Exploring ABQ on the Cheap

Now that I’ve been in New Mexico for a few weeks, I’ve had a chance to explore the city of Albuquerque a little. Some highlights include:

  • Watching a small group of Native Americans from a local tribe perform several dances in Old Town
  • Watching multiple Independence Day fireworks shows during a lightning storm
  • Attending the Pride Festival
  • Checking out several art galleries Downtown for First Friday ArtScrawl
  • Hiking in the Sandia Foothills
  • Visiting the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History
  • Walking along the Rio Grande

I’ve also been driving around different neighborhoods with my husband, trying to get a sense of where we might like to plant more permanent roots. This has led us everywhere from beautiful neighborhoods surrounded by a landscape that looks like a water-color painting to brand-new housing developments with dirt roads (let me tell you how enjoyable it is to off-road when you’re five months pregnant).

Old Town

This place is packed with trinket stores hawking Dia de la Muerte merchandise and bottle openers shaped like women’s legs, as well as jewelry stores with beautiful silver and turqoise pieces. We stopped in a cute little soap shop called Gabby’s Handmade Soap. It’s run by a seven-foot tall self-proclaimed hippy biologist who makes all of the soaps himself. Out of the dozens of scents available, Heavenly Honey was the clear winner. Cost: $4 parking + $10 soap

Independence Day

The 4th of July is one of those holidays that can suck when you’re new in town. Without family and friends, barbecuing just isn’t the same. And without the inside scoop, finding a great fireworks show can be a little daunting. Well, it turns out that the end-all-be-all fireworks show happens at Balloon Fiesta Park where 10,000+ people show up with blankets, umbrellas, and food. With our blankets and umbrellas still in transit from California–and because we were too cheap to pay for parking–we opted to drive a short distance away to a church parking lot. We joined a host of other cheapskates at the top of an embankment that straddles the freeway. It was awesome! From our vantage point, we saw all of the fireworks shows in the region, plus a wicked lightning storm nearly succeeded in showing up the fireworks show. Cost: FREE

Pride Festival

We went to breakfast in the University Heights neighborhood at a place called Frontier. Delicioso! Their flour tortillas tasted fresh, and we were introduced to the very New Mexican concept of green vs. red chili. Turns out both are too spicy for baby. While we dined by the window, we saw a handful of people dressed in everything from hot pants to neon tutus. We decided these people knew how to party, so we followed them, and we discovered they were taking part in the Albuquerque Pride Festival! What a wonderful introduction to this city–there were so many awesome floats that were worthy of Mardi Gras or Carnivale. Loved it. Cost: $15.00 for breakfast

First Friday

With so many many neighborhood ArtScrawls to choose from, I opted for the one happening Downtown. It gave me a chance to see what that area has to offer, and it gave me a chance to scope out three different art galleries. While the bars and clubs don’t particularly call to me, I definitely would like to go to the KiMo Theater. By the time we’d happened upon this historical gem, they were already midway through a screening of a werewolf movie in honor of Fright Night. But they also host various speakers, live music, and ballet performances. We’ll be back. Cost: FREE

Sandia Foothills

We found breathtaking views of the sky, the mountain ridges, the city, and a peaceful quietude to boot. And the best part is that you don’t have to drive way out of town to find all of these things: Just head east towards the Sandia Foothills, and you’ll find a ton of trails. Cost: FREE



I’m a closeted science geek. I love chemistry, biology, botany, not so much geology, and I’m fascinated with anything nuclear. So the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History was right up my alley. Plus, my husband’s also a big science geek, so this was entertaining for him as well. They have a fascinating collection of WWII memorabilia, and I loved their pop culture section. But I did notice that the last exhibit on the way out is suspiciously optimistic (it only briefly mentions Three-Mile Island). Now with Japan’s Fukushima meltdown, I wonder if the future of nuclear power is quite as assured as the exhibit implies. COST: $8 per person

Rio Grande

Having spent much of my life in a river town (Sacramento, CA), it was a challenge for me not to unfavorably compare the Rio Grande to the American River. The Rio Grande is as muddy as the Mississippi, and it was tough to tell whether the urine smell was coming from the river itself or the trail we were walking along. Lots of fire ants were present, along with the remnants of barbed-wire fences, and the canopy of trees overhead was alive with the shrill metallic buzz of what could only be man-sized beetles. Unlike the American River, there was no one rafting downriver, no one swimming near the shore, and no one was fishing. It’s a big river, so I’ll give it another shot in a different locale. Oh, and the highlight of our trip to the Rio Grande? A man driving a vehicle that can only be described as not street legal, slowly weaving across lanes–with a full-grown turkey on his lap and a chicken in the passenger seat. Sorry, no pictures. I tried but wasn’t quick enough. COST: FREE

My adopted home is filled with surprises, and I haven’t even scratched the surface.


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