Aileen O'Catherine: Family

Aileen O'Catherine: Family

Aileen is the mother of a young son who is the real expert in the family. Thanks to her, he knows pretty much all there is to know about having fun with kids (and grown-ups) in Albuquerque. But luckily, Aileen is willing to share her secrets with you, too! As the former education manager at the Lodestar Astronomy Center at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, Aileen is intimately familiar with what it takes to keep kids entertained, active and learning. She has broad and deep knowledge of the places, activities, events and things to do with kids in Albuquerque. Aileen writes for New Mexico Kids! family magazine and, and she can help you plan a great New Mexico family vacation!

Questions & Answers

Q: I have three daughters, ages 17, 15, and 9... My husband and I are trying to figure out a February vacation that is a little different, yet enjoyable for all ages....Would a trip to New Mexico be that spot for us?
A: New Mexico is sure to have something for everyone in your family! A great family activity everyone will love is a ride to the top of the Sandia Crest via the tram. The tram is one of the world's longest and offers panoramic views of the city. You might want to go up in the late afternoon, have dinner and see the city lights glow after dark. The restaurant at the top of the crest, High Finance, has spectacular views.

The Albuquerque BioPark will appeal to everyone, but especially the 9 year old, if you make a day of it and visit all three places along the train line. You'll see the Botanic Gardens, where there's a children's fantasy garden, the Aquarium, which highlights what lives along the Rio Grande on its way to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Zoo, which has all the creatures you expect from a zoo, plus New Mexico residents such as the Lobos (wolves) and roadrunners.

While you're in town, you might want to stop by the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, where you can not only learn about the history of ballooning, but see some real, life sized balloons. You can even learn how to navigate a balloon by taking control of one in a simulator.

Don't miss Old Town, in the heart of the city and full of shops, galleries for shopping. Visit the Native American vendors along the plaza, and stop at one of the many nearby museums (Rattlesnake, Turquoise, Natural History, Art, and Explora Science Center). If you like the mysterious, be sure to take in a ghost tour via Ghost Tours of Old Town.

Check out some upcoming events to see if there’s something cool going on while you’re here. Albuquerque has some great theater options in the spring!

If you're an active family, you'll have a chance to ski Sandia Peak. Or you may want to take a tour by bicycle via Routes Rentals & Tours, which can help you with itineraries, maps, and suggestions on where to eat.

Whatever your preference, there are plenty of things to see and do in Albuquerque. Have a wonderful trip!
Q: Looking for a last minute,inexpensive,holiday getaway for the family. Never been to Alb. & looking foward to spending wknd there. Have 2 little ones so looking for outdoor/indoor, educational family fun. Suggestions?
A: Maribel,

You'll have a great time Albuquerque with the kids, and there are many affordable options for your family, both indoor and outdoor. You'll want to see the luminarias, so if you are in town on the 24th, head to Old Town to see how the simple brown paper bag lights transform our city into pure magic. It's a free tour, but be sure to dress warmly. There's also the city-wide Luminaria Tour that night where you can get tickets to have a city bus show you the lights around town. If you'll be here before that, head to Old Town anyway, because from now until Christmas, the luminarias dot many of the shops and squares. The kids will love the Covered Wagon and the Basket Shop, where the back room is stuffed with kid goodies.

If you can visit the River of Lights, do so! The kids will love it, as it features hundreds of lit sculptures in the shape of hippos, flying flamingos, toys and even animated, 3D bulldozers.

Those are evening activities, but for the day choices, head to the Rio Grande Nature Center, where they'll learn about the birds, ducks and trees of the Rio Grande. There are ponds and many places for short or longer walks. With the nature center, there are indoor play areas and an observation room where kids can hear what's happening on the pond.

Tingley Beach is a series of ponds along the Rio Grande if you like affordable fishing. There is also a small train that will take you to the Botanic Gardens or the Zoo, and if you purchase a ticket package, you can really save some cash.

If you have young children, an affordable and fun option is Explora, where the kids can engage in hands on fun, or the Balloon Museum, where they learn about what makes huge balloons fly.

All the options I've listed are under $10 and some are free. Have a wonderful, magical holiday!
Q: What are some good options for go cart riding and horse back riding in Albuquerque?
Albuquerque loves horses! For kids who want to take a leisurely stroll on a horse, The Stables at Tamaya has some trail ride options that are very scenic.
For go karts, there is a fun indoor track at Albuquerque Indoor Karting. Hinkle Family Fun offers go karts and plenty of other kid options.
Q: We are coming there thid thanksgiving weekend with our 3 yr old and 4 month old. What will be the best things to do without catching too much chill?
A: Happy Thanksgiving! You're sure to have a fun time in Albuquerque over the holiday, because you'll have a wide choice of activities. Here are a few for you to consider, which are geared toward your young ones.

Your three year old will love Explora, where getting into stuff is the name of the game. There are plenty of places for a three year old to play and explore, and lots of spots for you to sit down with your baby. There is even a special "room" where you can hold your baby while in a rocking chair while your toddler plays at a multilevel exploration area.

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science is right across the street from Explora, and if your young one likes dinosaurs, then this is the place to be. The hands-on discovery room is a lot of fun, and there are special shows to choose from. They also have a kid friendly cafe.

Nearby Old Town has shops and specialty stores, where you can take a look at what Albuquerque has to offer and your child can browse the aisles at the Covered Wagon, a kid's paradise. Dancing at the gazebo in the town square is mandatory for all kids, and even grown ups who have a sense of fun.

Another great place to explore is the Balloon Museum, where balloons, sailplanes and great views of the mountains tell the story of the art of hot air ballooning. Plus there's so much more to see and do there, from "piloting" a hot air balloon, to exploring with hands on exhibits.

I've given you mainly indoor spots to visit, but for outdoors where you don't catch too much chill, you might consider visiting the Rio Grande Nature Center. Your child can discover ducks and birds and play in the discovery room.

And during your stay, I'd recommend seeing the River of Lights if you have a chance. The special rope light scenes and creatures come to life after dark in a one of a kind, spectacular display. It's outdoors, but there are a few places to go inside to warm up, and there will be hot chocolate. Kids love this annual attraction, right down to the holiday model train. If you go, have your toddler look for Snoopy on the caboose.

Have a great Thanksgiving. Enjoy your visit to Albuquerque!
Q: IS there any Water Parks in or around the Albuquerque area? Please answer and thank you.
A: The Radisson Hotel in Albuquerque opened a large indoor/outdoor water park in March 2010. The water park features waterslides, a lazy river, an activity pool, a wading pool, an adult spa/hot-tub and more. Over 26 water play features include a tipping bucket, three basketball hoops, waterfalls, spray features, inner tubes, and a FlowRider Double Interactive Wave Rider (Surfing). The water park is only open on weekends, holidays and school breaks and is available for use only to those who stay overnight at the hotel. There are packages available for purchase depending on the night of your stay, length of your stay and number of people. Have fun!
Q: We will be in Albuquerque in November for a family vacation. Can you please recommend some restaurants for families travelling with children? Our children are 6 and 9 years old. Thank you.
A: 66 Diner, because Albuquerque lies along the old Route 66 and it's a great place to take the kids for some old auto atmosphere and good kid eats. And yes, there is chile for the adults if they so choose. Kelly's Brew Pub is a fun place for the kids that also has a Route 66 atmosphere, as well as great local brews for mom and dad. A fun place for the whole family that lets everyone enjoy the city views is Sandiago's, at the base of the tram. Even though it isn't New Mexican, it's somewhat regional and the whole outing is a wonderful experience. The food is very good.

Another place that gives mom and dad a taste of New Mexico (enough for tourist taste anyway), but offers a beautiful space for kids to run around is El Pinto. If the weather is fine, it really is wonderful to sit out on one of their beautiful patios. If you happen to be at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, La Fonda is open for breakfast or lunch in a beautiful and kid friendly atmosphere. And if they can't do without pizza, there's always SLICES.
The Golden Crown Panaderia is a fun, fun place for kids to visit and get a free biscochito and see shaped breads. Pratt Morales is a bit of a local legend, and there's green chile cheese bread to go, as well as empanadas, and the kids can have pizza. I just got back from NYC, and our ABQ pizza holds up to theirs just fine!
Q: Hello. I was wondering about what activites that a group with kids between the ages of 6-21 can do togeather for funl.Is there a place with laser tag, rockclimbing, an arcade, and were you can race with your friends in go-carts. How Much does Cliffs Amusement park, the zoo and botanic gardon cost for Kids ages 5-10 and 11-14 and 15+. thank you for your answer
There are SO many fun things for kids of varying ages to do in Albuquerque! Kids love laser tag, and several places in town offer it. Hard Rock Fun Connection and Hinkle Family Fun Center both have it. Each one also offers game arcades and other options, such as miniature golf. Rockclimbing can be found at Stone Age Climbing Gym, where kids can do as much or little climbing as they want. There's plenty of expert help while there. And for go-karts, you have some options: Albuquerque Indoor Karting and Hinkle Family Fun Center. If you're looking for a place that has all these options combined, then Hinkle Family Fun Center is a great choice. Unfortunately, Cliff's Amusement Park is closed from late September until early April, but would be another great option for you.
A good option for all ages is the multipass at the Albuquerque BioPark, which includes visits to the zoo, botanic gardens (which includes the fantasy garden) and the aquarium. Take the train between the different parks, and stop at Tingley Beach to visit the ponds and go fishing if you have time. The adult (13-64) combination ticket is $12 and the child (3-12) combo pass is $5, which is a real bargain.

Enjoy your visit!
  • Activities and fun for kids
    Activities and fun for kids
  • Exploring Museums
    Exploring Museums

Aileen's Family Fun Finds

Rent a Bicycle!

Visitors to Albuquerque who enjoy seeing the sights via bicycle seat can rent a bike at Routes Rentals & Tours. Located near Old Town and downtown, the store offers everything you need to set off ... >read more

Pack Smart

Remember that Albuquerque is at an elevation of 5,000 feet, with 310 bright, sunny days per year and a pleasant dry climate. It’s beautiful and comfortable but also very different from... >read more

No Stuffy Old Museums Here

If you’ve had your fill of the outdoors and you need to retreat inside for a few air-conditioned hours, try some of Albuquerque’s most kid-friendly museums. The NM Museum of Natu... >read more

Run Wild in the BioPark

In Albuquerque’s beautiful Botanic Garden you’ll find one of my favorite places in the city: the Fantasy Garden, with enormous sculptures to play on. Kids can climb on giant carrots, scr... >read more

Be One With Nature—and History

Albuquerque is a great place to be outdoors, all year ‘round. At the Rio Grande Nature Center’s observation blind you can watch migratory birds up close and learn to decipher different a... >read more

See the Peak

A trip to the Sandia Crest can be a full day of fun. Although it’s possible to drive around the east side of the mountain, I suggest you take the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway up to the Sandia Cr... >read more

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