Though we’ve been in and out of the city for two weeks, other than attending the Balloon Fiesta, we haven’t done much else in Albuquerque and it’s a pretty interesting place. We decided before leaving, we’d take the opportunity to explore a little.
Albuquerque is the most populous city in New Mexico with an estimated metro population of nearly a million people. Founded in 1706 as a Spanish colonial outpost, it was named in honor of Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, 10th Duke of Alburquerque and is thus sometimes referred to as the Duke City. Gentry provided some local city jargon. For instance, Albuquerque is a long city name and if you’re from here, it’s much easer to refer to it as Burque, ABQ (the airport code) or in a pinch, just ‘the Q’. Folks from Burque are known as Burqueños. Gentry’s husband, Eric, is a native Burqueño and he provided some direction for us. We had limited time as usual, so we chose what we thought might be the most interesting sights to see.
Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
That’s a mouthful of a title, but it’s pretty appropriate. The museum opened in 2005 and is named after Albuquerque’s ‘pioneering aeronauts’, Maxie Anderson and Ben Abruzzo who, together, made the first successful transatlantic balloon flight. Anderson, along with his son, made the first nonstop trans-North American balloon flight and Abruzzo and crew made the first transpacific balloon flight and held the record for the longest nonstop balloon flight. Pretty impressive statistics!
Located at the Balloon Fiesta Park, it was pretty easy to fit in a visit the museum on a Sunday after the morning fiesta activities were done. From early ballooning to balloons in war to weather to ballooning around the world, the Balloon Museum’s exhibits were informative and definitely engaging.
Petroglyph National Monument
Located right within the city, we’d actually visited Petroglyph National Monument in the past, but the monument itself is situated in four different locations and we’d only visited one. All the viewing areas are in different locations and not accessible from the Visitor’s Center. We visited the VC first to pick up park brochures and trail locations, then chose Piedras Marcadas (marked stones) Canyon, a few miles away, for a hike and petroglyph viewing.
The 1.5 mile sandy trail meanders through desert land along a volcanic escarpment where a purported 400 petroglyphs can be seen. It’s kind of a weird experience since there are housing developments not far away and traffic noise filters its way in. Since the monument area is not enclosed or gated, we weren’t always sure which glyphs were created 400-700 years ago by ancestors of of today’s Pueblo people and which were created by modern graffiti artists.
Tramway Hike and Sandia Aerial Tramway
Our time was running short and one of ABQ’s main attractions is the Sandia Peak Aerial Tram. The Sandia Mountains rise up on the east side of the city. Based on Eric’s suggestions, we decided to hike the 5+ mile Tramway Trail before standing in line to ride the tramway.
The morning was crisp and clear and the sky was that intense Colorado blue that David always raves about. It took us longer than expected probably because weren’t the least bit in a hurry and there was considerable uphill rocky trail to negotiate. The trail is not particularly well-marked and though there was no danger of actually getting lost, we were off the trail frequently and glad we had loaded the AllTrails app before we began the hike.
The Sandia Tramway is the longest aerial tram in the United States and has the third longest single span in the world. Technically, it’s a ‘double reversible jigback aerial tramway’ which means there are always two tram cars equidistant from each other along the tram cable.
We were pretty tuckered out when we returned to the Tramway Station, but we queued up just the same. There’s no reservation system for riding the tram. You wait in line and buy your ticket just before you’re actually boarding. The tram holds 45 people and as we sardines crammed into the tram car, people in the know found the best spots for viewing. Boarding nearly last, we were relegated to the middle of the pack. The views were great as far as we could tell, but we were pleased when the 2.7 mile, 15 minute ride was over and we were offloaded quite efficiently at the Sandia Peak station, elevation 10,378’.
We had all sorts of aspirations for more hiking when we reached the top, but the altitude, cold, wind and the earlier walk doused those ideas very quickly and instead, after a quick look around, we headed to the newly opened Ten-3 restaurant for a very late lunch and a locally crafted beer. Heading down was a little less crowded and the ride was much more enjoyable.
What did we miss? Lots!
We’d visited Old Town Albuquerque in the past and we had planned to visit again. There was so much more to see and do, but we just ran out of time. We’d already extended our stay by two days and we needed to get on the road again. We know we missed a lot in Albuquerque, that’s why we have every intention of returning.
With one national park, 12 national monuments, 2 national historic sites, outstanding native culture and an interesting history, there’s always something to see in New Mexico. Join us next time as we head southeast and begin more exploration of this Land of Enchantment.