Travel Living in Albuquerque ~
Sandia Tram: The Sandia Peak
Tramway is an engineering marvel. But it is the view from the
slope of the Sandia’s that has drawn more than 6-million
visitors since the Tram first opened in 1967.
The car climbs 4000 feet in about 18 minutes, depositing riders
at the top of Sandia Peak. On the
Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway. photo New Mexico
Tourism Department, Dan Monaghan
Albuquerque has been my
“travel home” at two different times. The first time was in the
late seventies and I experienced living in the “college scene”
with friends near the University of New Mexico. Volkswagen bugs
were still the rage, everyone listened to classic Santana and
what is now the Albuquerque International Sunport then was still
so small that when you got off the plane, you walked across the
runway to the tiny adobe terminal and hoped you had a ride
because it was a long way into town. Boy have things changed.
The first time I saw
Albuquerque, I was instantly and permanently changed by its
striking beauty. “Travel living” in Albuquerque’s university
area was a special time.
Central Avenue was then, as it still is
today, lined with the most interesting array of shops and art
and food available anywhere in the city and it was a fun and
unique place to get to hang out and spend time and now its east
portion has become known as Nob Hill boasting higher-end
galleries, clothing, specialty shops and gourmet cafes as well
as a bustling nightlife.
The campus itself offers everything from museums
and lectures to top-notch concerts, to sporting events and the
annual Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow in The Pit UNM Arena. The
campus has a unique feel with adobe buildings and a magnificent
view of the Sandias, lovely for strolling and observing academic
life. The UNM area is a fun place to be!
In later years my “travel living” was in
Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights in a townhome butted as near to
the foothills as I could get. Albuquerque’s sunny and mild
year-round weather allowed daily walking, biking, hiking in the
foothills and tennis in air so fresh and skies so blue that your
spirit could not help but to be lifted. Albuquerque is a
friendly city and it is enjoyable to get out and about among
others doing the same.
Over the years I have watched Albuquerque grow and change into a
thriving metropolitan city and it is only a day trip away so I
still frequent when I may as it offers more to do than ever and
never fails to refresh the spirit. Drives to the top of the
Sandia Crest are a must and if you can time it so that you are
there at dusk you will witness a rare sight as the city of
Albuquerque comes to light. Sandia Peak also offers skiing and
the world’s longest tram ride. Forests throughout the area have
picnicking, camping and hiking trails. Mountain biking is also
Back in town,
Albuquerque’s annual events include the Albuquerque
International Balloon Fiesta which has grown into an
extravaganza over the years and is held annually starting the
first weekend in October (be sure to make your reservations in
advance during this event). The New Mexico State Fair is another
biggie each September and the afore mentioned Gathering of
You won’t want to miss Old
Town either located between Mountain Rd. and Central Ave. (Route
66) just East of Rio Grande Blvd. Similar to the old town
squares in Taos and Santa Fe, Albuquerque’s Old Town is more off
to itself and entering into the area you are immediately aware
that you are no longer in the hustle and bustle of contemporary
Albuquerque. Old town permeates a culture and feel unique to
that of its origin. Old adobe shops and buildings line the
square, too tempting to pass up. It is a tourist haven offering
everything from art to weavings to blue corn tortillas. Outdoor
musicians stroll and perform in nice weather. Sidewalks cafes
offer the perfect spot to visually explore the people and
characteristics and happenings in Old Town.
San Felipe de Neri-mn: This
beautiful church sits in the heart of Albuquerque’s Historic Old
Town, with the
Old Town Plaza at its front. Though built almost 300 years ago,
it is still a busy, operating parish church.
On El Camino Real National Scenic Byway and on Route 66 National
photo - New Mexico Tourism Department, Mike Stauffer
Albuquerque's Oldest Catholic
Parish, San Felipe de Neri in Old Town, has been in existence
for nearly three-hundred years. The present church building,
constructed in 1793, is listed on the National Register of
Historic Places and cannot be missed as you walk the area.
One of the fantastic things about Albuquerque is
its central location and the numerous day trips in any direction
and the fact that by going in any direction you can be in a
completely different environment in as little as half an hour.
Jemez Springs is just an hour’s drive north of
Albuquerque. Named for its famous mineral hot springs, it is
situated in the Jemez Valley which runs from its namesake, Jemez
Pueblo, up through to the Valles Caldera preserve. The tiny
village offers recreation, lodging, and dining. Visitors flock
to the springs on weekends and hiking is popular to locations
like Battleship Rock and Soda Dam.
Just a half hour to hour east of Albuquerque,
take the drive up to the Sandias through the Cibola National
Forest. Whether you choose to stop in a pine-ringed picnic area
along the way or head straight to the top to the crest of Sandia
Peak, it is a lovely day’s outing with a view unparalleled.
Visitors may also choose to take the Sandia Tramway from
Albuquerque to the top. Once there if not picnicking, enjoy a
leisurely meal at Sandiago's Mexican Grill at the base or the
High Finance Restaurant at the top. Hiking is abundant. Bring
plenty of water and careful not to wander off alone, but prepare
to enjoy all the Sandias have to offer! Stop at the observation
deck atop the 10,378 foot Sandia Peak for an 11,000 square-mile
panoramic view of the Rio Grande Valley and the Land of
Enchantment. Skiing Sandia Peak in winter makes for an easy and
affordable ski trip just minutes from Albuquerque.
Soda Dam at night - photo
Light Benders Photography
Albuquerque is surrounded by
numerous Indian Reservations including the afore mentioned
Jemez, as well as Laguna, Isleta, Canoncito, Santa Ana, San
Felipe, Zia, Cochiti, Acoma (Sky City), Navajo, Ramah Navajo,
Jicarilla Apache, Nambe, Tesuque, Santa Clara, San Juan and
Zuni. All are within one half hour to three hours from the city
with the majority in the immediate area. The reservations and
pueblos offer a rich cultural experience though restrictions
vary so please check with the specific reservation prior to
visiting. Many offer casinos, top-notch accommodations, fine
dining, tours, festivals and various events.
Other day trips from the Albuquerque area are
numerous and are covered in other cities.
“Travel living” in Albuquerque
gave me more than I could have ever dreamed from one location.
Outdoor recreation, great food, entertainment, people as unique
as the city itself and an experience implanted within me along
with an appetite for it all, never to be satiated. I will always
return to Albuquerque.