Winter Vacation: Albuquerque

Ready for a winter escape? Look no further than Albuquerque, one of the most culturally diverse and dynamic cities in the United States and less than a two-hour flight from San Diego.

Like much of California, Albuquerque has 300-plus days of sunshine each year, and rumor has it that the breakfast burrito – a California staple – was invented in the region during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (held annually in October) in the 1970’s. Within the city limits, there are more than a dozen museums, an Old Town area featuring more than 150 shops, restaurants and galleries, and a nostalgic stretch of Route 66 that combines old and new for an exciting visitor experience.

Hotel Zazz


Finding an endless array of activities for a romantic weekend of family escape is easy when in the region, but first one must find a place to sleep. In recent weeks, the newly renovated Hotel Zazz opened along Route 66 after the completion of a full renovation. Hotel Zazz features a complete redesign of the hotel’s interior including 49 unique rooms, speakeasy, an outdoor pool and event space. Hotel Zazz creates an unforgettable immersive boutique hotel experience through unique art, a melody of chromatic visuals, and a vibration of sounds that breaks free from the ordinary.

The bold hotel prides itself on sustainability, community and charitable giving by doing its part to reinvigorate the surrounding neighborhood. There are even a number of local artists represented in the hotel through furniture, art installations, murals, mirrors and even metal work, including Sarah Voglewede, Mauricio Ramirez, Lena Horgan, Kelly Klein and Karim Rashid.

Guests and locals can enjoy the Z-Lounge Speakeasy that’s unlike any other bar experience in Albuquerque with an intimate setting and a menu that includes craft cocktails and food.

Red Door Brewing Photo credit: Dirt Road Travels

Sip, See and Do

While visiting the area, ensure time is carved out to experience the booming local craft brewery scene. There is a seemingly endless number of pubs, breweries and beer kitchens for everyone to enjoy, notably Bosque Brewing Co. Public House, Tractor Brewing Company, Marble Brewing, Red Door and Rio Bravo Brewing Co.

Those looking for something a little more adventurous should investigate a hot air balloon rides at sunrise while visiting. Each peaceful ride allows guests to watch the sun’s first rays fall on the Sandia Mountains backdrop before dipping low over the Rio Grande, and then land for breakfast and a glass of wine.

Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway Photo credit: Jay Blackwood

Seeking arts, cultural or outside-of-the-norm attractions? Consider:

  • The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, which gives riders the opportunity to ascend more than 10,000 feet into the air above Albuquerque for some of the most stunning views in the state
  • The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, the world’s premier facility dedicated to the art, culture, science, history, sport and spectacle of hot air ballooning. It features one of the world’s finest collections of hot air ballooning equipment and memorabilia.
  • The Electric Playhouse, a state-of-the-art space dedicated to immersive art installations, interactive gaming, live music and more. For a limited time, the Electric Playhouse has an exhibit of note that dives into the mind and inspirations Georgia O’Keeffe, one of the world’s most iconic and revered artists. Called Music for the Eyes: A New O’Keeffe Experience, it features large-scale digital projections, interactive displays and animation of O’Keeffe artworks.
  • American International Rattlesnake Museum, which features species of rattlesnakes from all over the world. Learn about the bad reputation rattlesnakes have had, and why these slithery serpents are not as scary as many think.

Also, do not miss the ABQ BioPark, which is multiple experiences – The ABQ BioPark Zoo, Botanic Garden, Aquarium and Tingley Beach – all in one location. Established in 1927, the Zoo is home to more than 900 animals from around the world.

Opened in 1996, the Botanic Garden has grown to 32 acres of exhibits and showcases plants from the American Southwest and around the world. Fun fact: The Garden’s BUGarium is one of the most elaborate exhibits dedicated to bugs and arthropods in the country.

Since its opening in 1996 alongside the Botanic Garden, the ABQ BioPark Aquarium has showcased a kaleidoscope of colorful fish native to a variety of ecosystems found throughout the United States. Insider tip: Dine at its Shark Reef Café, which offers spectacular views into the 285,000-gallon ocean tank, providing an unforgettable dining experience.

Tingley Beach features three fishing ponds and a model boat pond that offer a respite from the bustling city. There is a mile-long walking trail loop around the ponds, and the nearby bike path provides access to the Rio Grande.

Campo at Los Poblanos


Finally, there is the food. Oh, the food!

Albuquerque’s vibrant food scene is a celebration of the Southwest’s abundant ingredients including corn, beans, squash and chiles and the perfect mash-up of Mexican, Native American and Spanish flavors. Of course, there are flavors from around the world showcased as well. Some favorites:

  • Campo at Los Poblanos, located in a historic inn with an organic farm that prides itself on Rio Grande Valley cuisine using ingredients sourced from its farm and the surrounding fields
  • Restaurant Antiquity, a fine dining spot best known for fresh seafood, charcoal-grilled steaks and fowl
  • Mary & Tito’s Cafe, a local favorite since the 1960’s that earned the America’s Classics Award from the James Beard Foundation in 2010
  • Pop Fizz, the spot for those in the know looking for perfect paletas (Mexican frozen popsicles)
  • El Pinto Restaurant and Café, which the Food Network featured among its five favorite spots for ribs in the United States

For more information, visit www.visitalbuquerque.org.

Featured photo credit: Ron-Behrmann

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