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 Jul 27 - Aug 2, 2017 
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25 Things

25 Things We Love About Albuquerque

We all occasionally gripe about Albuquerque, but the truth is there's something here that brought us, or elsewise, keeps us. For some of us, it is the mountains that watch over the city dwarfed in their shadows, for others its convergence of a multitude of cultures, creating the rich fabric of our town. I've heard many people say that Albuquerque has everything that a big city has, but you never have to fight for parking and you never get lost. We're big and we're small, and we're idyllic and urban, and historic and modern—its hard not to feel like it’s all happening right here. In these pages, we tried our best to outline 25 things that give our city its undeniable heart, feel free to clip this article and add the next 100.

1) Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

This October will mark the 46th iteration of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, an event which will no doubt go down in the history books as one of our city's beloved yearly attractions. Locals love the annual uptick in business, the majesty of watching hundreds of colored orbs flying over the city, and the delicious breakfast burritos and champagne that are available at Balloon Fiesta Park during the October festival. Tourists dig the scene too, and tend to flood our town during those first few precious days of early fall, looking to the sky while drawing their wallets out willingly from pockets and purses. What's not to love about all of that airborne awesomeness? (August March)

2) Don Schrader and Steve Stucker

What would our days be without seeing these two friendly faces? Lord knows locals can talk about the weather all day, not to mention relevant important social issues—two things that these men are individually synonymous with. Put on a hat and head out to the bosque after watching KOB, but be sure to pick up a Weekly Alibi on your way to see what Don has on his mind in our “Letters” section. (Rini Grammer)

3) It’s a great place for musicians

With a profoundly prestigious music school located at our state's flagship university, it's no wonder that we here at Alibi HQ think this town is a great place for musicians. Besides hosting an amazingly avant-garde composers' symposium every year—hey, they brought John Cage to town in 1989—the hallowed halls of UNM's music department have produced pioneers and world class talent. Among the former: John Donald Robb, Marilyn Tyler and Christopher Shultis. The latter list could start with local folks like Heather Trost, Raven Chacon and Jon Bartlit, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Oh, and Manny Rettinger, the best sound engineer Burque has ever known, works there at Keller Hall. (August March)

4) Fame

Earlier this year The Hollywood Reporter named New Mexico one of “8 Hostspots” for filmmaking in the United States and Canada. Moviemaker.com also included Albuquerque and Santa Fe on its “Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker” list. “Better Call Saul,” “The Night Shift,” “Midnight, Texas” and “Preacher” are just a handful of the television shows shot in our state recently. Meanwhile, soon-to-be-released movies Shot Caller, The Horse Soldiers and Soldado have taken advantage of the local talent pool of grips, set dressers, camera operators, makeup artists, actors, etc. (not to mention the 25 to 30 percent tax credit offered by the state). That means locals have an extraordinary opportunity to get involved in big-budget Hollywood filmmaking. Local talent agencies are always on the hunt for background talent. (The Coen brothers recently put out a call for “bearded individuals” for their newest Western.) And if you want to work behind the camera, the New Mexico Film Office's online bulletin board is a fine place to look for both job postings and training opportunities. (Devin D. O'Leary)

5) The National Hispanic Cultural Center

Did you know that Albuquerque contains the largest concave fresco in North America? Yeah, well get this—it's next to three theatres, an art museum, a library, genealogy center, a Spanish-language resource center and two restaurants—in a space that also hosts over 700 events every year! So tell your kid sister that there is, in fact, something to do this Saturday night, and every other night of the week in Albuquerque. (Rini Grammer)

6) Carne adovada burritos at Frontier

Sometimes you just need to shovel some food you've been eating for 30 years into your gullet and forget all your cares. For many Albuquerque residents, that magically familiar comfort food is none other than the reliable carne adovada burrito at Frontier. You want to go out into the world and experiment? You want to “live your life” and “try new things”? Fine. But we all know you'll come crawling back to number one. (Joshua Lee)

7) The cost of living is low

The low cost of living in Burque has long been an alluring aspect of putting down roots in this high desert burg. Albuquerque Economic Development, a consortium of local business leaders, has all the data about this enticing fact. According to the latest information on their website, “Albuquerque's composite score in the ACCRA Cost of Living Index is just below the national average.” Cheaper to navigate than Phoenix, Denver or Las Vegas, this is among the best cities in which to build wealth, says salary.com, a fact that we totally take into consideration while munching on enchiladas at Los Cuates or driving out to the Balloon Fiesta. (August March)

8) A thriving third wave coffee scene

Burqueños love waking up with a good ol' cuppa high-quality, artisanal, micro-roasted coffee. It makes sense since New Mexicans produce their own wine, chile, honey, lavender, jerky, pecans and more—we know that making something locally with care makes a huge difference in the quality of a product. Locals prefer coffee in it's purest, most honest form (which also makes it super easy to order for our sleepy morning brains) like the classic pour-over from the local, top-tier third wave café Prismatic. (Rini Grammer)

9) Garlic Broccoli at Kai's

Supporting broccoli never comes easy for the Alibi staff, but sometimes partisanship must be put aside so that the truly delicious can be recognized. Judge this dish not on the components that make it up, but on the synergistic power that comes from their fusion. Kai's makes it look simple, but don't be fooled. It's the plate you can't put down. (Joshua Lee)

10) One bajillion breweries

Drinking craft beer—once the underground pastime of ennui- and suds-soaked hipsters—has become a pop culture phenomena that threatens to unseat watching “The Monkees” on teevee as a typical Friday night diversion among Burqueños. Who doesn't love a fresh, artisan-quality barley pop after all—it sure beats the hell out of the Pabst and Falstaff my generation downed downtown in the day after all. Luckily, Albuquerque is up to the challenge. With nearly 60 tap rooms available to citizens between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, we love knowing that beer is the best answer to most questions posed by humankind. (August March)

11) Dog-friendliness

From the city's numerous dog parks to the dog-welcoming businesses and restaurants, us Burqueños treat our dogs like anyone else in the family. You might not know it, but in other cities, people would scoff (or even scream and run) at a bar or eatery allowing dog patrons. Can you imagine? (Joshua Lee)

12) Local agriculture

The Downtown Growers' Market, the Rail Yards Market, La Familia Growers' Market—these are just a few options where you can pick up a cornucopia of verdant vegetables and fresh high desert fruits. Add to that heap initiatives like The Mobile Farmers' Market, which brings locally produced food to underserved neighborhoods in the International District and South Valley. Then there's CSAs like La Cosecha, who source their food exclusively from South Valley farmers and subsidize produce for low-income families. And there’s more, like the abundance of farm-to-table restaurants and spots that stock locally grown goods. Taken as a whole, Albuquerque has an agricultural scene that rivals much larger cities, and its all grown, distributed and eaten with utter conviction. (Maggie Grimason)

13) Margaritas at Los Cuates

These margaritas aren't playing games. They're here for serious business only, and they never suffer fools gladly. While they're the perfect start to a night you'll never want to talk about again, it should be kept in mind that direct eye contact can cause them to become aggressive and should be avoided at all costs. (Joshua Lee)

14) The flamenco scene

In case you've been living under a rock, the flamenco scene is huge in Albuquerque thanks to the National Institute of Flamenco. The Institute preserves the artistry, history and culture of flamenco by educating through performance. Not only does this method show folks what this artistic, musical and folkloric tradition is about—beauty, discipline and creativity—but they offer people of all ages (seriously, they have classes for toddlers to beginner adults) the opportunity to learn with world-class performers. (Rini Grammer)

15) Public art

You can hardly turn a corner Downtown without bumping into a mural. You can hardly walk an alley without stumbling onto a treasure. With the significant talent of local creatives, and others who are drawn to the city to create, it’s no wonder that beauty surfaces in the form of public art in all corners of the built landscape. Whether its sculptural, or paint on brick and mortar, or prints in a window pointed outward, whether against the backdrop of the West Mesa or the Sandias, there are distinctly beautiful city blocks and corners that stop tourists and locals alike in their tracks. (Maggie Grimason)

16) The Guild Cinema

There's nothing wrong with liking Hollywood blockbusters such as Wonder Woman (or even Transformers, if that's really your taste), but there are plenty of interchangable cineplexes in which to catch those kinds of films. Luckily Albuquerque still boasts one locally owned, single-screen art house cinema. The long-running theater in Nob Hill is the only place to catch small-scale documentaries, groundbreaking indies, foreign language films and the occasional Hollywood classic—not to mention bi-monthly Alibi Midnight Movie Madness screenings. Plus, they use real butter on their popcorn. (Devin D. O'Leary)

17) Cycling culture

I once had a job in Rio Rancho, and I would bike the entire way—to the next city—on a dedicated bike path before hanging a left to flow through rush hour traffic in a narrow but adequate bike lane until I had arrived at my office door, barely needing to make a full stop the entire time. It always impressed me that there was an intercity path that I could tread easily on my old Panasonic mixte. Let's be real, though—in 2016 New Mexico ranked as one of the deadliest states for pedestrians and cyclists. There is much to could stand to be improved, so let's not celebrate too much too soon. What we can safely commend is a scrappy bike culture, even on the often ramshackle city streets, and 300 days of sunshine a year in which to ride. The more education we can provide to drivers, the more safely we can all navigate; the more cyclists we can encourage to hit the roads, then, well, the fewer drivers. (Maggie Grimason)

18) Nature within limits

We have both a national monument and a national wildlife refuge within the city, or within very close proximity. At the Westside's Petroglyph National Monument, you can examine historic art carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers some 400 to 700 years ago. At Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, 570 acres of birding trails and irrigated grasslands offer an urban oasis just 7 miles from Downtown Albuquerque. Valle de Oro is some of our state's newest preserved land and will celebrate its fifth birthday in grand style on Sept. 30th. (Devin D. O'Leary)

19) An international airport, I mean, sunport, right in town

My experience of many airports includes long, traffic-dense drives, that lead to crowded kiosks and long security lines. Which, in turn, lead to long waits in terminals where all of the outlets are occupied, so you end up getting on a long flight with no podcasts to listen to. The Albuquerque International Sunport stands head and shoulders above these regular ass boring old “airports.” It takes me 10 minutes to get to the airport on a bad day, and 30 minutes to get to my terminal, max. Our sunport makes the occasional necessary escape from “Smallbuquerque” easy, and in a world where the prelude to a lot of adventure is often a whole lot of stress, that is invaluable. (Maggie Grimason)

20) Old Town

The outlines of Albuquerque's original town limits (circa 1700) are more than just a tourist destination. Old Town is a look back at our city's history, complete with brick-lined plazas, tiny gardens and low-lying adobe buildings. Of course, there are plenty of businesses to keep you shopping and eating there. And it's a must-not-miss destination for the holidays—whether its the giant Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Plaza Don Luis or the Easter services at San Felipe de Neri Church. Throw in some fine museums and a great park, and you don't even need to wait for out-of-town tourists to visit. (Devin D. O'Leary)

21) Really good museums

Speaking of which, Old Town is home to the art-and-history-filled Albuquerque Museum, the dinosaur-stuffed New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, the touch-and-discover-based Explora Science Center and Children's Museum, the gemstone-centric Turquoise Museum and the creepy-crawly American International Rattlesnake Museum. Move out from that historic neighborhood and you can encounter the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. Or the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum. Or the Unser Racing Museum. Museum lovers, Albuquerque has got you covered. (Devin D. O'Leary)

22) Dion’s Pizza

Jon Patten and Bill Scott raised the bar for pizza in the 505. The two bought a small pizzeria, intending to name the soon-to-be hit restaurant “Dionysus” after the Greek god of the grape harvest and wine. Patten and Scott ultimately decided to shorten the name to “Dion's” to save money on signs, which is a reflection of their mission, which is to make high-quality, internationally-inspired food for cheap! And God bless 'em, cause they sure achieved that and then some. (Rini Grammer)

23) The bosque

The remnant of a once thriving and crucial wetlands ecology, the Bosque is the what's left after western expansion. There aren't too many urban centers that have their own forest (which is what the word “bosque” translates to) smack dab in the middle of neighborhoods and shopping centers. It's no wonder we're so protective of it. (Joshua Lee)

24) Sandia Peak Tramway

The now defunct Fort Hobo once wrote a beautiful song about our tram, which immortalized it for me, the lyrics burning into my brain for all eternity the total distance of the Sandia Peak Tramway—2.7 miles. That, as surely you already know, is the third longest tram in the world, and certifiably the longest in the United States. It took me about four years into my six year run (so far) in Albuquerque before I walked to the top of Sandia Crest and glided down that tenuous rope in that swinging cable car. It was well worth the ticket price. I looked out over canyons, sailed over scrub bushes and got an angle on Albuquerque that usually only birds do—finally coming to roost at the base of the mountains, and moving back into city with a new perspective on the place. (Maggie Grimason)

25) Sunsets

Everyday, sometime between 4:59pm and 8:24pm—depending on the season—the sun apparently sets in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It's a grand phenomenon to see. Whether hiking up on Sandia Crest or traipsing through the volcanoes west of town, the colors and presentation just can't be beat. By the way, I say “apparently” because that's what scientists—and Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, who's up in OKC where they probably have something similar going on—say. Though the truth is that you realize that “the sun doesn't go down, it's just an illusion caused by the world spinning 'round,” sunsets in el Burque are one of the things we love best about this damned dirt city. (August March)

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