San Felipe de Neri has presided over Old Town plaza for more than 300 years.
Photo by Blaine Harrington III
IN A NUTSHELL: Albuquerque's founding neighborhood remains a cultural center after more than three centuries.
Set along the Río Grande, this historic neighborhood traces its lineage to 1706. Known for its charming adobes and secluded courtyards, Old Town garners fans for its boutiques and galleries, luxury hotels, and sophisticated lounges.
From Heritage Hotels & Resorts, the state's top purveyor of boutique hotels, comes Old Town's first newly built hotel in decades, Hotel Chaco. The luxurious five-story building evokes the spirit and architecture of the great houses at Chaco Culture National Historical Park. It shares a pool with sister property, Hotel Albuquerque, which wins high marks for its stately Spanish Colonial decor.
Live like the locals do in Casa de Sueños Old Town Historic Inn's quaint casitas, some of which are bedecked with murals from local artists.
Seasons Rotisserie & Grill's modern-American menu plates woodsmoked classics such as prime rib and jumbo sea scallops. Guests can order from the full seasonal menu or sophisticated bar fare from the secondstory cantina, which overlooks Old Town.
Farm-to-table maven Erin Wade, whose salad-centric restaurant Vinaigrette's Duke City location sits just off the plaza, is expanding with Feel Good, a wine-focused bar and eatery.
This is the land of mouth-watering New Mexican food — think enchiladas swimming in piquant red chile. Classic cuisine tops the menus of High Noon Restaurant & Saloon and Church Street Café, both housed in old adobes. A few blocks away, Golden Crown Panaderia stakes its claim as the go-to for bizcochitos, an anise-laced shortbread that doubles as the state's official cookie.
More than 150 shops, boutiques, and galleries take up residence in this popular shopping district. Albuquerque Photographers Gallery is a staple, while Ghostwolf Gallery turns heads with contemporary art. Wild Rose Boutique offers bohemian finds, and Old Town Hat Shop pairs perfect accessories. Lifestyle goods from more than 60 local makers fill every nook of the sprawling Spurline Supply Co., and The Next Best Thing to Being There is a must-visit for eclectic global finds.
Renowned Chef Mark Miller, formerly of Santa Fe's Coyote Café, and up-and-comer Chef Gilbert Aragon lend their talents to Level 5 Restaurant & Bar, perched on the rooftop of Hotel Chaco. The chefs are committed to top-shelf ingredients and indigenous influences from around the world. Neighboring Hotel Albuquerque houses three of the city's ever-popular nightlife spots under one roof: Dancers stomp at the intimate Tablao Flamenco Albuquerque, where dance comes with a side of tapas. QBar tops many residents' lists as the best nightclub in the city, and DJs spin at cosmopolitan Casa Esencia Friday nights. Nearby, oenophiles can sip an expansive local wine menu at St. Clair Winery and Bistro.
San Felipe de Neri, the city's oldest parish, anchors Old Town plaza. Its picturesque towers are still in sight from museum row, home to Albuquerque Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, and Explora. History and art buffs will enjoy Albuquerque Museum in equal measure. Over at the natural history museum, find displays of homegrown discoveries from northwestern New Mexico and a trip through the cosmos at the planetarium. Two stories of hands-on exhibitions await at Explora, a children's museum and science center.
One of more than 40 theater troupes and venues in the city, the Albuquerque Little Theatre stages a dozen plays and musicals a year, including family-friendly fare. A few blocks away, the Albuquerque BioPark tees up more family fun, including fishing and pedal boating in Tingley Beach's lakes, spotting creepy-crawlies at the botanic garden and sharks and otters at the aquarium, and touring the new penguin habitat at the zoo.
A nearly complete 50-mile activity loop circumnavigates the city along a collection of multi-use trails and bicycle boulevards. Or travel the Paseo del Bosque Trail, a 16-mile vehicle-free stretch that traces the Río Grande through the cottonwood bosque past the Río Grande Nature Center State Park, where visitors can spot migrating sandhill cranes from a new viewing platform.
Photo courtesy Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
Two miles north of Old Town, the multifaceted Indian Pueblo Cultural Center celebrates the state's 19 pueblos. A permanent exhibition retells their shared history and revolving exhibitions display contemporary art. Pueblo groups frequently step into the plaza with deer, buffalo, and harvest dances. Chef David Ruiz's commitment to shaping modern Native American cuisine at Pueblo Harvest Café is the talk of the town.