The city of Albuquerque is a business hub in New Mexico, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things for you to do during a visit there. Albuquerque used to be a Native American area where the Apache, Navajo, and Comanche people lived and you can see much of that history still today.
There are more than 560,000 people living in Albuquerque right now. Couples, families, and even groups of friends will love exploring the history, culture, and attractions of this beautiful city. While you could easily spend a small fortune while on vacation, we have discovered twenty free, or almost free, things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico. While we could dive right into those in this guide, we thought we would share a little more about the area first.
Where is Albuquerque, New Mexico
You will find Albuquerque, NM within Bernalillo County. It is in the western-central part of the state right on the Rio Grande. The Sandia and Manzano Mountains are close by and you can reach them by making a short drive.
Best Time to Visit Albuquerque, New Mexico
Anytime of the year is perfect for visiting Albuquerque, NM. This means you can go whenever it is convenient for you. However, we recommend going between the months of September and November. This is when many of the festivals in the area are taking place. Plus, the temperatures have cooled down just slightly, so you won’t get overheated during your visit.
Now, if you love to ski, you may want to consider the winter months. This is when snow covers the Sandia Mountains and you will have more ski slopes than you can count to ski down. The cost to stay in Albuquerque during the winter months is higher, but it can be worthwhile if you love to spend your time on the slopes.
Weather in Albuquerque, New Mexico
There are four seasons in Albuquerque, but the sun is almost always shining. The summer months bring the heat and afternoon thunderstorms, while the spring and fall are a little cooler. The winter months bring the cold with temperatures hovering in the middle 40s. While it does snow, you will hardly see more than a dusting unless you travel higher up into the mountains.
20 Free (or Nearly Free!) Things to Do in Albuquerque, New Mexico
1. Visit the Many University of New Mexico Museums
Most of the University of New Mexico museums and galleries are free, but a couple may charge a small donation. So, if you are looking for free things to do in Albuquerque, you can always add some of them to your list.
We recommend the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, the Meteorite Museum, and the John Sommers Gallery.
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2. Wander Around the Albuquerque Flea Market
The Albuquerque Flea Market is not completely free, as it will cost you a dollar to enter. But it is one of the top things to do in Albuquerque. You should also plan to pay around five dollars to park there if you cannot find a free space nearby. You may spend additional money during your visit if you find something you simply cannot live without. However, it is easy to bypass everything and simply enjoy the atmosphere that is always present within a flea market.
3. Visit the Farmer’s Market
The farmer’s market is one of the free things to do in Albuquerque, as well as fun things to do in Albuquerque with kids. While you may spend money on food to eat, you really can’t complain about that.
After all, paying for food at this market will cost you a lot less than what it would cost you to eat at a restaurant.
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4. Visit the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
If you are looking for free things to do in Albuquerque on a Saturday, you must arrive between nine in the morning and one in the afternoon to receive free admission at this balloon museum. The rest of the time there is an admission fee. Once you are inside, you can learn everything you want to know about hot air balloons. Please be aware that you can also take hot air balloon rides from here. However, they are not free, and you may be tempted once you know the intricacies of this fascinating activity.
5. Visit Tingley Beach
Tingley Beach is near the Rio Grande Bosque. This beach has multiple walking trails and you can wander down them to see the local wildlife.
If you are looking for more fun things to do in Albuquerque, you can always go fishing at the three lakes at this beach. However, everyone over the age of twelve will need a fishing license from the state if they want to fish.
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6. Let the Kids Play at Tiquex Park
You will find this park across from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. This is one of the best things to do in Albuquerque with kids, because there is a playground there. You can sit and relax for a bit, while they get all that extra energy out as they run around and play.
7. Visit the Petroglyph National Monument
A historical thing to do in Albuquerque this weekend is visiting the Petroglyph National Monument. This is not a completely free thing to do in Albuquerque, because there is a fee to park.
However, once you are there, you can see the monument and walk along the four different hiking trails without paying an additional fee. We recommend stopping at the visitor center to check out the maps and different petroglyphs.
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8. Walk the Paseo del Bosque Trail
Fun things to do in Albuquerque for adults and kids includes walking along the Paseo del Bosque Trail. This trail will take you all the way from the northern part of the city to the southern end by the Rio Grande forest. If you are looking to tire your kids out, you must try this best thing to do in Albuquerque.
9. Watch the Dances at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
If you are looking to experience the Native American culture when visiting Albuquerque, you must make a stop at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
Whether you spend an hour there or two, you can see a couple different Native American dances.
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10. Walk Through Historic Old Town
One of the best ways to learn about the culture and history of Albuquerque is to take a walk around Historic Old Town. This is one of the best things to do in Albuquerque, because you can see, and feel, how life has been within the city for hundreds of years.
11. Visit Balloon Fiesta Park
You may not be able to get into this park for free when the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is taking place. However, it is one of the best places to visit for free in Albuquerque the rest of the year.
You can easily walk around, enjoy a picnic lunch, and play a couple different sports. You can even practice your golf swing.
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12. See Part of Route 66
Route 66 passes right through Albuquerque, so you can add it to your list of free things to do during your visit. This is one of the more unique things to do in Albuquerque, because you can’t spend time on Route 66 just anywhere!
13. Wander Around the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park
There are two hundred seventy acres of space within this state park. If you are looking for things to do in Albuquerque tomorrow, you must add the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park to your list.
While you can hike the trails to see the wildlife, you can also spend your time at the viewing stations, which are inside and outside. This ensures you do not miss out on seeing the animals if the weather isn’t cooperating.
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14. Do a Little Window Shopping in Nob Hill
Nob Hill is a neighborhood in the city, and it is considered one of the top things to do in Albuquerque. This is one of the best free things to do in Albuquerque with kids if you can avoid purchasing anything at the fashion and antique stores. You may also find yourself spending money at one of the thirty plus cafés and restaurants if you get hungry as you are walking around.
15. Relax in the Rio Grande Botanic Garden
This botanic garden is thirty-six acres in size, and it is filled with all types of plants and flowers from the Southwest. You must wander through the formal themed gardens before going through the ten thousand square foot conservatory.
This can be one of the romantic things to do in Albuquerque if you have someone to watch the kids for you. If not, make it a family adventure!
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16. Check Out the Art Installations
When it comes to free things to do in Albuquerque with kids, you do not need to look any further than all the art installations scattered around the city. You can easily walk around and see the art, while making it a game to see who can spot the art first.
17. Drive the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway
When you drive along the Sandia Crest Scenic Byway, you can get to the Sandia Crest and the gorgeous views it offers. This is one of the best things to do in Albuquerque this weekend.
If you want to be a little more active during your visit, you can also hike the La Luz Trail to reach a spot 10,300 feet in the air. You can see extraordinary views from there as well.
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18. Visit the American International Rattlesnake Museum
If you can afford a few dollars and love rattlesnakes, then this is a must-see attraction for you and your family. This may not rate as one of the best things to do in Albuquerque, NM or be one of the free things to do in Albuquerque, but it can be fun for the right people! Inside this museum, you will see many different types of rattlesnakes. They have the largest collection in the world, which could be good or bad depending on how you feel about these slithering creatures.
19. Watch the Sunset
Trying to find things to do in Albuquerque at night is easy if you are happy with simply watching the sun setting in the sky.
This is one of the things to do in Albuquerque tonight, tomorrow night, and even the night after that, because each sunset will be amazingly different. Sandia Crest is one of the best places to watch the sun as it sets, but you can also check out Hotel Andaluz and Sandiago’s Grill.
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20. Take a Bike Ride Through the Downtown Area
Taking a bike ride through the downtown area will involve renting a bicycle, so it won’t be one of the things you can do in Albuquerque for free. However, this is a fun thing to do in Albuquerque with kids and it won’t cost too much. You can see many of the attractions in the downtown area during your ride and you won’t need to worry about using any other modes of transportation.
Expert Tips for Traveling to Albuquerque
You are always going to want to hear tips for all the different places you go on vacation and Albuquerque, NM is no different. While we could list a dozen must-know tips, we thought we would settle for the top three, which include:
You Must Drink a Lot of Water! – Albuquerque is at a higher elevation, so you must drink a lot of water to help prevent altitude sickness. If you happen to notice any shortness of breath, fatigue, or loss of appetite, you should go to the ER.
Eat the Green Chile – Every city in the country has a food or drink they are known for and it is the green chile in Albuquerque. You will find that the locals put green chile on everything, so plan on doing the same during your visit.
Plan Your Transportation Wisely – In most major cities, you can simply walk to where you are going or use public transportation. This isn’t the case in Albuquerque, because the public transportation leaves a little to be desired. To avoid being left in the dark, we recommend renting a car or having a solid plan of how you are getting to each destination you are visiting.
This is everything you must know about Albuquerque, NM and the twenty free, or almost free, things to do there. You will find so many amazing things to do in Albuquerque, NM, whether you visit today, tomorrow, or next weekend. So, plan your trip to Albuquerque and start seeing the best things to do there right away!