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7 Fun Things to Do in Albuquerque on a Budget

If you’re seeking adventure on a budget, Albuquerque offers plenty of free activities like watching hot air balloons take flight, enjoying the outdoors, and much more.

1. Watch hot air balloons

Albuquerque is widely known as the hot air balloon capital of the world. You can see hot air balloons flying year-round in the early mornings and at dusk from vantage points in the east or west heights. On most mornings, there are at least half a dozen hot air balloons aloft. The heat blasts that keep the balloons afloat are known as “dragon breath.”

2. Everything hot air balloon

Visit the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum to discover the fascinating history of balloons and lighter-than-air flight, including their many uses in art, science, and space exploration. Try your hand at flying a balloon simulator, and be sure to browse the gift shop before you leave. Admission is free every Sunday from 9am to 1pm, as well as the first Friday of each month.

3. Mile high picnic

Take the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway, the highest scenic drive in the Southwest, via NM 536 for about 14 miles to get panoramic views of the city from 10,678 feet. This paved, year-round route has pullouts and parking areas allowing easy access to hiking trails and photo opportunities along the way. The beautiful drive also offers chances to see birds like golden eagles as well as wildlife such as mule deer and black bears. Pack a picnic to enjoy while overlooking the Rio Grande from the rocky outcroppings. Telescopes at the summit overlook even allow up-close viewing. Visiting near sunset lets you watch the city lights sparkle across the valley below as dusk falls.

4. Where everyone can roam

For a different perspective of the Sandia Mountains, visit the Open Space Visitor Center in Albuquerque’s Coors Trail district. This visitor center provides tourist information and access to hiking trails with the majestic Sandia Mountains as a backdrop. Comfortable indoor and outdoor viewing areas allow visitors to observe sandhill cranes and other migratory birds.

At dusk, visitors can rest their feet and watch the mountains turn a watermelon-red hue, which inspired their Spanish name “Sandia,” meaning watermelon. Taking in the sunset over the Sandias from the visitor center is one of the top free activities in Albuquerque.

5. Duck for meteorites!

Satisfy your curiosity and cultivate your inner anthropologist at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, located on the University of New Mexico campus. This museum’s permanent and rotating exhibits examine Southwestern archaeology and contemporary cultures.

While on campus, relax by the Duck Ponds. Observe turtles, ducks, geese, and people as you stroll the ponds’ network of paths, bridges, and waterfalls. Numerous shaded benches allow comfortable respite beneath the trees.

6. Reflect in an historic church

The San Felipe de Neri Church, located near the plaza in Old Town, is a Spanish colonial church built in the 1790s. Featuring Gothic Revival elements, bell towers, and thick adobe walls, this historic church stands at 2005 North Plaza NW.

When visiting the area, take time to explore the historic Old Town Plaza, browse local shops, and experience community events. Discover over 50 murals showcasing local art throughout Old Town.

For history buffs, the Albuquerque Historical Society offers free walking tours of downtown landmarks every Saturday at 10am, February through November. On these tours, learn about the architecture and history of prominent buildings in the city’s business district.

7. Put on a hard hat!

Volunteer welders, pipefitters, and mechanics are restoring the 1944 Steam Locomotive 2926 to full working order at the New Mexico Steam Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society. Visitors can share the volunteers’ passion for locomotives by joining free tours of the restoration site offered at 9 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday. Parking is free and donations are encouraged to support the ongoing restoration of this historic train.

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Sandi Pressley

Albuquerque New Mexico Real Estate YOUR SOURCE FOR ALBUQUERQUE REAL ESTATE! Sandi Pressley offers unparalleled service to ALL clients in Albuquerque and surrounding communities in the New Mexico real estate market. Sandi's motto is "Putting You First." Your complete satisfaction with our service and representation is our number one priority. As a native of Albuquerque, Sandi Pressley has been dedicated to serving her client's real estate needs for over 45 years. Sandi has achieved a goal unprecedented by any other Realtor of being the #1 Top Producing Realtor for 38 consecutive years in all of Albuquerque as well as the entire state of New Mexico. She is also the #1 Top Producing Realtor for the entire Western Region and 8th in the Nation with Coldwell Banker National. Sandi Pressley serves the entire Albuquerque New Mexico real estate market including the surrounding communities such as Rio Rancho, Placitas, Corrales, Bernalillo, Northeast Heights, North Albuquerque Acres, Sandia Heights, High Desert, Foothills, Four Hills, UNM, Nob Hill, Ridgecrest area, Uptown area, North Valley, Northwest Heights, Paradise Hills, South Valley, Southwest Heights, Bosque Farms, Los Lunas, Cedar Crest, Tijeras, and all East Mountain areas. Whether you are considering buying a home, selling a home or both, we know these areas inside and out.

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