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Albuquerque: Thin Skins Jump Ship

Steve Giordano and Lynn Rosen

There's a story Albequerqueans love to tell, about a couple from the Pacific Northwest who moved to Albuquerque for the fine weather. They didn't last the year before they turned tail and returned home. The problem? Seems that the New Mexico sky is always blue and the couple got sick and tired of the "blue dome" overhead, preferring instead the textured clouds and their ever-varying shades of gray.

Albuquerque, near the geographic center of the U.S. state of New Mexico (some people still think New Mexico is in Old Mexico), sits at a high enough elevation to enjoy weather 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix and Tucson. The city slopes down from 6,500 feet in the foothills to 4,900 feet at the Rio Grande, which runs right through town from Colorado on its way to becoming the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

The metropolitan area, with 40 percent of the state's population, is bordered on the east by the Sandia and Manzano Mountains, the west by Petroglyph National Monument, the north by Sandia Pueblo and the south by Isleta Pueblo.

The people of the 19 pueblos in New Mexico are a strong cultural force, and they are most proud of the facts that they were never moved off their land and they once chased the Spaniards back to Mexico in what they call the Real American Revolution. The Spaniards stayed out too, for the 20 years between 1680 and 1700.

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center:

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is owned and operated by the 19 pueblos of New Mexico. Exhibits feature their history, art and culture. Free Native American dances and craft demonstrations are offered every weekend. The dances are at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. A children's museum, restaurant and large gift shop are also on site. Recently, Tibetan monks created a sand mandala in the gift shop. (505) 843-7270 (800) 766-4405, http://www.indianpueblo.com

Tibetan Monks Create Infinity
Feather Dancer

Historic Old Town:

Albuquerque's Old Town has more than 150 stores and restaurants, each adding to the look and feel of a centuries-old village, which it is, in fact. It's now a historic zone. The Pueblo-Spanish style architecture, built of adobe, makes Old Town a unique place to visit. The adobe color of most buildings is variously referred to as taupe, sand, tan and camel.

Strolling the streets and plazas of Old Town is a walk of discovery. In addition to the many restaurants, there are more than 24 galleries that sell Southwestern jewelry, sculpture, paintings, weaving and hand-crafts.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico:

Albuquerque's National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico preserves the Hispanic artistic and cultural heritage of the region. It also has shows of artwork from other Hispanic centers of the U.S. The Center offers a Performing Arts Program, a Culinary Arts Program and an Outreach Program, each designed to educate the public. The Center has a visual arts museum and an amphitheater, plus an excellent bookstore. (505) 246-2261 http://www.nhccnm.org
Hispanic Colors Whirl
Young Dancers Dig Deep

Performing Arts:

Albuquerque's thriving performing arts community features the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, the Albuquerque Little Theatre, the Albuquerque Civic Light Opera Association, and La Compania de Teatro, plus numerous independent theatre companies. The University of New Mexico's impressive Popejoy Hall hosts Broadway road shows.

The Tricklock Company, a European-style collaborative theater, has a 10-member ensemble that tours Europe & Canada every fall and brings back other groups to form an international theater festival during the 2nd half of January. http://www.tricklock.com

During the ski season, you can stay in Albuquerque and go to theater in the evenings. The Keshet Dance Company is popular, and the Rhythm 'n Blues Club also features jazz on some nights.

Rio Grande Nature Center:

  Two miles of trails thread through the 270 acres of the riverside forest and meadows of the Rio Grande Nature Center. The visitors center is next to a 3-acre pond, home to more than 260 species of birds. (505) 344-7240, http://www.frgnc.org/  
Humming Up a Storm

Albuquerque Biological Park:

The BioPark has a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden, plus a children's fantasy garden. The scale of the garden plants, bugs and tools is so large that kids feel like ants. (505) 764-6200 http://www.cabq.gov/biopark

Petroglyph National Monument:

Petroglyph National Monument has more than 17,000 ancient Indian petroglyphs carved into the black rock remnants of five extinct volcanos. This is the world's largest accessible collection of prehistoric rock art. (505) 897-8814, http://www.nps.gov

Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway:

The Sandia Peak Tram travels 2.7 miles from the base of the foothills northeast of Albuquerque to the top of the 10,400-foot Sandia Peak. From the top you see more than 11,000 square miles of deep rugged canyons, extinct volcanoes, distant mountains, unusual formations carved by erosion and a breathtaking desert landscape. (505) 856-7325, http://www.sandiapeak.com


  Albuquerque is also a hotbed of ballooning for sport. Precision flying events, held on weekday mornings during Balloon Fiesta, include target drops, key grabs and cash grabs. The 9-day Fiesta is held annually from the first Saturday through the second Sunday of October. Some years there are close to a thousand balloons participating. For more information, call (505) 821-1000, (899) 422-7277, http://www.balloonfiesta.com    
It's a Huff and a Puff
Soaring Skyward


2005 National Poetry Slam to be held in Albuquerque:

Poetry slam is the name given to the spoken word community's competitive art of performance poetry. Think of Beatniks, but in teams of 4, who individually recite 3-minute-limit poems. The art/sport is American in origin. It began in Chicago in the mid-1980s, and already has teams in almost every state and many nations. Slam competitors are judged on their poetic excellence and ability to involve the audience. Sometimes the audience response becomes part of the poem itself, as listeners realize there is no such thing as passive listening at a slam.

Albuquerque made the successful bid to host the 2005 National Poetry Slam, August 10-13. Fifty-six teams competed in Chicago in the national championship. National Slams have been held every year since 1990. For information: www.itsatrip.org/media/poetryslam/





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