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Albuquerque

Updated: Aug 30, 2011 03:20 PM EDT
A scene from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. (©Hemera/Thinkstock) A scene from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. (©Hemera/Thinkstock)
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By Lesley S. King

American history doesn't get much older than in Albuquerque. The city's past melds like a big pot of chili, flavored by millennia of Native American culture, 17th-century Spanish conquistadors and padres, and the 20th-century artists who came here for inspiration. Dig into Albuquerque's past in the cobbled streets of Old Town, shopping for turquoise and silver, or make a more formal exploration at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. Either way, the day is likely to end with spicy stuffed peppers or enchiladas.

Things to Do

Spanish and Native American residents shaped Albuquerque's Old Town over the course of 300 years. Poke around a maze of cobbled courtyards and russet adobe storefronts, ducking into the cool sanctuary of the 1706 Church of San Felipe de Neri for a break from the heat. The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History recounts this city's beginnings with 16th-century cowboy boots, 17th-century pottery, New Mexican landscapes by Georgia O'Keeffe and Spanish helmets that might have belonged to Don Quixote.

Shopping

Albuquerque's galleries attract art-lovers from across the continent. Head to display windows along the Plaza in Old Town for Southwestern landscape paintings and nubby, hand-woven woolen textiles with red, green and black geometric designs. Traditional New Mexican souvenirs are the rule at the bustling Sandia Pueblo Craft Market, just outside of town. Native Americans produce and sell heavy silver bracelets brightened with deep blue turquoise and amber stones as well as feathered Hopi kachina dolls, equally charming to adults and children.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Downtown Albuquerque is all business during the daylight hours, but once the sun sets, a younger crowd flocks to this neighborhood's hip dance clubs and martini bars. Celtic and bluegrass music are the rule on weekends at O'Niell's Irish Pub near the University of New Mexico. For a quiet end to the evening, head to the Sandia Peak Tramway, where you can glide through the sunset far above the Rio Grande Valley, the lights of Albuquerque sparkling below.

Restaurants and Dining

"Red or green?" It's the state question in New Mexico, where locals want to know your favorite salsa. Try them both with salty, blue corn tortilla chips and a cold beer with lime at restaurants in Old Town. The neighborhood's Church Street Café dishes up New Mexican classics in a 1700s hacienda. At breakfast, try the huevos rancheros, eggs smothered in chili and served on corn tortillas, or a perfectly seasoned enchilada at lunch.

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