Here are my favorite Albuquerque day trips!
Albuquerque, New Mexico has a truly unique personality thanks to the amalgam of cultures that have shaped its culture for hundreds of years. It is also the perfect starting point for visiting some of the most fascinating attractions of the southwest! The best Albuquerque day trips take you to exciting historical and natural landmarks and attractions. Whether you want to travel an hour or a day away, these day trips will make your visit to Albuquerque much more eventful. Let’s get started:
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Ok, this is a no-brainer. Of course, you’re going to visit Santa Fe! How could you come all the way to Albuquerque and not do so? Santa Fe is arguably the most beautiful city in New Mexico, rich in beautiful adobe architecture, renowned art galleries, and world-class restaurants. It is a walkable city that offers a rewarding immersion into the history of New Mexico.
We show you how to use the Rail Runner commuter train to make your Albuquerque day trip to Santa Fe (seniors over 62 ride free on Wednesdays!) as carefree as possible. Santa Fe is an eminently walkable city, and the Rail Runner puts you at the doorstep of the very best this seductive city has to offer.
Petrified Forest National Park
Color, baby, color! If you think that all deserts have to offer are wind-blown sand dunes, prepare to have your minds blown by the Painted Desert. The Petrified Forest National Park sits in Arizona’s Painted Desert and serves as a showcase for a diverse ecosystem featuring jewel-like fossilized trees, colorful badlands, and features that will thrill any nature-lover. It’s a three-hour drive from Albuquerque, but so worth it! Learn more about this colorful attraction by following the link below!
Old Town Albuquerque
Well, you don’t need to leave Albuquerque for this day trip … You simply cannot visit Albuquerque without seeing Old Town! This is the oldest section of Albuquerque, offering a charming window into the history and culture of this city. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon. Stroll through the cobbled brick streets and discover gift shops and boutiques nestled in charming Adobe buildings that date back to the 1700s.
Check out my Things to Do in Old Town Albuquerque Guide. Click the button below.
Route 66, Tucumcari, NM
If you are a Route 66 buff, the iconic city of Tucumcari near the New Mexico / Texas border is your essential day trip. Tucumcari has raised the preservation of Route 66 roadside architecture to fine art, making it a joy to visit. So, start your day with breakfast at the 66 Diner in downtown Albuquerque, and then head to Tucumcari. Make it an overnight stay for the ultimate “Mother Road” experience.
Very Large Array (VLA), Socorro, New Mexico
Visiting the Very Large Array in Socorro, New Mexico is like becoming the central character in your own sci-fi movie. This is one of the most unusual travel attractions in New Mexico and makes for an unforgettable experience. The Very Large Array (VLA), is one of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories, consists of 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustin about a two-hour drive from Albuquerque.
Visiting the VLA is an out-of-this-world experience. Even if science bores you, you will be awed by the Very Large Array! Be sure to stop by the Owl Bar and Cafe while in Socorro on your way back to Albuquerque for what is arguably one of the best Green Chile Cheeseburgers in New Mexico!
Taos, New Mexico
While Santa Fe, New Mexico is affluent and mature, Taos is youthful and open to all sorts of influences. You’ll find artists, hippies, healers, and adventurers all sharing the allure of Taos. It gives Taos a casual, funky southwestern vibe that makes this an essential Albuquerque day trip.
The trip to Taos on the “High Road” or “Low Road” from Albuquerque offers a satisfying immersion into the essence of New Mexico culture.
Madrid, New Mexico
It seems like nothing old in New Mexico is ever discarded. It is reused, re-purposed or simply grows old gracefully in place. That can also be said of New Mexico’s ghost towns. The most oddly charming of the resurrected ghost towns in New Mexico is Madrid, on the Turquoise Trail about a half hour outside of Albuquerque. It is a madly creative and quirky artists commune that must be on your short list of Albuquerque day trips.
Sparky’s Burgers, Hatch, New Mexico
One of my favorite destinations is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Albuquerque. It’s just a local burger & ribs shack, but well worth the drive! Sparky’s Burgers in Hatch, New Mexico is one of the Green Chile Cheeseburger Wonders of the World. Drive here with a healthy appetite and your camera. You will agree that it is worth the trip.
Get All of Our Day Trip Recommendations
Click on the red button for our full listing of Albuquerque Day Trips along with detailed info, and links to official websites. Enjoy!