24 Hours in Albuquerque

All Quiet on the Western Front: 24 Hours in Albuquerque

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Albuquerque is a city I’d long wanted to visit, yet had never managed to find airfare at a reasonable price. In fact, every time I searched from San Francisco, it would be upward of $500! Ludicrous.

When our drive across country for the big move took us through New Mexico, I made a case for stopping over in Albuquerque for two nights. Actually, I didn’t have to make much of a case; as it goes with traveling with me, I often tell SVV, “we’re going [here] for [this amount of time]” and he shrugs and says it sounds good to him. Plus, I found a killer deal on hotel rooms via Jetsetter, so it wouldn’t cost us a whole lot of extra money for a detour either.

On our one full day there, I was up and ready to go, but SVV was under the weather so he and Ella stayed at the hotel while I went out on my own self-guided photo tour of Old Town.

While I love having my husband and pup with me for entertainment, I’m also just as content to explore a city on my own with my camera for company.

I was lucky that it wasn’t too hot—just in the low- to mid-90’s; enough to dampen my clothes but not knock the wind out of my sails—so it was a pretty pleasant day for wandering about on foot.

I parked in front of the Albuquerque Museum on a whim (there was free and easy street parking) and became entranced by the sculpture garden out front. I have confessed before that I’m not a museum fan, but the outside of the Albuquerque Museum was so beautiful and intriguing, I decided to go inside. It was my lucky day because admission happened to be free.

After killing an hour inside the museum, I continued on into the Old Town, going in the church and staying out of the shops (I’m not big on turquoise, and while there are a lot of home accents I would have loved to purchase, I haven’t a house for furnishing at the moment).

The truth is since my days in Arizona, I’ve been a sucker for all things Western.

I dig the warm Earth tones, I find the adobe design intensely charming, and I love the little kokopelli men that decorate the landscape.

I realize my morning in the Old Town was but a brief snapshot of a much larger, truly unique place, but it did its duty: It left me wanting more and also to return to Albuquerque real bad.

In fact, the latest addition to my Life List is “Visit Albuquerque during the International Balloon Fiesta.” Who wants to join me and—more importantly—help me make that happen?

COMMENTS
  • August 12, 2011

    I really like the unusual angles you’ve used on some of these photos. I love days when you get to explore solo with the camera, and it certainly looks like you enjoyed your day too.

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      Thanks, Tracy! It’s the wide angle lens. I use a 10-20mm when a space is tight to get all the angles/faces.

  • August 12, 2011

    When we were in Albuquerque the wind was so ferocious it felt like we were being pummeled by dirt and sand that was kicked up! It was a very desert experience, lol. But because of that we stayed inside and didn’t really see Old Town, which I was bummed about. I’m a huge fan of kokopellies. 🙂

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      Ah! I never had that experience (thank God)–though it sounds a lot like day-to-day living in San Francisco, only minus the sand 😉

  • August 12, 2011

    You must go to the balloon festival. The photo ops are fabulous! What kind of lens are you using for your shots?

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      Jessica, I used the 10-20mm for all of these shots (because I was too lazy to change lenses while walking around!). It’s a great lens for cityscapes, but doesn’t do much for scenery/landscape shots (I use the 17-85mm or 24-105mm for those).

  • August 12, 2011

    you certainly should return to Albuquerque. my favorite southwestern town, though is Taos — and they have a fine balloon fest there too — though smaller that ABQ’s. here’s hoping someone is reading who will help make your ABQ return trip happen.

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      Haha, me too! If not, I’m fully intent on making it happen myself next year…or the next =)

      And yes, Taos is on the list! I tried to make it happen this trip but it was too far off course. I had a Russian teacher in high school from there, and he would always tell me tales about bumping into Julia Roberts. That was what made me first want to go. Now that I’ve interviewed Ms. Roberts myself (meh), I want to go for another reason: the skiing!

      • August 12, 2011

        I’ve not spent much time at TSV, but I’ve friends who used to play music gigs up there, seems like a good place. if you make it there check out neighboring town of Red River for skiing as well. I’ve spent a lot of time in the town of Taos in winter, quiet and lovely. okay, now I’m thinking it’s past time to go back myself.

      • August 12, 2011
        MLE

        Taos also has the best-named art gallery I’ve ever seen: Art Art Bo Bart.

  • August 12, 2011
    Ris

    I have friends that live in Albuquerque and they say the balloon festival is truly amazing–definitely something that deserves a spot on the life list!

  • August 12, 2011

    Thank you for showing me the beauty of a town that we essentially blow through each winter on our way to skiing in Taos (which you definitely should not miss). With any luck we’ll get a chance to see some of unique features this winter.

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      Taos is definitely on our to-ski list! Maybe we can make our inaugural trip coincide with your annual one 😉

  • August 12, 2011

    Fantastic PIctures – I have a sense that I am there with you!!

    Love hearing all about your travels across the country!

    ~Becca
    http://www.rwethereyetmom.com

  • August 12, 2011

    Um, I do! I do! The Balloon Fiesta has LONG been on my life list! Let me know when you go! (And I also want to pair it with taking a cooking class while I’m there. Because hey, why not?

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      Learn to cook Southwestern cuisine? Who wouldn’t want to do that?! Count me in!

  • August 12, 2011

    Balloons? I do, I do!

    I’ve been through Albuquerque and Santa Fe once in my life, and I was struck how both places managed to be a city and yet a city far different than anything else in the US. (and very cool cities at that)

  • August 12, 2011
    Jess

    Gorgeous pics! Add me to the list of Balloon Fiesta because that sounds a) amazing and b) an excellent excuse for a visit to the Southwest US.

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      We have quite the running list of Balloon Fiesta attendees–let’s make it happen!

  • August 12, 2011
    Melissa

    I really want to go to Albuquerque! My cousin and her husband ilve there, but I’ve never been able to visit! Your photos make me want to go even more!

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      It’s such a beautiful town, but it’s also really expensive to reach from a lot of the US, which is a shame…though if Southwest flies from your city, maybe you could find a deal for a long weekend sometime?

  • August 12, 2011
    k

    New Mexico has recently bee added to my list of places I’d be willing to take a job. I passed through Albuquerque on my way to Santa Fe and Taos, so I didn’t experience the city, but it looks just fabulous.

  • August 12, 2011

    I am REALLY hoping to get to the balloon festival this year, actually! But, if that doesn’t happen, next year for sure. You’re totally invited to crash my balloon party. 🙂

    xox

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      This year isn’t an option for me, so let’s make a date next fall! =)

  • August 12, 2011

    I used to go there a lot for work and once though of it as the Poor Man’s Phoenix, but I’ve come to really appreciate it. Its not nearly as hot, and has some real charm. Great things to do nearby, too!

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      I was actually surprised by how “mild” the weather is…having worked in Arizona for a couple summers where the mercury would hit 122, 90 to 95 degrees felt very nice! I guess the altitude helps.

  • August 12, 2011

    New Mexico is definitely on my list of places to visit – I love the look of the area in your photos. Interesting how many people don’t realize New Mexico is part of the United States…

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      Really? Who are these uneducated fools? =) I kid, I kid. What I think is funny is that recently I’ve mentioned my former roommate from WEST Virginia, and so many people (Americans, too!) have thought that was western Virginia, as in part of the state of Virginia. What kind of geography are we teaching in schools today??

  • August 12, 2011
    Nicole at Arrows Sent Forth

    I love those kokopelli guys too! They are like the southwestern version of happy rustafarians!

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      That’s the best analogy I’ve ever heard for them!

  • August 12, 2011
    Vidya

    I have been reading your blog for the past few weeks and was surprised to see Albuquerque on your blog ! We moved here a year ago from New Jersey and love it. Yes the Balloon festival is truly worth visiting.

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      I don’t think you should ever be surprised to see any place on this site: I’m unbiased–I’ll head to the most rural town in the boondocks of the South to the most remote island in the Arctic Ocean. As long as I can take my camera with me! =)

      (But seriously, you live in one gorgeous state! Sounds like a drastic cultural change from NJ, though.)

  • August 12, 2011

    I’m there for the balloon fest gal, count me in! We just got back from there, rats that I didn’t see your post till now! Great town.
    Miss you!

    • August 12, 2011
      Kristin

      How about next year? This fall, I’ll be on a ship during that time, but I am fully committed to attending next year (or the next!).

      • August 12, 2011
        Kristin

        P.S. I’m going to *hope* we weren’t actually there at the same time–it was about 10 days ago now that we were in Albuquerque!

  • August 12, 2011

    Albuquerque has got to be the most colorful town in the U.S.

  • August 13, 2011

    I was their briefly on my drive from Charleston to San Diego too many years ago and I really became enchanted with the city! I loved their huge market.

  • August 13, 2011

    Ok A. Social Media genius idea about asking people to like or +1 your posts at the very end. I did so. I think I’m going to start doing something similar.

    And B. I’ve never had any desire to go to Albequerque until I saw this post…it looks beautiful…and historic! Love it!

    • August 14, 2011
      Kristin

      Yes! I’ve been trying to “like” and “plus 1” other people’s posts, too, as it’s so easy to do–just takes a simple click, no review or anything, and it’s pretty unobtrusive!

  • August 13, 2011
    Alyce

    You should fly from OAK via SWA and flights will vary from $200-$350, depending on how far in advance u book. Non-stop. Seriously. Plus no fog delays/cancellations.

    I say this as someone who recently moved “home” to Alameda from Santa Fe and made that ABQ-OAK flight dozens of times.

    I’d stay in Santa Fe and may day trips to ABQ myself. Personal preference.

    Balloon Fiesta begins 1st weekend in October always and hotels in both cities book up months in advance, but we may have lingering monsoons, so a longer trip may need to be planned if the weather doesn’t cooperate. It’s an amazing event and very photographable. Especially morning liftoff (want to arrive between 5-6 to grab a breakfast burrito and some joe) and watch the sunrise as the balloons begin to inflate. The evening Glowdeo (yes, they really call it that) is lovely, too, but may require a nap in between.

    Worth your while? Absolutely!

    • August 14, 2011
      Kristin

      Well, now that we live in Nashville, it’s actually a lot cheaper to fly to both Albuquerque and Phoenix than it was from San Francisco. Blows my mind! My mom and sis have gone for the Balloon Fiesta before, and thanks to Southwest being a big hub in Nashville, they got there for pretty cheap.

      We did a day trip to Santa Fe, too! That was Scott’s favorite, while I preferred Albuquerque much to my surprise.

      (Welcome back to Alameda! How I would love to have the ability–and resources–to furnish our fictitious new home from the antiques fair there!)

  • August 15, 2011

    I am just catching up from a whirlwind tour of New Mexico–just visited two months ago and went to Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos. For me Old Town is aptly named — there’s a certain age and history that I feel when I walk through Old Town that I don’t quite get the same vibe in Santa Fe and Taos. I love the Plaza in Old Town, as well as the musicians that play there. Have you stayed at the Hotel Albuquerque (part of Heritage Hotels)? It’s right next to Old Town. Such an authentic lodging experience. Love your shots!!

  • August 15, 2011

    Ever since I first heard about the Balloon Fiesta, I’ve wanted to go. It sounds amazing and beautiful and I’ve never really ventured out west into the desert. I’d love to visit. It looks amazing.

  • August 16, 2011

    Gorgeous photos, Kristin! I especially love the angle you got on that first sculpture, I don’t know if I’d have thought to shoot it that way but it’s breathtaking.

  • August 20, 2011

    Stunning photos of my hometown!!! I don’t think it’s ever looked that good. 😉

  • July 6, 2012
    Shelley

    Stumbled upon your blog while searching for travel tips for an upcoming extended travel. Love the pictures of Albuquerque. Born and raised here and always love to hear about others’ good experiences of it. It’s a beautiful and culturally rich town! If you’re still interested in visiting for the balloon fiesta in the future shoot me an e-mail. I have good connections in the hotel industry here ( although as Alyce said hotels book fast and well in advance) or would be happy to offer some great new mexican restaurants suggestions!

    • July 7, 2012

      Thanks, Shelley! I absolutely love New Mexico–and the whole Southwest, actually–and will hit you up if ever I find a way to make the balloon festival happen. Definitely a must-do in the next few years!

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