Sharks, Trains and Giant Veggies - Family Fun at the ABQ BioPark Aquarium and Botanic Garden
There are so many fun things to do in Albuquerque with kids. One of my favorites is the ABQ BioPark Aquarium and Botanic Garden. Not only is it affordable, but one admission gets you into both facilities - and kids under the age of three are free.
Both of my girls are under three, so we've spent many days exploring the two facilities. We usually visit the Aquarium first to see the fish, stingrays and sharks. As you walk through, you are taken on a journey down the Rio Grande from Albuquerque all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. They do a great job highlighting some of the marine-life that can be found in this part of the country.
My daughter loves the stingrays, seahorses and giant aquariums filled with colorful fish and sharks. There's also a walk-through tunnel that is a great place to snap a photo. I never can seem to get my daughter to stand there long enough to get a good photo, she likes to run through it instead.
The Aquarium also has two Touchpools that provide hands-on interaction with sea creatures. The Invertebrate Touchpool (a rolling tank Touchpool operated by volunteers) features animals of the tidepool like sea urchins and horseshoe crabs. The Shark & Ray Encounter Touchpool let's you pet small stingrays and bamboo sharks! We haven't spent too much time in there because it's more appropriate for older children.
While my daughter loves to see the fish, she is only two, so her attention span is pretty short. Off to the Botanic Garden we go!
One of the many reasons I love the Botanic Garden is the family-friendly lawn area. You'll see lots of families enjoying lunch (you are able to purchase snacks and meals at The Wildflower Cafe, or bring in a picnic lunch of your own) on the lawn. I usually bring a picnic lunch with me and spread out a blanket. It's a nice spot to let my daughter run around to get some energy out, too. (There is also a great restaurant called The Shark Reef Cafe at the Aquarium that gives you an up-close look at the shark tanks while you are eating breakfast or lunch! You can dine at the cafe even if you don't purchase admission to the BioPark facilities.)
We can't go to the Botanic Garden without visiting the Railroad Garden. My daughter is really into trains right now and she loves watching the choo choo trains pass by villages, go over bridges and through tunnels. There are also a couple of trains that you can control by pressing buttons. It's lots of fun to watch how excited she gets over these interactive trains.
The Children's Fantasy Garden is also a must: a larger-than-life perspective of plants, gardening and more. A dragon guards the castle gate entrance and inside you'll find enormous potted plants, bees that buzz and giant vegetables of all sorts including carrots, potatoes, onions and a walk through pumpkin. Also, on Fridays at the Children's Fantasy Garden, there is story telling at 10:30am. Right when you walk in you'll see the Story Time clock that tells you where to meet.
We also love the Butterfly Pavilion, but it's open on a seasonal basis from May - October. The pavilion features several hundred North American butterflies and is a great place for photos. Here's a fun video from the BioPark that talks about the Butterfly Pavilion:
There's so much more to see, but it's usually overdue for nap time by the time we've gotten through our favorite spots. I would definitely recommend these facilities to families with kids of all ages - even toddlers like mine!
Local Tip: If you live here in Albuquerque, consider getting an ABQ BioPark Membership! There are lots of benefits including free unlimited admission into all BioPark facilities (Zoo, Botanic Garden and Aquarium). More information can be found here.