Monday, May 4, 2015

Albuquerque with Kids

When the husband said he had a work trip to Albuquerque I was mostly just thinking it would be better to be all together as a family then alone with the kids for a week. I put an APB on Facebook for some ideas for our trip and was flooded with ideas and recommendations, which build some confidence that taking a trip a few weeks before your scheduled to move was a good idea.

So we packed up the car and took off on the 6 hour drive from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque. As usual we found a few great parks on the way to let the boys get some energy out. In Trinidad, Co we stopped at Cimino Park. The park has a great playground, splash pad and is next too the riverside trail. If you follow the trail up across the road there is a large steam engine you can walk around. Our train loving 3 year old is a sucker for any train we can find. There was plenty of street parking. We packed snacks and had a little snack break on one of the benches before piling back into the car. 

Our next stop was Fort Union, one of New Mexico's National Monuments. They have a huge picnic area, so we started there with our packed lunch. The fort is "fee free and pet friendly," so it is a popular spot on this otherwise lonely drive. We stopped into the ranger station and picked up the Jr. Ranger Packet for our 3 year old. They are happy to have kids of any age try it but they do have to complete a set number of activities (you can write for them) and they have to be able to raise their hand and take the pledge. Our kids loved the walk around the old fort. We saw bunnies and lots of birds. The walk took about 30 min, but we went the long way. H was able to complete enough of his packet to earn his very first Jr. Ranger badge. He decided to say the oat "very very quietly" but we could hear him and that was good enough. There is a small museum to walk through (1 room) and a gift shop. Make sure you bring water and a hat with you as you are very exposed when touring the fort. 

With sleeping kids in the car we pushed to Albuquerque in time to check into the hotel and get settled. We decided to try out Sadie's. They have several locations that are reported to all serve delicious food. My husband, however, is a stickler for "the original." The food was good, but it was huge! I attempted to not overeat and even took most of our meal back to the hotel, but I was stuffed. We ordered the dinner sopaipilla that they are known for and the enchiladas. We were there right at 5, but by the time we left the place was getting crowded and a line was forming outside, which seems amazing since the restaurant is so large. 

Across the street from the Albuquerque Marriott was a nice little playground. There were tennis courts there that the women's tennis team (who we were traveling with) were using to warm up so we checked out this great little playground. 

Then it was off to meet a friend at the Albuquerque Studios near the airport. (One of the nice parts of this city is that it doe not take very long to get anywhere.) I cant talk much about what we did at the studios, but it was a nice sneak peek at an upcoming blockbuster film and, more importantly, a fun visit with an old friend. The studios are nice and will remind you of any other studios you have ever seen, but are only accessible with permission from someone working there. 

The kids were ready for some fun so we rolled over to Explora! the touch museum.  There is ample free parking behind the museum and the museum was free as a reciprocal with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. There were so many fun things to do here! There is a wonderful little infant room that had areas to crawl through, balls to push around and plenty to keep our 11 month old entertained. Our 3 year old loved the hands on exhibits. We only made it through part of the first floor before we needed to grab lunch. Since it was free we actually headed back here another morning to kill some time and explored upstairs where there were bubbles, circuits and a room on "love." We would go back here again because even my husband and I were entertained by the exhibits. 

Playing with Light at Explora! 

Bubbles at Explora! 
Floating Balloons at Explora! 
We left to go grab lunch at The Grove Cafe & Market. This place was great, albiet crowded. The lines moved quickly and seats turn over quickly. All the sandwiches come with the fresh vegetables of the day and a pickle - delicious!   There are kids items on the menu as well as plenty of vegetarian options. In fact, the menu is quite overwhelming. In addition to lunch, I got a an iced latte, it was delicious and we all shared a cupcake. Yummy! 

The Sandia Peek Ski & Tramway is a bit of a drive, but worth doing. I looked into taking the tramway up and hiking down but the trails are marked as challenging, and we were ill prepared for a long hike. You can see your hiking options in the area here. The 9 mile La Lutz Trail connects to the Tramway Trail to take you from the top of the mountain to the tramway parking lot. Parking is free at the Tramway. The trams run every 20-30 min. It is not a cheap adventure, but the views are fantastic. Our guide on the way up gave a complete narrated tour and was very knowledgeable about the tramway and the surrounding area. The guide on the way down really could only tell us when to expect the tram to swing as we went over the towers. We walked around a bit at the top instead of immediately boarding the tram back down. We would have stayed and had a glass of wine at the restaurant on top had the kids not been with us. The kids got enough exercise on top to be ready to head back to the hotel and go to sleep when we got back.
Passing the other tram mid-way through the crossing. 

Sandia Peak. 

The next morning we were up early and headed back towards Explora! to check out a park we had seen across the street and the New Mexico Museum of Nature and Science. Tiguex park was the perfect way to start the morning. It had a large play structure as well as a little kids area, a stage and a workout circuit. We were able to walk right to the Museum of Nature and Science when it opened at 9am. 

The museum was free as a reciprocal with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The museum has a lot of stuff, unfortunately our little ones wont hold still long enough for anyone to read so here is what I know about the exhibits. The dinosaur section was great until we reached a dark "cave" section that left the 3 year old in tears. The visiting exhibition on the mating dances of birds of paradise was really interesting and both kids sat through the 25 min video totally transfixed. You can direct the camera of a MARS rover recreation and there is a nice star room. We breezed through these exhibits in an hour and a half and then headed over to Explora! to hang out where there were more things for the kids to touch. 

For lunch we headed to Garduno's, which was luckily across the parking lot from our hotel. The husband did the Taco Bar and was quite happy to try all different types. I ordered off the lunch menu and shared with the kids to try to stave off the inevitable vacation weight gain - then I remembered I was traveling and had a margarita! Garduno's was delicious and more my style of food then Sadies, or perhaps i just ordered better. We were all full enough to go home and take a great nap! 

I actually got a little shopping done and browsing done at the ABQ Uptown with the kids in the stroller before we piled back into the car and headed downtown to meet our friend for dinner at The Standard Dinner. It was delicious! The upscale dinner is totally kid friendly with coloring and a kids menu. The happy hour drink deals are great so going early is worth your time. Plus with kids its always good to eat before meltdown. 

We drove over to Old Town and walked around till we found our first ice cream parlor. It happened to be yay yogurt. We rationalized yogurt was better for us then ice cream. This place is a do your own except you just pay by size, not by weight. So we loaded up our cups and let our 3 year old do the same, including all the toppings you could ever want. 

So this is where our trip could have turned bad, the last full day in Albuquerque we decided to spend it at the ABQ BioPark.  A great plan, until we looked at the weather. The one full day of storms! We picked up sandwiches at Panera so we wouldn't have to worry about food on our trip. The ABQ BioPark is a reciprocal of the Atlanta Zoo, of which we are members, so our admission was 50% off.

Since the rain was coming down we started at the Aquarium. Our nearly one year old loved loved loved this little aquarium. What it lacks in size it makes up for in quality. The large windows were a huge hit. 

If you buy the combo ticket you get to ride the train to the zoo as many times as you want and it includes unlimited train rides at the zoo. This in and of itself would have been enough for us! The train ride was great - they are doing some work on the train station so we did have to trudge through some mud to get to the station, but it was worth it. 

We spent our time at the zoo dodging rain storms, quite a few of the animals were also dodging the storms. In between them though we got to see some animals playing around. We were stuck in a hailstorm with a tree kangaroo, a kookaburra and a koala, so it could have been worse. We took one rain storm to ride the train around the zoo. 

We took the train back to the Aquarium, which is also the location of the Botanical Gardens. The children's garden here is fantastic. So many fun things to play on. We could have stayed in this one area of the park exploring for the whole day. The castle facade is just the start of the magical world inside. Even with all the rain we were able to play without getting too wet. 

The rest of the gardens are worth exploring as well. The event space and wedding garden look amazing! We ventured over into the old farm in an attempt to find some animals. Yes...we had just come from the zoo but farm animals are our favorite! We found a few to look at and an old farm house to explore. At this point we could see more storm clouds brewing and decided we should make our way back to the car. We completely missed the orchards and other vegetable gardens we had seen from the train.  

The next morning we needed a quick breakfast so we could make our way out of town. Satellite Coffee ended up being the perfect spot for a quick breakfast and it was right next to Whole Foods where we picked up thinks for lunch. 

Pecos Historical National Park was our last planned stop before home. Another junior ranger program helped us enjoy our visit with the kiddos. Pecos also allows you to crawl into some of the underground ceremonial areas, which was very cool.

We drove till the kids woke up and pulled into the New Mexico Visitors Center in Raton, NM. Oddly, its closed on weekends, but it did have a train car in the front yard making the perfect picnic spot for us. 

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