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Enchanting Things to Do in Albuquerque, New Mexico with Kids

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Abuquerque is often overlooked by travelers who bypass this New Mexican city in favor of fancier, and significantly smaller, Santa Fe. That’s a shame because Albuquerque has so much heart, and so many interesting things to do, too. New Mexico’s Official State Nickname is Land of Enchantment. After visiting Albuquerque, I can see why! If you’re looking for a family vacation in a unique landscape with a friendly vibe and memorable experiences, then take a look at these things to do Albuquerque with kids.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the world's biggest hot air balloon festival

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the world’s biggest hot air balloon festival (Photo credit: kobbydagan, Depositphotos.com)

1. Celebrate hot air ballooning.

One of the first things that comes to mind when you think of Albuquerque is probably hot air ballooning, and for good reason. The world’s biggest hot air balloon festival, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, takes place here every October over the course of nine days. That’s when over 500 balloons take to the skies above the city, much to the awe of spectators below.

Those of you who want to fly away in a hot air balloon basket like Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, there are several ballooning companies in the area. I was lucky enough to go hot air ballooning a couple of years ago and can attest that it is simultaneously an exciting and peaceful journey. Take a look at your options and book your flight now.

Learn all about hot air ballooning with kids at Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum

Learn all about hot air ballooning at Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum (Photo credit: Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum)

Ballooning enthusiasts may also enjoy a visit to Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum. Go here to learn the history of hot air ballooning and get some fun photo ops. Even if you don’t embark on a balloon ride, you can snap a photo that looks you’ve floated above Albuquerque’s southwestern landscape.

Christmas-style enchiladas at Los Compadres Restaurant in Albuquerque

Christmas-style enchiladas at Los Compadres Restaurant in Albuquerque (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Decide: Red or green chile?

New Mexico’s Official State Question is: Red or green? This refers to their beloved Hatch chiles, grown in Hatch, New Mexico. The green ones are picked before they ripen. The red ones are roasted or hung to dry before they’re made into chile powder. You’ll find Hatch chiles on nearly every menu in Albuquerque. If you want to taste a bit of both, order your enchiladas “Christmas-style,” which comes with both colors.

Look for ristras of chiles in New Mexico

Look for ristras of chiles in New Mexico (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

See the dried chile peppers above? When hung together like this, they form a ristra. You’ll find ristras all across the state. They make a distinct New Mexican decoration. Chiles along with pinto beans share the designation of being New Mexico’s Official State Vegetables.

Tablao performance at the National Institute of Flamenco in Albuquerque, the capital of flamenco in the United States

Tablao performance at the National Institute of Flamenco (Photo credit: Dirt Road Travels)

3. Experience the artistry of flamenco.

New Mexico is considered the center for flamenco in the U.S. In fact, the University of New Mexico is the only school in the country to offer a minor in flamenco. This passionate Spanish art form is made up of three parts that work harmoniously together: guitar playing, song and dance.

Children performing flamenco at the National Institute of Flamenco in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Children performing flamenco at the National Institute of Flamenco (Photo credit: nifnm.org)

National Institute of Flamenco

Every June the National Institute of Flamenco hosts the Flamenco Festival. It features performances by world renowned flamenco artists. Festival goers can also attend beginner, intermediate and advanced flamenco workshops. Kids can get in on the fun with flamenco youth camps for all levels, too.

No matter what time of year you visit Albuquerque, you can experience this fascinating art form. The National Institute of Flamenco offers stage performances and classes year-round.

Casa Flamenca in Albuquerque, NM with kids

Colorful mural at Casa Flamenca (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Casa Flamenca

The most meaningful thing I did in New Mexico was a flamenco dance class at Casa Flamenca. I thought I went to this non-profit studio for a dance lesson, but I came away with so much more. The organization’s director, Valeria Montes’ confident movements and words are echoing within me still. “It’s about being present. That’s where you get your power. With flamenco and in life, when you make a mistake, forget about it and move on.”

After our dance class, we asked Montes to perform a flamenco dance for us. Watch the video below to see her impressive impromptu performance.

For an intimate experience, consider attending a class or tablao at Casa Flamenca. During a tablao, there is no stage or separation from the audience. Viewers sit in a circle surrounding the performers and truly feel a part of the action. As Montes explains, “You become a part of the performance. You feel every note. Every heartbeat. You dance vicariously through the dancer.” Children are welcome to attend classes or early tablao performances at Casa Flamenca. It’s definitely an experience your family will long remember.

Old Town Albuquerque is made up of 10 square blocks of old adobe buildings

Old Town Albuquerque is made up of 10 square blocks of old adobe buildings (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Shop Old Town Albuquerque and look for treasure in a tree.

Old Town Albuquerque was founded in 1706. It’s home to the oldest still-standing building in Albuquerque, San Felipe de Neri Church, which is made from adobe mud bricks. This walkable 10-block area encompasses over 100 shops, a number of restaurants (many of which specialize in New Mexican cuisine), and five museums. You’re sure to find interesting souvenirs here including Southwestern pottery and paintings, turquoise jewelry, and my kids’ favorite — dreamcatchers.

Look for La Virgen de Guadalupe Tree in Old Town Albuquerque

Look for La Virgen de Guadalupe Tree in Old Town Albuquerque (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Tell your kids to be on the lookout for the Virgen de Guadalupe Tree (also known as the Cottonwood Madonna). A colorful image of the Virgin Mary has been carved into a tree trunk, located in front of San Felipe de Neri Church. If you’re not paying close attention, you could easily miss this somewhat hidden figure.

Kids can take ski lessons on Sandia Peak in Albuquerque, NM

Kids can take ski lessons on Sandia Peak (Photo credit: Jay Blackwood)

5. Play in the snow or sun on Sandia Peak.

The Sandia Mountains provide a stunning backdrop in Albuquerque. Sandia means watermelon in Spanish and this mountain range was so-named because the mountain turns a rosy hue at sunset. You can access the top of Sandia Peak via the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway for epic views of Albuquerque and beyond.

Sandia Peak is just a 25-minute drive from Albuquerque. In winter, this is a snowy wonderland brimming with winter sports options. Trails for all levels will please skiers and snowboarders. Group and private lessons are available for ages 4+. Cubby Corner provides lessons specifically for youngsters aged 4-6. Little ones just might be greeted on the slopes by Cubby the Bear mascot. Kids younger than 4 can participate in private lessons.

All set to snowshoe Sandia Peak in Albuquerque, New Mexico

All set to snowshoe Sandia Peak (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

If snowshoeing is more your speed, rent gear or book a guided tour through MST Adventures. During my Albuquerque visit, I embarked on a challenging five-mile trek during which we climbed 1,000 feet, over the course of four hours. This sport is a great way to get your heart pumping on the slopes and burn off some of those delicious chile dishes. Kids are welcome to participate and guides adjust the tour length and difficulty as needed.

In summer, Sandia Peak is where to go to escape the heat of the city. Hiking and mountain biking trails beckon New Mexicans and visitors to explore the Cibola National Forest.

My Routes Bicycle Tours & Rentals bike in front of the Rio Grande River

My Routes Bicycle Tours & Rentals bike in front of the Rio Grande River (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

6. Pedal through Albuquerque by bike.

Pedal through the city with Routes Bicycle Tours & Rentals. You’ll learn about Albuquerque while spending time outdoors and getting some exercise. Bike riders of all ages and abilities are welcomed. They even have bike trailers for tiny tots.

Choose from a variety of tour options:

  • Scenic (along the Rio Grande River)
  • Gourmet (exploring breweries, wineries or chiles)
  • Specialty (Breaking Bad, Balloon Fiesta, Lights & Luminarias, Valentine’s or Haunted)
  • Self-guided
Street art is plentiful in Albuquerque

Street art is plentiful in Albuquerque (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Search for street art.

Albuquerque is bursting with colorful street art. In fact, one percent of city construction funds must be put into public artworks. You’ll see plenty of murals and other public artworks during an ABQ Trolley Tour. For a self-guided tour, MurosABQ.com provides a list of murals with their locations.

Rosie the elephant painting a picture at the ABQ BioPark Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Rosie the elephant painting a picture at the ABQ BioPark Zoo (Photo credit: ABQ BioPark)

8. Watch the animals at ABQ BioPark Zoo.

ABQ BioPark includes four attractions that families love: a zoo, an aquarium, a botanic garden, and a series of ponds at Tingley Beach. There are two narrow-gauge trains at the BioPark, one of which chugs through the zoo. Catch the Rio Line to travel between the zoo and aquarium/botanic garden.

The 64-acre ABQ BioPark Zoo features animals from around the world, such as lions, elephants, koalas and Mexican gray wolves. If you have a local zoo membership, be sure to ask about their reciprocity policy for a potential discount on the already affordable entrance fee.

Kids love getting up close to fish...and aquarium staff at the ABQ BioPark

Kids love getting up close to fish…and aquarium staff at the ABQ BioPark Aquarium (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. Explore the sea at ABQ BioPark Aquarium.

Highlights of the ABQ BioPark Aquarium include shark tanks, a stingray pool and my favorite, a river otter exhibit. Of course, you’ll see all sorts of other fish and sea life at this aquarium, too. Check the Aquarium Theater marquee to learn which educational movie is showing on the day of your visit.

The ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden is a peaceful place to wander in Albuquerque with kids

The ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden is a peaceful place to wander (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

10. Stop to smell the flowers at ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden.

The ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden is replete with plants and flowers, a duck-filled pond, a butterfly and bee exhibit, two green houses and a playful children’s garden. During my winter visit, the outdoor gardens were a little sparse-looking, but two indoor green houses are filled with flowers year-round.

Families can find flowers year-round at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden in Albuquerque thanks to two indoor greenhouses

Families can find flowers year-round at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden thanks to two indoor greenhouses (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Young children especially love the Railroad Garden, which features all sorts of miniature choo-choos riding the rails through tiny towns and scenic displays. (Look for Thomas the Tank Engine!)

Rent pedal boats at Tingley Beach in Albuquerque with kids

Rent pedal boats at Tingley Beach (Photo credit: ABQ BioPark)

11. Connect with nature at Tingley Beach.

Head to Tingley Beach for walking and biking paths, pedal boat rentals, and fishing fun. Entrance to Tingley Beach is free to the public. Be aware that there’s no swimming at Tingley Beach.

The whole family can go fishing together at Tingley Beach. Children’s Pond is just for anglers aged 12 and younger. Be sure to purchase a fishing license in advance!

Young fishers will enjoy Tingley Beach in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Young fishers will enjoy Tingley Beach (Photo credit: MarbleStreetStudios.com)

Kids will definitely want to sail a model-sized yacht on Model Boat Pond. You can bring your own boat or buy tokens inside Tingley Beach Station to borrow one.

Families will find all sorts of ducks and other wild birds at Tingley Beach. You are welcome to feed them, but you should do so away from the water to avoid polluting the ponds. It’s also important to note that bread is not healthy for birds. Instead try feeding them oats, frozen peas or corn, chopped lettuce or halved grapes.

Mundos de Mestizaje fresco at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico with kids

Mundos de Mestizaje fresco at the National Hispanic Cultural Center (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

12. Visit family-friendly museums.

Albuquerque is home to many museums. Dinosaur-lovers and would-be astronauts will love the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. Meanwhile, through hands-on experiments and play, Explora is where to go to learn about STEM (science, technology, art and math).

Do your kids love all things scaly and slithery? Take them to the American National Rattlesnake Museum, where they’ll see the world’s largest collection of live rattlesnakes.

Families interested in learning about Hispanic art, culture and humanities should head to the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Even if you don’t want to explore the whole center, you should swing by to take a look at Mundos de Mestizaje, a dramatic 4,000-foot concave fresco painted within the Torreón (a circular building). Entrance is free on Saturdays and Sundays to see the fresco that depicts thousands of years of Hispanic history.

Kids will appreciate a trip to Cliff's Amusement Park in Albuquerque

Kids will appreciate a trip to Cliff’s Amusement Park in Albuquerque (Photo credit: Cliff’s Amusement Park)

13. Enjoy rides and waterslides at Cliff’s Amusement Park.

I find that the best family vacations include a blend of active adventures, intellectual learning and all-out play. Keep the kids content with a day at Cliff’s Amusement Park. Open April through September (with varying hours), this theme park features thrill rides, a Kiddyland for young children, and carnival games. Cool off here in summer at Watermania!, Cliff’s on-site waterpark.

Families will love a stay at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Families will love a stay at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

14. Spend the night somewhere unique in Albuquerque.

Sure, you could book a stay in a standard hotel. But why not choose a place that’s as unique as Albuquerque itself? Each of these three interesting accommodation options has its own vibe, sure to please different families’ tastes.

Mouse the orange cat zipping past this tractor at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm - a unique place to stay with kids in Albuquerque, NM

Can you spy with your little eye Mouse the orange cat zipping past this tractor at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm? (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin

Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm

The darling Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm is set on 25 acres and consists of 50 guest rooms, two of which are “family” rooms with bunk beds for kids. The farm is home to chickens, peacocks, guinea hens, three alpacas, and a friendly orange cat named Mouse. Their farm-to-table restaurant draws foodie travelers and locals.

Dig the retro vibes at El Vado Motel in Albuquerque with children

Dig the retro vibes at El Vado Motel (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

El Vado Motel

I’m not usually a motel fan, but the history and modern-day hip decor at El Vado Motel make this the exception to the rule. Opened in 1937, El Vado was one of the first motels on the legendary Route 66. It was closed for 13 years but has recently been totally refurbished and reopened.

The on-site El Vado Tap Room boasts craft beers to entice travelers and locals alike. There are a handful of independently owned casual eateries and boutique shops here that lure crowds, too, especially on weekend evenings. For breakfast, head to the on-site Zendo Coffee for a hot beverage and baked treat. (Their gluten-free Butter Beer Donut will delight any Harry Potter fan!) El Vado Motel is located right across the street from the ABQ BioPark Aquarium and Zoo.

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Hotel Andaluz

The aesthetic at Hotel Andaluz is an intriguing blend of Southwestern and Moroccan. This Gold Leed Certified property was built in 1939 in downtown Albuquerque and was Conrad Hilton’s fourth hotel. In fact, he stayed here with his second wife, Zsa Zsa Gabor, the night before their wedding.

Look for local artwork hung on the second level, which is for sale and changed out quarterly. Two original murals remain, too — a map of New Mexico and an impressive painting of Native American dancers.

Even if you’re not staying at Hotel Andaluz, be sure to stop by for drinks or a meal. Parents will be impressed by views of the Sandia Mountains from the swanky rooftop bar, Ibiza. Meanwhile, MÁS – Tapas and Vino is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every tapa I tried (and I tried many!) made my tastebuds do a happy dance.

The unique and historic boutique hotel is now privately owned. It will soon be part of the Curio Collection by Hilton Hotels, though, so be sure to check those points!

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Why Go to Albuquerque with Kids

Every time I visit a destination, I consider whether I could live there. Honestly, I could see moving to this friendly city. The New Mexican cuisine is crazy delicious and Albuquerque is super affordable. The high desert climate suits my taste: not too hot and not too cold. And it’s easy to escape to the Sandia Mountains for a change of scenery. Most impressive is the New Mexican sense of culture and pride. Albuquerque definitely does not feel like every other city in the U.S. I might dare to say, it’s enchanting.

Enchanting things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico with kids

Save these Tips for Visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico

Considering a trip to Albuquerque with kids? Be sure to save these tips for future reference! Simply save the image above to Pinterest. Go ahead and follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

For more Southwestern travel tips, take a look at these amazing adventures for families in Cañon City and Colorado Springs, Colorado or explore America’s biggest ghost town — Jerome, Arizona.

Have you ever been to Albuquerque, New Mexico? Let us know your questions and comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: Visit Albuquerque hosted my visit. I did not receive any monetary compensation related to this blog post. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Well, this was certainly enlightening. I had no idea there was so much going on in Albuquerque. I think that needs to be our next family trip!

  2. I admit, I never thought of New Mexico as a place I wanted to vacation, but you’ve really highlighted so many wonderful things that Albuquerque has to offer that I never even knew about. It has really changed my mind about wanting to go and explore everything now!

  3. Subhashish Roy says

    Great colors, great pics & such a great guide on New Mexico.Loved reading & absorbing.So much knowledge gained about a place I did not have much idea about.

  4. Brianne Tursi Manz says

    What a city, full of energy and great things to do and events to attend! I would love to go there some time!

  5. I really liked the hot air balloon event. It’s awesome to see them all above with different colors.

  6. This is an awesome list!! I’ve traveled to New Mexico a couple of times, but didn’t realize how much there was to do! Especially the museums. Next time I visit the first place I am visiting is the Aerial Tramway.

  7. Sara Welch says

    I would love to see the hot air balloon festival! I bet it’s just massive in person! Looks like a lot of fun!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      I didn’t get to see the balloon festival in-person either. A good reason to go back! I’m sure it’s beautiful to behold!

  8. Porsha carr says

    This looks like the vacation of a lifetime so much to do and see wow! 🙂

  9. Toni | Boulder Locavore says

    This is a great guide! Would love to visit with my kids one day!

  10. I would love to go to there one day. I love those balloons! I think my family would really love it.

  11. This is an impressive list of things to do in Albuquerque but that balloon festival looks amazing!! I live in AZ and I wouldn’t mind traveling there to see this. It looks massive!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Connie – I live in AZ, too, and can attest that the flight from Phoenix is easy peasy! ABQ is a great travel option for us!

  12. Emmanuel Damian says

    The food looks amazing! I have always been fond of trying local cuisines from different places. I hope I can visit Albuquerque soon. PS: I love red chili than green ones.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      I think I like the red ones slightly more than the green, too! I will be posting a whole story just about the food in Albuquerque soon because it was so dang good!

  13. Wow! Albuquerque is now on my travel list!

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