Less Than a Double Sawbuck ($20 or Less)
The Tinkertown Museum, brimming with kitschy Americana, is open seven days a week from 9 a.m.- 6 p.m., and tickets are just $3 for adults, $1 for kids. 281-5233, www.tinkertown.com.
Camp at White Sands National Monument under a full moon. The light from the moon radiates off the gypsum and turns the dead of night into a bright, wonderfully serene sight. Camping permits can be grabbed at the monument's visitor center on a first-come, first-serve basis. They cost $3 for adults and $1.50 for children under 16. You'll also have to pay the $3 park entrance fee unless you're under 16. White Sands is 15 miles southwest of Alamogordo. (575) 679-2599.
Exploring the zoo during the hot summer days can feel like a full-fledged African safari. See the animals during the cool evening hours every Friday night in June and July during the Rio Grande Zoo's Zoo Music program. Bring a picnic and a blanket and enjoy the sounds of the “wild” at night. Gates open at 6 p.m. Call 311. Admission is $8 adults, $4 seniors and $2 children.
Take a picnic on a hike to the top of the Sandias. Breath easier in the clear air and dine with a fantastic view. Roundtrip tram tickets are $17.50 for adults.
Heron Lake is a no-wake lake, meaning all boats are required to travel without the use of high-powered engines, making it a perfect place for paddling and fishing. Rent a canoe (either in your hometown or at a sports rental shop nearby) and hit the lake rowing―the massive body of water offers plenty of shoreline to explore. www.emnrd.state.nm.us. $5-$18.
Slither away into the air-conditioned reptilian lair that is Albuquerque's own American International Rattlesnake Museum. The home to the world's largest collection of rattlesnake species, a wealth of serpentine wisdom and an amassment of snake stuff is all located right in Old Town. 242-6569. $2.50-$3.50.
The Rio Grande Nature Center hosts 300 species of birds throughout the year. For a measly fee you can get into the state park and go birding to your heart's content. Staff will lend you binoculars in exchange for a driver's license, and guided bird walks take place every Saturday and Sunday morning (times vary, call ahead). Gates open Monday through Sunday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 2901 Candelaria NW, 344-7240. www.rgnc.org. $3.
Make a Japanese fan out of old Alibis before it gets too hot. Start by tracing the outline of a salad plate onto a closed manilla folder. Use a ruler to draw a straight line across the lower eighth of the circle, giving the fan a flat edge across its bottom. Cut out the semicircle with scissors and stick the two manilla halves together with craft glue. Before the glue dries, stick a popsicle stick between the two halves, up the center of the fan. This is your handle. Use the manilla cutout to trace the fan shape onto two Alibi covers. Cut out the cover images and affix them to each side the manilla fan with more craft glue. Cool. $3.
The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is just a few hours away and is home to thousands of birds―including the endangered whooping crane. Take a driving tour to look for bald eagles or stay the weekend at a primitive camping site. www.friendsofthebosque.org. $3.
Water balloons take some time to fill up, but a water-balloon war is well worth the hours spent hunched over the faucet. Make it a regular event or tournament if you're really ambitious. $3.
Tour the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary west of Grants. In addition to guided tours of the permanent homes for rescued wolves and wolf-dogs, Wild Spirit lets you camp out where howling can lull you to sleep. 775-3304, www.wildspiritwolfsanctuary.org. $3-$5.
Simultaneously escape the heat and pretend to be in the tropics with a visit to the Albuquerque Aquarium. If the sights of ferocious sharks, creepy eels and other aquatic life don't improve your summer immensely, a plastic souvenir fish certainly will. 768-2000. $3-$7.
Bring the fam and learn about the biggest, smallest, fastest and slowest animals in the animal kingdom during Discovery Day at the Rio Grande Zoo on Saturday, June 14. You can also take your pops to Father's Day and scope out special exhibits on Sunday, June 15. Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for senior citizens and children ages 3-12. www.cabq.gov/biopark.
You've made Margaritas until your blender-finger went numb. It's high time to experiment with other cold, mood-enhancing beverages. Try this caffeine-
Visit Wildlife West, an animal refuge 20 minutes east of Albuquerque. The park offers not only a home for non-releasable Southwest creatures such as mountain lions, coyotes and elk, but also educational programs and annual music festivals. Every Saturday night from mid-June to Labor Day features a chuckwagon supper with food and entertainment. 281-7655, www.wildlifewest.org. $4-$7.
Pay Uncle Cliff a visit and ride the Rattler. $2.50 general admission will get you in the door (then you have to buy individual ride tickets for $2 each), but a $24.95 ride pass gets you into everything all day. 881-9373, www.cliffs.net.
Instead of being a barfly at night, try being a pool shark. Many pool halls coupled with a bar or restaurant, such as One Up, Doc & Eddy’s and the Distillery, offer free billiards with the purchase of a beverage or meal. Look up the rules, buy your own pool cue and own the table. If billiards isn't your thing, dominate at darts or foosball.
Use the heat to cook yourself a tasty snack with the aid of a handy, dandy pizza box solar oven. Just follow the simple directions at www.solarnow.org/
Play the role of Patrick Swayze (or his Baby) by heating up the dance floor in your own Dirty Dancing scene. Many dance studios and community centers (like Heights Community Center, Enchantment Ballroom, Harwood Art Center, Maple Street Dance Space and Selah Studios) offer weekly dance lessons for little to no cost in salsa, swing, tango and other sexy moves. Check the Alibi's weekly community calendar for regular updates.
Shoot some guns. The Shooting Range Park is a public facility managed by the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division. Pistols, rifles and muzzleloaders are welcome. There are three skeet ranges, two trap ranges and five lengths of regular targets. All range staff are qualified National Rifle Association instructors. 836-8785. $4.50-$6.
Tent Rocks is only an hour away, so why aren't you already there, looking at 7 million-year-old cones and hunting for obsidian? (Note: You're not actually supposed to take the obsidian, but there's no crime in looking for it.) Open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. in the summer. 761-8700. www.blm.gov. $5.
Make your own popsicles: Get an ice cube tray, fill it with the sweet liquid of your choice, cover it with plastic wrap and stick toothpicks in each slot. Then wait a couple of hours (maybe go outside and get hot, thereby increasing your need to beat the heat). $3-$5.
Go to a drive-in theater. New Mexico still has two of them: The three-screen Fiesta Drive-In in Carlsbad (open Fridays through Mondays, $5 a person or $10 a carload) and the Fort Union Drive-In in Las Vegas with its unique movie screen mural (open Fridays through Sundays, flat $7 per car). Fiesta: (575) 885-4126, www.fiestadrivein.com. Fort Union: (505) 425-9934.
Friday Night Fractals at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History is fantastic. Don't know what fractals are? No problem—you'll learn. Shows are at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. the first Friday of every month, but be sure to get tickets online at least a few days in advance. Adults are $8, kids (3-12) are $5. 841-2800, www.nmnaturalhistory.org.
Watch a New Mexico Menace game. The state's women's football team has two homefield battles coming up—one May 17 against the Las Vegas Showgirlz, one June 7 against the California Quake. Both start at 7 p.m. at Wilson Stadium. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids. www.newmexicomenace.com.
Inexpensive and delicious, growing tomatoes can be one of the most satisfying things to do in the summer. Supplies for this agricultural endeavor can be procured at any nursery or garden supply provider. Try www.tomatoegrowers.com for tuh-may-to, to-mah-to info. $5-$20.
Have some pie in Pie Town. The annual Pie Festival takes place Sept. 13. If you can't wait that long, just stop by the Daily Pie Café for a slice of famous Smithsonian New Mexican Apple Pie. www.dailypie.com. $5-$20.
Environmentalists everywhere are practicing guerilla gardening as an immediate, direct way to change the urban environment. Find a neglected, unused piece of ugliness in Albuquerque and plant something. It's best if you use a plant native to the area, because then it won't require much looking after. www.guerillagardening.org. $5 and up.
Summer isn't ski season, but many of the ski areas are still open for business. Call your favorite to find out if it runs any lifts during the off-season. If so, take a ride to the top of the mountain then hike back down (or vice-versa). Some resorts, like Angel Fire, also offer rock climbing gyms and life-size mazes for summer visitors. $6-$8.
You can watch top-tier athletes playing America's pastime for less than the cost of a movie. Berm seats at Isotopes park are just $6, and, if you buy them in advance, a general admission seat is only $9. Play ball!www.albuquerquebaseball.com.
First, if you've never been to Carlsbad Caverns, do it right now. Second, if you've been to Carlsband Caverns, have you been on a ranger-guided tour to the less- or undeveloped areas of the caverns? No? Do it, right now. Kneepads and helmets are included. Call (877) 444-6777 for much-needed reservations. $6-$20.
Escape the summer heat without succumbing to the idiot box. Golfernoggins is a freshly opened indoor mini-golf course open every day. 4910 B Lomas NE, 999-1067. www.golfernoggins.com. $8.
Oh, drag strip, how we love your automotive spectacle, the way you foster watching people at their most American, not to mention the fact you let us bring our own coolers and race our own cars. Also, let us not forget your delicious concessions, most notably your awesome pizza. Thank you, Albuquerque Dragway, for providing one of the best summer activities around. www.abqdragway.com. $8-$12.
Dress up for a midnight showing of a movie. Granted, there are no Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean 4 this summer, but you could always paint your face green for The Incredible Hulk or find an awesome hat for the new Indiana Jones. Half the fun is creating the costume; the other half is enjoying the attention at the theater. Adult tickets usually cost around $9.75, not including popcorn and costumes.
Go WOW (Wonderful Outdoor World) camping. Every summer, the city's Outdoor Recreation program trains youth between the ages of 9 and 12. Newbie campers are supplied with all the equipment they need, including sleeping bags, tents and food. Set up camp, cook meals, learn environmental skills and sleep under the stars, all in the convenience of one of our city parks. Registration packets can be found on the City of Albuquerque's website at www.cabq.gov/
Build a makeshift raft and float down the Rio Grande. The plus side of having a perpetually shallow river that flows through your city is it allows for creative and semi-safe experimentation. Using big blocks of styrofoam from the dumpsters of big businesses or thick, strong rope and long, sturdy chords of wood, you can construct the perfect poor man's raft. Just know that if it doesn't work, all you'll get is a little water in your ear and mud in your britches. Or you could get swept away by the current, never to be seen again. $10-$20.
Playing in the park and eating ice cream―two essential activities for any New Mexico summer. Do both at once by making kick-the-can ice cream. Just follow this simple recipe (from www.funology.com). $10-$20.
3/4 cup milk
1 cup cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Empty 1-pound and 3-pound coffee cans with lids, cleaned
3/4 cup rock salt
1. In the small coffee can, mix the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla. Stir well.
2. Place lid on can and tape it shut.
3. Put the small can inside the large can.
4. Pack the crushed ice around the edges of the small can.
5. Sprinkle the rock salt over the ice.
6. Put the lid on the large can and tape it shut.
7. Roll (or kick) the can back and forth with a friend for 10-15 minutes.
8. Open the large can and remove the small can. Carefully open the small can, stir the ice cream then serve. Enjoy!
Go-go-go-carting! Route 66 Karting is an outdoor track at Central and 98th Street that's open from noon-8 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Or shield yourself from the elements at Albuquerque Indoor Karting (5110 Copper NE, 265-7223), open at noon seven days a week. Route 66: 352-KART, www.66kart.com. Albuquerque Indoor: 265-RACE, www.abqkarting.com. $10-$35.
Don't want to clean your house? Hold your barbecue at any of Albuquerque's parks. Why not try to grill some less-usual foods, too? Try grilled fruit like pineapples or make a pizza on your grill. Most parks have a couple of picnic tables. Don't bring glass containers, and only gas or propane grills are allowed. www.cabq.gov/parks. $10-$50.
People think going to the opera is expensive. But it doesn't have to be. Standing-room tickets at the Santa Fe Opera are a mere $10, while some seated sections go for as low as $26 a ticket. The SFO has five performances showing this summer, starting in June. www.santafeopera.org. $10-$180.
Host a theme picnic. Organize a proper tea party with croquet and little sandwiches with the crusts cut off, or throw a kitschy '50s barbecue bash with ambrosia salad, cocktail weenies, dominoes and hula hoops. Dress accordingly. Charge $5 per guest.
Don't have a pool? Throw a "spa" party. With a small sum of cash and the help of your imagination, acquiring a pool-like atmosphere is easy. Step one: Purchase a kiddie pool. Step two: Purchase beverages. Step three: Fill pool with water. Step four: Get in pool with beverages in hand. Step five: Bask in the sun and the glory of owning your own pool. $11.50-$50.
Hit the paintball park at Hinkle Family Fun Center ($11.95 all day, but does not include equipment or ammo) or Oak Flats Paintball in Tijeras ($25 includes mask, gun, CO2 and 500 balls). Hinkle boasts a 5,000-square-foot arena with inflatable obstacles and 7,800-square-foot concept field. Oak Flats has three environments (speedball, town and woods) on a 20-acre tract. Hinkle: www.hinklefamilyfuncenter.com. Oak Flats: www.oakflatspaintball.com. $11.95-$25.
The Rail Runner is fun to ride, but it doesn't have Margaritas onboard. The Santa Fe Southern Railway does. Hop on the train for a scenic ride from Santa Fe to Lamy, complete with bar service and an open-air viewing car. The Santa Fe Southern Railway also offers special event rides, like the Father's Day Lamy Train or the Gay Pride Rainbow Train. (888) 989-8600. www.sfsr.com. $14-$80.
Bar-hopping? Get from one end of Central to the other on the Rapid Ride After Dark. It runs every 20 minutes from 8 p.m.-3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer months. Starting in June, ABQ RIDE will sell Rapid After Dark VIP Passes for $15. You'll get free RAD trips (they're usually a buck apiece) all summer with discounts at businesses along the route. 243-RIDE.
Invite your musically inclined friends to a Sunday morning brunch concert in your backyard, while it's nice and cool outside. Tell them you'll provide the bagels ($18.88 covers a dozen bagels, two tubs of cream cheese and two gallons of orange juice) if they bring the instruments. Record for posterity.
Get in touch with your inner child and track down copies of your favorite cartoons and shows from when you were a kid. The hunt for the elusive is half the fun.
Rancid. As in the righteous punk band that will never go bad. Frontman Tim Armstrong and Co. will be at the Sunshine Theater on Tuesday, July 1, at 7:30 p.m. for an all-ages show with Ends in Tragedy and Riverboat Gamblers in-tow. www.sunshinetheaterlive.com. $20.