In spite of its urban sprawl, Albuquerque merits a second look, and perhaps a stay of more than a day or two before you journey on to Santa Fe or Taos. Perfectly set as the gateway to other New Mexico wonders like Acoma Pueblo and Chaco Canyon, Albuquerque’s own rich history and dramatic terrain—desert volcanoes, the meandering Rio Grande, and a striking confluence of mountain ranges—have long captured the imagination of folks en route from here to there.
Native American populations have left centuries-old traces throughout the verdant Rio Grande Valley, and Albuquerque is no exception. Their trade routes are what drew the Spanish here; the little farming settlement was proclaimed "Alburquerque," after the Viceroy of New Spain—the 10th Duke of Alburquerque—in 1706. By the time Anglo traders arrived in the 1800s, that first "r" had been dropped, but that early settlement, now known as Old Town, was still the heart of town. In the 1880s though, with the railroad in place, the center of town moved east to meet it, in modern-day Downtown. Remnants of all linger today—and may readily be seen by a casual stroller in spectacular outdoor spaces, and in the many museums that explore these elements, present and past. Other snatches of history have contributed to Albuquerque’s development: the Manhattan Project, the birth of desktop computers, and the earliest days of film (one of Edison’s first silent films was shot at nearby Isleta Pueblo).
Albuquerque embraces its multicultural population and a wholeheartedly commits to protecting its exquisite Bosque lands along the Rio Grande. A renowned network of bicycle and hiking trails has been developed throughout the city. Prestige microbreweries, a nationally noted Public Art program, world-class museum collections, and its role as a primary hub for the New Mexico Railrunner, which daily transfers commuters and visitors alike to Santa Fe along the scenic Rio Grande corridor, further set this city apart.
A bit of quiet attention reveals Albuquerque's subtle beauty—a flock of sandhill cranes overhead; a hot-air balloon, seemingly within reach; vintage Art Deco buildings and the neon motel signs in Nob Hill; Pueblo Revival details on the University of New Mexico campus; the fabulous facade of the KiMO theater; a sudden glimpse across the western desert to a 100-mile distant snow-capped Mt. Taylor; and the Sandia Mountains lit pink by the fading sun.