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Route 66 and Albuquerque have had a long standing romance. Running through the heart of the city along Central Avenue, this historic highway leads travelers through some of the city’s most beloved neighborhoods and is still a jumping off point for transportation. Home to eclectic shops and unique restaurants, Route 66 is adorned with buzzing neon signs, vintage artifacts, and epitomizes our unique ABQ attitude. You can experience an authentic fusion of old and new along Route 66 in Nob Hill, the University area, Downtown, and Historic Old Town.
Historic Nob Hill best embodies the vintage spirit of Route 66 in Albuquerque. Glowing with neon lights, unique and modern dining options, and abuzz with bars and nightlife, the Nob Hill neighborhood offers a classic Route 66 experience.
Fun fact: Nob Hill turned 100 years young just a few years ago, in 2016! Click here to watch a short documentary on Nob Hill’s history.
The University of New Mexico (UNM) portion of Route 66 significantly overlaps with Nob Hill, but is worth mentioning as a distinct area. Catering mostly to students, Central Avenue between Girard and I-25 is bold and energetic. Packed with affordable eateries, bike lanes, and late-night coffee shops, come here to get an espresso jolt or to feel old among 20-somethings. Be sure to buy a Lobo t-shirt!
Downtown Albuquerque, which expands along Central Avenue from 1st Street to 12th Street, is the home to exciting revitalization blended with historic preservation. In addition to a remodeled convention center, Route 66 Downtown is home to a variety of trendy cafes and restaurants, as well as historic venues such as the KiMo Theater.
Old Town, the original city center, still operates as hub of culture in Albuquerque. The Old Town corridor of Route 66 includes some of the Albuquerque’s most popular attractions, a major one being the ABQ BioPark. Our BioPark facilities are consistent crowd pleasers for family fun and outdoor activities, which encompasses the Zoo, Aquarium, Botanic Garden, and Tingley Beach (yes, we have a beach in Albuquerque).
Old Town is also home to many of Albuquerque’s renowned museums, such as the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Explora, the Albuquerque Museum, and the Rattlesnake Museum.
Dining in along this stretch of Route 66 comes highly recommended, especially if you’re looking for authentic New Mexican cuisine. Check our dining page to see all the options in Old Town.
Central Avenue, Albuquerque’s “Main Street,” comes with quite a past. Today, this road serves as Albuquerque’s central street, taking passengers east to west through the city’s most notable neighborhoods—Old Town, Downtown, and Nob Hill. But before Albuquerque’s main street became Central Avenue, it was a significant part of Route 66, the Main Street of America.
Route 66 was first commissioned in 1926, picking up as many bits and pieces of existing road as possible. The first route (1926-1937) ran north to south through Albuquerque, part of a giant S-curve that linked Santa Rosa, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Los Lunas and several Indian reservations. This original section was 506 miles of mostly unpaved road.
In 1931, federal money was designated to realign the road to a more east-west direction. By 1937, Route 66 had straightened out and headed directly west across the state, reducing the previous years’ journey across New Mexico by 107 miles. With Route 66 as the only paved road crossing New Mexico, development began to spread east and west along its path. This new road carried thousands of people longing for a better look at America and yearning to see what the country held in store. Route 66 was fixed in the memory of many by John Steinbeck's novel, “The Grapes of Wrath” and Bobby Troup's lyric "Get Your Kicks on Route 66," as well as CBS TV's "Route 66." Today, I-40 runs over much of the original roadbed, but many parts of the old highway can be seen today just beside I-40.
Central Avenue underwent several transformations that have molded it into the main Albuquerque street that it is today. Present-day Central Avenue connects locals and visitors to the city’s diverse neighborhoods, each offering unique and authentic Albuquerque experiences. Old Town is the historic heart of Albuquerque, featuring San Felipe de Neri Church, the oldest building in the city, unique museums, and more than more than 100 stores and 24 galleries. Downtown has gradually transformed into an arts and entertainment district with a variety of bars, restaurants, galleries, and live music venues, as well as new residential space. Nob Hill is known for its eclectic mix of restaurants, shops, art galleries and locally-owned businesses. The revitalized Route 66 is a treat for all ages.
Get your Route 66 kicks as you drive through Albuquerque along the Mother Road. Follow the red tour on the Albuquerque Self-Guided Tours Map (PDF). Depending on your pace, the tour may take about four hours. It covers 4.2 miles/6.7 kilometers.
Include Nob Hill in your historic Route 66 travel plans. One of the first centralized shopping areas west of the Mississippi River, Nob Hill is now a thriving residential and commercial district, housing boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. See Nob Hill for more information.
Founded in 1889, UNM is the state's largest university. The campus features Pueblo Revival architecture, relaxing ponds and Southwestern landscaping and includes several museums, among them the University Art Museum, Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, and Museum of Southwestern Biology. See Midtown/University for more information.
With Central Avenue at its core, Downtown Albuquerque is vivacious and getting even more bustling. New restaurants, upscale retail stores, a 14-screen movie theater, and dynamic arts and music scenes make Downtown Albuquerque a great place to dine and be entertained.
Built on the grounds of, and in the style of, the majestic Alvarado Hotel, the Alvarado Transportation Center, at First Street and Central Avenue, is Albuquerque's hub for ground transportation. The passenger intermodal facility also features transportation memorabilia.
This beautiful historic theater was originally built to showcase vaudeville acts. It is famous for its Pueblo Deco architecture, which is particularly evident in the theater's murals and plaster ceilings. See the KiMo Theatre for more information.
The center of the original village of Albuquerque, Old Town has quaint streets that now accommodate a variety of Southwestern shops, restaurants and art galleries.
With attractions like the ABQ BioPark and neighborhoods like Old Town and Nob Hill accessible from Route 66, biking along and near the historic highway is a great way to get around. Rent an electric bike with Free-to-Roam eBiking at their Bike In Coffee location (949 Montoya St NW), or from Routes Bicycle Rentals & Tours located in Old Town, or book a tour with either company for a guided experience.