Albuquerque, the biggest city in New Mexico, is the urban hub of our rural state. The city of just over 550,000 has a low cost of living and easy access to many of the Land of Enchantment’s amazing natural wonders, historic sites, and outdoor activities.
Here are 20 insider tips to get you ready for life in Albuquerque.
1. It’s the Home of Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque hosts the yearly Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest hot air balloon event in the world. Each year, over 800,000 people attend the 10-day-long event. And yes, it’s just as magical for people who live in the city as it is for tourists—you’ll see balloons soaring in the sky every single morning.
2. The Great Outdoors is Outside Your Door Step
With over 278 days of sun per year and a dry high-desert climate, Albuquerque has many options for outdoor activities. Hiking, biking, and rock climbing are all common weekend pursuits. Skiers can enjoy the Sandia ski area just east of town.
3. The City is Named After a Duke
Albuquerque is named for the 10th Duke of Alburquerque, who was the Viceroy of New Spain in in the early 1700s (when the city was founded). Eventually, the first R in the name got dropped, giving us the spelling we use today and the nickname of “Duke City.”
4. Yes, it Snows…and the City Shuts Down
People tend to think of the southwest as a place where it’s always hot. But Albuquerque has all four seasons, including winter. It does snow in the Duke City, although you’re more likely to get more snow in the foothills. But that doesn’t mean that people are well-prepared for winter weather—when there is white stuff on the ground (even a measly one inch) the city completely shuts down.
5. We’re Just As High as Denver.
We’re pretty high up here in Albuquerque—5,312 ft to be exact. Technically, that’s over 100 feet higher than Denver, the mile-high city.
6. The Sandias Take Center Stage
The Sandia Mountains (named for their pink hue during sunset, as sandia is the Spanish word for watermelon) give the city a beautiful backdrop. Just look for the looming silhouette of the Sandias if you ever need a compass. They are to the east, so you can always find your way.
7. Central Ave is the Heart of the City
Central Ave runs east-west through the entirety of Albuquerque. Part of the original Rt 66, the byway is still home to a host of restaurants, bars, shops and other cultural spots.
8. The Film Industry is Booming
Well-known as the setting of Breaking Bad and its spin-off Better Call Saul, Albuquerque has a thriving film industry. There are always a few projects filming in the general area, so plenty of opportunities for employment or just a few fun days as an extra. (Image via AMC).
9. Lots of Love for the Lobos, Isotopes, and Dukes (Oh My!)
The lobo (“wolf” in Spanish”) is the mascot of the University of New Mexico. Everyone in Albuquerque goes crazy for the Lobos, especially during football and basketball season.
The Isotopes are Albuquerque’s well-loved minor league baseball team. But the Albuquerque Dukes, the minor league team that left the city in 2000, are also still wildly popular. There’s even a store dedicated entirely to Dukes merchandise.
10. Breweries are Bustling
Love a local craft brew? You’re in luck in ABQ. There are plenty of local beers to choose from in the city. NM was even ranked 12th for most breweries per capita in 2016. Marble, Tractor and Bosque are three of the most popular spots in Albuquerque.
11. Public Transportation is Lacking, For Now
Albuquerque is a car-driven city. There are bus lines, of course, but the majority of people get around by using private vehicles. That might all change soon, when the federally-funded ART (Albuquerque Rapid Transit) rapid bus line opens in late 2017. Set to run on Central Avenue , local government is hoping Albuquerqueans will embrace public transport.
12. Native American Culture is Part of Everyday Life
Albuquerque has a large presence of Native people. There are nineteen pueblos (tribes) in the state, and two of their reservations hit the borders of the city of Albuquerque. Sandia, at the north end of town, and Isleta, at the south, both have casinos open to the public. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Old Town is a great place to learn about NM’s indigenous people.
13. People are Always Late
New Mexico is often referred to as “Mañanaland” (mañana is the Spanish word for tomorrow). This means that no one is in a big rush to get anything done. It also often means people are late to meetings and appointments. In Albuquerque, five minutes late is right on time.
14. Don’t Let Your Guard Down
Crime, especially vandalism and property crime, is fairly common in Albuquerque. Violent crime is also more prevalent than in similar-sized cities around the country.
15. Flamenco is Fun
Albuquerque is the unofficial capital of flamenco dancing in the United States, with a well-received international flamenco festival and several renowned flamenco schools. Ole!
16. We’re Not the Best Drivers
Watch out if you’re on I-40 or I-25, as Albuquerque drivers aren’t exactly known for their caution. In fact, New Mexico drivers were ranked the second-worst in the nation.
17. But There’s Not a Lot of Traffic
Yes, Albuquerque has a rush hour. But the traffic here is hardly an issue compared with most bigger cities. This can be a boon if you have a serious commute.
18. Agriculture is Bountiful
Because of the long tradition of agriculture in the valley, there are still many working farms within the city limits of Albuquerque. You can buy from local farmers and artisans at the weekly Downtown Farmer’s Market, which runs April through November.
19. Farolitos are a Christmas Tradition
Farolitos (also sometimes called luminarias) are a beautiful New Mexican Christmas tradition kept alive and well in Albuquerque. Consisting of a small paper lantern with a candle inside, you can see farolitos lining streets and driveways throughout December.
20. The Tech Industry is Burgeoning
While still small, Albuquerque has a growing tech sector. Local institutions of higher ed are investing in initiatives to train students, create tech jobs, and draw more professionals to the city. Several tech startups call the city home, as well.