25 Things You Should Know About Albuquerque

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This city in the desert is so much more than just the home of a certain fallen chemistry teacher. Albuquerque boasts a rich history, gorgeous vistas, and an established arts scene. (If you'll recall, it's also the place where Bugs Bunny really should have taken that left.) Below, a few things you might not have known about Duke City.

1. When Coronado arrived in the area of modern Albuquerque in 1540, he found a large pueblo called Kuaua, which itself dated to around 1300 CE. Although abandoned in the late 16th century, you can visit the reconstructed ruins at the Coronado Historic Site just outside Albuquerque.

2. And if that’s not old enough for you, nearby Acoma Pueblo and Taos Pueblo each claim to be the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the modern United States, dating back to circa 1000 CE.

Taos Pueblo by Ansel Adams, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain


The city itself was founded in 1706 as “San Francisco de Alburquerque,” after the viceroy of New Spain, Don Francisco, the Duke of Alburquerque. How it became Albuquerque is unknown, but it’s probably just because no one was able to pronounce the extra r.

4. In 1995, the state legislature passed a non-binding resolution to restore the dropped r, but nothing ever came of it, and the popular New Mexican author Rudolfo Anaya has long pushed for the reinstatement of the r.

5. When the railroads came to New Mexico, a brand new town was founded in the area. Confusingly, it was also named Albuquerque, right next to the other Albuquerque. They got around this by calling one New Albuquerque and the other Old Albuquerque. Eventually, New Albuquerque consumed Old Albuquerque, but it’s still called Old Town.

6. If you go out to eat in Albuquerque (or anywhere else in New Mexico, for that matter), don’t panic when they ask you "red or green?" That's just their way of finding out whether you prefer red or green chile on your dish. If you can’t decide, order Christmas, which is a combination of the two. And yes, it’s chile, with an e. In New Mexico, chile means the hot fruit while chili refers to the meat-and-bean stew. It’s important to distinguish between chile cheese fries (red or green) and chili cheese fries.



Chile is so important to the local gastronomic scene that even Albuquerque’s McDonalds have green chile cheeseburgers on the menu.

8. And make sure that you wash that down with New Mexican beer. Albuquerque has some of the best breweries in the country, with local breweries coming first AND second in the 2015 National IPA Challenge. Just in case you think that’s a fluke, an Albuquerque brewer also won in 2014.

9. According to a 2013 study, Albuquerque is 28 percent parks—that's the “highest percentage of parkland in a metro area."

10. Albuquerque is also a tech hub. The first Bitcoin machine in the United States was installed in an Albuquerque cigar bar, although it vacated the premises months later.

11. Although most often associated with Washington, Microsoft was founded in Albuquerque in 1975. It moved to Washington in ’79. The reason they started in Albuquerque was because of the Altair 8800, a computer that many consider to have started the personal computer age. It was a kit computer developed by an Air Force second lieutenant while based at Kirtland Air Force Base that you could buy for $400; it came with 256 bytes of RAM (for comparison, an iPhone 6S has about 8 million times that).

12. In 1959, Dr. William Lovelace’s clinic in Albuquerque worked with NASA to help winnow 32 potential astronauts down to the Mercury 7, using a specially designed week of some of the most extreme laboratory tests ever attempted. 

13. Two years later, Lovelace would attempt to do the same thing with the “Woman in Space Program” where he put 19 women through the exact same examination as the men went through. 13 passed. Despite his seal of approval, NASA regulations at the time prevented any of them from going to space.

Trainee Jerrie Cobb, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain


One of the oldest holiday traditions in Albuquerque (and by old, we’re talking at least 300 years) are luminarias, paper bags with votive candles in them. Old Town is famous for its display of over a thousand of these bags intended to welcome Christ to the world.

15. After reading a Spider-Man comic in which our hero has a tracking bracelet put on, local judge Jack Love felt that a similar idea might work to keep tabs on people under house arrest. Towards this end, the official helped develop an early electronic monitoring bracelet

16. The largest Native American gathering in the country is in town in late April. The Gathering of Nations draws thousands of attendees and tens of thousands of visitors.

17. The Albuquerque skyline is dominated by two geologic features. In the east are the Sandia Mountains, which rise a mile above an already mile-high city, and are so named because at dusk they look a little like sandias—that's Spanish for "watermelon." 

John Fowler, Flickr // CC BY 2.0


To the west are the Albuquerque Volcanoes. While these volcanoes are probably extinct, some geologists think that New Mexico is due another eruption in the not too distant future.

19. The Sandia Peak Tramway is one of the longest trams in the world, traveling 2.7 miles to over 10,000 feet above sea level. Anyone hoping to get more of a workout in can also hike to the top.

20. The minor league baseball team in Albuquerque, the Isotopes, got their name from an episode of The Simpsons, in which the Springfield Isotopes are set to move to the city. Not surprisingly, they’ve been one of the top teams for merchandise sales every year since.

21. Albuquerque is also home to the National Fiery Foods Show, which claims to be the largest such event in the world, attracting over 200 exhibitors a year.

22. Vivian Vance, best known as I Love Lucy’s Ethel, was one of the founders of the Albuquerque Little Theater. Other actors who have called Albuquerque home include Neil Patrick Harris, Demi Lovato, and Freddie Prinze Jr.

23. Albuquerque’s real population growth came in the early 20th century thanks to people suffering from tuberculosis coming for the dry climate. It was estimated in 1913 that 50% of the city’s population were people with tuberculosis and their relatives. To advertise how great the climate was, the forerunner to the Chamber of Commerce came up with the slogan “Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the sick get well and the well get prosperous!”

Southwest Presbyterian Sanatorium, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain


The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta started in 1972, when 10,000 people watched 13 balloons lift off from a mall parking lot. Today, the festival lasts nine days and draws a crowd of more than 800,000.

25. Albuquerque is one of the sunniest cities in America, tied for tenth with Sacramento. But unlike sunnier cities (for instance, Yuma and Las Vegas), Albuquerque gets over a hundred degrees only once or twice a year, while Yuma has over a hundred such days. But Albuquerque can get snow. The one day record was 11.3 inches in 2006.