Wednesday nights are usually pretty uneventful around here, so I was very happy to hear that one of our innkeeper friends had put together a gathering of innkeepers on the new tour trolley. The Albuquerque Trolley Company opened for business this Spring, and they offer a wonderfully unique, fun and informative tour of Albuquerque’s points of interest. The tour includes neighborhoods around Old Town, Downtown and along Rt 66 as it flows through the heart of Albuquerque. We had a very, very good time. This is a long post, but an important one with respect for the best tour of the Duke City. Hang with me folks!
Nearly all of us aboard were innkeepers, but there were a few friends and family from out of town along for the ride as well. We were getting the regular tour as if we were all from somewhere else so that we would know the experience and be able to recommend it to our guest. I give it a TWO THUMBS UP! Our driver was a bit young though.
The tour starts in Old Town and as soon as we got to the central plaza the information starts flowing in the most friendly and often humorous way. Trolley Company owners Jesse and Mike do this tour twice a day but are having so much fun telling everyone about this city they love that I can’t imagine them ever getting bored by it all. Such enthusiasm! Jesse drove and Mike was the MC.
Once through the Old Town Plaza we turned east in Mountain Rd past all the museums. Old Town boasts several museums all within walking distance of each other. (They are all discussed at more length on my earlier posts, “Old Town for the Shopping Impaired” Part 1 and Part 2.) At Mountain and 12th we turned south to connect to the “Mother Road”. Do you know who gave Rt 66 this name? I’m not telling – you’ll have to take the tour.
Rt 66 is Albuquerque’s Central Avenue, and it delineates the north/south regions of Albuquerque. Driving east on Central the trolley guide points out the oldest buildings, businesses, theaters, (Kimo Theatre is pictured), many, many murals and other places of significance along the way. We then turned off Central just before it dips under the Santa Fe Railroad to see the site of a movie shoot. The Film Industry and New Mexico are in the midst of a very happy and lucrative love affair. (We, at Adobe Nido, got to be their willing partners when a few scenes of a popular TV show were filmed at our B&B – see the post Inn Plain Sight.) Our tour guides worked with the film industry in their previous lives and know just about every inch of Albuquerque that has been used in movies and for tv. This makes the tour especially interesting for film buffs.
The Santa Fe Railroad has as much history in Albuquerque as does Rt 66. It is also what delineates the east and west parts of our city, so technically, if you didn’t have to worry about the trains, standing on the track just above Central Avenue would be the only place in the city where you could stand in all quadrants of Albuquerque at the same time. Don’t try it! You will either be hit by a train or arrested, I’m sure.
Traveling under the railroad and curving around the block, we return to Central and head through the historical neighborhood called the Huning Highlands Historic District, passing under Interstate 25 and onto the University stretch of Central Avenue, where shops, eateries and the usual suspects support the UNM student population. Just beyond UNM we find ourselves in one of the few pedestrian friendly neighborhoods in Albuquerque. Its name is borrowed – Nob Hill. This is a very desirable neighborhood to live in because of its close proximity to all sorts of shopping, services and the University of New Mexico. Here we once again turn off Central and travel side streets to view two homes designed by world famous architect, Bart Prince. His unusual designs captivate you with a cross between the awe that could be experienced watching Jesus come home and the morbid curiosity of a train wreck. They are just that strange and cool at the same time. My opinion – I like them!
After the Prince houses we head over to UNM and wave as the students all gawk at the spectacle of a stucco trolley full of people before them. Odd looks, smiles, call outs, whistles and cheers befall us as we pass Johnson Field, which is the size of several city blocks and alive with many different groups practicing every sport that can be done on grass. Our guide tells the smoochers to “get a room!”, and then gives us some history on the university. We are then informed that we will all be called upon later to do the Lobo Call. But not yet.
We turn on to the campus and then head south into the university neighborhood. It is here that we are all taught the cheer heard at University of NM sporting events. Someone says “Everyone’s a Lobo” and you reply “Woof, woof, woof”, complimented by holding your thumb to your two center fingers with index finger and pinky pointed straight up – as wolf ears. You “woof ” with your hand as well, as if you were creating a dog shadow on the wall, and complete the call with a loud howl like a wolf, but not yet.
Now we’re headed down Yale toward Avenida Cesar Chavez. This street used to be more appropriately named “Stadium” and shortly after turning right you can see why. First we pass the largest covered BMX track anywhere, and it is a site to behold even if you don’t know what BMX racing is. We then approach the Lobo Football Stadium and the Isotopes Park, our AAA Baseball Stadium on the opposite side of the road. We are now crossing University Blvd. and passing by “The Pit”, UNM’s basketball stadium which is mostly under ground. Looks small from the outside, but huge on the inside. Now don’t get me wrong about the street name, but considering who Cesar Chavez was and what he stood for, (and I’m pretty sure it WASNT collegiate sports), they really should have picked a different street to represent him appropriately, maybe in the more rural area of the city where there still IS farming, not football/basketball/baseball/BMX happening. My personal rant. It doesn’t do him justice.
This post is getting long so I am going to swiftly synopsize the rest of the tour. We headed into the valley to 4th St. It is this path that was once part of El Camino Real. This area also holds dear one of Albuquerque’s oldest neighborhoods, Barales. An historically Hispanic neighborhood rich with history Barales includes the old rail yards and workshops that once the housed rail cars and engines of the Santa Fe Railroad in need of repairs, providing many of the area’s men with jobs. It was the ONLY place for train repair between Chicago and California. Barales was also home to the original Dukes Baseball Stadium, called Tingley Field, and where the Rio Grande Zoo and Tingley Park, rich with local history and recently renovated, reside. After Barales we head home up Central Avenue once again to Old Town.
I am even more proud of Albuquerque than I had been before the tour, and I am sad it has come to an end. Thank you Albuquerque Trolley Company! This trolley company has some fun special tours coming up next month. During the Balloon Fiesta there will be night trips to the Balloon Fiesta Park, and for the last ten Days of October there will be haunted rides – Trolley of Terror! Visit their website for all the skinny on the best little Trolley in Albuquerque!
My pictures are poor, and I apologize for that. Batteries in my camera went dead so I had to use my phone’s camera. Could have been better. You can see more on the ABQ Trolley site.
I know the best things to do in Albuquerque!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!