Downtown's nightlife scene includes rooftop bars offering views of the city lights.
Photo courtesy freeabqimages.com
IN A NUTSHELL: Downtown's highrises define the city's skyline, but this district is also a thriving creative hub.
Downtown Albuquerque is undergoing a renaissance as it evolves from a business and government district into an entertainment enclave. The reimagined downtown features craft breweries, third-wave coffee shops, and art galleries.
Conrad Hilton — yes, that Hilton — was the mastermind behind Hotel Andaluz's 1939 forerunner. Today, the fully renovated and environmentally friendly accommodations exude Spanish style, with lobby casbahs, a tapas restaurant, and a second-story bar named after-party hot spot Ibiza. The dual desert-hued towers of Hyatt Regency Downtown define the cityscape; its nearly 400 guest rooms are steps away from the neighborhood's top attractions. Once a hospital, Hotel Parq Central, on downtown's east end, is now a sleek boutique hotel with a rooftop bar specializing in Prohibition-era cocktails.
Downtown has a quorum on the city's creatives and entrepreneurs, so coffee shops are in high demand. Deep Space Coffee, Zendo, and The Brew by Villa Myriam all take their specialty espresso drinks and pour-over coffee seriously.
Jason and Lauren Greene source local ingredients for their fresh-faced breakfast and lunch eatery, The Grove Café & Market. The tastemakers are now lending their culinary talents to the Sawmill Market, slated to open near Old Town in 2019. The contemporary comfort food of The Standard Diner grabbed the attention of Food Network host Guy Fieri, particularly when he tasted the bistro's baconwrapped meatloaf. Occasion dining is on the menu at Artichoke Café, notable for its expansive wine and craft cocktail list.
Downtown's lineup of highend art galleries includes 516 ARTS, which hangs museumquality pieces and gives out walking maps for downtown's mural collections. Central Features Contemporary Art represents emerging contemporary artists, and Richard Levy Gallery displays well-known painters and multimedia creators. Sumner & Dene offers more traditional landscape painters and jewelry artists. Drop in at Sunwest Silver for a trove of trinkets and baubles.
April through October, two local markets pop up with farm stands, regional food purveyors, and arts and crafts. Downtown Growers' Market takes over Robinson Park on Saturday mornings, while Rail Yards Market unfolds on Sunday mornings in the former blacksmith shop of Albuquerque's train yards.
With nearly 40 craft breweries on tap, suds overflow Albuquerque. Downtown counts several taprooms on its roster, including one of the city's marquee makers, Marble Brewery. Software developers and painters alike belly up to the bar at Sidetrack Brewing, while Dialogue Brewing's patio sculptures create their own artistic vibe.
Coming in spring 2018, the retail shops, restaurants, and bowling facility at One Central will level up downtown's entertainment scene.
Albuquerque boasts one of the country's oldest and most vibrant public art programs, and much of its 800-strong collection bedecks downtown buildings. Tile murals stretch like vines across the Albuquerque Convention Center, where Kiva Auditorium presents touring music and comedy acts. The center makes up Civic Plaza's eastern edge; that public square received a facelift in January 2018, including a large projection screen (perfect for free, family movie nights held there each summer), an interactive water splash pad, and more seating for foodtruck gatherings and summer Shakespeare performances. Along Central Avenue, KiMo Theatre doubles as an architectural landmark and performance venue. Built in a unique Pueblo-Deco style, the theater has hosted film screenings, concerts, and author talks for more than 90 years. (It's also said to be haunted!)
The downtown-adjacent National Hispanic Cultural Center celebrates all Hispanic and Latin American cultures — making it the only center of its kind in the world. The expansive campus includes a torreon (watchtower) with a monumental fresco, a visual arts gallery, and several performance venues for its slate of concerts, recitals, plays, and film screenings.