Visitors have a choice of several hot air balloon operators; rates start at about $160 per person per hour. Call Rainbow Ryders, 5601 Eagle Rock Ave. NE (tel. 505/823-1111; www.rainbowryders.com), or World Balloon Corporation, 1103 La Poblana NW (tel. 505/293-6800; www.worldballoon.com).
If you'd rather just watch, go to the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which is held the first through second weekends of October.
Albuquerque is a major bicycling hub in the summer, for both road racers and mountain bikers. For an excellent map of Albuquerque bicycle routes, call the Albuquerque Parks & Recreation Department at tel. 505/768-3550. You can also find links to many recreation opportunities for adults and kids at www.cabq.gov/visiting.html. A great place to bike is Sandia Peak (tel. 505/242-9133; www.sandiapeak.com) in Cíbola National Forest. You can't take your bike on the tram, but chairlift no. 1 is available for up- or downhill transportation with a bike. Bike rentals are available at the top and bottom of the chairlift. They cost $40 for adult bikes and $30 for junior ones. The lift costs $16 and runs on Saturday and Sunday, with Friday added in July and August, though you'll want to call to be sure. Helmets are mandatory. Bike maps are available; the clearly marked trails range from easy to very difficult.
Down in the valley, there's a bosque trail that runs along the Rio Grande, accessed through the Rio Grande Nature Center. To the east, the Foothills Trail runs along the base of the mountains. It's a fun, 7-mile-long trail that offers excellent views. Access it by driving east from downtown on Montgomery Boulevard, past the intersection with Tramway Boulevard. Go left on Glenwood Hills Drive and head north about 1/2 mile before turning right onto a short road that leads to the Embudito trail head.
Northeast Cyclery, 8305 Menaul Blvd. NE (tel. 505/299-1210) rents bikes at the rate of $25 per day for front-suspension mountain bikes and $35 per day for road bikes. Multiday discounts are available. Unfortunately, the shop doesn't rent children's bikes. Rentals come with helmets.
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (tel. 505/835-1828; www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/newmex/bosque/index.html) is a haven for migratory waterfowl such as snow geese and cranes. It's 90 miles south of Albuquerque on I-25, and it's well worth the drive. You'll find 7,000 acres of carefully managed riparian habitat, which include marshlands, meadows, agricultural fields, and old-growth cottonwood forests lining the Rio Grande. Particularly if you're here from November through March, the experience is thrilling, not only because of the variety of birds -- more than 300 species -- but also for the sheer numbers of them. Huge clouds of snow geese and sandhill cranes take flight at dawn and dusk, the air filling with the sounds of their calls and wing flaps. In early December, the refuge may harbor as many as 45,000 snow geese, 57,000 ducks of many different species, and 18,000 sandhill cranes. You may even be fortunate enough -- as I was on my last visit -- to see a whooping crane or two. There are also plenty of raptors about, including numerous red-tailed hawks and northern harriers (or marsh hawks), Cooper's hawks and kestrels, and even bald and golden eagles. The refuge has a 15-mile auto-tour loop, which you should drive very slowly. Closer to town, check out the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park.
Albuquerque's most notable fishing spot is Tingley Beach (tel. 505/768-2000; www.cabq.gov/biopark/tingley), stocked weekly with trout, bass, and catfish. It's open daily and is free. To access Tingley from Rio Grande Boulevard, head west to Tingley Drive (Pkwy.) and turn south. Another option is Shady Lakes (tel. 505/898-2568). Nestled among cottonwood trees, it's near I-25 on Albuquerque's north side. The most common catches are rainbow trout, black bass, bluegill, and channel catfish. To reach Shady Lakes, take I-25 north to the Tramway exit. Follow Tramway Road west for a mile and then go right on NM 313 for 1/2 mile. Sandia Lakes Recreational Area (tel. 505/897-3971; www.sandiapueblo.nsn.us), also on NM 313, is another popular fishing spot. There is a bait and tackle shop there.
Fishing & More at Tingley -- Though Albuquerque isn't known for its water ways, recent years has brought a renovation to Tingley Beach, 1800 Tingley Dr. SW (tel. 505/768-2000; www.cabq.gov/biopark/tingley). The park offers three fishing lakes, a model boating pond, and train station with a gift shop and food service. It's open from sunrise to sunset every day and is free, offering a fun place to relax.
There are quite a few public courses in the Albuquerque area. The Championship Golf Course at the University of New Mexico, 3601 University Blvd. SE (tel. 505/277-4546; www.unmgolf.com), is one of the best in the Southwest and was rated one of the country's top 25 public links by Golf Digest. Desert Greens Golf Course, 10035 Country Club Lane NW (tel. 505/898-7001; www.desertgreens.com), is a popular 18-hole golf course on the west side of town.
Golf on the Santa Fe Trail -- Those golfers traveling through Albuquerque and northward will appreciate the nine respected courses that have teamed together to offer customized golf packages, including accommodations. Golf on the Santa Fe Trail (tel. 866/465-3660; www.santafetrailgolf.com) includes such prestigious courses as the Black Mesa Golf Club, just north of Albuquerque at Santa Ana Pueblo (tel. 505/747-8946; www.blackmesagolfclub.com), one of the state's premier golf settings since opening in 2003; and Towa Golf Resort, north of Santa Fe at Pojoaque Pueblo (tel. 877/465-3489; www.towagolf.com), where 9 of the 18 holes were designed by Hale Irwin. To explore the other courses involved, check out their website.
Other Albuquerque courses to check with for tee times are Ladera, 3401 Ladera Dr. NW (tel. 505/836-4449); Los Altos, 9717 Copper Ave. NE (tel. 505/298-1897; www.cabq.gov/golf/los-altos); Puerto del Sol, 1800 Girard Blvd. SE (tel. 505/265-5636; www.cabq.gov/golf/puerto-del-sol); Arroyo del Oso, 7001 Osuna Rd. NE (tel. 505/884-7505; www.cabq.gov/golf/arroyo-del-oso); and Sandia Golf Club (tel. 505/798-3990; www.sandiagolf.com), located at Sandia Resort and Casino on the north end of town.
If you're willing to drive a short distance just outside Albuquerque, you can play at the Santa Ana Golf Club at Santa Ana Pueblo, 288 Prairie Star Rd., Bernalillo, NM 87004 (tel. 505/867-9464; www.santaanagolf.com), which was rated by the New York Times as one of the best public golf courses in the country. Club rentals are available (call for information). In addition, Isleta Pueblo, 4001 Hwy. 47 (tel. 505/869-0950; www.isletapueblo.com), south of Albuquerque, has an 18-hole course.
The 1 1/2-million-acre Cíbola National Forest offers ample hiking opportunities. Within town, the best hike is the Embudito Trail, which heads up into the foothills, with spectacular views down across Albuquerque. The 5.5-mile one-way hike is moderate to difficult. Allow 1 to 8 hours, depending on how far you want to go. Access it by driving east from downtown on Montgomery Boulevard past the intersection with Tramway Boulevard. Go left on Glenwood Hills Drive and head north about a half mile before turning right onto a short road that leads to the trail head. The premier Sandia Mountain hike is La Luz Trail, a very strenuous journey from the Sandia foothills to the top of the Crest. It's a 15-mile round-trip jaunt, and it's half that if you take the Sandia Peak Tramway either up or down. Allow a full day for this hike. Access is off Tramway Boulevard and Forest Service Road 333. For more details contact Sandia Ranger Station, Hwy. 337 south toward Tijeras (tel. 505/281-3304; www.fs.fed.us/r3/cibola).
Trail Closures -- The drought that has spread across the Southwest in recent years has caused the U.S. Forest Service to close trails in many New Mexico mountains during the summer in order to reduce fire hazard. Before you head out in this area, contact the Sandia Ranger Station (tel. 505/281-3304; www.fs.fed.us/r3/cibola).
Sometimes I just have to get in a saddle and eat some trail dust. If you get similar hankerings, call the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, 1300 Tuyuna Trail, Santa Ana Pueblo (tel. 505/771-6037; www.tamaya.hyatt.com). The resort offers 2 1/2-hour-long rides near the Rio Grande for $75 per person. Children must be over 7 years of age and over 4 feet tall. The resort is about 15 miles north of Albuquerque. From I-25 take exit 242, following US 550 west to Tamaya Boulevard, and drive 1 1/2 miles to the resort.
The Sandia Peak Ski Area is a good place for family skiing. There are plenty of beginner and intermediate runs. (However, if you're looking for more challenge or more variety, you'd better head north to Santa Fe or Taos.) The ski area has twin base-to-summit chairlifts to its upper slopes at 10,360 feet and a 1,700-foot vertical drop. There are 30 runs (35% beginner, 55% intermediate, 10% advanced) above the day lodge and ski-rental shop. Four chairs and two pomas accommodate 3,400 skiers an hour. All-day lift tickets are $48 for adults, $38 for people ages 13 to 20, $35 for children ages 6 to 12 and seniors (ages 62-71), and free for children 46 inches tall or less in ski boots and seniors ages 72 and over; rental packages are available. The season runs mid-December to mid-March. Contact the ski area, 10 Tramway Loop NE (tel. 505/242-9052; www.sandiapeak.com), for more information, or call the hot line for ski conditions (tel. 505/857-8977).
Cross-country skiers can enjoy the trails of the Sandia Wilderness from the ski area, or they can go an hour north to the remote Jemez Wilderness and its hot springs.
The Spa Scene
If you're looking to get pampered, you have a few options. Mark Prado Salon & Spa (tel. 800/363-7115) offers treatments at four locations: 1100 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE (tel. 505/298-2983), 8001 Wyoming Blvd. NE (tel. 505/856-7700), 3500 Central Ave. SE 7-B (tel. 505/266-2400), and Cottonwood Mall, 10,000 Coors Blvd. NE (tel. 505/897-2288).
Albuquerque's top two luxurious spa experiences are at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, 1300 Tuyuna Trail, Santa Ana Pueblo (tel. 505/771-6134; www.tamaya.hyatt.com) and the Sandia Resort & Casino, 30 Rainbow Rd., NE (tel. 800/526-9366 or 505/798-3930; www.sandiacasino.com). Each offers a broad array of treatments, as well as a sauna and a steam room, in refined atmospheres. The Tamaya is 15 minutes north of Albuquerque, near the village of Bernalillo, while the Sandia is on the north end of town, off Tramway Boulevard.
Albuquerque has 29 public parks with tennis courts. Because of the city's size, your best bet is to call the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau (tel. 800/284-2282; www.itsatrip.org) to find out which park is closest to your hotel.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.