We are thinking about taking a short trip to the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area and would welcome any recommendations concerning lodging, dining, sightseeing, etc. I have been through New Mexico on the train; however, we have never been to New Mexico and have the opportunity to take a trip. That would allow us to cross another state off our "to visit" list. I know we missed the Balloon Festival , but that event remains high on our bucket list. Would taking a day-trip to Santa Fe be reasonable or should we plan on spending the night there? Thanks for the help.
It has been several years since we last visited Albuquerque, but for a while we went to the Balloon Fiesta every year. Until our last couple of years, we always stayed at the Albuquerque Marriott. It is right off I-40, so you can get to a lot of places very quickly. The had a CL and a nice indoor/outdoor pool. It always seemed to have good rates, even for Balloon Fiesta week. I don't remember why we switched, but the last couple of years we stayed a the RI Albuquerque on Prospect St. I think we probably switched to get the full kitchen facilities. The RI is also easily accessible from I-40. Not as many restaurants nearby, but some. A day trip to Santa Fe is certainly possible. It is only a little more than an hour's drive. I think we took one of the back roads up part way and got on I-25 for the rest of the trip. We spent some time looking around the city (although probably not as much as some people might) and had lunch in Santa Fe. Then we came back to Albuquerque via Los Alamos and Bandelier National Monument. We did not see it, but our daughter recommended Tent Rocks National Monument. Her photos looked amazing.
Be sure to take the tram to the top of Sandia Peak, but remember, it gets cold up there. Have dinner at High Finance or have appetizers and a drink in the bar. And if you can't get there for Balloon Fiesta, you can at least visit the Balloon Museum.
Well, razorbackfan, since you asked:
Put aside a half/full day to visit the Tent Rocks National Monument - pics here:
It's only about an hour out of Albuquerque.... A photographer's dream!!!
BRING the wide angle and zoom lens AND THE TRIPOD.... Granted, you have to carry all of it to the top, but it's manageable and well worth it.
Personally, I'm also a big fan of hiking in the Sandia, generally, and the ridge trail (accessed from the splendid cable car - morsec is spot on - ride the tram!!!) is a superb short hike - you can do the out and back in under two hours (or less if you rush)... Plan for the altitude, which is about 10,000-11,000 feet - manageable, but noticeable. I also recommend the popular La Luz trail.... It's scenic, beautiful, and gradual enough for most folks....
As small, manageable museums, go, the Nuclear museum is quite good, and not the kind of thing you see elsewhere (unless, say, you've been to Oak Ridge or...) - The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History - if the topic interests you at all - there's also some outdoor pieces (planes and rockets) that are worth stepping out the back to view.... Also, a fun museum gift shop - geeky gifts you might not find at home...
The Marriott Pyramid may be - to my mind - the single ugliest exterior of any Marriott on the planet, but it's a well run property, offers a nice breakfast for Platinums (and, I'm assuming, others as well), and it's very conveniently located to hike in the Sandia (a little less so than the downtown property).... Personally, I'd stay away from the Courtyard unless/until they renovate....
Alas, my I understand my favorite chain restaurant there - the Flying Star Cafe - is on the downhill slide or may have closed up entirely. What a shame...
Hey, nmballoonist - here's your chance: what else do you recommend.
ssindc I remember your post on the Tent Rocks National Monument and thought I had bookmarked it, but couldn't find it so thanks for the link. Of course, the photographer in the family is very interested in this location. I would like to take the cable car; however, after my husband rode the ones in Banff and Grouse Mountain, he said never again. His eyes brightened when I mentioned the Nuclear Museum.
The Flying Star Cafe still has a website, so we will have to give it a try.
I'm hoping nmballoonist will chirp in; however, today is the last day of the balloon festival so I imagine he is quite busy right now.
Ah, razorbackfan, too bad about your travelling companion and the cable car.... I will say that - as someone who does like heights and has ridden cable cars all over the world - this one is ... hmmm .... dramatic, if not epic. All BS aside, it's a very calm, smooth ride - and they shut it down if it gets windy - but you're a good ways up in the air....
Can't wait to see your pics - my guess is that, simply as a function of the breadth of the sky and fluctuations in the weather - let alone lens and framing choices - you'll bring back a totally different perspective!!!!
I will try to provide a bit of info. However after 9 days of getting up at 4 AM followed by a full day, my mind is kind of mush. In my posts on Balloon Fiesta I referenced the following link that gives some suggestions to Fiesta guests.
Towards the end of the guide there are a couple of pages on local and state attractions. You can also look for ideas at
Santa Fe is a good location to visit and is only an hour away so a day trip is very doable. Lots of museums, food, and native american arts on the Plaza. If you go to about one hour to the west of Albuquerque, Acoma Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America. El Morro near Acoma is a very interesting national park. The sandstone cliffs have ancient petroglyphs as well as inscriptions by people who passed through like Oñate in 1605. A little further away is White Sands National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns, Taos Pueblo, ancient pueblo dwellings at Bandelier, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon.
In Albuquerque, a number of museums, including the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History and its geeky gift shop that has been mentioned and if you want to travel to Los Alamos, the Bradbury Science Museum - Los Alamos National Laboratory is also very good. Old Town in Albuquerque is also of interest, particularly the San Felipe de Neri Parish | Albuquerque, NM
Taking the tram to the Sandia Crest, is a beautiful trip. I am not sure if the restaurant at the top will be open as they are going to tear it down and replace it. Not sure the timeline. Beautiful sunsets from that vantage point. Flying Star is open in fewer locations then before. Still caught up in bankruptcy proceedings with a lot of back and forth between the current owners and another group wanting to take them over. But worth a visit, particularly for desserts. And the exterior of the Marriott Pyramid is ugly, but a nice property inside.
That's all my tired brain can process now. If you have specific questions, either post or message me. Off to bed to try to catch up on sleep.
ssindc I knew you had expressed a liking for Flying Star Cafe. As you noted they were going through some rough times. I think a matter from attempting to grow too fast too soon. But today there was an article about them emerging from bankruptcy.
We were just there a few days ago for breakfast. I don't think they are quite up to where they were in the past, but still quite good. Hopefully now that the bankruptcy is behind them, they will get back to where they were.