Your Most Pressing Albuquerque Questions Answered

By Meg Jernigan

Visiting New Mexico’s Duke City

Your Most Pressing Albuquerque Questions Answered

Native American, Spanish and old West cultures blend in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city. Noted for its pleasant climate and clear desert air, the city is home to one of the premiere ballooning events in the world. Outdoors enthusiasts hike in the Sandia Mountains while history lovers explore the city’s many museums. Gather some info – starting here – and get going.

Q: How do I get around in Albuquerque?

A: Interstates 40 and 25 intersect in Albuquerque, providing easy access to points north, south, east and west. But, if you’d rather not drive, take advantage of the city's excellent public transportation system. ABQ RIDE, the public bus system, operates routes across the city and Rapid Ride buses run along routes with stations a half-mile to a mile apart. The articulated Rapid Ride buses have free WiFi.

If you want to get out of town for a daytrip, take the New Mexico Rail Runner, a high-speed light rail train with stops in Santa Fe, Bernalillo, Los Lunas and Belen.

The Alvarado Transportation Center is the hub for bus and rail travel. Download the ABQ RIDE app for routes and schedules. The handy app even tells you when you can expect your bus to arrive.

Q: What are some things to do around Albuquerque?

A: Hiking and biking trails, rafting and canoeing on the Rio Grande and winter skiing and snowboarding are some of the things that make Albuquerque one of America’s “Fittest Cities.”

  • Sandia Peak Tramway. In the summertime, ride the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, a 2.7-mile trip, for panoramic views from the top of 10,378-foot Sandia Peak. Ride it in the winter to the Sandia Peak ski area, which has five lifts and mostly intermediate runs.
  • Petroglyph National Monument. One of the largest petroglyph sites in the U.S., Petroglyph National Monument protects the designs and drawings Native Americans and Spanish settlers carved into rocks between 400 and 700 years ago. Hikes into the canyons at the park range in length from 1 to 2.2 miles in length, round-trip.

Q: When is the balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico?

A: As Albuquerque’s premier event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival draws pilots of both hot air and gas aircraft and attendees from around the world. The celebration spans two weekends in October and includes balloon glows, launches and mass ascensions where more than 500 balloons take to the sky at once – a process that takes two hours. The balloons aren’t all the traditional tear-drop shape. Special-shape balloons participating in the “glowdeo” resemble cacti, enormous birthday cakes and cartoon characters. Visitors can take a balloon ride or settle in for a concert by local and national acts.

Q: What is the elevation of Albuquerque?

A: It usually takes lowland visitors about 48 hours to acclimate to Albuquerque’s 5,352-foot elevation. If you’re unused to life at higher elevations, take it easy for the first few days and drink plenty of water. Lighten up your alcohol consumption, because the thinner air at higher altitudes increases the effects of alcohol. Use less salt, but increase potassium-rich foods like bananas, potatoes and tomatoes. You’re more likely to suffer from sunburn at higher elevations, so use sunscreen religiously and wear a hat. Head to the doctor if you have symptoms like headache, nausea, unusual fatigue and loss of appetite that don’t go away after a few days.

Q: What is the weather like in Albuquerque?

A: People retire to Albuquerque because of its 310 annual sunny days, low humidity and moderate temperatures. The average yearly rainfall is only 9 inches, most of that during New Mexico’s monsoon season, and the humidity rarely rises above 50 percent, making even hot summer days more bearable. The average high temperature in January is 47 degrees F, and the low is 23 degrees F. July is the hottest month, with highs in the low 90s and lows in the 60s.

New Mexico’s monsoon season runs from July 1 through September 30. Albuquerque normally gets 3.85 inches during the season. The record, to date, is 7.36 inches, set in 1988.

Q: How far is Albuquerque from Phoenix?

A: Phoenix is about 420 miles southwest of Albuquerque. The drive, on Interstate 40 west connecting to Interstate 17 south, takes about six hours and 30 minutes. It’s longer at 470 miles, but faster than the most direct route through the Tonto National Forest. To take that more scenic 422-mile drive, exit I-40 at Route 377 in Holbrooke and continue southwest to Phoenix.

Nonstop flights between the two cities take a little more than an hour, and Greyhound buses take about nine hours to make the trip.

Q: What does the word Albuquerque mean?

A: The name Albuquerque comes from a Spanish city that’s spelled slightly differently – Alburquerque. In 1706, the provisional governor in the town that would become New Mexico’s biggest city asked to change the name from Bosque Grande de Francisco Xavier to Alburquerque to honor Viceroy Francisco Fernandez de la Cuervo, the eighth Duque de Alburquerque, Somewhere along the way the letter “r” in the second syllable of the name was dropped.

The area was originally settled by Puebloan Indians, who built homes on the banks of the Rio Grande and roads connecting to other Pueblo villages. Coronado traveled through the area in search of the legendary Seven Cities of Gold. He never found the cities, but he did open the region to Spanish settlement.

Albuquerque’s nickname is the Duke City, after the Duque de Alburquerque.

About the Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.