I've spent a combined ten awake hours in Albuquerque and spent two nights here, twenty years apart. From a distance, I've always thought I'd like Albuquerque - it's an off-the-beaten path city in an off-the-beaten path state that seemed to have a distinct culture. After the most recent five hours, in December 2020, I've walked away from Albuquerque with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. The city is ok. It's like a crappy version of Portland. Tons of homeless people. A weird downtown. An overall sketchy vibe. That's a rough assessment for only five hours but I felt like I covered a lot of the city in a short time period.
It's easy to figure out where to go first in Albuquerque - it's old town area. There's a green plaza in the center that's surrounded by Spanish style buildings. Albuquerque was found in 1706, so it loses a lot of the "oldest" titles to Santa Fe, which was founded a century earlier, but the main plaza has a similar feel.
From the Old Town area we swung around to Tingley Beach. Now I thought the Old Town area was going to be Albuquerque's defining feature but Tingley Beach is unlike anything I've seen in any other city in the U.S. It's basically four or five man-made ponds that are stocked with fish. And on a Sunday afternoon the place was packed with fishers. I get that other cities have parks and fishing but this place was within the core city center. I wish I had taken a few photos but I didn't want to disturb the scene.
Albuquerque's city center runs along Central Avenue. We parked near the 505 Central Food Hall, walked a block, and decided to move on. We tried getting a coffee in the Central Food Hall but as it was late in the day, the two coffee shops there, were closed.
I contemplated staying in the city center and once we arrived I was glad we didn't. The city center seemed worn and tired. Lots of homeless. Lots of trash. Lots of empty and boarded up buildings.