You’ll most likely spend your first few hours in town learning how to spell “Albuquerque.”   Although you might be tempted to drive north to Santa Fe, the more easily spelled and perhaps more famous city to the north, stick around for a few days and you’ll find plenty of great activities to keep you and the kids entertained.   We were lucky enough to explore this desert town with some insiders, good family friends who relocated there a few years ago.

1.       Albuquerque’s luftballoons

The city’s most popular attraction is the annual Balloon Fiesta, which features hundreds of colorful hot air balloons and attracts thousands of aficionados from all over the world.  The week-long annual festival is held in October, but ballooning is a year-round activity.  Whether you visit Albuquerque during the festival or not, don’t miss the Balloon Museum with its exhibits on the art and science of ballooning, including the many uses of hot air balloons beyond recreation, from scientific exploration to espionage. They have drop-in hands-on workshops for all ages the second Saturday of every month.

2.       Go on an archeological hike

Covering over 7,200 acres, Petroglyph National Monument’s unique topography was formed 100,000 years ago when five volcanoes erupted leaving huge tumbling boulders in their wake.  Today, it’s a great place for a family hike.  Along the way, you can make a game out of spotting the petroglyphs, or rock carvings, which were created by indigenous Pueblo Indians between 1300 and 1680 AD and Spanish settlers in the 1700s.  The carvings mostly represent animals, people, and crosses.  Bring sunscreen and plenty of water.

3.       Learn some science

Explora – Explora is one of the best children’s museums we’ve been to with tons of hands-on activities for all ages.  Housed in an airy modern building, the focus is on art, science, and technology.  Kids will love the aerial bicycle.

4.       Ride the aerial rails

As you might have guessed, Albuquerque is hot, really hot, much of the year.  But take a tram ride up to the top of the Sandia Mountains which crown the desert city, and you’ll find much cooler temperatures and sometimes even snow. The 2.7 mile ride affords breathtaking views of the city and the canyons below.  You can ski in the winter, mountain bike in the summer, hike year-round, or just enjoy the view on the observation deck.  Sunsets are not to be missed.

5.       See green

Botanic Gardens – This green oasis in the heart of the desert city has over one and a half miles of formal and whimsical gardens.  It’s a magical place for children, with Japanese gardens and bridges, giant watering cans, castle, and oversized vegetables to crawl around in.

Eat green(Chiles, that is)

Eat a meal pretty much anywhere in Albuquerque and you’ll find the famous New Mexican green chiles on the menu.  Below are two great family options whether you like your chiles hot or not or not at all.

Blake’s Lotaburger – With its legions of devoted fans, Blake’s is to New Mexico as In-N-Out is to California. It’s fast food, New Mexico style with excellent breakfast burritos and habanero-lime milkshakes.  Founded in 1952, there are now 76 locations throughout New Mexico.

The Range – This upscale diner serves great burgers, topped, if you wish, with the ubiquitous New Mexican green chiles.  They also serve typical diner food and other New Mexico favorites like blue corn enchiladas and huevos rancheros.