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Albuquerque BioPark Review
The city's foremost outdoor attraction and nature center, the park comprises the restored Tingley Beach as well as three distinct attractions, Albuquerque Aquarium, Rio Grande Botanic Garden, and Rio Grande Zoo. The garden and aquarium are located together (admission gets you into both facilities); the zoo is a short drive southeast. You can also ride the scenic Rio Line vintage narrow-gauge railroad between the zoo and gardens and the aquarium complex; rides are free if you purchase a combination ticket to all of the park's facilities.
Two main components of the Albuquerque BioPark, Albuquerque Aquarium and Rio Grande Botanic Garden are a huge draw with kids but also intrigue adult visitors. At the aquarium, a spectacular shark tank with floor-to-ceiling viewing is among the most popular of the marine exhibits. The Spanish-Moorish garden is one of three walled gardens near the entrance of the 36-acre botanic garden. The exquisite Sasebo Japanese Garden joins other specialty landscapes including the Curandera Garden, exhibiting herbs used by traditional Spanish folk-medicine practitioners; Rio Grande Heritage Farm, which re-creates a '30s-era local farm and features canning, quilting, and other demonstrations; and the Children's Fantasy Garden, complete with walk-through pumpkin, a 14-foot dragon, and giant bees. As of this writing, a Bugarium, which will contain open-air displays about insects, is currently under construction and expected to open in 2011. The seasonal PNM Butterfly Pavilion is open late May through mid-October and, year-round, the glass conservatory holds desert and Mediterranean plantings. In summer, concerts are given on Thursday at the botanic garden. From late November through late December, the botanic garden comes alive each evening from 6 to 9 pm for the River of Lights festival, a walk-through display of holiday lights and decorations. 2601 Central Ave. NW, west of Old Town, north of Central Ave. and just east of the Central Ave. bridge, 87104.
The 64-acre Rio Grande Zoo is an oasis of waterfalls, cottonwood trees, and naturalized animal habitats. More than 250 species of wildlife from around the world live here, including giraffes, camels, polar bears, elephants, zebras, and koalas. The Tropical America exhibit offers a bit of contrast for dry Albuquerque, replicating a jungle rain forest and containing toucans, spider monkeys, and brilliant orchids and bromeliads. The zoo has established captive-breeding programs for more than a dozen endangered species. Concerts are performed on the grounds on summer Friday evenings. There's a café on the premises. The Thunderbird Express is a ¾-scale train that runs in a nonstop loop within the zoo, and during the 20-minute ride conductors talk in depth about the creatures and their habitats. Running Tuesday through Sunday, it's free with combo tickets, or $2 otherwise (buy tickets onboard or at the Africa exhibit). 903 10th St. SW, 87102.
Tingley Beach is a recreational arm of the biological park that consists of three ponds, created in the 1930s by diverting water from the Rio Grande. You can rent paddleboats (or bicycles; both seasonally), fish the trout-stocked ponds (gear and fishing licenses can be purchased at the fishing-tackle shop on-site), or sail your model electric or wind-powered boats. To the west of the ponds, the cottonwood Bosque (wetlands forest) fringes the river. Ecological tours of the Bosque are given in summer. It's part of the popular 16-mi Paseo del Bosque bike path, which is open year-round. There's also a snack bar and a Rio Line station; the ¾-scale passenger trains make a stop here en route between the aquarium and garden complex and the zoo. 1800 Tingley Dr. SW, south of Central Ave. and just east of Central Ave. bridge, 87102.
- Address: 903 10th St. SW, Old Town, Albuquerque, 87102 | Map It
- Phone: 505/764–6200
- Cost: Tingley Beach and grounds free, Albuquerque Aquarium and Rio Grande Botanic Garden $7 (combined ticket), Rio Grande Zoo $7; combination ticket for all attractions, including unlimited rides on the Rio Line and Thunderbird Express trains $12
- Hours: Aquarium, botanic garden, and zoo Sept.–May daily 9–5; June–Aug. weekdays 9–5, weekends 9–6. Tingley Beach daily sunrise–sunset. No trains Mon.
- Website: www.cabq.gov/biopark
- Location: Old Town
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