So Much to Explore!
Three outstanding facilities stand without walking distance of each other. It couldn’t be easier to explore art, history, science, technology, natural history and astronomy. Time and energy runs out before we can do it all; but, the journey proves fascinating.
Albuquerque Museum of Art & History An outstanding permanent collection and excellent temporary exhibits make this a repeat experience when visiting the city. A permanent exhibit, Four Centuries, covers 400 years of history in Albuquerque. The museum’s art collection emphasizes contemporary and historic regional artists. We’ve been fortunate enough to see several quality visiting exhibits over the years. The outdoor sculpture garden presents numerous styles and genres. Guided tours of galleries and garden are available. The education department sponsors informative walking tours of Old Town.
Explora! – An incredible, hands-on experience awaits learners of all ages interested in science, technology and art. Robotics lab to interactive fountain, principles of sound, motion, or electricity, this is a learning laboratory that fascinates tiny tots to senior citizens – a perfect multi-generation spot. Explora! is so popular with adults they get periodic adult-only Friday nights scheduled just for them. Visitors get so involved they spend twice as long as planned. This is truly an exception facility – a “have-to-do” while in Albuquerque.
Dinosaur enthusiasts find the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science a must stop. We explore an ice cave, stand inside a volcano and ride the “Evolator” for a Journey Through Time, from Origins 200 million years ago to the Ice Age. Collections include the world’s longest dinosaur and oldest mammal fossil.
Within the museum, the Astronomy Center showcases a 55-foot diameter planetarium dome and high-definition imagery to explore our universe – and beyond. Permanent exhibits, Space Frontier and Making Tracks on Mars leads us through space exploration.
Wise visitors include a Dynatheater show during their touring. Sitting back to watch the giant screen presentation offers the perfect way to rest without wasting a minute. Mummies: Secrets of the Past is the current feature.
Taste of the Vine
Several wineries dot the Albuquerque landscape. Vineyards surrounded by ancient cottonwoods mark Casa Rondena in the North Valley village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. The estate with a distinctive Old World ambiance welcomes tasters. The winery’s red wines – especially the Meritage Red, Cabernet Franc and Clarion – reflect vintner John Calvin’s dedication to quality. Savvy visitors bring a sandwich or picnic lunch to enjoy the lovely setting with a bottle of their favorite vintage.
Travelers along I-25 in Albuquerque are frequently surprised to find one of the countries largest producers of sparkling wines at Gruet Winery. Members of the Gruet family came from France more than 20 years ago to establish the winery focusing on sparkling wines made in the traditional champagne method. Today they produce seven different sparkling wines plus several still wines. The tasting room is open Monday through Saturday with tours of the facility at 2 p.m.
The New Mexico Wine Growers Association lists other wineries located near Albuquerque.
Celebrating Cultures of New Mexico
Northeast of Old Town, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center entertains and educates with a hands-on children’s facility, museum, and guided tours. Drummers and dancers from New Mexico’s 19 Indian Pueblos give performances of traditional dances in the enclosed courtyard. Museum displays trace the development of each Pueblo’s culture and showcases arts and crafts distinctive to each group – a good primer before hitting the gift shops where a wide selection of authentic artwork, jewelry and pottery await selection. Breakfast and lunch menu items at the Pueblo Harvest Cafe reflect Native American and Southwestern influences. Highly recommended are the blue corn pancakes, Tiwa Taco or stone ground corn fries.
Special programming during the annual Balloon Fiesta include daily Native dance performances and demonstrations by noted Pueblo artists, Native film screenings and a frybread stand. More than 50 artists participate in the Indian Art Market October 3-4, 2009.
The National Hispanic Cultural Center celebrates the visual, literary, media and performing arts of the deep Hispanic roots and influences on the Southwest. The Art Museum exhibits works from the expanding permanent collection as well as themed temporary shows of traditional and contemporary art. Programming at the Roy E. Disney Center for the Performing Arts features dance, music, theatre, storytelling, puppet shows and film. Annual fiestas and festivals in the center’s Plaza Mayor honors Hispanic holidays and cultural traditions.
The center’s La Fonda del Bosque Restaurant has been cited as one of the country’s 50 best Hispanic restaurants. Breakfast, lunch or Sunday Brunch with live music delights diners seeking authentic regional cuisine. Weather permitting, the tree-shaded courtyard provides the perfect setting to partake of the daily buffet or order traditional favorites from the full menu.
Albuquerque Biological Park
Botanic garden, aquarium and zoo form the Albuquerque Biological Park encompassing two locations. Walks through the Rio Grande Botanic Garden please the eye. The walled Spanish-Moorish Garden with a blue-tiled fountain soothes the senses. Curative herbs and plants used as traditional remedies abound in the Curandera Garden. The only requirement for entering the Children’s Fantasy Garden is to be young-at-heart. Based on an “Alice in Wonderland” theme the make-believe world includes a giant rabbit hole with 6-foot earthworms burrowing into walls, 11-foot watering can and a two-story “walk-in” pumpkin complete with oversize seeds and stringy “stuff.”
Next to the gardens, the Albuquerque Aquarium follows a journey down the Rio Grande River from Albuquerque to the Gulf of Mexico. From fresh water riverine to deep ocean marine habitats are highlighted along the journey. Moon jellies mesmerize at my favorite exhibit. But, it’s hard to ignore the seemingly sinister residents in the shark tank – brown, sandtiger, blacktip and nurse sharks.
The Rio Grande Zoo offers close encounters with over 250 species of native and exotic animals. One of the newest additions is Daizy, a female Asian elephant calf born September 2, 2009, weighing in at 318 pounds. Most days visitors can meet Daizy and mom Rozie in the main elephant yard between 10am-noon and 2-4pm, depending on the weather and baby’s energy. Popular zoo features include Tropical America, Gator Swamp and Africa filling six acres with 17 separate exhibits.
Photo of Daizy courtesy Rio Grande Zoo.