Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks
National Monument protects
Photo by gettyimages.com/sumikophoto
The Duke City's location at the geographic center of the state places it within easy driving distance of hot springs, ancient Native American villages, and other destinations.
One of North America's longest continuously occupied villages perches on a bluff 60 miles west of Albuquerque at Acoma Pueblo. Tours — the only way to visit Sky City — begin at the Sky City Cultural Center & Haak'u Museum and travel up the 370-foot butte to explore adobe-lined pathways and the long-established Native American culture. Bring cash to shop for the pueblo's signature intricate, geometric black-and-white pottery.
Set on Albuquerque's northern edge, this pastoral village boasts the obligatory seasonal farmers market (open on Sundays during summer). It's a year-round arts hub, too, with a string of boutiques and galleries along the main thoroughfare. The annual Harvest Festival (October) and Fourth of July parade are a slice of Americana.
The Jemez Mountain National Scenic Byway cruises past red rock cliff to the village of Jemez Springs, where natural mineral waters burble at Giggling Springs — a laid-back resort for soaking. The turquoise pools glimmer beneath sandstone cliffs in an open-air setting along the Jemez River. The mountains delight hikers with treks through wildflower meadows and along ponderosa-lined ridges. Jemez Historic Site protects a 500-year-old Native American village and the 1621 San José de los Jemez mission. Jemez Pueblo nestles nearby, though it's only open on feast days; visitors are always welcome at the Walatowa Visitor Center.
www.gigglingsprings.com, www.nmhistoricsites.org/jemez, www.jemezpueblo.com
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Cappadocia, Turkey, has nothing on this landscape of conical formations north of Albuquerque. Have your camera ready for easy treks through slot canyons and scrambles up the soft tuff to mesa tops.
Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway
This picturesque route ribbons through juniper and pinon-studded foothills along the Sandia Mountains' east side between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It traipses through Sandia Park, home to a folk-art bonanza at Tinkertown Museum; Cerillos, notable for brunch hot spot Black Bird Saloon; and the mining town-turned-arts haven of Madrid.
www.tinkertown.com, www.blackbirdsaloon.com, www.visitmadridnm.com
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the city's marquee event — no wonder, since it's the largest hot-air balloon festival and the most photographed event in the world. Founded in 1972 with only 13 balloons in a mall parking lot, the festival now regularly attracts some 500 balloons that take flight during the nine-day October festival. In 2019, the event launches Oct. 5–13. With nearly year-round prime flying weather and ideal air currents, balloons launch daily in the Duke City — the "Hot Air Ballooning Capital of the World." Learn about its connection to the sport at the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum.