Albuquerque is a four-season destination; this desert city has cool summer evenings and snow in the winter.
At 5300ft above sea level with its Sandia Mountains climbing to 10,678ft, Albuquerque can go from sunny T-shirt weather to icy alpine conditions in a matter of minutes (if you’re taking the 15-minute ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway). It’s not unheard of to ski in the morning, golf in the afternoon and dine outside in a single day. Here’s a rundown of when to visit and what to expect in Albuquerque.
High Season: June to October
Summer into early fall is Albuquerque’s high season. Visitors enjoy all that the city has to offer and use it as a base to explore the rest of New Mexico. It has the largest airport in the Four Corners region, and Interstates 40 and 25 cross one another in the city’s center, making it a convenient hub for Southwest summer adventures.
July’s monsoons bring afternoon showers to break the heat, lasting for only a couple of hours and creating perfect summer evenings and kaleidoscope sunsets. The summer months see hikers exploring the wildflower-speckled Sandia Mountains and paddlers plying the Rio Grande in kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Hikers can climb the 8-mile long La Luz Trail to the top of the mountain, or opt for a lift on the Sandia Peak Tramway to the top terminal at 10,378 feet where they take in soaring views of the Sandía wilderness and the city below.
Live music and family friendly events such as free movies on downtown’s Civic Plaza stretch into the night, the New Mexico State Fair thrills ride-lovers in September. Come October, two words sum up Albuquerque: chiles and balloons. New Mexico’s chile harvest comes in and the smell of roasting chiles wafts all throughout Albuquerque.
The city’s largest event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, comes the first week of October. Tens of thousands of visitors arrive to watch hot-air balloons from all over the world lift off on chilly mornings, then spend the warm afternoons enjoying the city or making day trips to Santa Fe via the New Mexico Rail Runner Express train. Hotel rooms for this week are nearly impossible to find as the date nears; booking a year in advance to see this world-class event is recommended.
Shoulder Season: November and December
Things quiet down beginning in November, but the weather is still near perfect and the crowds much thinner. The first weekend of November is the Marigold Parade, one of the nation’s largest Day of the Dead celebrations. This colorful procession through the city’s South Valley honors loved ones with elaborate flower-covered floats and calavera (skull) face painting.
Daytime temperatures hold in the 60s as the Bosque, the cottonwood forest lining the Rio Grande, turns golden yellow and cyclists and hikers enjoy the last bit of perfect weather. The first snows in northern New Mexico begin to fall, exciting skiers and snowboarders.
Albuquerque welcomes December with holiday events including the Twinkle Light Parade through the historic Nob Hill neighborhood, and on December 24 the streets of Old Town are outlined with thousands of farolitos (also called luminarias), decorations made of paper sacks and candles that are ubiquitous throughout New Mexico during the holidays. A traditional play telling the story of María and José called La Posada takes place in the Barelas neighborhood. This procession is known for its cultural elements including matachines dancers. At the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden, rope lights create whimsical animal scenes during the River of Lights display.
Low Season: January to May
Winter storms bring skiers to New Mexico’s slopes, many of whom drive through or fly into Albuquerque as they continue on to Taos, Santa Fe, Angel Fire and other ski areas and resorts. While it’s no Taos, Albuquerque does have the Sandia Peak Ski Area atop the Sandia Mountains that’s perfect for families and beginners, and experienced skiers and snowboarders enjoy skinning up from the base to do laps. At Capulin Snow Play Area in the Sandias, three wide runs are open for sledding and tubing. All along the top of the Sandias, snowy trails are favored by snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
Come spring daytime temperatures can climb into the 70s with evening temperatures still hovering around freezing. It’s not uncommon for Albuquerque to get snow dustings into the first week of May, and in northern New Mexico some of the year’s heaviest snows occur in the spring. Families on spring break stop in Albuquerque on Southwest road trips or to enjoy spring snow on the ski slopes.
Albuquerque month by month
Sunny days and highs in the 40s bring people outside to greet the new year. Most of Albuquerque’s attractions such as the ABQ BioPark zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens are open year-round, and golf and most other outdoor activities can be enjoyed year-round as well.
Key event: Albuquerque On Stage
Albuquerque’s worst winter storms usually happen in February – good news for snow lovers but unwelcome for those who love the city’s 310 days of sunshine.
Key event: Friends and Lovers Balloon Rally
Families on spring break hit the ski slopes or use Albuquerque as a home base for visits to Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other destinations while on road trips.
Key event: National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show
Albuquerque has a strong Catholic heritage brought from Spain that has been adopted and modified by New Mexico’s 19 Pueblo nations as well, creating a fusion of faith and culture found only in New Mexico. Many Pueblos are open to respectful visitors observing Easter dances, and churches throughout Albuquerque celebrate Holy Week. Many people, not necessarily Catholics, make an annual pilgrimage to the Santuario de Chimayo, a chapel north of Santa Fe that is believed to have healing powers.
Key event: Gathering of Nations Pow Wow
Uncertain spring weather yields to denim skies, and Albuquerqueans are back out on local brewery patios and making plans for summer. Visitors increase as school years end and travelers get a start before the heat of summer. Bulbs bloom on the Old Town Plaza as wildflowers open in the Sandia Mountains.
Key event: Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival
Temperatures climb into the 90s with lows in the 60s as summer fully embraces Albuquerque. Museums such as Explora and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science are great places to beat the heat, as are the ABQ BioPark zoo and aquarium.
Key event: Festival Flamenco Albuquerque
Afternoon rainstorms locally called “the monsoons” (hopefully) bring down temperatures. Albuquerque is busy with tourists and Fourth of July celebrations that include a large fireworks display at Balloon Fiesta Park.
Key event: Lavender in the Village Festival
Albuquerque continues to lean into summer with al fresco dining at sunset and plenty of outdoor recreation, all while getting excited about the coming fall.
Key event: Albuquerque Summerfest Series
Cooler days herald the harvest of New Mexico’s beloved chile, and Albuquerqueans are busy roasting, peeling, eating and freezing New Mexico’s state vegetable (it’s actually a fruit, but…).
Key event: New Mexico State Fair
Balloons. Everything balloons. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest such event, is equal to any national holiday in Albuquerque. Even jaded locals can’t help but look up and smile the first week of October, when more than 750 hot-air balloons from around the world launch daily.
Key event: You guessed it – the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Sunny days linger in the 60s and nights are toe-freezing as cottonwoods along the Rio Grande and aspens in the Sandia Mountains turn golden. Sandhill cranes make their annual migration to Albuquerque’s Río Grande corridor, and New Mexicans still can’t get enough of fresh chiles. The holidays are approaching fast, but the weather is too beautiful to think about them yet.
Key event: River of Lights
Piñon smoke from kiva fireplaces scents the city. The days are chilly but not bitter, with blue skies vanquishing any winter blues. Couples visit Albuquerque to experience the romance of New Mexico in the winter. Tamales and posole (a hominy and pork stew served at the holidays) are especially in demand. Farolitos are put out on Christmas Eve, but eclectic versions of the traditional decorations adorn homes and businesses all month.
Key event: Old Town Holiday Stroll