Albuquerque's many museums are a testament to the creativity and curiosity that drive the 505. Even more impressive than the number of museums-there are over 20 of them-are the types of museums Albuquerque has. From racing to rattlesnakes, Albuquerque museums explore an incredible range of subjects, with museum themes not found anywhere else in the world. Here are seven museums you won't find anywhere but Albuquerque.
Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum - Did you know that a duck, a rooster and a sheep got to enjoy the thrills of hot-air ballooning before people, during initial experiments in France in the 18th century? Fortunately, people can now soar through the skies too-a common spectacle in Albuquerque, the "hot-air ballooning capital of the world." You don't have to visit Albuquerque during the International Balloon Fiesta to admire the wonders of hot-air ballooning (although of course, the Balloon Fiesta is a must-see!). Explore the history, science and fun of ballooning at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, which combines historic artifacts and multimedia technology. The new Tim Anderson 4-D Theater shows science-related films accompanied by physical sensations, and the soon-to-debut Weather Lab will provide even more interaction. Visitors in the enclosed exhibition will witness a vivid explanation of the weather, giving new light to something we experience everyday but may not know all that much about.
Tinkertown Museum - Tucked away in the East Mountains, the Tinkertown Museum is a true marvel, an ode to the imagination-and the perfect embodiment of "Albu-quirky."
Folk artist Ross Ward spent more than 40 years developing the Tinkertown collection, which includes everything from meticulously crafted miniature scenes of the Old West to circus memorabilia to a 35-foot wooden sailboat used to sail around the world. "Delight someone," a Tinkertown sign recommends; Ward and his collection have delighted a great many.
Turquoise Museum - Turquoise, the official state gem of New Mexico, has been mined in New Mexico for more than 1,000 years. Known as the "sky stone" by the Zuni, turquoise was used for trade, ceremonies and ornamentation by Southwestern Indians; it appears in the creation myths of the Navajo, Zuni and Hopi. Mount Chalchihuitl, near Cerrillos, New Mexico, was home to the largest ancient turquoise mine in the world. Discover turquoise's storied past at the Turquoise Museum, featuring a large collection of natural turquoise, hands-on exhibitions and a sneak peak into a working lapidary shop.
American International Rattlesnake Museum - Since 1990, the American International Rattlesnake Museum has fascinated thousands of visitors with its collection of rattlesnakes-the largest collection of different live rattlesnake species in the world! Located in the heart of Old Town, the museum is dedicated to animal conservation and is filled with artifacts and memorabilia that will enrich your understanding of the notorious slithering critter.
National Museum of Nuclear Science & History - America's only congressionally chartered museum in its field, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History delves into the complex history, science, and technology of nuclear development. With interactive activities and the nine-acre Heritage Park-where visitors can walk around aircraft and missiles-the museum is invaluable for understanding nuclear technology of the past, and what that might mean for the future.
Unser Racing Museum - The Unser family is synonymous with auto racing greatness. The family has nine Indy 500 victories to its name: four by Al Unser (a record, tied with A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears), three by Bobby Unser, and two by Al Unser Jr. The Unser Racing Museum tells the history of racing from start to present-day, with a wealth of memorabilia and vehicles-everything from early-20th-century motorcycles to a recent race-winner driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. You can even get in the driver's seat yourself, with the museum's racing simulator.
J&R Vintage Autos - Vintage car enthusiasts will love wandering around the 60+ cars and trucks at J&R Vintage Autos in Rio Rancho. The collection includes such classics as a 1918 Model T and a 1969 Mercury Cougar. http://www.jrvintageautos.com/
Stay tuned for Part 2 in our series on Albuquerque museums! Next we'll look at the historical and cultural museums of the Duke City.