Constructed in 1793, this adobe church looks much as it did when it was originally built, and while it has undergone several renovations over the decades, it still retains the Southwestern feel and style of its origins. The church's history is quite interesting – for example, during the Civil War, after Albuquerque was recaptured from the Confederates, the Union army leased the rectory for several years. The adjacent museum displays furnishings and art from the church, and itself is worth a visit.
The smallest and most interesting branch of Albuquerque's library system is located in the former home of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ernie Pyle, who was killed by a Japanese sniper while overseas reporting on WWII. In addition to it's regular library collection, the branch also has a collection of Pyle memorabilia and writings.
Built in 1927, the KiMo is a beautiful Pueblo Deco style building originally built during the heyday of luxury theater construction as a movie palace and vaudeville stage (Vivian Vance – I Love Lucy's Ethel – got her start here). Used today as a performing arts venue, the theater has been fully restored to its original grandeur and is an Albuquerque landmark. Although the KiMo's exterior is gorgeous too, you must see inside to truly appreciate it. So check local listings and get yourself tickets to whatever's on – you won't be disappointed!
Follow the twisty, scenic back roads between Albuquerque and Santa Fe and see where early explorers sought gold and found turquoise. Abandoned mining towns, hills dotted with piñon, vast mountain vistas and rugged rock formations can be seen along this 52-mile drive that parallels Interstate 25. Follow I-40 east from Albuquerque to Tijeras – about 15 miles. Take exit 175 onto New Mexico 14 North, and you will pass through three mountain ranges. Well worth the drive.
Examine traces of Albuquerque's past at the Petroglyph National Monument on Albuquerque's West Side, where centuries ago Native Americans meticulously pecked thousands of images into the rocks, their meanings known only to them. Jointly managed by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division, Petroglyph National Monument comprises 7,236-acres along 17 miles of Albuquerque's west escarpment. About 150,000 years ago lava seeped from an enormous fissure here, covering the landscape like a prehistoric parking lot. Over time, cooling and erosion cracked the hardened lava. In many areas the frozen ripples of once-hot lava can be seen in rock fragments, looking like poured cake batter. A National Park Service visitor center and bookstore is located off of Unser Boulevard, but otherwise the expanse of open space is undeveloped save for interpretive signs and facilities along the few developed trails at Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon and the Volcanoes trails. Otherwise, silence and isolation are yours just minutes from the bustle of the city. (6001 Unser Blvd. NW, 505-899-0205, www.nps.gov/petr)
Local Expert tip: Makes a wonderful sunset stroll, but make sure you don't get lost, carry a flashlight and keep your eyes out for rattlesnakes, though sightings are rare.
For a fascinating look at desert plants and habitats, a trip to the Rio Grande Botanic Garden is in order. Features include the desert and Mediterranean pavilions, and a seasonal Butterfly Pavilion with hundreds of free-flying butterflies and a wealth of the nectar-producing plants they love. The hugely (literally!) popular Children's Fantasy Garden features a 42-foot pumpkin, oversize vegetables, giant potted plants, and plenty of things for kids to explore. Combined with a visit to the Aquarium and the Zoo, a trip to the Botanic Gardens is a fun, and educational, venture into the natural world that is perfect for families. But if you don't have kids to take, don't let that stop you – a more relaxed pace is just as enjoyable! Be advised that in accordance with City of Albuquerque law, smoking is prohibited on Zoo, Aquarium and Botanic Garden property.
If you fly into Albuquerque during the daytime, you'll see the thick ribbon of green cutting through the heart of the city. This is the bosque, Spanish for woods. Following the Río Grande, this is the largest continuous cottonwood forest left in the United States. It stabilizes the river banks, provides habitat for many species, and gives Albuquerque a shaded playground where you can hike, bike and watch wildlife in the middle of New Mexico's largest city. One of the best places to get to know the bosque is at the Río Grande Nature Center. This state park has an interpretive museum explains the important aspects of the Río Grande, and outside you can observe turtles, water birds and other critters around ponds from behind blinds. Trailheads lead from the center to the river, and a paved bike path allows you to pedal almost to downtown. Gardens and events are planned throughout the year. This is a slam-dunk for the kids, and parents, too.
Over 1000 animals call the Rio Grande Zoo home, including cheetahs, siamangs, elephants, seals, gators, many primates, and koalas. The reptile and amphibian house and the Tropical America buildings house all manner of snakes, frogs, tarantulas, and birds. From April-September, the zoo offers an array of special programs for both kids and adults, including lectures, animal shows, craft workshops, storytelling, and a summer concert series. For a full day of fun, visit the zoo, aquarium, and botanic gardens, all located at the Albuquerque Biological Park. There are plenty of gift shops and food vendors throughout the park. Be advised that in accordance with City of Albuquerque law, smoking is prohibited on Zoo, Aquarium and Botanic Garden property.
This 20-minute excursion is the world's longest aerial tram ride, and also one of the most breathtaking rides you may ever experience. Once at the top, you may like to ski, mountain bike, or just enjoy the view. There are restaurants at both the top and the bottom of the tramway. For two weeks each spring and fall, the tramway is closed for maintenance – call for exact dates.
The Albuquerque Biopark is collectively a zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens linked together by the Rio Line, a narrow-gauge railroad that travels between the facilities. The Albuquerque Zoo is award winning for its natural designs, and the aquarium features a 285,000-gallon ocean aquarium where sharks and sea turtles glide past viewers.
Local Expert tip: Grab lunch at the Shark Reef Cafe and watch sea turtles, sharks, and barracudas glide by while you eat.