Need an Albuquerque itinerary? Here’s how to spend an epic day in Albuquerque – sunrise hot air balloons, craft beers and ancient petroglyphs included. 

Known as the Duke City – or the, way cooler, ABQ – Albuquerque is one of the most culturally diverse destinations in the US. The New Mexico city blends a unique mix of Spanish, Native American and Hispanic traditions and culture, with plenty of natural beauty to boot.

Some tend to overlook Albuquerque in favour of neighbouring Santa Fe, but doing so would be a real shame. The city has plenty to offer and is worth your time on your New Mexico itinerary. 

Ready to spend an incredible day in Albuquerque? Here’s what you need to include in your 24 hour itinerary.

Want to take a sneak peek? Watch my video on cool things to do in Albuquerque! 

One Day in Albuquerque Itinerary

Day 1: Albuquerque 

Sandia Peak and Tramway Albaquerque

Before we dive straight into an epic 24 hours in Albuquerque itinerary, let me tell you a little about the city. 

It’s over 300 years old and was initially founded as a Spanish colony along the Rio Grande. Long before that, though, 23 Native American tribes lived here, shaping much of what the city is today.

It’s the largest city in New Mexico, right in the heart of the state. Its roots run deep in Native American, Spanish and Hispanic cultures and seamlessly blend modern and old-world elements. 

Aside from that, Albuquerque has a varied landscape, boasting the Sandia Mountains, West Mesa and the Rio Grande, making it a great place to explore. 

Okay, I get it. You’re ready to plan the perfect day. Let’s go.

Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride

Hot Air Ballooning Albuquerque

Start your incredible day by getting up early AF (sorry). It’s worth it though, I promise. 

Duke City is famous for hosting the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest event of its kind. For one week in October, hundreds of hot air balloons take to the sky, roaming over Albuquerque. 

But the good news is that you don’t have to wait until October to enjoy a hot air balloon ride; you can go any time of the year. This was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of my trip. 

I suggest starting your day off bright and early by taking a sunrise hot air balloon ride, soaring over Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley. It’s pretty epic to see the sun ascend and colour the sky with deep hues of orange and red. 

You can help set up the balloon beforehand or simply hop in and enjoy the scenic journey. Afterwards, you’ll have a celebratory toast with a glass of champagne or a mimosa before receiving a flight certificate to remember your trip. 

Tip: I booked a sunrise balloon ride over the Rio Grande Valley with Rainbow Ryders, and it was a magical experience, so I highly recommend them. 

Petroglyph National Monument Rinconada Hike 

Petroglyph National Monument Albuquerque

Fresh from the magic of your balloon ride, it’s time to visit the Petroglyph National Monument. 

It sits on the west side of the Rio Grande, and you’ll discover over 25,000 petroglyphs created by Native Americans hundreds of years ago. There are various trials available, but since you’ll have limited time, I suggest doing the Rinconada Canyon Trail. 

It’s a 2.2-mile loop trail that’s fairly easy and boasts over 300 petroglyphs along the way. The best part is that it’s a budget-friendly activity as it’s free to enter the visitor centre and enjoy the trail.

Lunch at Sawmill Market

Sawmill Market

By now, I’m sure you’re dying to get your hands on some food after a rather adventurous hike and exploring. In that case, make your way over to the Sawmill Market. 

The market has a long history as a lumber company dating back to the early 1900s. In 2019, it became a trendy and welcoming food hall and entertainment space. You’ll find numerous bars and food stalls conveniently under one roof here. 

If there’s one piece of advice worth taking away from this guide – stop by Notorious P.O.K.E for the best poke bowl in town. You can thank me later. While you’re here, don’t miss out on the opportunity to grab a margarita from the Flora Restaurant. 

Alternatively, make your way over to Paxton’s Taproom and take your pick of local craft brews. 

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center 

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center 

If American history piques your interest, then the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is an excellent place to visit. As mentioned, long before Spanish conquers discovered New Mexico, local Native American people lived and took care of the land here. 

Today, the centre highlights the rich Native American culture through art, handicrafts, performances and cuisine. If you have time, you can even learn how to make some traditional dishes at the highly acclaimed Pueblo Kitchen. 

Sandia Peak Tramway for Sunset 

Sandia Peak Tramway 

Okay, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if the Sandia Peak Tramway was worth the hype and the money. But I was wrong. 

If there’s one thing that you need to do in Albuquerque in 24 hours, it’s riding the tramway up to the summit. And you definitely want to time it with the sunset.

It’s a slow and scenic 15-minute tram ride up to the Sandia Peaks, about 10 378 feet above the ground. Once you reach the summit, your reward for braving the high altitude is unbelievable panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and Rio Grande Valley. 

When I visited in February, the top of the mountain was cold, but seeing the stunning winter wonderland was worth it. You can do one of the hikes up to the summit in warmer months. 

On top, you’ll also find the TEN3 restaurant that offers two dining experiences for visitors — casual and formal. You have to book the fine dining experience beforehand, but it’s worth having a drink or meal with a view. 

Note: The restaurant closes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

Beer at Bow & Arrow Brewing Co 

In the mood for craft beer? Head to the Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. This modern and eclectic brewery opened in 2016 and is co-owned by two Native American women with a passion for their community and beer. 

Local Native Americans brew all the beer here, returning some profits to these communities. Bow & Arrow also regularly hosts fun pop-ups with local chefs, so you can grab a tasty snack from a food truck or stall to accompany your beverage. 

Dinner at Campo at Los Poblanos 

Campo at Los Poblanos 

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, but there’s no better way to round off your Albuquerque trip than with dinner at the Campo at Los Poblanos restaurant. 

Campo is a highly acclaimed restaurant famous for its casual fine dining experiences. The restaurant features a carefully crafted field-to-fork menu using seasonal organic ingredients from the surrounding farms. 

Note: You’ll need a reservation to eat here, so book well in advance. 

Getting to Albuquerque

Hot Air Ballooning Albuquerque

It’s pretty easy to get to Albuquerque because several regional airlines have non-stop flights from all major cities in the States, landing at the Albuquerque International Sunport.  

Alternatively, you can also travel by bus and train from major cities. Alvarado Transportation Center in downtown Albuquerque is the city’s central transport hub, so arriving and departing from major cities and nearby towns is easy. 

You could also drive, but the travel time will depend on where you’re travelling from. 

Suggested Stay for Your Albuquerque Itinerary

Hotel Chaco

Hotel Chaco sits in the heart of Albuquerque’s Historic Old Town and my top pick. It’s a glamorous four-star hotel and one of the best in New Mexico. 

This property features a luxurious mix of contemporary and Native American architectural and design elements inspired by natural woods. Facilities include everything you’ll need for a comfortable stay, including a garden, fitness centre, restaurant and swimming pool. 

Check Rates and Availability

Handy Tips for Planning Your 24 Hours in Albuquerque 

Group Tour or Independent Travel? 

Julianna Barnaby Sandia Peak and Tramway Albuquerque

Ok, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Whether you travel independently or with a group depends on what you want from your trip.

A group tour takes the hassle out of planning your transportation, accommodation and excursions. It usually also covers the costs of any entrance fees etc. 

Personally, I usually prefer to plan trips myself, but take smaller group tours (like this brilliant old town walking tour) to break the day up and dive deeper into the area I’m visiting.

On the other hand, independent travel allows you greater flexibility and more time to discover other things to do in New Mexico. 

What to Pack for Your Albuquerque Itinerary

  • A cross-body bag: Carrying a large backpack around is impractical, so keep things simple with a lightweight cross-body bag and only carry the essentials when exploring.
  • Sunscreen: The New Mexican sun is harsh, so if you’re visiting in summer, be sure to protect yourself by using a good sunscreen.
  • Water: Remember to stay hydrated, especially in summer. The New Mexico heat is no joke.
  • Comfortable shoes: You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so pack shoes with good support. I love these Tropicfeel ones.
  • A camera: Okay, so while not essential, Albuquerque’s stunning and varied landscape provides excellent photo opportunities, so pack your camera to capture them. 
  • Layers: The weather can easily change, so carry a lightweight jacket that you can quickly put on or take off.

Useful Resources 

  • Skyscanner: A top flight searching tool that’s effective at finding the best regional flights and makes booking them from anywhere around the world easy. 
  • Get Your Guide: Offer a range of pre-planned tours depending on your travel taste.
  • Another easy-to-use tool that helps you find the perfect accommodation based on your needs and budget. 
  • Tripadvisor: A handy tool for reading other travellers’ real-life reviews of tours, experiences, and restaurants.

Getting Around 

On Foot

Walking is one of the easiest ways to get around in Albuquerque, as most of its attractions are nearby. 


The ABQ Ride bus has over 40 routes that service the whole city. Day passes start from as little as $2. 


Albuquerque has numerous paved bike routes throughout the city, and there are many bike rental stations where you can grab a bike and start exploring. 

By Car

You can rent a car if you’re keen on exploring the city by yourself. Alternatively, there are also local taxis and Uber to help you get around if you don’t feel like walking or using public transport.

What to See in Albuquerque in One Day – Map

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