This summer, I attended a course in photography in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Besides learning a lot, and getting to work with some great photographers, it gave me an excuse to return to one of my favorite parts of the country. Before and after my course I had the chance to spend some time in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city.
Albuquerque sits between the Rio Grande River and the Sandia Mountains. The area was home to as many as twenty Tiwa pueblos before the Spanish invaded the area. In 1706, the Spanish settled in the area, building a town around a central plaza. Today, that area is called “Old Town Albuquerque.” Old town is a great place to walk around. The adobe buildings house restaurants, jewelry stores and other fun places to shop.
Classic Cars at the Plaza
The first place I visited was Los Poblanos organic farm and inn in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. The ranch was founded in the 19th century by Ambrosio and Juan Cristobal Armijo. In the 1930’s it was reassembled by Albert and Ruth Simms. They grew sugar beets and ran a dairy farm on the site during the 30’s and 40’s. Today, its primary crop is lavender, a low water plant that thrives in arid climates. The store on the ranch sells a wide variety of products made on site, along with a great selection of sandwiches and salads for lunch an al fresco lunch. If you want a more formal meal, make reservations at Campo, a farm-to-table restaurant at the ranch that is open for breakfast and dinner.
Another great place to visit in Albuquerque is the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC). Founded in 1976, this museum is operated by the 19 Indian Pueblos in New Mexico. It is dedicated to preserving and supporting the culture, history and art of Indian Pueblo culture. The IPCC has 10,000 square feet of exhibition space that includes a large permanent - “We Are of This Place: The Pueblo Story.” It presents a comprehensive history of Pueblo culture through art and artifacts. There are also galleries where temporary exhibits are on display. When I visited there was a thought provoking presentation on the appropriation of Pueblo sun symbology by the state of New Mexico and then the entire tourism industry.
At the center of the museum is a courtyard that has several large murals painted on the walls that depict aspects of Pueblo culture. There is a dance circle in the courtyard where troops from different Pueblos perform on the weekends. Finally, the IPCC has an excellent restaurant, Pueblo Harvest, where you can enjoy delicious examples of traditional Pueblo food.
On my last day in New Mexico, I returned to Albuquerque for my flight home. But before leaving, I decided to visit Sandia Peak, on the eastern side of town. I took the Sandia Tramway, the third longest tramway in the world, to the top of the mountain. It is a fifteen minute trip that covers a length of 7,720 feet ((approx 1.5 miles) as it climbs from 6500 feet to a height of 10,300 feet. At the top of the mountain there are a myriad of trails to walk, ranging up to 7.5 miles long. You can walk along the ridge, and take in wonderful views of the city below. Or you can hike down, or up is you so desire, the eastern side of the mountain. There is a new restaurant at the top of the mountain, unfortunately it was not yet open when I visited. The views are amazing, but when you visit, remember, you will be at an altitude of 10,500 feet, so be ready for the effects.
Albuquerque offers a wide variety of options for visitors. From nature to history great food, there are a lot of great ways to send your time. So, before you head out to the big name places to visit, spend some time in the big city.
Nuts and Bolts:
Los Poblanos: Lunches are reasonably priced, dinners are a bit more expensive. There is also an inn to stay at for around $245/night.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center: Open Monday-Sunday 9:00-5:00. Entrance fees are $8.40 -Adults/ $6.40 - seniors, military, and NM resident/ $5.40 children over 5.
Sandia Tramway: Flight tickets are $25 adults/$20 students, seniors, military/ $15 children. There is also a $2 parking fee for the park.