Big cities are composites of all the things that interest and involve the people living there. If you’re new to Albuquerque or just visiting — or maybe just haven’t taken time to explore your home city — read on. In this article, you’ll learn about the diverse museums that tell Albuquerque’s story. You can choose what interests you most — art, history, science, and maybe even hot-air balloons.
Once your first interests are satisfied, take time to explore some of Albuquerque’s other treasures. You learn what Burqueños value and how they define themselves.
Albuquerque may not be as big as New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, but the city’s offering of history, culture, and just interesting things to see and do in its many museums are every bit equal . . . and you’re less likely to get lost traveling from one museum to another.
The Albuquerque Museum, 2000 Mountain Road NW, is a public art and history museum located in the heart of Old Town. The museum’s collection, now consisting of more than 10,000 works of art, focuses on the art of the American Southwest and its influences. The collection includes works from artists of many different cultures and approaches and ranges from New Mexico’s Territorial Period to the present.
About 35,000 artifacts, cultural arts, maps, and photographs interpreting the history of the central Rio Grande Valley from as far back as 12,000 years ago comprise the history collection.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for New Mexico residents, $4 for seniors 65 and older, and $3 for children 4 to 12. Learn more at cabq.gov/artsculture/albuquerque-museum.
Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
This museum is full of hot air! Almost quite literally, the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, 9201 Balloon Museum Drive NE, focuses on the history and development of ballooning — both hot air and lighter-than-air gasses. There are not only exhibits of historic balloons and gondolas, but also various ballooning artifacts such as the bombs the Japanese floated by balloon across the Pacific during World War II.
You can even try your hand at landing a balloon in a demonstration exhibit. If you’re into ballooning, you might want to enjoy the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta during the first week of October from the museum’s observation deck — along with breakfast or dinner. Fee: $200 for adults and $75 for youth.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for New Mexico residents, $4 for seniors 65 and older, and $3 for children 6 to 17. Learn more at balloonmuseum.com.
Casa San Ysidro
Casa San Ysidro is a repurposed hacienda in Corrales at 973 Old Church Road. Ward Alan and Shirley Jolly Minge, the last owners, sold their collection of rare Hispanic New Mexican artifacts and donated the property to The Albuquerque Museum of which Casa San Ysidro is now part. Not all the artifacts are on shelves for viewing.
There are grain bins with elaborately carved fronts, period furniture, copper pots called cazos from Mexico, two miners’ cabins reconstructed stone-for-stone, and a loom made in 1775 when George Washington was starting a revolution.
Casa San Ysidro shows how people have endured and grown through three centuries of life in Spanish Colonial and Territorial New Mexico.
One-hour guided tours begin at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays from February through May and September through November.
In June, July, and August, tours are Tuesday through Saturday at 10:30 a.m., noon, and 1:30 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and $2 for children. Learn more at cabq.gov/artsculture/albuquerque-museum/casa-sanysidro.
Since 1983, ¡Explora! (top image) has been a “children’s exploratorium,” a place where children of all ages can learn about gravity, water, light and shadow, math, and electricity — all the while just playing and having fun. There’s even the Knee-Hi Sci area with experiments for the youngest visitors.
It is located at 1701 Mountain Road NW and open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors 65 and older, military, and students with ID, and $6 for children 1 to 11. Learn more at explora.us.
Harwood Art Center
Originally the home of the Harwood Girls School (1925 – 1976), the 36,000-square-foot property at 1114 7th St. NW was repurposed as the Harwood Art Center. It’s a place for artists, with studios and darkroom rentals for adults 18 and older — along with a summer art camp for artists of all ages.
It incorporates Escuela del Sol, an independent Montessori school nurturing self-discovery, social responsibility, and passion for learning in students 18 months to 14 years. The Harwood Art Center conducts regular exhibitions of its students’ and resident artists’ work.
Gallery hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For two-week summer camp sessions, there are several options: a full-day camp from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. is $485 or a half-day camp from 9 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. or 12:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. for $285. Learn more at harwoodartcenter.org.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, 2401 12th St. NW, incorporates a museum in an 80-acre cultural and business district on the northeast corner of Albuquerque’s Old Town.
The museum is filled with exhibits, dioramas, artifacts, and educational opportunities to inform audiences about pueblo culture. It is also the only place in North America offering Native American dances every weekend all year around.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fees are $12 for adults, $10 for military and New Mexico residents, and $8 for seniors 62 and older, students, and youth 5 to 17. Learn more at indianpueblo.org.
Maxwell Museum of Anthropology
The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology on the campus of the University of New Mexico preserves the human story through its archives and anthropological collection of more than 3 million objects.
It also holds archaeological and ethnographic collections from Latin America, Africa, the Arctic, and Asia, including a documented skeletal collection of people who have donated their remains for study and teaching.
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Learn more at maxwellmuseum.unm.edu.
Museum of Southwestern Biology
Specimens at the Museum of Southwestern Biology, situated on the University of New Mexico campus, span the last 120 years and represent biodiversity changes across the globe (primarily western North America, Central, and South America, but with significant holdings from Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe). Open by appointment Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 505-277-1360 for a tour. Learn more at msb.unm.edu.
National Hispanic Cultural Center
The National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 4th St. SW, preserves, promotes, and advances Hispanic culture, arts, and humanities through exhibitions, lectures, book readings, performing arts, and educational programs. Located in the historic Barelas neighborhood, on the corner of Avenida Cesar Chavez and Avenida Dolores Huerta, the center encompasses a 20-plus-acre campus, including a plaza with a torreón, restaurant, three theaters, and an art museum.
The art museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults 17 and older, $5 for New Mexico residents, $3 for K through 12 educators and administrators in New Mexico, and free for children under 16. There is an additional $2 fee to tour the torreón. Learn more at nhccnm.org.
National Museum of Nuclear Science & History
Established in 1969, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, is a place to learn the story of the Atomic Age from early research of nuclear development through today’s peaceful uses of nuclear technology and how nuclear science continues to influence our world.
Through permanent and changing exhibits and displays, the museum presents the diverse applications of nuclear science along with stories of the field’s pioneers.
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults 18 to 59, $13 for seniors 60 and older, $11 for youth 6 to 17, $8 for veterans, and $7 for active military. Learn more at nuclearmuseum.org.
New Mexico Holocaust Museum and Gellert Center for Education
The New Mexico Holocaust Museum and Gellert Center for Education, 616 Central Ave. SW, offers exhibits illustrating historical conflicts caused by local, national, and global prejudice. It culminates in the Holocaust, covering the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis against both Jews and non-Jews. The museum is dedicated to eliminating hate and intolerance through education.
Open Wednesdays through Sundays, noon to 3:30 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, military, and college students, and $2 for students grades first through twelfth. Learn more at nmholocaustmuseum.org.
New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science
The “monstrous lizards” have been gone for millions of years, but you can still study their presence at the Museum of Natural History & Science, 1801 Mountain Road NW. There are dinosaur fossils, including a cast of “Stan,” the museum’s “pet” Tyrannosaurus Rex, and reconstructions of what dinosaurs might have looked like — including mothers, babies, and nests of eggs.
There is information about how the museum is helping document and map one of the largest dinosaur track sites in the United States.
But there is more here than dinosaurs. The Naturalist Center is a hands-on educational room where you can learn about the natural world of New Mexico. Microscopes, native animals, touch specimens, and more await curious visitors.
There is also the planetarium, a full-dome theater featuring educational and entertaining multimedia presentations on astronomy and space science. Learn about the night sky, identify constellations, zoom off to the planets, or watch mind-bending fractal zooms.
Open Wednesday through Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. See the website for pricing for the museum planetarium, dynatheater, and combination tickets. Learn more at nmnaturalhistory.org.
Rattlesnake Museum & Gift Shop
Rattlesnakes abound in New Mexico. If you want to learn about rattlesnakes, the place to be is the Rattlesnake Museum & Gift Shop, 202 San Felipe St. NW. It offers live exhibits of various species of rattlesnakes and other venomous reptiles found in New Mexico. There are taxidermic specimens and other informative exhibits — all without a bite.
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. During summer months (June – August) it is also open Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is $8.95 for adults, $7.95 for seniors, active military, teachers, and students with ID and $6.95 for children ages 3 through 12. Learn more at rattlesnakes.com.
Once thought to be on its last leg, the Tamarind Institute, 2500 Central Ave. SE, and housed under the University of New Mexico, was rescued from Los Angeles and moved to Albuquerque. It has one of the nation’s fine art lithography collections — more than 8,000 lithographs — the team of highly trained printers, curators, and print experts share with collectors and the print community. Through Tamarind Lithography Workshops, it preserves and teaches printmaking.
Tamarind’s gallery is open Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m. or by appointment. Learn more at tamarind.unm.edu.
Unser Racing Museum
The Unser Racing Museum, 1776 Montaño Road NW, is a multi-dimensional museum experience to educate and immerse visitors in the world of car racing. Take the guided tour and learn about the Unser family history, then explore on your own, interacting with racing history as it happened. The museum spans the early days of racing from Pikes Peak and Indianapolis to the latest technology, including a racing simulator that puts you in the driver’s seat, and interactive kiosks for young
and old to learn more about racing in a fun, educational environment.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, and $6 for seniors and the military. Free for children under 16. Learn more at unserracingmuseum.com.
Story and photography by Bud Russo | Additional photos courtesy of museums
Originally published in Neighbors magazine | 2023This article was posted by Olivia