Gazebo in Old Town Plaza, Albuquerque — Photo courtesy of JoelK75

What better way to get to know Albuquerque, NM and its surrounding areas than knowing its history? Plan a day trip for you and your family to discover the people and cultures that made this unique city what it is today.

Start early in Albuquerque’s historic Old Town, where the city began over 300 years ago, with a guided tour or on your own. You’ll see highlights such as the Gazebo and the Plaza’s focal point, the San Felipe de Neri Church.

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center — Photo courtesy of Mr. T in DC

Next, head to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and gain more insight into the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico through art, photography and historical exhibits. One of these pueblos is Acoma, where people have been living continuously for 800 years, making it one of the oldest communities in the United States.

But before hitting the road to visit this fascinating place, grab a bite to eat at the Pueblo Harvest Cafe and sample dishes influenced by the pueblo people’s heritage.

 The author and her son visiting Acoma Pueblo — Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

To the west of Albuquerque, just about an hour off I-40, is Acoma Pueblo, known as “Sky City.” Sky City is aptly named due to its native dwellers living on top of a mesa several hundred feet tall. It can only be reached by tour bus, starting at the museum. The city’s architecture and surrounding vistas are a sight to behold for young and old. 

The road to Acoma Pueblo — Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

At the Sky City Cultural Center, purchase tickets for a guided tour to visit the Haak’u Museum and shop the Gaits’i Indian Art Gallery, featuring turquoise jewelry, Acoma pottery and other fine art. Hop on the bus and be amazed on the way up the steep road to the Pueblo, atop a 367-foot sandstone bluff. 

An impressive focal point is the San Esteban Del Rey Mission Church, built in 1641. Your tour guide will spend an hour expounding on the history of these peoples and their early battles.

Make sure you bring a camera for the beautiful surrounding scenery–keeping in mind that natives do not like photos to be taken without permission.

The author’s mother and son purchasing pottery at Acoma — Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

At the pueblo, there are several opportunities to purchase pottery (each pueblo has its own specific style) from locals. Check the calendar, as there are several special Feast Days throughout the year which celebrate Acoma’s patron saints with food and dancing.

 Acoma Pueblo dwellings — Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

The size of some of the older doorways is fascinating, suggesting how small the pueblo people must have been years ago.  Many ladders are propped against the buildings, providing a way to the second floor.

Only a handful of natives actually live atop the mesa year round. Many from the nearby reservation visit family on the weekend. The thousands of tourists who visit are asked to remember that they are visiting someone’s home and behave accordingly.

 Enchanted Mesa, near Acoma Pueblo — Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

The nearby Enchanted Mesa can be seen from Acoma Pueblo. Legend has it this monolith used to be home to the Acoma people until a severe storm and landslide destroyed the only route to approach it–a stone ladder. Arrow points, beads and pottery fragments have been found on top of this 437-foot butte.

Discovering an horno, where bread is baked — Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Families of all ages will enjoy a day trip to Acoma Pueblo, where the native customs and culture, along with their way of life and beautiful surroundings, can be experienced. Back at the Cultural Center below, a gift shop and cafe will complete your day’s adventure before heading back to Albuquerque.

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