New Mexico is a state I’ve sadly overlooked for far too long. After traveling through when I was 13 years old, it had not been on my list for a return trip until fairly recently. The more photos I saw and articles I read began to give more weight to the state’s “Land of Enchantment” moniker.
I settled on taking my daughter for a four-night getaway before school started for the year. We visited Santa Fe and Taos for two days, but the location that surprised me was Albuquerque. I’d looked up a few things to do in Albuquerque with kids on our first day before we’d head to Santa Fe and also our last morning before we flew back to California. We hit most of what I’d added to the list, skipping primarily the ones that interested me, but that I knew would bore my daughter to death (e.g. The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History).
The number of things to do in Albuquerque impressed me, especially things that interest kids. I’d expected to spend most of our time in Santa Fe and Taos, but we ended up spending a solid day and a half in New Mexico’s largest city. Here’s a great list of things to do in Albuquerque with kids:
Explore Old Town Albuquerque
Old Town Albuquerque is definitely where I would start on your visit to the city. Well…Sandia Peak Tram could be nice as well, but Old Town provides you with easy access to several other places to see. The Old Town is situated around a plaza, and you can browse the many shops, see the San Felipe de Neri church, and check out a couple of the art galleries featuring New Mexico landscapes.
My daughter and I spent a couple hours here, enjoying the beautiful day and browsing for a while. We stopped at Church Street Cafe for lunch, which offers Southwestern fare in one of Albuquerque’s original adobe residences.
Visit the Rattlesnake Museum
Within Old Town Albuquerque is a museum that isn’t for the faint of heart. When I mentioned the Rattlesnake Museum to my daughter, she was initially very keen on visiting. But the moment of truth came when we had our tickets in hand and had to pass through the gate from the gift shop into the actual museum. The first snake you meet might be the largest in the entire collection. Suddenly, she wasn’t so sure about the whole Rattlesnake Museum idea.
But she persevered and did enjoy the museum on the whole. I did as well. It’s quite the impressive collection of snakes, some venomous, some not. Obviously, the majority are rattlesnakes. The museum isn’t large, and you could probably spend 60-90 minutes and be satisfied. Adult tickets are $6 and kids are $4.
Especially cool for kids: the tickets you purchase double as a “Certificate of Bravery” for facing your fears.
Continuing the theme of additional things to do in Albuquerque that are in close proximity to Old Town, there are two other museums: the Albuquerque Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. Both are within a 5-minute walk of the Old Town plaza. We opted to skip the natural history museum in favor of the Albuquerque Museum.
The Albuquerque Museum highlights New Mexico’s history and prehistory, as well as specific history about the founding and development of Albuquerque. Some of the exhibits will likely appeal to kids. However, my daughter began to get bored of the art after a while. It’s worth a couple hours.
This was one place that made the short list, but I decided to skip in favor of other activities. Explora is a science center near Old Town Albuquerque that should appeal to young and old alike. It has numerous hands-on exhibits with a focus on science and math. My guess is that my daughter would have enjoyed it, but she likely would not have been as keen as my eight-year-old son. We he and I traveled to Seattle and Boise, we hit up the Pacific Science Center in the former and the Boise Discovery Center. He highly enjoyed both.
This doesn’t give me the ability to make a firsthand recommendation, but if we head back to Albuquerque, we will almost certainly hit up Explora. Kids ages 1 to 11 years cost $6, and adults (ages 12 to 64) cost $10. Not bad at all for a science museum. Hours are 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Saturday, and noon to 6:00 on Sunday.
Sandia Peak Tram
One of the Albuquerque experiences to which I was looking forward most was the Sandia Peak Tram. It did not disappoint. The tram takes you up its namesake peak to the northeast of downtown Albuquerque, providing you with amazing views of the city and valley far below. Albuquerque sits at around 5,300 feet above sea level, and the tram takes you up an elevation of over 10,000 feet.
At 2.7 miles in length, the Sandia Peak tram used to be the longest in the world until the record was taken away by one overseas. My guess was that China had stolen the title, given their appetite for construction these days. But no, it’s in Armenia.
We arrived at the tramway to take the first car of the day up to the peak. However, there were some maintenance issues that day, and we ended up waiting an additional half hour longer than expected. But we still got to enjoy the ride and the views from the peak.
My daughter wasn’t interested in hiking up to the stone cabin at the crest to the north, so we just enjoyed the views from where we were. On the backside of Sandia Mountain is a ski resort, making the tram an easy way for folks to access the slopes without needing to drive miles around the Sandia Mountains. This was actually the inspiration for the tram in the first place. It’s now over 50 years old, originally opening in 1966.
Our guide didn’t mention it, but there are remnants of TWA flight 260 that crashed into the mountains in 1955. You can hike to the crash site as well, although anything that takes you off the crest is going to be strenuous.
Petroglyph National Monument
The Petroglyph National Monument was another place on our list to visit had we had sufficient time. The Petroglyph National Monument is an area just outside Albuquerque that contains numerous designs and symbols carved into the rock by Native Americans in centuries past. It offers a good amount of hiking where you can both enjoy the beauty of New Mexico’s landscape and see some of the petroglyphs firsthand.
It was the hiking that made me scratch this from the list. My kids aren’t very keen on hiking, and even though I know my daughter would have enjoyed the carvings, walking a few miles would not have been up her alley. We would take a 2-mile hike later that trip, and that was more than enough for her.
More Things to Do in Albuquerque than I Anticipated
New Mexico’s largest city wasn’t really on my radar until I started looking for things to do in Albuquerque for the half day before our flight home. Turns out we would spent more of our time here rather than in Santa Fe like I anticipated. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy Sante Fe as well. I just wanted to highlight the fact that there are enough things to do in Albuquerque for your family that spending a couple days here certainly won’t be wasted.
Have you visited Abluquerque? What’s on your short list of things to do and see?