalling was the fantastic food, often flavored with freshly roasted green chiles. Here are a handful of the best restaurants in Albuquerque dishing up New Mexican goodness!
- El Pinto – Plan to have dinner out on their gorgeous patio decked out with flowers. If you cannot fit it in for dinner, head there for yoga and brunch on a Sunday morning. Every Sunday, they host “Yogaritas” where you can do yoga alongside a pot-bellied pig named Tequila Barbie and then enjoy a margarita when you are done.
- Sadie’s – After 60+ years in business, Sadie’s is still considered by many locals to be the best New Mexican restaurant in town. I must say that nineteen years later the food was even better than I remembered.
- Barelas – Have breakfast here during your stay. I recommend trying the chilaquiles Christmas style, which means half green chile sauce and half red chile sauce. If you are feeling adventurous, try the chicharones (apparently Barack Obama tried them when he dined here).
Other restaurants I recommend in Albuquerque are Tia B’s Waffleria for breakfast, The Grove Cafe for lunch, and Mas Tapas Y Vino for dinner. Tia B’s Waffleria will have a line out the door, but it is worth the wait for one of their incredible savory or sweet waffle creations. The Grove Cafe offers organic, locally grown ingredients, and their soups and salads are outstanding. Mas Tapas Y Vino is located inside Hotel Andaluz and also sources their ingredients locally. They have one of the most creative cocktail menus in Albuquerque with options like the Dr. Greenthumb, made with house green chile vodka, chartreuse, lime juice, cilantro, mint, and ginger simple syrup.
A Paradise for Outdoor Enthusiasts
Having properly stuffed my face I was ready to do something active. I rented a bike and set off. Albuquerque has 600+ miles of bike trails in and around their city. If biking is not physical enough for you, venture out to the Sandia Mountains. The Sandia Tramway will take you to top where you can mountain bike, hike, ski, or snowboard. Just think, from late fall to early spring you could ski in the morning and in the afternoon head back to town and golf.
Beer Enthusiasts Are Not Left Behind
After biking about town, I had worked up quite a thirst and decided to try a couple of the local breweries. The last time I was in Albuquerque I am pretty sure there were no breweries; now Albuquerque has a flourishing craft brewery scene. In fact, Travelocity named Albuquerque as the one of the top 10 beer cities in the United States. I recommend stopping in at Marble Brewing and trying their Pilsner for a beer with a nice citrus twang. Other breweries worth checking out include Nexxus Brewery and Restaurant and La Cumbre Brewing Company.
Shop for Turquoise
Let’s start with the shopping scene. After all these years, Albuquerque is still THE place to find one-of-a-kind turquoise jewelry. I highly recommend going to Skip Maisel’s Indian Jewelry store in downtown. Skip Maisel’s has affordable prices and can tell you about the Indian artist that created each piece. I bought a massive turquoise and silver ring for less than $200!
Another place to shop is Old Town. Take a step back in time at Historic Old Town founded in 1706 and home to an 18th-century church, San Felipe de Neri. The area is made up of charming Pueblo-Spanish style adobes, many of which are now shops with all types of merchandise. They even have sellers set up on blankets selling a variety of goods. While in Old Town take a break from shopping long enough to enjoy a margarita at the High Noon Saloon and have one of the staff members tell you about the building which they say is haunted!
Visit a Lavender Farm
My second favorite stop is the lavender farm. Albuquerque has the most charming lavender farm I’ve ever seen, Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. All the buildings inside and out look like they came straight out of a magazine cover. The farm is gorgeous and smells like heaven. You can stroll around the property, and have breakfast or dinner at their field-to-fork restaurant featuring all locally sourced products including their lavender honey. Afterwards shop in their gift shop. Be sure to check out their lavender oil distillery and enjoy a lavender latte!
I have to admit the city of Albuquerque has done an incredible job. They have managed to preserve all that was great and build upon it. One thing is for sure, I will not wait another 19 years to go back! I’ve already made plans to go back next September for Somos, a festival that celebrates all Albuquerque has to offer including art, food, beer, music and more.
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