Albuquerque: Where Cultures Thrive and History Never Dies
The following are suggested itineraries for those interested in New
. The amount of time suggested for the stop, travel
distance and location is listed under each suggested tour stop. Piece
these together for a half-day to two-day Albuquerque history adventure.
Albuquerque’s history and heritage bind the past to the present. The
city’s rich history dates back to 1706 when provisional governor Cuervo
y Valdez founded the city and named it after the Spanish Duke of
Alburquerque. Even before that, pueblos with thousands of inhabitants
lined the fertile banks of the Rio Grande. Today, thriving Indian,
Hispanic and Anglo cultures add color, flavor and a legacy of living
traditions to the personality of the city. Here are two day tours that
highlight city history and the rich Hispanic history.
Tour 1: Albuquerque City History
All stops accommodate tour buses and RVs
around the bustling Plaza, Old Town
has been the city’s focal point
since the farming village sprung up on El Camino Royal. The adobe bell
towers and walls of the first building, San Felipe de Neri Church,
anchor one side of the Plaza and souvenir shops
, galleries and
restaurants line the others. During the Christmas season, luminarias and
the city’s official Christmas tree light up the Plaza. In the summer,
musicians, dancers, poets and old West re-enactments entertain visitors.
Ristras of red chiles decorate the Pueblo-Spanish, flat-roofed,
buildings and flowered archways lead to hidden courtyards. Explore the
side streets, walkways, and garden patios and discover artist-owned
galleries, boutiques, antiques, and outdoor cafes and coffee shops.
vendors sell jewelry from sidewalk blankets, while
galleries offer exquisite crafts from nearby pueblos.
Strolling Old Town, you’ll feel the distinct Southwest blend of
Albuquerque’s multicultural heritage. Sample delicious New Mexican style
food at Church Street Café, listen to Mariachi music on the bandstand
and chat with Indian vendors. At the Turquoise Museum on Central Avenue,
learn how different cultures have valued the gem through the centuries,
and the differences in quality and price between the natural and
stabilized turquoise used in jewelry.
For an insider’s view of Old Town, join a guided walking tour from the
Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. Volunteers lead tours Tuesday
through Sunday at 11 a.m. mid-March through mid-December, or pick up a
self-guided tour map and head out for your own discoveries.
For walking tours with an entertaining twist, check out the history,
outlaw and ghost tours offered by Tours of Old Town, located in the
Plaza Don Luis at 303 Romero St. NW (505-246-Tour). The 90-minute
evening ghost tour explores alleys and hidden sites with 300 years of
history in one of the “most actively haunted locations in North
and history may seem like a strange combination, but what better way to
document the evolving culture of the state than through the creative
eyes of its artists? Paintings and photographs document the changing
landscape as villages grew to cities and indigenous lifestyles gave way
to modern technology. Galleries filled with art that blends Native
American, Hispanic and modern influences present a unique view from one
of the most creative states in the nation.
Step into the history galleries and discover how early settlers lived,
and how “Alburquerque” progressed from a stopover on El Camino Real, and
later on the Santa Fe
Trail, into today’s Southwest metropolis. History
and art don’t just hang on the walls, either. The life-sized sculptures
that decorate the grounds capture glimpses from the past, present and
future. Morning docent-led tours of the sculpture garden explain the
significance of the classic and abstract sculptures. The museum gift
shop carries unusual cultural and art-themed gifts, and the café serves
gourmet light cuisine.
The city’s art, science and history, and children’s museums
Mountain Road are a short walk from the Plaza. At the New Mexico Museum
of Natural History and Science, “Time Tracks” takes you back 12 billion
years to Earth’s first signs of life.
Life-sized dinosaurs guard the exhibit halls and interactive exhibits
let you feel the heat and smell the sulfur of a volcano from the Age of
Volcanoes. Exhibits portray the dire wolves, mammoths and saber-tooth
cats that disappeared as New Mexico's environment evolved from the
grassland savannas of the Ice Age to today’s desert landscape. “Space
Frontiers” details the state’s history of space exploration dating from
the ancient sun-dagger solstice markers at Chaco Canyon to the latest
Where did Microsoft get its start? Seattle…? Wrong! The “Start Up”
exhibit traces the personal computer revolution beginning with
Microsoft’s genesis in Albuquerque. The DynaTheater features nature
movies on a five-story screen, and the Planetarium takes visitors on a
3D voyage through the cosmos. After your tour of the universe, do lunch
at the M Café and shop the Natureworks gift shop.
Half a century after the glory days of Route 66 and 25 years since
it ceased to exist as a named highway, the "Mother Road" remains a
prominent player in the city’s identity. Vintage motels and diners, many
with refurbished signs, still line Central Avenue from Nob Hill
Mile Hill on the western horizon. Cruising the strip at dusk when the
neon starts to flash is a trip into a past era.
Fifth Street and Central Avenue has been the most distinctive corner in
downtown since 1927. The KiMo Theater, a vintage Pueblo-Deco
masterpiece, looks like it dropped from the pages of a children’s
storybook. Elaborate Native American themed ornamentation decorates the
Art Deco exterior. The theater began as a Vaudeville venue and now hosts
visual and performing arts
Continue east on Central past Route 66 icons of the past to Nob Hill. Be
sure and stop to see Valentine’s Diner on the triangle corner at
Central and Girard. Now a police substation, the original 8-stool diner
was one of the first fast-food chains in the nation. In 1932, Arthur
Valentine, a car salesman from Kansas, developed the Valentine Lunch
System in a pre-fab dining
car. He opened more that 50 across the west
and served an all-American menu through the 1960s. The 66 Diner, a
modern incarnation at 1405 Central Avenue NE, serves authentic roadhouse
grub and the best malts in town. Click here
for a more detailed Route 66 tour.
Tour 2: Hispanic History
All stops accommodate tour buses and RVs
Hispanics, the first colonists of New Spain, have a special claim on the
heritage of New Mexico. They brought the Spanish language, Catholicism,
cattle and rodeos, arts and crafts and cultural traditions that endure
architecture that reflects influences of Mayan, Spanish and
post-Columbian cultures, the center is located on the banks of the Rio
Grande in the heart of the historic Barelas neighborhood. The Hispanic
community grew up around the river ford on El Camino Royal, the Spanish
colonial road that connected Mexico City to Santa Fe.
Though dedicated to preserving living Hispanic culture more than
history, the center’s programs present a well-rounded perspective of the
influence and contributions of Hispanic culture through the centuries.
The evolving Hispanic culture has incorporated influences from Native
Americans and the many cultures that fused to create life in Latin and
North America. The remarkable art museum, restaurant and gift shop,
daily programs and performing arts immerse visitors in the colorful and
complex culture that has called New Mexico home for 500 years.
“La Jornada,” a series of life-sized bronze statues of Spanish
colonists crossing the desert, greets visitors to this multi-purpose art
and history museum. You can almost feel the thrill of discovery and the
pain and hardship of the trip from the expressions on the settlers’
faces. Morning docent-led tours of the sculpture garden explain the
historical significance of the sculptures.
Inside the museum, the history gallery tells the story of early
conquerors and colonists and the founding of the city. See conquistador
armor, ancient maps
of Nuevo Mexico, and textiles that date back to the
first Spanish goats and sheep. Displays, artifacts and cultural exhibits
demonstrate early colonial life. One exhibit simulates a village home
and another highlights Hispanic weaving with examples of distinct styles
from across the Southwest. The gift shop carries unusual cultural and
art-themed gifts, and the café serves gourmet light cuisine.
In 1870, don Felipe Gutiérrez built a rancho with a
Spanish-Colonial house in Corrales on land his family
had owned since
1704. In 1952, Ward Alan and Shirley Jolly Minge needed a place to
exhibit their lifetime collection of New Mexican Hispanic articles and
artifacts. They purchased the Gutiérrez house and renovated it to
represent a traditional 1870 rancho complete with a family chapel,
courtyard and enclosed corral. The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History
acquired the collection and house as a premier example of the Hispanic
lifestyle during the 19-century Territorial Era. Open only for
designated tours Wednesday—Sunday, with traditional crafts and
living-history demonstrations on festival days. Closed December and
Across the street, the Old San Ysidro Church, now used for public
, dates back to 1868. Built with three-foot-thick adobe walls
and hand-hewn vigas and latillas, the church is a prime example of a
Hispanic village church with wooden floors and mud-plastered,
whitewashed walls. The church cemetery with its traditional Hispanic
icons and statues, is adjacent to Casa San Ysidro. The church is open
during community activities.