A Perfect Casual Day In Albuquerque

Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, sits in the high desert. Its modern Downtown core contrasts with Old Town Albuquerque, dating to the city’s 1706 founding as a Spanish colony. Old Town is filled with historic adobe buildings, such as San Felipe de Neri Church, 5 museums, and shops selling Native American handicrafts. Nearby, The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center traces the area’s tribal history.

This perfect day will feature…you guessed it…good beer, good food, and archaeology. Well, you may not have guessed that last one, but, hey, 2 out of three ain’t bad. 

Start your day off with coffee and breakfast at Modern General. Modern General makes you feel good. From the calming atmosphere, to the enriching food, to the terrifically attentive servers, every minute feels well spent. I devoured the Sunshine Bowl–I have a serious love of mushrooms and runny eggs. Plus, Modern General doesn’t play around with their bread. It is, dare I say it, the best bread I’ve had in Albuquerque. Ok. I’ll say it. It was the best bread I ever had in Albuquerque. 

From there, head over to Petroglyphs National Monument. You have your choice of trails, but do note that there is no trail access from the visitors center. So, there is really no need to go unless you want to grab a postcard. Also note this if you are Uber-ing. You’ll want to give your driver the address for one of the trail heads. I suggest giving the Piedras Marcadas Canyon hike a try. It is 1.5 miles long, easy-peasy, but it is a sandy trail (so maybe not the easiest for strollers, even though it is super flat). The Petroglyphs trails don’t have any facilities at the trails, so bring lots of water, use the bathroom first. And, remember, you are so close to the sun and there is no shade on the trail (unless you are throwing it). I care about you, so wear sunscreen and a hat and remember that elevation sickness is real–drink double the water you normally do to account for the elevation. 

You will probably have worked up an appetite. So, why don’t you head over to the Boiler Monkey. Cas’ favorite Albuquerque spot! The Boiler Monkey was Albuquerque’s first food truck and, after huge success, they decided to land in one spot. The menu is fairly simple, but really well done and made with quality ingredients. If you are in ABQ on a weekend, try to get there before 2 to enjoy their mimosa bar!

Spend the afternoon wandering around Old Town. Lust after the gorgeous jewelry and silver. Enjoy the Southwest architecture.  I don’t suggest eating there as the restaurants are geared towards tourists and overpriced and not as good as you can find closeby. Pop in to see the San Felipe de Neri Church. It is on the north side of the Plaza. It was built in 1793, it is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city and the only building in Old Town proven to date to the Spanish colonial period. If it is your thing, you can take a hot air balloon ride–something Albuquerque is known for. And, even better, if you can plan your trip around the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival, you won’t regret it! It is the second biggest Balloon Festival in the world and the biggest in the United States. It is held over several days in the beginning of October. Do plan your accommodations well in advance as every hotel room in the city will be snapped up. 

The first spot I recommend for beer is Bow and Arrow. You must. It is women owned. It is Native owned. And. It’s damn good, too! They have some creative brews, that use local or Native ingredients, that are actually good! If you are interested in their amazing story, check out this coverage in The Guardian.  The brewery has a great vibe and is a lovely place to sit and spend a while. 

If breweries aren’t your thing, or you are feeling a bit adventurous, consider taking the Sandia Peak Tram up to the top of the mountains in Albuquerque. The view is outta sight! It’s best to go on a clear day as the views are what it is all about. The tram runs daily from 9am-9pm and is $25 for the 15 minute ride up. Once you are at the top, take some time to walk around, perhaps hike, and take in the scenery! Thanks to Skip for the suggesting this terrific addition to the perfect day!

You are probably wondering about New Mexico’s famous green chilis. They are ubiquitous and will be offered to you as a topping to everything from your enchilada, your taco, and…your burger. Green Chili Burgers are SO popular that there is an annual contest to award the official winner of Albuquerque’s best. The very contentious winner is at the local fast food chain, Blake’s. If you are looking for something ever so slightly more sophisticated than Blakes, head over to Green Jeans. Green Jeans calls itself a “famery”, which doesn’t really describe the fact that it is a collection of shipping containers with a ton of unique restaurants, coffee spots, and a Santa Fe Brewery. It you want to try the second best Green Chili Burger in Albuquerque, head to Rustic on the Green.  I like their homemade veggie burger and the fish tacos from Rockin’ Taco. Grab a table at Santa Fe brewery and, if it is not too busy, they will bring your food over to you. Try out the 7K IPA or the Pale Ale-my two go-tos. 

If you haven’t had enough beer (pace yourself, people!), head to La Cumbre for the Elevated IPA, the best IPA in the Southwest! They often have food trucks outside, if you need a midnight snack or are jonesing for more New Mexican cuisine (NOT to be called “Mexican food”). 

If you are looking for some music or night-time events, check out the local free paper, the Alibi, for suggestions. 

Of course, you are going to need a place to stay. We stayed at the Painted Lady Suites for our dear friends’ wedding! It was gorgeous with beautiful original art, a gorgeous Southwest courtyard, and just a hint at the history of the building. Pssst….It was a brothel. That was a huge selling point. We rented one of the units, for four of us. The owner does have a second unit with one bedroom that he also rents out.  It is conveniently located–it is particularly convenient to where I suggest you start and end your day. See, I really do care about you. 

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