A Weekend in Albuquerque, NM, USA

TL;DR

  • Stay
    • Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown, 2600 Louisiana Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110
      • An old fashioned hotel with outdated furniture in its guest rooms. But much like rail liquor, it gets the job done.
  • Eat/Drink
    • Cocina Azul, 1134 Mountain Road NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102
      • A lovely, unassuming restaurant good for a New Mexican meal.
    • Golden Crown Panaderia, 1103 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque NM 87102
      • Try the apple empanada. I didn’t try the Original New Mexico Green Chile bread but I heard good things about it!
  • See
    • Petroglyph National Monument, 6001 Unser Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120
      • Boca Negra Canyon is a little underwhelming but the petroglyphs (symbols carved by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400-700 years ago) is pretty cool.
    • New Mexico Museum of History and Science, 1801 Mountain Road NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87104
      • Dinosaurs, a planetarium, and a whole lot of other learning makes this museum a great place for a family.
    • National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, 601 Eubank Blvd SE, Albuquerque, NM 87123
      • Want to nerd out on the atomic age and all of the decisions that led to the dropping of the atom bomb? This is your place.

 

Trip Background

Right after the new year, a flurry of ads started revealing discounted flights from San Francisco to Albuquerque. Now you might be wondering what prompted me to consider going to New Mexico and to be honest, I really couldn’t tell you. But I did recognize that I had not visited any new states in a very long time.* Knowing that, I bought the $153.96 fare on Southwest without missing a beat and off I went!

*This marks my 31st state! Huzzah. 

Day 1 (February 9, 2018)

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My flight took off from Oakland International Airport and I was treated to a lovely sunset at the BART connector station. For those of you who don’t know, flying out of Oakland is an incredibly easy experience and the trip on BART (the Bay Area Rapid Transit system) was seamless.

The flight was a brief two hours and upon arriving, I hoped to get my car quickly and then dash off to my hotel. But that dream died quickly as I arrived at the Avis check-in counter and found a line of 5 people all looking exasperated. A person in line informed me that their computers were down and I decided to pass the time playing on my phone. The woman in front of me got fed up with the staff and stormed off so I moved one slot closer, but she returned a few minutes later – and this time she wasn’t content to keep her gripes to herself. She even went as far as to call out the staff verbally which only made things more awkward for the two guys working the desk and the manager in back. With my car obtained, I headed into town and for my room at the Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown.

But before I got my keys, this happened:
Me: “I have 36 hours here in Albuquerque. If you had one day to explore the city, what would you do?” 
Front desk clerk: “Do you like snakes?” 
Me: “…um, I’m gonna say no.” 
Her: “Do you like nuclear science?”
Me: “Actually…yes. Yes, I do.”

And that is how I determined part of my agenda for the following day.

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Determining my itinerary by brochure

Day 2 (February 10, 2018): Exploring the City

I awoke to a lovely clear day in Albuquerque. After breakfast in the hotel, my first stop was some light hiking at Boca Negra Canyon in Petroglyph National Monument. At first glance, there’s not a whole lot here. A small parking lot and what appears to be one small hill. But ascend the curving trail up that small hill and keep your eye out for one of the roughly 100 petroglyphs on the rocks.

I decided to drive to the New Mexico Museum of History and Science and indulge my inner child/nerd. I made it just in time for the “Enchanted Skies” Planetarium show and spent the better part of the hour listening to a live explanation of the skies over New Mexico. The show by itself is a modest $7 (which does not include any of the other parts of the museum) so it can be an affordable way to spend part of your day. By the time the show ended, it was just past 1 PM and I was getting a little hungry. I decided to see what this New Mexico food scene was like and headed over to Cocina Azul, which I had selected based on what I could find in some of the tourist guides.

After lunch, I noticed a row of gift shops and a small neighborhood bakery called Golden Crown Panaderia across the street, where I picked up a couple empanadas for an afternoon snack. With my belly full of sweets, I went to the highlight of this trip – the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. On a personal note, World War II is the period of history which I find the most fascinating. While staggering in terms of the number of lives lost, the 12-year period from 1933-1945 stands apart in modern history in terms of its impact to the global landscape.

The museum is a fascinating tour through many different aspects of nuclear history, from the scientific research needed to make the breakthroughs to the political and military decisions that led to the development and deployment of the “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” bombs, to the post-war civilian life in America and into modern nuclear energy management. There’s even sections which highlight nuclear weapons in pop culture, featuring movie posters from films like Crimson Tide and Thirteen Days, a replica of the Delorean from Back to the Future (1.21 gigawatts!), and an interactive science exhibit featuring a talking replica of Albert Einstein in a grossly exaggerated German access.

 

 

Talking Albert Einstein!

 

But of course, what museum would not be complete without souvenirs and swag?

The rest of the evening was fairly low-key. I opted to do some clothes shopping at the outlets near my hotel before retiring to my hotel for a spectacular sunset before a room service dinner.

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Day 3 (February 11, 2018)

My last day in Albuquerque really doesn’t count. My flight out departed mid-morning, which meant I had enough time to grab a cup of coffee, return my rental car, and get to my flight. A bit anticlimactic, considering what most of my trips are like, right?

 

Final Thoughts

I haven’t seen Breaking Bad, so I can’t make any references or quotes from the show. But in spite of that, my time in Albuquerque was quite nice. I would have liked a little more time to get up to Santa Fe, to Roswell, or to any of the other Native American sites in the area. If you feel compelled to visit Albuquerque, I recommend spending at least a couple full days and not trying to whiz through the city like I did.

Also, I think this proved to me that if you don’t have an agenda and are willing to pick up some brochures, you can easily have a good trip!

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