Albuquerque with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

Albuquerque with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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When it comes to Americans' perceptions of fun Southwestern vacation spots, New Mexico is usually overshadowed by its more glamorous and publicized neighbors to the North and West, Colorado and Arizona. In fact, The Land of Enchantment's largest city, Albuquerque, is known more for its funny name – or as some backward, out-of-the-way place you might end up should you take a wrong turn. In reality, this city is a natural playground that's probably unrivaled for exploring the outdoors. One of the west's best family vacation spots, Albuquerque has fewer tourists to jockey against, which leaves significantly more room for exploring. Below is an itinerary for a perfect day, chock full of fun things to do in Albuquerque with tweens.


Stuff Yourselves New Mexican Style

Start your day by sampling some authentic New Mexico spice with a breakfast at Garcia's Kitchen. Order the breakfast burritos or some huevos rancheros, either of which will provide sufficient fuel to last well into your afternoon in Albuquerque. With tweens to please, you'll appreciate the variety of menu choices. Garcia's also has multiple locations throughout the city, so check their website to determine the one closest to your hotel.

Explore the American International Rattlesnake Museum

What kid, absent or detached, brooding brat or a mini-Indiana Jones, isn't fascinated by snakes? Slithering with caged creatures of all sorts, from scorpions to tarantulas, The Rattlesnake Museum is a great place to go in Albuquerque with your tweens (eight-year-olds will likely be thrilled; a 12-year old might roll his or her eyes a little, but deep down they know the place is cool). This attraction is likely to entertain your whippersnappers for a few hours, or at the very least get their attention. Admission to the museum is affordable, and it's located in the heart of Old Town, an ideal area for shopping and wandering around before or afterwards.

American International Rattlesnake Museum, 202 San Felipe NW, Ste A, Albuquerque, NM 87104; 505-242-6569; Sept-May Mon- Fri 11:30AM-5:30PM, Sat 10AM-6PM, Sun 1PM-5PM, Summer hours Mon-Sat 10AM-6PM, Sun 1PM-5PM, Closed major holidays; Adults $5, Kids $3, Seniors, Military, Students $4

Wander About Old Town

Old Town is another bullet point to add to your list of things to do in Albuquerque with tweens. The original village was founded in 1706, and while the current site may be nausea inducing for those adults who despise tourist traps, it makes a nice little stroll for your budding teenagers. With its winding streets, lively central plaza and the scenic San Felipe de Neri Church, Old Town offers classic charm and perhaps even a historical lesson or two for the young ones. Local artisans, including native artists, showcase their crafts, and folk music often provides soothing background noise. And if you're there on a Sunday, you can enjoy a mock Wild West shootout organized by the New Mexico Gunfighters Association. Starring quick-drawing, gun-slinging actors, it promises to be a hoot. Plus, with Old Town's abundance of food joints, it offers a perfect place to grab lunch.

Old Town Information and Visitors Center, Plaza Don Luis, 303 Romero NW, Albuquerque, NM; 505-243-3215, 800-284-2282; Apr-Oct 9AM-5PM daily, Nov-Mar 9:30AM-4:30PM


Take the Sandia Peak Tramway

The view from this ride is one of the Southwest's best, and your family vacation to Albuquerque is hardly complete without it. It might not be the reason you came to Albuquerque, but in retrospect you and the kids might remember things that way. Boasting the title of "World's Longest Aerial Tramway," the Sandia Peak Tramway is located along the eastern edge of Albuquerque in New Mexico's majestic Sandia Mountains. The view is certain to produce chills and goose bumps.

After lunch, drive to the base of the Sandia Mountains, or as far as Tramway Road will take you. A small, yet free and interesting ski museum welcomes you at the ride's base. The ride itself, which at points leaves you hanging and rocking over canyons hundreds of feet deep, is no doubt a nail-biter. But the payoff, an awe-inspiring panorama of the Rio Grande Valley, is well worth the fright. As a child, I was afraid of heights, and yet every summer I looked forward to this moment on the Sandia Tram. Once at the top, you'll find an abundance of sky-high outdoor options, including skiing (in winter), hiking, and riding the ski lift. There's also a restaurant with sweet views but mediocre, pricy food. Nonetheless, when visiting Albuquerque with your pre-teens, the Sandia Tramway is a necessary destination. The children will likely rave about it for days afterward.

Sandia Park Tramway, 40 Tramway Rd NE, Albuquerque, NM; 505-856-7325; Memorial Day to Labor Day 9AM-9PM daily, Labor Day to Memorial Day 9AM-8PM daily; Tues 5PM-8PM; Adults $20, Seniors (62+) $17, Active Military (with ID) $17, Teens (Ages 13-20) $17, Children (ages 5-12) $12, Children under 5 free

Stop: It's Lotaburger Time

Visiting Albuquerque with picky tweens is no time to fuss over fine dining establishments, so unless you caved and over-paid for a burger at the tramway's summit, head back towards the city and pull into a Blake's Lotaburger for some quality New Mexican fast food. Scarf your contents down – the green chiliburger is a particular winner – en route to your next destination. The kids will get a kick out of the food (it's mighty tasty), not to mention the restaurant's title.


Enjoy Baseball with a Mountain View

If it's summer, cap off your evening with a relaxing, all-American baseball experience. The Albuquerque Isotopes (a Simpsons episode provided inspiration for the team's nickname) play in beautiful Isotopes Park, which offers postcard-like background views of the Sandias. A Triple-A minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Isotopes promise some high-quality professional baseball. In addition, the ballpark is family-friendly and includes carnival rides for kids and a grassy area beyond the outfield for everyone's enjoyment. Whether your tweens are sports fans or not, they're likely to have a blast here.

Note: the season ends in mid-September, so if you're visiting Albuquerque between then and March, you'll be out of luck.

Isotopes Park, 1601 Avenida Cesar Chavez SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106; 505-924-2255; Box Office Hours: Non-game days Mon–Fri 10AM-5PM, Sat 10AM-4PM, Game Days Mon-Sun 10AM-7th inning of the game; Prices range from $6-$24

Get Spooked Before Bed

If there's no game – and if there's still some collective gas left in the family tank – head back to the Old Town area for a Ghost Tour of Old Town. Held nightly at 8PM, tours consist of storytelling guides who lead you on a chilling, 90-minute stroll through shadowy back alleys and hidden passageways. They're a great source for some spooky, imaginative fun. They're also the perfect evening cap for any misbehaving rascal who deserves a bit of a scare.

Ghost Tour of Old Town, 303 Romero St NW, Space N120, Plaza Don Luis, Old Town
Albuquerque, NM 87104; 505-246-8687; Nightly at 8PM (reservations required); Adults $20, Seniors (55+) $18, Military and Students (with ID) $18, Ages 13-17 $16, Ages 6-12 $10, Ages 5 and under free
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