When I told people I was going to Albuquerque New Mexico, the most common response was why? This wasn’t just my friends and family, it was Uber driver to the airport, airport security and even the flight attendant on the first leg of the trip (no direct flights!). But of course, they’re all wrong and I was proven so smugly right.

With the upcoming Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta on the horizon, praise for this New Mexico city is, in fact, well overdue.

GET IN, WE’RE GOING TO (NEW) MEXICO

ballon festival Albuquerque new mexico

No matter your level of thrill-seeking, Albuquerque offers beauty and splendour for all who seek it. Animal lovers, in particular, will adore the cowboy aspect of New Mexico’s many ranches and riding spots. In this state, it’s easy to get up close and personal with nature, even on a whim.

sandia mountain albuquerque

Local hiking and biking are favourite ways to explore mountains and trails. Experienced hikers will appreciate the rugged terrain and more challenging routes. Novices like myself, on the other hand, can embrace the polished and maintained paths, of which there are also many.

COME FOR THE SCENERY IT’S ALL IN ALBUQUERQUE

Fjallraven albuquerque
With temperatures about 30 degrees F lower than the bottom, bring a coat that adapts to weather fluctuations like Fjallraven’s HIGH COAST HYDRATIC TRAIL JACKET

The Sandia Mountains are a pinch east of Albuquerque and boast a tram and restaurant to enjoy at the top. Several hikes meander and weave from the top, which all guarantee great views of the city beneath. With a pinkish hue at sunset, these mountains are said to have been named by the Spanish, as Sandia means watermelon.

Book ahead for your tram ticket, which is sure to sell out during Balloon Fiesta. Don’t wait until last call to get down either. The operators joke a lot about getting stuck up there, and it really does get quite dark at night. Definitely book into the delightfully upscale Ten 3 Restaurant, which boasts eclectic dining as well as a dramatic view.

ten3 restaurant, albuquerque
Ten 3 promises pretty plates and sunset views

FROM BREAKING BAD TO BETTER CALL SAUL AND BACK AGAIN

Besides rugged wilderness, Albuquerque is, obviously, a destination for fans of the hit TV shows Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. It’s easy to spot some of the locations, like Los Pollos Hermanos, or the car wash, on your own. For truly ravenous fans, be sure to stop by the Breaking Bad Store. This gem, right in a very historical and pretty town square boasts actual props, costumes and autographs from the creators and stars of both shows.

Photos are encouraged, and you can even sit at Saul’s desk, or pretend you’re working hard for Mr. Fring. The gents that run this shop are walking encyclopedias, so be sure to chat them up and get the inside scoop on all your burning questions.

@libbyroach_

Breaking Bad & Better Call Saul fans need to check out Albuquerque’s unofficial @Breaking Bad Emporium! Great selection of merch too! 🩵 #breakingbad #bettercallsaul #albuquerque #newmexico #travel

♬ Breaking Bad Main Theme – Geek Music

Also , venturing out to nearby Santa Fe is a great idea. While the town itself is worth the trip, we went mainly for Meow Wolf. This avant-garde art space is part mystery, part maze and totally amazing. Figure out the meaning behind the sudden disappearance of a nuclear family, and explore the hidden secret passages, or conversely, the deeper meaning of life. Also, there’s a free arcade with all your favourite old-school video games!

meow wolf santa fe
Get lost, and maybe find yourself in this immersive art experience

SOAK UP THE SCENERY IN ALBUQUERQUE- WHERE TO STAY

But where to stay? You’ll absolutely want a rental car to make the most of this epic adventure. Our stay at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa proved to be both a convenient location and somehow well far off the beaten path. Rooms are lovely and spacious, but if you’re afraid of creepy crawlies be forewarned- moths come out at night and find a way of making their way into your room.

Fjallraven albuquerque
Kanken backpacks are functional and cute enough to carry it all

The resort is massive. It’s centred in a green space surrounded by a golf course and features two pools (one of which made an appearance in Better Call Saul) and a spa. You could almost vacation only here and still feel like you had an adventure. The restaurants on-site are pricey but decent. Staff is friendly and helpful, and borrow bikes so you can whip around the nearby trail system.

Absolutely do not miss the resort’s stables. I’m not a horse person, but an animal lover regardless. Many of the horses here are rescued, and ranch hands are there to guide and answer any questions you may have. One ranch hand even had us pet a wild stallion, before regaling us with tales of how they track and locate wild horses.

tamya ranch, albuquerque
Get up close and personal with the ponies

All images by Libby Roach.