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Albuquerque, New Mexico Travel Guide

National Hispanic Cultural Center, Rio Grande Zoo and Nob Hill

The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway in Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Where to Stay Where to Eat What to See & Do

There are dozens of places downtown to grab a breakfast burrito and a cup of coffee. But if you want to go where the locals eat, take a short drive south on Fourth Street to the famed Barelas Coffee House. It may look like a dive, but the New Mexican food is some of the best around. Try the huevos rancheros, and don't forget to butter the fresh, homemade flour tortillas while they're hot. Of course, it's hardly the only beloved chile hut around; not far away are Mary & Tito's Café and Cecilia's Café, both offering superb carne adovada with eggs.

View the latest exhibits at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico

After breakfast, head across Bridge Street to the National Hispanic Cultural Center, offering changing exhibits of contemporary art, as well as a full schedule of concerts, readings and lectures. It's worth a trip just to stroll the spacious campus.

The same could be said of one of the best zoos in the Southwest, Rio Grande Zoo. From the reptile house to the white Siberian tigers to the African exhibits, it's a great experience. Visitors can make a full day of it by buying a special pass that encompasses the zoo, the Rio Grande Botanic Garden and the Albuquerque Aquarium, which together comprise a complex known as the Albuquerque BioPark.

There are dozens of excellent lunch options along Central Avenue. A short drive east from the zoo leads to The University of New Mexico and the Nob Hill district, Albuquerque's artsy, bohemian quarter. Try lunch (or dinner) at Yanni's Mediterranean Grill & Opa Bar, featuring Greek classics and great vegetarian items; the bar is primo for people watching. On the other side of the street, Nob Hill Bar & Grill is a hopping spot where pub grub goes glam — think edamame-mushroom burgers and smoked mozzarella in a pine nut-panko crust. To up the elegance quotient, settle in at Scalo Northern Italian Grill, a local institution for house-made pasta and a wonderful, wide-ranging wine list.

Some of the shops you'll find in the Nob Hill district of Albuquerque, New Mexico

Nob Hill is also a hub of funky boutiques, from the elegantly modern home furnishings and accessories of Hey Jhonny to the wild Mexican crafts and costumes at Masks Y Mas to Mariposa Gallery, long famed for its representation of up-and-coming local artists. Fashion plates will swoon among the racks of small-label and vintage clothing at Aqui and Revolver, while Beeps is fun for the whole family with its array of quirky novelty items (don't miss the silkscreened Cyberoptix neckties).

There's no better way to end a day in Albuquerque than by watching the sunset from the top of Sandia Peak. You can reach the summit, at 10,378 feet, by winding up the backside of the Sandia Mountains on Crest Road. (Avid cyclists and motorcyclists take this route all spring, summer and fall — but take a cue from them and bring a windbreaker, as it gets chilly at that altitude.) Or you can ride the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway to the top of the mountain, disembarking at the visitor's center and the High Finance Restaurant, whose bar sets the perfect stage for the natural light show.

Book a room at the Sandia Resort & Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Built in the mid-1960s, the 3,000-foot double-car tram spans the rocky west face of the Sandias and has never had an accident. Distances between the towers make it a smooth but thrilling 15-minute ride to the top; on clear days, you can see about 60 miles in each breathtaking direction. Back at the base, hit the nearby County Line on Tramway Road for heaps of finger-licking barbecue — or make a night of it at the Sandia Resort & Casino just down the way with a splurge at the rooftop restaurant, Bien Shur, and a shot at the slot machines or blackjack tables.

* Nob Hill image courtesy of

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