The AAA baseball All Star game, affordable high desert golf, fabulous “New Mexican” dining, enchanting Native American culture and the authentic flavor of the old Southwest. These were some of the mains reasons that I selected the city of Duke better known as Albuquerque New Mexico for a summer getaway.
Although Duke City, as the locals call it, is not on main stream tourism highway it’s a location well worth the visit. However Albuquerque does occupy a famous stretch of road, old Route 66.
A slice of Americana can be discovered driving on Route 66 or Central Avenue, as is wanders through the outskirts and business district of the city. Roadside motor courts, classic diners and boutique shopping opportunities await the travelers. If you are traveling through by car hop off the interstate highway system and enjoy a slice of old time America.
For real “New Mexican” food and some great people watching stop at the Frontier, 2400 Central Avenue NE. It’s located across from the University of Mexico’s bookstore and is a campus favorite serving up huge tasty helpings. Stop at the Casa Grande, 2424 Central Avenue SW and get served a family sized platter of authentic “New Mexican” chow. This place is located directly across from the aquarium and botanic gardens so it offered a pleasant diversion from their snack bars.
Enjoy a mountain vacation experience in the nearby Sandia Peaks. Sandia means "watermelon" in Spanish and when you see the setting sun splash pink light over the rocky 10,600-foot peaks of the Sandia Mountains, you'll know exactly how they earned the name. To get a closer view of these spectacular peaks, ride the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway--the worlds longest--to the crest, where you can look out over 11,000 square miles of magical New Mexico landscape. To the west, the majestic Rio Grande meanders through a cottonwood-lined valley and dormant volcanoes are silhouetted against the brilliant sunset. As darkness blankets the city, thousands of lights below twinkle like diamonds, matching the stars scattered across the enormous sky. A meal at the summit in the “High Finance” restaurant caps off this experience with fine dining and spectacular views. For winter sport enthusiasts this is also the lift to some good downhill skiing too!
Venturing west on Central Avenue into the city’s western portion of the city you will find Old Town and the museum district.
Old Town is where the city was founded by the Spanish explorers and monks in 1706. Today it a cultural center, a charming 6 or 7 block area of historic adobe buildings, cafes, galleries, shops and 7 museums. The museums are the Albuquerque Museum of Art & History, New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, National Atomic Museum, Explora, American International Rattlesnake Museum, Turquoise Museum and the Lodestar Astronomy Center.
Another great attraction is San Felipe de Neri church which was completed in 1793. Today, this adobe church with walls five feet thick is the oldest in Albuquerque and its white towers mark Old Town from a distance. It remains a functioning Catholic church, and as you wander around the neighborhood you may see couples posing for wedding pictures in the Plaza's gazebo. For a real taste of the desert experience don’t miss the Rattle Snake Museum.
For a mid morning treat or an afternoon snack in Old Town stop for coffee and freshly baked homemade pastries at Café Au Lait, 328 San Felipe St NW.
Back out on Route 66 and still heading west you will find the Rio Grande Botanic Garden, Albuquerque Aquarium and the Rio Grande Zoo. The botanic garden has some magnificent desert gardens and landscapes along with other themed areas to enjoy. You can park you automobile here and climb aboard the tram the runs between the aquarium and zoo.
I have only scratched the surface here, there is still plenty to see and do in this interesting locale. For more information on Albuquerque contact the tourism office toll free at 1.800.284.2282 or visit itsatrip.org.
Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau & MarbleStreetStudio.com