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Albuquerque contains a relatively compact and well-defined core comprising just a handful of neighborhoods—Downtown, Old Town, the University of New Mexico (UNM) district and adjacent Nob Hill—that's encircled by a somewhat sprawling and less clearly defined region. Colorful Historic Route 66 unifies the older, central neighborhoods, cutting west to east through the center of the city. Visitors tend to spend most of their time in this corridor (from Old Town to Nob Hill), as it contains the majority of the city's notable dining, lodging, shopping, and sightseeing. The more vast outlying neighborhoods are mostly residential and lack distinct boundaries: in clockwise order: the West Side, Los Ranchos/North Valley, Northeast Heights, Uptown/East Side, Airport, and Barelas/South Valley. They include a smattering of farther-afield attractions and worthwhile restaurants and hotels.
Old Town. As its name suggests, this historic neighborhood contains the earliest buildings in the city. Today it's home to numerous galleries, shops, boutiques, and museums, plus a few hotels, and it's one of the key destinations for visitors. It's just west of and adjacent to Downtown.
Downtown. A handful of modern office towers loom over Downtown, which is bisected by Central Avenue, the city's most important thoroughfare. This relatively compact district has few formal attractions but is home to a number of noteworthy hotels, restaurants, and shops. It's within walking distance of Old Town, which lies just to the west. The eastern edge of Downtown contains an up-and-coming subneighborhood called EDo (East of Downtown).
Barelas/South Valley. Extending just south of Downtown and Old Town, historic Barelas is home to the acclaimed National Hispanic Cultural Center and is an otherwise mostly residential area. It gradually gives way to the broad South Valley, a somewhat downcast area with a mix of residential and light-industrial blocks.
UNM/Nob Hill. Off-campus life is focused directly to the south and east of the University of New Mexico, stretching along Central Avenue from University Boulevard east through the Nob Hill neighborhood. Low-budget eateries, specialty shops, and music and arts venues are tightly clustered within the college-named streets just to the south of Central; things get more upscale as you head farther east.
Los Ranchos/North Valley. The North Valley (along with its sister South Valley) is the agrarian heart of Albuquerque. It is here, where generations of Hispanic families have resided, that you will experience the deepest sense of tradition.
Northeast Heights. This is quite a large neighborhood, taking in the area north of Interstate 40 and rising steadily east into the foothills of the Sandias, where there's great hiking and an incredible aerial tram to the top of the peak. You'll mostly find houses and shopping centers in this part of town, but it's worth driving up here just for the city views.
Uptown/East Side. This eclectic part of the city, ranging from the somewhat shady neighborhoods east of Nob Hill to the upscale shopping of Uptown, is a mixed bag. There are few attractions (the new National Museum of Nuclear Science & History being one exception), but Uptown has a good selection of hotels, as well as mostly chain restaurants and shops.
Airport. The mesa-top neighborhood immediately southwest of the airport has a lot of hotels, but little to see or do. It is, however, a short drive from Downtown, UNM, and Nob Hill.
West Side. This expansive, rapidly growing section of the city is mostly residential, but it is home to the fascinating and underrated Petroglyph National Monument.
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