Our journey today brings us to Albuquerque, New Mexico located in the southwestern United States. Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico. It was founded in 1706 as a Spanish colony and has been occupied by Native Indians for thousands of years. Over the years Albuquerque has grown into a metropolitan city and now has more than 850,000 residents.
We flew into Albuquerque International Airport. Albuquerque has one of the highest elevations of any major city in the United States. The elevation of the city ranges from 4,900 feet above sea level near the Rio Grande to over 6,700 feet in the foothill areas of the Sandia Mountains. At the airport, the elevation is 5,300 feet above sea level.
The weather in Albuquerque will vary because of the high altitude. Mornings in the summer, for example, are in the low 60’s and temperatures will reach the low 90’s during the afternoon. Observing a 30 or 40 degree temperature swing in a matter of hours is common here. The temperature peak lasts for a shorter time than in other cities because of the high altitude. The coldest month of the year is January where low temperatures average 24 degrees with average highs near 50. Pack accordingly to accommodate for the temperature extremes. Albuquerque has a dry climate compared to most U.S. cities. The month with the highest rainfall is August with only 1.7 inches of precipitation while the winter months November until February average only half an inch of rain.
New Mexico is known for one of America’s most cherished regional cuisines and it is no surprise that food is one of the things that people remember most about a trip to Albuquerque. Some people say they moved here just to be closer to the authentic source of the cuisine. New Mexican cuisine is based on native ingredients such as corn, beans, and chiles (chili peppers), and it incorporates Mexican, Native American and Spanish flavors. If you are a foodie then you will appreciate the variety of restaurants here in Albuquerque. We had a good laugh on our day of arrival as we visited an authentic Mexican restaurant. The server brings out chips and salsa and let me tell you the entire group we were dining with thought the salsa was really spicy. So one member of our group said to the server ‘can you bring us some mild salsa?” The reply was “that is the mild salsa.” We had a good laugh. When we travel we try to avoid ‘chain’ restaurants in order to get the taste of authentic cuisine as prepared by the local residents.
There is so much to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you ask locals what the top attraction to do is, the response you will get is Hot Air Ballooning. You will be able to find several companies to schedule a hot air balloon trip any time of the year. The perfect time to watch hot air balloons is the first week of October for the annual Albuquerque Balloon Festival. This event started in 1972 with only 13 balloons rising into the sky. Now the main event, called the Balloon Fiesta, draws more than 600 hot air balloons filling the skies for a day of fun and adventure. This event is attended by more than 80,000 spectators. For more information please visit Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
Another activity we enjoyed was a visit to the Sandia Mountains. Make sure you enjoy the stunning views of the city below by taking a ride on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway as it climbs to the 10,378-foot peak of the Sandia Mountains. This is an ideal spot for taking some great photos of the wide expanse of land and the famous Albuquerque sunsets. You will find a couple of examples of the views from on top of the mountain in our photo collage below. While we were visiting here we also took a visit to the Sandia Resort and Casino. This large resort with its sandstone exterior blends into the surrounding landscape. Upon entering the resort you will be greeted by a distinctive porte-cochère entry and a magnificent grand lobby which boasts stunning mountain views. Original photographs and artwork that celebrates the region’s rich pueblo heritage are on display throughout the hotel. The resort casino has more 2,300 unique slot machines, New Mexico’s only live Keno games, bingo, and 33 tables for poker, blackjack and more. There is a smoke-free casino area too. Plan a visit and see why the Sandia Resort and Casino is the place that locals and visitors enjoy. The Albuquerque area is so easy to get around and this Resort is only 11 miles north of town so you may want to consider staying here during your vacation. This Resort also offers a spa, golf, live entertainment, several restaurants, pools, and other amenities. For more information about the resort, including rates and availability, please visit one of the travel companies listed on our page.
There is so much to do here in New Mexico. Albuquerque alone offers museums, cultural centers, nightlife, wineries, and exceptional golf. One of the highlights of our visit here was a nostalgic drive along U.S. Route 66. Route 66 is also known as the Will Rogers Highway and was established on November 11, 1926, with road signs erected the following year. This highway became one of the most famous roads in the United States. Route 66 originally started in Chicago, Illinois and went through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and ends in Santa Monica, California. Route 66 served as a major path for people who migrated west during the 1930’s until the 1960’s. The 2,400 miles of road supported the economies of the communities through which it passed. As we were driving along we could see so much nostalgia and history. Today you can still see some of the famous classic signage outside buildings that are no longer in business. The popularity of this highway ended when the Interstate Highway System was designed that created highways that offered faster transportation and more direct routes between major cities.
The next day we decided to take a side trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe is the capital of the state of New Mexico. Santa Fe is the fourth-largest city in the state. This area was occupied for at least several thousand years by indigenous people who built villages several hundred years ago on the current site of the city. Santa Fe is only about an hour drive as it is 65 miles away from Albuquerque. It is an easy drive on I-25 where the speed limit is 75 miles per hour. When we arrived into Santa Fe we decided to visit The Plaza. It is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and The Plaza is the heart and soul of Santa Fe. It is a main entertainment and gathering spot for residents and tourists alike and it is surrounded by city landmarks, shops and restaurants. When we parked we walked through one of the buildings and immediately was greeted by the charming sounds of a mariachi band. The members of the mariachi band playing were dressed in festive blue pants accented with jackets and were surrounded by an attentive audience. The music was so captivating and really delightful to listen to. We spent the afternoon strolling around The Plaza taking in the sights and shopping in the local stores and markets before having lunch.
After lunch we took a visit to Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. This cathedral, more often referred to as the Saint Francis Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral in downtown Santa Fe. It is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The Saint Francis Cathedral is believed to have been built from 1869-1886 and it is designed in the Romanesque Revival style. The cathedral features characteristic round arches separated by Corinthian columns and truncated square towers. The large rose window in front of the Cathedral and those of the Twelve Apostles in the lateral windows were imported from Clermont-Ferrand in France. Visiting inside you will find that the architecture is captivating and designed with such ornate details.
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