For our Oklahoma family, Albuquerque had always been a pit-stop on the way to another destination – skiing in Taos or Angel Fire, or the last big city before heading north to Durango. Albuquerque has never been the destination.

We decided to change that this year.

Searching for chiles - things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Our mission was to explore Albuquerque and the surrounding areas in earnest, finding great culture, learning about its proud Pueblo history, and finding the best green (and red) chile dishes around. We packed a lot of kid-friendly fun into a short time, and we’re happy to report that it was a success!

Check out why Albuquerque should be on your family’s vacation list.

Disclosure: Our family was provided press passes to several of the activities written about in this post. We covered our own lodging and food. Also, please note that this post contains affiliate links, meaning we earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. There is no additional cost to you, and it helps to support this site. Thanks!

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico - Nuclear Science Museum
Heavy metal in Albuquerque

Albuquerque is full of great museums, but the one that stood out to us was the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. This Smithsonian Affiliate really nailes it with its cool mix of history, larger-than-life-exhibits, and hands-on education.

Visiting Albuquerque with kids at the Nuclear Science Museum
Great Scott!!

The museum steps you thorough the history of the atomic age, and includes Cold War artifacts, labs and exhibits on nanotechnology, energy production, 1984’s most famous nuclear reactor the Flux Capacitor, and all things radioactive, including the infamous red Fiestaware.

The kids had an amazing time wandering through their temporary exhibit “The Eureka Exhibition, An Interactive History of Science for Children” and also experimenting with different ways to create energy including wind and even bicycle power.Albuquerque with kids - the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History

Out back in Heritage Park, explore restored planes, missiles, and even a submarine sail. It will be a favorite of kids and adults alike. Be sure to get a photo with the enormous B-52 bomber. Exhibits on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear medicine, radiation 101, and pop culture will keep everyone interested.Heritage Park in Albuquerque with kids at the Nuclear Science Museum

We really loved this museum and love when places like this catch us a bit off guard and surprise us with their fun and engaging exhibits. Definitely put this one on your list!

Hours and Prices

Open daily 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. and closed on New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Adults 18-59 – $12
Seniors 60+ – $10
Youth 6-17 – $10
Children 5 and under – Free
Veterans – $8
Active Military (and dependents) – $7

Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway

Things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico -Sandia Peak Aerial TramwayThe very first thing we did after dropping our bags at the hotel was head over to the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway and buy tickets to the top. Our family loves the mountains and we couldn’t resist a ride to the summit with the amazing views of the city below.

At an altitude of 10,378, the views are tremendous! Spend some time hiking around a few of the trails at the ski resort, look off across the landscape to see what you can see, or just take in the views and try not to get blown away!Take in the view from Sandia Peak - Things to do in Albuquerque

Things to do in Albuquerque - Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway
I spy with my little eye…

Down below, pop into the New Mexico Ski Hall of Fame. It’s a tiny museum that offers a glimpse into the rich alpine tradition of New Mexico, and has some cool old ski gear.New Mexico Ski Museum - Albuquerque with kids

The Tram is just a short drive from almost anywhere in the city, and we found it to be a great way to spend an afternoon. Take your camera, and enjoy the show!

Hours and Prices

Summer Hours: (Memorial Day 5/25/2018 Weekend to Labor Day 9/3/2018)
Daily 9am – 9pm (last uphill trip)

Fall/Winter Hours: (Labor Day 9/4/20118 to Memorial Day 5/24/2019)
Daily 9am – 8pm (last uphill trip) (except Tuesday)
Tuesdays only 5pm to 8pm

Adults $25.00
Seniors 62+ $20.00
Active Duty, Retired Military, Current Serving Reserve & Nat’l Guard with a valid & current military ID $20.00
Students 13 yrs to 20 yrs $20.00
Children 5 yrs to 12 yrs $15.00
Children Under 5 years accompanied by adult FREE!
Grounds Admission (Daily, per car) $ 2.00

American International Rattlesnake Museum

Best Things to do in Albuquerque - International Rattlesnake MuseumOld Town Albuquerque is a good way to get a dose of culture, New Mexican cuisine, and rattlesnakes. Yup, this is the home of the American International Rattlesnake Museum, and it was absolutely on the top of the kids’ to-do list when we were planning our trip.

Things to do in Albuquerque with kids - International Rattlesnake Museum
“Come at me bro!”

The museum boasts the largest collection of live rattlesnakes in the world, and they don’t disappoint.Fun Things to do in Albuquerque - visit the International Rattlesnake Museum They had rattlesnakes big and small, and of nearly every color. It is a small museum and can easily be done in an hour or so, and since it’s in Old Town, it’s easy to do with families.

In addition to the rattlesnakes, they also have collections of memorabilia, skeletons, other reptile exhibits, and many other ways to learn about these interesting animals. If you’ll be visiting Old Town (and you should), pay a visit to this unique museum.Rattlesnake Museum - Things for kids to do in Albuquerque

Cadence’s Point of View

Albuquerque was so awesome! My favorite thing was the Nuclear Science Museum. I also liked the Rattlesnake Museum. It had live rattlesnakes. One of them was shaking its rattle at us.

The Museum of Nuclear Science was very kid friendly. It had lots of fun things to do like games and building a giant nanotube. There was one part of the museum where there was a machine that blew air and made these things spin and produce electricity which was cool. And right next to that was the flux capacitor and the Delorian. Such a cool experience!

Hours and Prices

SEPTEMBER-MAY HOURS
Monday-Friday-11:30am to 5:30pm
Saturday-10am-6pm
Sunday-1pm-5pm

SUMMER HOURS
Monday-Saturday-10am-6pm
Sunday-1pm-5pm

Kids $4 • Adults $6 • Seniors, Military, Students and Teachers $5

Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum

International Balloon Museum - Things to do in AlbuquerqueHere’s and idea to float by you, the balloon museum! As the hot air ballooning capital of the world, it stands to reason that Albuquerque would have a museum devoted to the topic, and it’s a good one! The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum is home to the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta® – the biggest anywhere – and highlights the history and culture of ballooning.International Balloon Museum - best things to see in Albuquerque

The museum is beautiful, and has lots of amazing exhibits from the earliest balloons, to modern balloons brushing up against space. See some of these record-holders up close as you learn about these cool flying machines.Things for kids in Albuquerque - visiting the International Balloon Museum

Give yourself a half-day or so exploring this museum. It’s very close to the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, so when you’re done head up to Sandia for some epic views.

Hours and Prices

Tues – Sun: 9AM – 5PM

Adults $4.00 ($1 discount with valid NM ID)​
Seniors 65+​ $2.00
Children 4-12 $1.00
Children 3 and under Free
Free admission –  Sun 9a-1p and the first Friday of the month (excluding October)

Petroglyph National Monument

Things to do in Albuquerque - visiting Petroglyph National MonumentAnother must-see on our trip was Petroglyph National Monument. This park sits just on the outskirts of Albuquerque and is very easy to get to. With multiple trail heads to chose from, it’s easy to find one near you, so you can just set out on a hike.

We decided to get up early for sunrise and head out on the trail. Dawn is not only great for better photos, it’s usually when the wildlife is active, and we saw several jack rabbits running around during our hike.Stuff for kids to do in Albuquerque - hiking in Petroglyph National Monument

As you’re hiking through the park, it’s easy to see why this place was sacred (and still is) to the Peublo people living in the area. You can just image the stories that were being told through these pictures and how the Pueblo people used them as markers in their journeys.

Fun things for kids to do in Albuquerque - exploring Petroglyph National MonumentThe petroglyphs are everywhere and easy to spot, so even families with younger kids will have fun looking for them. There are no trails from the visitor center, so if you plan on hiking to see the petroglyphs, you need to drive to one of the trails. Be sure to check out the short movie at the visitor center, though. It has a lot of good information that will help you understand what you’re looking at when you find them.

With dormant volcanoes, easy hiking trails, easy access, and free admission, everyone should visit!

Hours and Prices

Visitor Center: open daily 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Trails are open from dawn to dusk.

Admission is free.

Andrew’s Point of View

My favorite parts about Albuquerque were the American International Rattlesnake Museum, the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, and Petroglyph National Monument. The Rattlesnake Museum has the largest collections of live rattlesnakes and other reptiles in the world. It was amazing to look at some of the most venomous snakes on the planet all in one place.

The Nuclear Science Museum has a lot of hands-on stuff that explains things like nuclear fission and fusion and the periodic table of elements. It also has replicas of real bombs used in WWII and planes used in the Cold War. Petroglyph National Monument was cool because visitors can get close to the 400+ year old writings and pictures.

My favorite restaurants in Albuquerque were the Owl Cafe and Sadie’s of New Mexico. The Owl Cafe had some of the best shakes I have ever had. Their famous green chile burger is amazing as well as spicy, and their sweet potato fries are great too.

Sadie’s of New Mexico was a great restaurant, as well. They have fried hatch chile sticks as an appetizer that are so tasty that I couldn’t stop eating them. Their house-made sopapillas are also top notch, and their taco bowl plate is good, too. I left both restaurants not able to eat any more because it was so good.

Related: If you love National Parks, be sure to check out our National Parks page!

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

Things to do in Albuquerque - Indian Pueblo Cultural CenterThe Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is the place to learn about native Puebloan culture in New Mexico. The museum provides a fascinating look into the art, culture, and stories that are the center of the Puebloan peoples. We learned about each of the 19 tribes and some of what makes them unique.Things to do in Albuquerque for kids - Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

The museum does a good job of not only telling stories passed down for generations, but also making the connection to the Pueblo people of today. We particularly enjoyed the special exhibition from Ricardo Caté called Art Through Struggle: Ricardo Caté.

Visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center - things to do in Albuquerque
Poignant and humorous takes on Indian life by artist Ricardo Cate.

It is a sobering. but often humorous, look at daily life from a Pueblo point of view that covers politics, culture, stereotypes, and daily struggles. Check out Caté’s book Without Reservations: The Cartoons of Ricardo Caté for more great cartoons. Caté currently draws cartoons for the Santa Fe New Mexican and his images reach 60,000 daily.

Without Reservations by Ricardo Cate
Without Reservations

Besides the exhibits, the museum offers programs and dancing in the courtyard, and their restaurant, the Pueblo Harvest Cafe, offers unique native-inspired, farm to table cuisine.

Hours and Prices

Open Monday – Sunday: 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Closed on New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day & Christmas Day.

Adults – $8.40
Seniors (62 & over) – $6.40
Military (Active & Retired) – $6.40
New Mexico Residents – $6.40
Students/Children (ages 5-17) – $5.40
Children under 5 – Free

  • Have some extra time? Check out Santa Fe!

    Georgia O’Keefe Museum

    Georgia O'Keefe Museum Santa Fe NMWe knew that the Georgia O’Keefe Museum was a top choice after seeing some of her more famous works in Chicago. This small museum is ideally located in the Old Town district of Santa Fe, and it is packed with beautiful pieces, including some of O’Keefe’s early works.

    This artist is known for her close up flowers, but we was also quite adept at still life, portraiture, and cityscapes. We loved seeing the journey O’Keefe took as an artist, and the video showcasing her art as she saw it is particularly enlightening.

    Georgia O'Keefe Museum - Santa Fe, NM
    O’Keefe’s supplies from her studio.

    Kids will love the small size of the museum, and during our visit we saw several docents giving lessons to children about the artist, her works, and the special New Mexico landscapes that inspired her.

    The Shed

    The Shed - Santa Fe, NMWhile you are visiting the museums and shops of Old Town Santa Fe, stop in at The Shed for some tasty New Mexican cuisine. The food and atmosphere at The Shed will keep everyone happy.

    The Shed - Santa Fe, NM
    Red chile pork and blue corn enchiladas. Yum!

    If you have a bit of a wait, no worries. Your buzzer will work at any of the courtyard shops, including a Christmas shop full of unique souvenirs. We picked up a Santa Claus ornament made from a red chile!

    Meow Wolf

    Meow Wolf - Santa Fe, NMWhat can we say to accurately describe Meow Wolf? It’s hard. We thought it would be akin to City Museum in St. Louis, but it wasn’t…quite…like that. This “museum,” funded by none other than the author responsible forGame of Thrones, George R. R. Martin, is probably the most unique experience we’ve ever had.

    Meow Wolf Santa Fe
    Through the fridge to another dimension.

    You really do just need to see it for yourself. My best description of it is that someone has written a sci-fi mystery novel, and then dropped you right in the middle of it. Older visitors can spend hours looking for endless clues in the house to try to solve the mystery of what happened to the ill-fated family who once lived there.

    Meow Wolf - Santa Fe New Mexico Younger visitors will love exploring all the nooks and crannies, popping through fireplaces, and sliding down chutes found in the washing machine into the alternate dimension, which in essence is an art installation showcase for some of Santa Fe’s up-and-coming artists. This place is a true experience.

    Afterwards, treat yourself to some rolled ice cream at Freezie Fresh, a local food truck that we found parked right outside on the day of our visit.

    Tortilla Flats

    Serving up delicious New Mexican cuisine for every meal of the day, Tortilla Flats is a great choice for families. We enjoyed an amazing breakfast (best breakfast burrito I’ve tasted!), and discovered that they partner with Meow Wolf. Eat at Tortilla Flats first, then take your receipt over to Meow Wolf for a 20% discount on admission.

Other things for families to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico

ABQ BioPark

The ABQ BioPark is Albuquerque’s Zoo complex and includes the Albuquerque Aquarium, Rio Grande Botanic Garden, Rio Grande Zoo and Tingley Beach. Be sure to check their calendar for exciting updates on new exhibits, events, and news.

Hours and Prices

Open 9:00 to 4:30 daily except Jan. 1, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Adults $14.50
Kids ages 3-12 $6
Children Under 2 are free

New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

This is a museum we were sad to miss, but we just didn’t have time.

From the museum website:

OUR MISSION: The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science preserves and interprets the distinctive natural and scientific heritage of our state through extraordinary collections, research, exhibits and programs designed to ignite a passion for lifelong learning.

If bones and fossils are high on your list, then this is your museum. With many fossils coming from the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is THE place to learn all about them. Permanent exhibits include T. REX ATTACK!, home to Stan the second largest T-Rex ever found, and Timetracks: A Walk Through Time, showcasing New Mexico’s natural history.

Check the event calendar here for special exhibitions and activities.

Hours and Prices

The museum is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Adults are $8 and kids 3-12 are $5

Explora

Explora is a hands-on science center and children’s museum, and has a little something for everyone. Located in Albuquerque’s Old Town district, it’s easy to get to, and is close to other activities like the Rattlesnake Museum. Their motto “Ideas you can touch” sums it up, so head over and explore! Check out their calendar of events for special programming.

Hours and prices

Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday: 12 pm – 6 pm
Explora is closed on January 1, July 4, the week after Labor Day,
Thanksgiving, and December 25. They close early at 2 pm on December 24 and 31.

Children (ages 1-11): $4
Adults (ages 12-64): $8
Seniors (age 65+, with ID): $5
Students or Military (with ID): $5

Tinkertown Museum

Tinkertown Museum is a collection of carved figures and knick-knacks from the mind of artist Ross Ward. It’s an ever-expanding museum of unique collections, figurines, art, and hand-carved minatures that has grown from a sort of travelling circus to the 20,000 visitors a year museum it is today.

Stop by to experience folk art at its finest, and enjoy the animated western scenes as Ward’s wood carvings come to life. Located in Sandia Park, stop by and take a fun step back in time.

Hours and Prices

Tinkertown is open every day beginning March 23rd through October 31st, 2018.
9 AM to 6PM • Last ticket sold at 5:30PM

Adults Ages 18-62: $3.75
Seniors (62+): $3.25
Kids 4-18: $1.25
Kids Under 4: Free

Cliff’s Amusement Park

Cliff’s Amusement Park has been operating in Albuquerque for 55 years, and is the place to go for adrenaline junkies and water park enthusiasts. Take a ride on their wooden roller coaster the New Mexico Rattler, or fly through the sky on the Wind Rider.

Included with your admission is access to the water park, WaterMania! Both parks are great for the youngest in your crew up to the oldest, and would be a great way to enjoy Albuquerque!

Hours and Prices

Cliff’s opens on weekends beginning in late April. Check here for the entire operating schedule.

All day passes are $25.99 and $22.99 for kids ages 3-8.

Albuquerque Museum

Located in Old Town, the Albuquerque Museum holds a collection of 10,000 works of art and 27,000 historical objects, making this a major museum in the area. With rotating collections and special events, it’s worth checking out if your family enjoys a good art museum.

Hours and Prices

The Albuquerque Museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, and is closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

General Admission
$2 for seniors ages 65+
$4 for adults ages 19-64
$4 for teens 13-18
$1 for children 4-12

General Museum admission is free for the following times:
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month
5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday

Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico

This unique museum seeks to educate visitors on the horrors of the Holocaust through photos, art, and artifacts from that era, but also bring to light genocide around the world. Although this may not be appropriate for younger kids, families with older children will appreciate the exhibits and perspective the museum introduces.

Hours and Prices

Open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 am to 3:30 pm.

Turquoise Museum

Book a guided tour at the Turquoise Museum for an insider’s look into this gemstone that is uniquely New Mexican. Learn about mining, polishing, and jewelry manufacturing. The museum boasts the largest display of natural turquoise on display in the world. Entrance is by guided tour only.

Hours and Prices

Tours are available Monday-Saturday at 11am and 1 pm.

What to eat in Albuquerque – our quest for all things chile

We had a singular mision when it came to food on this trip, and it was to sample as much chile flavor as we could find.

Turns out, that was really easy to do! Here’s what we recommend.

Sadie’s of New Mexico

 

Sadie’s has a few restaurants around town, and they serve up awesome New Mexican cuisine. We shared a few plates, and even then, the portions were too much for us to handle, but it was delicious.

Our Pick: Fried Green Chile Strips with Green Chile Ranch. Irresistible!

Owl Cafe

Owl Cafe is a cool cafe on Route 66 with great neon and great burgers – just what a cafe like that should be. We loved the shakes, sweet potato fries, and their burgers were on point.

Our Pick: Cheeseburger with bacon and green chiles and a side of sweet potato fries. Order a gourmet shake to cool things off.

Buffett’s Candies

We first learned of Buffett’s from watching Andrew Zimmern on Travel Channel, and their claim to fame is their pinon candies and rolls. They’re like pecan rolls from Stuckey’s (remember those from road trips of yore?) but way better. Other treats we couldn’t pull ourselves away from were the enormous chocolate-dipped caramels, chocolate covered popcorn, chocolate cremes, and pinon brittle. Amazing.

Our pick: Get a pinon roll, and for your chile fix, the red chile pecan brittle was just the right amount of sweet with a kick of heat at the end.

 

Quesadilla Grille

We ate at Quesadilla Grille with a cousin who lives in Albuquerque, and it was a fun little place in Old Town for lunch. They have some great New Mexican cuisine and an elaborate sauce bar to liven things up. Fun fact – the restaurant used to be a residence.

Our pick: Choose from several flavors of street tacos and then hit the salsa bar to punch up the flavor.

What will you be doing in Albuquerque?

Albuquerque has a lot to offer families. It is consistently voted a top family-friendly city by various publications, it’s affordable, and it’s also very easy to get to. In fact, many of the city’s great activities don’t cost a dime.   With a large international airport and location right along I-40/Route 66, there’s no excuse not to stop by.

We stayed at the Embassy Suites. With included hot breakfast, and complimentary evening reception with drinks and snacks, it’s a perfect home base for exploring the city and is less than 15 minutes from any place we visited.

Check here for the latest prices.

We put off visiting Albuquerque for far too long, so don’t make the same mistake we did. Hopefully we’ve inspired you to take a closer look at Albuquerque and plan a trip!

Save this trip to your favorite family travel board on Pinterest and be sure to follow AftT. Thanks!Spice up your next family vacation with these things to do in Albuquerque! Balloons, rattlesnakes, and a good dose of #chile make #Albuquerque one hot destination, and our guide has everything you need to plan a great trip. Check it out! | #familytravel #NewMexico

Has your family been to Albuquerque? What was your favorite thing to do?

 

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    2 replies to "Spice it Up! Things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico"

    • Tamara

      Thanks for the recommendations! I will be skipping the rattlesnake museum as I’m petrified of snakes but the others sound fun.

    • Carrick Buss

      Our pleasure Tamara – thanks for reading. I understand about the snakes. Carrie can’t handle scorpions, and just having a picture in this post gave her the heebie-jeebies.

      Have a great trip to NM!

      -Carrick

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