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An Artisanal Visit in Albuquerque

You’re probably not alone if your only association with Albuquerque is the five-season award-winning AMC drama Breaking Bad (and maybe also the yearly Balloon Fiesta or Better Call Saul).

New Mexico’s largest city offers bike tours, RV tours, trolley tours and do-it-yourself tours, all stopping at familiar filming locations from the cult-favorite TV show. That’s not all; the city is so serious about Walter White, there’s even a local candy shop that sells a “blue meth” rock candy and has a back room where visitors can take Breaking Bad-inspired photos with questionable props.

Seems like a lot to keep you occupied. Even so, you’d be selling yourself short if a visit to ABQ weren’t spent eating, drinking, museum hopping and exploring the super rich cultural scene this city has to offer.

I’m usually quick to suggest three nights minimum in any new city, which is what I spent in ABQ. I do think, though, that you’d benefit from having a couple extra days here in order to enjoy cocktails by the pool—if downtime is something you look forward to on vacation.

Other than that, go wild. In a town with minimal traffic, it’s a 10 to 15-minute commute anywhere you want to go and there are endless possibilities.

Where to Stay

Named one of the Top 10 New Hotels of 2017 by USA Today, Hotel Chaco is in ABQ’s Historic Old Town and features authentically-designed interiors and an extensive collection of contemporary Native American New Mexican art. The hotel’s rooftop restaurant and lounge, Level 5, offers local and regional wines and ingredients and stunning sunset views daily. Another lovely perk: the staff is friendly as can be. When you stay at Chaco, the hotel offers a text message concierge service—anything you need can be requested via text.

If you’re looking for a historic boutique hotel with loads of charm, Hotel Andaluz is for you. On the National Register of Historic Places since 1984, this Spanish-style property was restored to its original glory, becoming LEED certified in the process. Andaluz was the fourth ever hotel built by Conrad Hilton and it’s rumored he and Zsa Zsa Gabor spent the night before their wedding in one of Andaluz’s suites. Other notable guests include John Mayer and Matthew McConaughey.

Nativo Lodge, part of the Heritage Hotels and Resorts family (like Hotel Chaco), is a cool budget hotel with rates starting at $76 USD per night. With a shaman statue in the lobby, Nativo has an important story to tell. The hotel donates money to local causes and recently invited New Mexican artists to design 36 of its rooms. Each is original and different and guests can choose the room with their favorite design when booking.

Looking for an organic lavender farm, a shop, a restaurant and a bar? This magical little property has all that and more, is home to alpacas, peacocks, geese, and ducks and has a saltwater pool open to hotel guests. Los Poblanos hosts recurring events and lavender salons as well as ‘Walks with Wes,’ guided tours by the property’s own gardener who has a plethora of knowledge about rose gardens and all things horticultural. Chill out with a lavender cocktail or lavender ice cream and take in the serene beauty of this place.

Where to Eat/Drink

Whether it’s Mexican food, pastries, traditional New Mexican cuisine or organic dining you crave, the Land of Enchantment has got you covered.

For French-inspired breakfast, head to the Grove Cafe & Market. With indoor/outdoor seating and a bakery case that includes lemon cookies and perfectly plump whoopie pies, Grove has been in business for 12 years and you might recognize it from certain scenes in Breaking Bad. With a menu that’s altered seasonally and weekly market specials, what’s not to love?

Bristol Doughnut at Spurline Supply Co. offers some of the most interesting and delicious flavors including Bombolini, Prickly Pear, Chamomile Vanilla and Strawberry Piña Colada. Come for the sweets, stay for the eye candy, leave with something for everyone. Spurline houses all kinds of vendors, from a fragrance and skin care line made of high desert botanicals to a swoon-worthy record shop with floor-to-ceiling vinyls.

ABQ has so many breweries, it’s hard to decide which to visit when you have a limited amount of time. I opted for Bow & Arrow, the female-owned brewery with a fun, industrial design inside and food trucks parked outside. Coming from Los Angeles, I was shocked at how inexpensive and amazing Albuquerque’s beer is.

Sheehan Winery may be the “smallest winery in the world,” as owner Sean lovingly calls it, but it’s also an award-winning spot that hosts complimentary tastings by appointment (in Sean’s very own backyard) and takes part in wine events throughout New Mexico a few times a month. If it’s great wine you’re looking for as well as free entertainment (Sean is passionate about his business and quite the character, in a good way), this place is for you.

This may seem bizarre, but New Mexican style pizza is a thing (think blue corn and green chile crust) and it was invented by a father/son team in ABQ. The duo behind Golden Crown Panadería claims to be one of two bakeries in the world that can make anything out of bread (10-foot tall bread Christmas trees, life-size bread Thanksgiving turkeys); they don’t only specialize in bread art, but latte art as well. Open since 1972, this cozy spot has also got traditional pastries to pair with your coffee.

Where to Play

Tour and learn how to make fry bread at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, which brings in roughly 400,000 guests a year.

Visit the super-important Because It’s Time: Unraveling Race and Place in NM exhibition at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Open to the public through February 28, 2019, this exhibit is meant to start a dialogue about the culture right now, what’s working, what isn’t and what needs to change ASAP.

Don’t miss the interactive art exhibit that’s traveled all over the world and has finally made its way to ABQ. At Artechouse, XYZT: Abstract Landscapes combines 10 digital scenes by internationally acclaimed French artists Adrien M. and Claire B. Tickets are $15 per adult with discounted rates for students, seniors, children under 12 and military ID holders now through October 21, 2018.

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