Gay Albuquerque in a Nutshell:
New Mexico's largest city sits at the foot of the dramatic 10,600-foot Sandia Mountains and extends across the vast Rio Grande Valley. It's a popular gateway for such northern New Mexico destinations as Santa Fe and Taos, but it's also a vibrant city in its own right, the nation's hot-air ballooning capital, and a great place for outdoorsy activities, and learning about the region's rich Indian and Hispanic heritage. Albuquerque has a pronounced gay and lesbian community and a number of gay-owned businesses, including several fun bars and cafes. There's also a fast-emerging gallery scene and several fine museums.
Albuquerque enjoys a sunny, dry, and consistently pleasant climate, with four distinct seasons. This makes it a popular destination year-round, although summer and fall draw the most tourists. Outsiders sometimes imagine Albuquerque to be hot year-round, but the city's high elevation accounts for cool winter temperatures, with average highs in January around 50 deg F, and nightly lows in the mid-20s. In summer, highs average around 90 deg F, with lows in the mid-60s. Brilliant afternoon thunderstorms are common in summer, and the city receives a few snowstorms each winter.
Albuquerque sits in the high desert of north-central New Mexico, in the shadows of the 10,600-foot Sandia Mountains, a southern extension of the Rockies. The Rio Grande forms a fertile north-south valley through the city, and high mesas rise on either side, to the east and west. This means that from most points in Albuquerque, you're afforded sweeping views of mountains and mesas as well as New Mexico's crisp blue skies. Like Denver, Albuquerque sits about a mile above sea level.
Driving distances to Albuquerque from major cities and points of interest are:
Aspen, CO: 460 miles (8 to 9 hrs)
Dallas, TX: 650 miles (9 to 10 hrs)
Denver, CO: 450 miles (6 to 7 hrs)
Durango, CO: 215 miles (4 to 4.5 hrs)
El Paso, TX: 265 miles (3.5 to 4 hrs)
Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim), AZ: 420 miles (6.5 to 7 hrs)
Las Vegas, NV: 575 miles (8.5 to 9.5 hrs)
Madrid, NM: 45 miles (1 hr)
Moab, UT: 385 miles (6.5 to 7 hrs)
Phoenix, AZ: 465 miles (6.5 to 7.5 hrs)
Santa Fe: 60 miles (1 hr)
Taos: 130 miles (2.5 hrs)
Tucson, AZ: 450 miles (6 to 7 hrs)
Flying to Albuquerque:
Attractive, modern, and easy-to-use Albuquerque International Sunport sits just 3 miles southeast of downtown and is served by most major airlines, with direct flights throughout the West and Midwest although very few direct flights to Eastern U.S. cities. Because of the low fares offered by discount carrier Southwest Airlines, fares from Albuquerque to other cities served by Southwest can be quite reasonable.
Albuquerque Events and Festivals:
Early March: Annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show .
Late April: Annual Gathering of Nations Pow Wow.
Late May: New Mexico Wine Festival.
Early June: Albuquerque Gay Pride celebration.
Mid-June: Festival Flamenco Internacional de Albuquerque .
Mid- to late September: New Mexico State Fair.
Late September to early October: Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
Early to mid-October: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (the largest of its kind in the world, and easily Albuquerque's best-attended event).
Late November to early December: Rio Grande Arts & Crafts Festival - Holiday Show.
Things to See and Do in Albuquerque:
Albuquerque has several great neighborhoods, including a downtown in the midst of a renaissance, the funky Nob Hill neighborhood with its many gay-friendly shops and restaurants, and the historic Old Town district, which abounds with museums.
Top cultural attractions include the Albuquerque Biological Park, comprising a zoo, aquarium, and botanic garden; the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History; the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center; and the National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico.
Getting Outside in Albuquerque:
Ballooning enthusiasts shouldn't miss the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, which opened in 2005 on the grounds of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. You can get amazing view fo the city and surrounding mountains by taking the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway to the skyscraping crest of the Sandia Mountains, where there's hiking, mountain-biking, and skiing. Another worthwhile stop is Petroglyph National Monument.
Resources on Gay Albuquerque:
A handful of resources provide information on the city in general, and to a limited extent on the local gay scene. These include the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau. Albuquerque Pride is another very useful local site on the GLBT scene. Also check out the city's alternative newsweekly, The Alibi, which lists a number of hip and progressive restaurants and arts events.
Getting to Know Gay Albuquerque:
The largest city in the Land of Enchantment has plenty of good reasons to visit, particularly among the state's lesbian and gay visitors. Like the other major gay destinations in New Mexico - Santa Fe and Taos - Albuquerque has long had a strong following among artsy types, outdoors enthusiasts, feminists, New Agers, and others who often share interests with gay and lesbian travelers.
The gay Albuquerque scene is low-keyed but visible. There's no single neighborhood in town with an overwhelming gay presence, although the funky Nob Hill district, near the campus of the University of New Mexico and bisected by Historic Route 66, has the greatest concentration of shops, restaurants, and bars popular with the GLBT community.
Albuquerque is really the only city in the state with specifically gay nightlife. There are handful of gay bars and clubs as well as the only lesbian bar between Dallas and Phoenix, and there are also gay-owned or gay-friendly B&Bs and inns.
More generally speaking, Albuquerque possesses an excellent and underrated restaurant scene (with great food for prices far below those in Santa Fe), a captivating Old Town area, and several excellent museums.
As with the rest of northern New Mexico, Albuquerque lies extremely close to some of the nation’s most magnificent scenery - it occupies a vast valley at the western base of the Sandia Mountains. From the Sandia foothills, which cradle the city's most expensive homes, Albuquerque's densely settled but low-slung blocks slope gradually for several miles before tapering off around the Rio Grande River. Beyond the river, the land pushes upward again for many miles, culminating in sunburnt mesas and a string of volcanic peaks. This stunning scenery makes the area highly popular with painters, photographers, and other artists. Year-round, there's great hiking and biking, and in winter, you can go skiing in the Sandia Mountains.
A final draw is Albuquerque's proximity to so many great destinations in New Mexico. Santa Fe, with its renowned art scene and sophisticated inns and hotels and restaurants, is just an hour away (or two hour away if you take the scenic Turquoise Trail, stopping in gay-popular Madrid at the funky, lesbian-owned Mine Shaft Tavern). Numerous Indian pueblos are within a two-hour drive, including the famous Sky City at Acoma. It's an excellent base for visiting a the many national monuments, wildlife areas, arts colonies, and historic towns for which New Mexico is justly famous.