I Heart My City: Clayton’s Albuquerque

Albuquerque native Clayton Abbey has lived all around the U.S. (including a nine-year stint in NYC) and in southern Mexico. But this husband and father who describes himself as an avid traveler knows where his loyalties lie: “New Mexico is my true love.” Check out a few of his favorite things about Albuquerque, then add your own two cents. Follow Clayton’s story on Twitter @TheAbbabond.

Albuquerque is My City 

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is to Marble Brewery for beers, Duke City Donuts for donuts (of course), and Barelas Coffee House for chicharrones and red chile and other New Mexican food delights.

Fall is the best time to visit my city because the weather is perfect, the trees all change colors, the International Balloon Fiesta takes place and all the local breweries start churning out pumpkin-flavored offerings.

You can see my city best from the Sandia Mountains after taking the La Luz Trail to the top.

Locals know to skip Sadie’s and check out Cervantes, Barelas Coffee Shop, and Cafe Azul instead. I feel the same could be said for Frontier, but some locals love the place.

A University of New Mexico Lobos or Albuquerque Isotopes game is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. That or head an hour north to Santa Fe to visit the historic plaza and Indian Market.

In the past, notable people like Bill Gates, rapper Xzibit, author Rudolfo Anaya and Freddie Prinze, Jr. have called my city home.

Nothing can quite match the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. (Photograph by Traci Wildenstein, My Shot)
Nothing can quite match the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. (Photograph by Traci Wildenstein, My Shot)

My city’s best museum is the New Mexico Museum of Natural History because it reflects the great climatological changes that have taken place in the state over millions of years and teaches us about all the fascinating prehistoric creatures that once called New Mexico home (well, they lived here at least).

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that Albuquerque’s not a place you’d want to rely on public transportation. But there are wonderful bike paths and trails.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is at one of the city’s many golf courses, including the high-end Sandia Resort course. Or at Tiguex Park downtown on a summer night when live music is being played next door at the Albuquerque Museum.

My city really knows how to celebrate beer at our awesome Beer Week festival.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they finish sentences with “eh” and everything they say sounds like a question.

For a fancy night out, I prefer the Bien Shur restaurant at the Sandia Casino for drinks and food, followed by a concert at the casino’s spectacular outdoor amphitheater.

Just outside my city, you can visit Santa Fe for the art and quirky downtown. Or you can go just east of town and visit Wildlife West Nature Park, which is a refuge/zoo for injured wildlife.

My city is known for being the city in Breaking Bad and thus meth-riddled, but it’s really a diverse city both as far as income and education and race and ethnicity. We have scientists and professors alongside cholos and blue-collar everyday folks. We also have — beyond New Mexican cuisine — some outstanding Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, and many great pizza joints.

Barelas Coffee House or Duke City Donuts are my favorite places to grab breakfast, and Frontier is the spot for late-night eats (mostly by default, because places close pretty early).

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read the Weekly Alibi or Local IQ.

My city’s biggest sports event is a Lobos basketball game. Watch it at The Pit, one of the coolest venues in all of sports.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I eat at Banh Mi Coda for a cheap banh mi, Taqueria Mexico for cheap shrimp tacos, or Bricklight Dive for cheap sandwiches and beer.

To escape the crowds, I stay home and sip beer from a growler I’ve filled at La Cumbre Brewing for all of $8-9.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Charlie Sheen because while it’s kind of wacky and unpredictable, and likes its drugs and drink a little bit too much, there’s plenty of intelligence and logic wrapped up in our troubled soul.

The dish that represents my city best is carne adovada, and a palate-wrecking IPA (La Cumbre’s Elevated IPA is the best example) is my city’s signature drink.

The Wells Fargo building is my favorite building in town because it lights up green at night.

The most random thing about my city is its neighborhoods. One block can be nice and then you head down another and it looks like a scene from Mad Max.

Launchpad and the Sunshine Theater are popular, but I say the Sandia Casino amphitheater is the best place to see live music. If you’re in the mood to dance, check out the Library Bar and Grill downtown (but beware some of the dancing is either appalling or downright hilarious).

In the spring you should check out an Isotopes game and enjoy Albuquerque Beer Week.

In the summer you should enjoy the concert series at the Bio Park or at the Albuquerque Museum.

In the fall you should drive up north and see the leaves turn in the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

In the winter you should hit the slopes at Ski Sandia, Ski Santa Fe, or Ski Taos. Or check out the River of Lights at the Bio Park.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Explora! Museum.

The best book about my city is a really tough question to answer. A lot of people will want my head on a stake for this, but I’m going to go with the Tony Hillerman novels which don’t necessarily take place in Albuquerque, but often have a scene or two there.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “Mi Pueblo” by Grupo Niche. It’s a beautiful song about getting teary-eyed every time you return home and see the beauty of the place where you were raised. I get that feeling every time I touch down at the Sunport.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because it’s got four seasons, great cuisine, world-class beer and breweries, outdoors and urban activities, and wonderful people!


  1. Lydia G
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    May 26, 2013, 6:07 pm

    I had a chance to visit downtown Albuquerque a few years ago – Central Avenue AKA Route 66 was a lot of fun both by day AND by night! Stayed at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya between ABQ and Santa Fe. Highly recommended, too!

  2. Ian Faulds
    Bellingham, Washington, United States
    May 24, 2013, 3:05 am

    My parents lived and got married in Albuquerque, and my mother worked the Rio Grande Nature Center as a Park Ranger. They loved the area, and when some of our family friends got married in Chama, NM last summer I had the opportunity to visit it again.
    All around great advice! I’d highly recommend either walking or taking the tram up the Sandia Mountains just before dusk so you can see the city and valley in daylight and the city lights once it’s dark. Plus the food is well worth it.
    I highlight Albuquerque and New Mexico in a few posts on my blog.

    Ian Faulds