25 Things You Should Know About Albuquerque


This city in the desert is so much more than just the home of a certain fallen chemistry teacher. Albuquerque boasts a rich history, gorgeous vistas, and an established arts scene. (If you'll recall, it's also the place where Bugs Bunny really should have taken that left.) Below, a few things you might not have known about Duke City.

1. When Coronado arrived in the area of modern Albuquerque in 1540, he found a large pueblo called Kuaua, which itself dated to around 1300 CE. Although abandoned in the late 16th century, you can visit the reconstructed ruins at the Coronado Historic Site just outside Albuquerque.

2. And if that’s not old enough for you, nearby Acoma Pueblo and Taos Pueblo each claim to be the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the modern United States, dating back to circa 1000 CE.


The city itself was founded in 1706 as “San Francisco de Alburquerque,” after the viceroy of New Spain, Don Francisco, the Duke of Alburquerque. How it became Albuquerque is unknown, but it’s probably just because no one was able to pronounce the extra r.

4. In 1995, the state legislature passed a non-binding resolution to restore the dropped r, but nothing ever came of it, and the popular New Mexican author Rudolfo Anaya has long pushed for the reinstatement of the r.

5. When the railroads came to New Mexico, a brand new town was founded in the area. Confusingly, it was also named Albuquerque, right next to the other Albuquerque. They got around this by calling one New Albuquerque and the other Old Albuquerque. Eventually, New Albuquerque consumed Old Albuquerque, but it’s still called Old Town.

6. If you go out to eat in Albuquerque (or anywhere else in New Mexico, for that matter), don’t panic when they ask you "red or green?" That's just their way of finding out whether you prefer red or green chile on your dish. If you can’t decide, order Christmas, which is a combination of the two. And yes, it’s chile, with an e. In New Mexico, chile means the hot fruit while chili refers to the meat-and-bean stew. It’s important to distinguish between chile cheese fries (red or green) and chili cheese fries.



Chile is so important to the local gastronomic scene that even Albuquerque’s McDonalds have green chile cheeseburgers on the menu.

8. And make sure that you wash that down with New Mexican beer. Albuquerque has some of the best breweries in the country, with local breweries coming first AND second in the 2015 National IPA Challenge. Just in case you think that’s a fluke, an Albuquerque brewer also won in 2014.

9. According to a 2013 study, Albuquerque is 28 percent parks—that's the “highest percentage of parkland in a metro area."

10. Albuquerque is also a tech hub. The first Bitcoin machine in the United States was installed in an Albuquerque cigar bar, although it vacated the premises months later.

11. Although most often associated with Washington, Microsoft was founded in Albuquerque in 1975. It moved to Washington in ’79. The reason they started in Albuquerque was because of the Altair 8800, a computer that many consider to have started the personal computer age. It was a kit computer developed by an Air Force second lieutenant while based at Kirtland Air Force Base that you could buy for $400; it came with 256 bytes of RAM (for comparison, an iPhone 6S has about 8 million times that).

12. In 1959, Dr. William Lovelace’s clinic in Albuquerque worked with NASA to help winnow 32 potential astronauts down to the Mercury 7, using a specially designed week of some of the most extreme laboratory tests ever attempted. 

13. Two years later, Lovelace would attempt to do the same thing with the “Woman in Space Program” where he put 19 women through the exact same examination as the men went through. 13 passed. Despite his seal of approval, NASA regulations at the time prevented any of them from going to space.

One of the oldest holiday traditions in Albuquerque (and by old, we’re talking at least 300 years) are luminarias, paper bags with votive candles in them. Old Town is famous for its display of over a thousand of these bags intended to welcome Christ to the world.

15. After reading a Spider-Man comic in which our hero has a tracking bracelet put on, local judge Jack Love felt that a similar idea might work to keep tabs on people under house arrest. Towards this end, the official helped develop an early electronic monitoring bracelet

16. The largest Native American gathering in the country is in town in late April. The Gathering of Nations draws thousands of attendees and tens of thousands of visitors.

17. The Albuquerque skyline is dominated by two geologic features. In the east are the Sandia Mountains, which rise a mile above an already mile-high city, and are so named because at dusk they look a little like sandias—that's Spanish for "watermelon." 


To the west are the Albuquerque Volcanoes. While these volcanoes are probably extinct, some geologists think that New Mexico is due another eruption in the not too distant future.

19. The Sandia Peak Tramway is one of the longest trams in the world, traveling 2.7 miles to over 10,000 feet above sea level. Anyone hoping to get more of a workout in can also hike to the top.

20. The minor league baseball team in Albuquerque, the Isotopes, got their name from an episode of The Simpsons, in which the Springfield Isotopes are set to move to the city. Not surprisingly, they’ve been one of the top teams for merchandise sales every year since.

21. Albuquerque is also home to the National Fiery Foods Show, which claims to be the largest such event in the world, attracting over 200 exhibitors a year.

22. Vivian Vance, best known as I Love Lucy’s Ethel, was one of the founders of the Albuquerque Little Theater. Other actors who have called Albuquerque home include Neil Patrick Harris, Demi Lovato, and Freddie Prinze Jr.

23. Albuquerque’s real population growth came in the early 20th century thanks to people suffering from tuberculosis coming for the dry climate. It was estimated in 1913 that 50% of the city’s population were people with tuberculosis and their relatives. To advertise how great the climate was, the forerunner to the Chamber of Commerce came up with the slogan “Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the sick get well and the well get prosperous!”


The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta started in 1972, when 10,000 people watched 13 balloons lift off from a mall parking lot. Today, the festival lasts nine days and draws a crowd of more than 800,000.

25. Albuquerque is one of the sunniest cities in America, tied for tenth with Sacramento. But unlike sunnier cities (for instance, Yuma and Las Vegas), Albuquerque gets over a hundred degrees only once or twice a year, while Yuma has over a hundred such days. But Albuquerque can get snow. The one day record was 11.3 inches in 2006.

Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach
Inside the German Town Where Advent Is the Main Attraction
Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach
Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach

The German town of Gengenbach takes Christmas very seriously. So seriously that it counts down to the holiday with one of the biggest Advent calendars in the world.

Two decades ago, the town of 11,000 people on the edge of the Black Forest set out to bring in more tourists during the holiday season. So to make its holiday market unique, Gengenbach began turning its town hall into a building-sized Advent calendar.

Now one by one, every night from November 30 to December 23, the windows of Gengenbach’s Baroque city hall light up with artistic creations inspired by a yearly theme. At 6 p.m. each evening, the lights of city hall go up, and a spotlight trains on one window. Then, the window shade pulls up to reveal the new window. By December 23, all the windows are open and on display, and will stay that way until January 6.

Gengenbach's city hall lit up for Christmas
Hubert Grimmig, Kultur- und Tourismus GmbH Gengenbach

Each year, the windows are decorated according to a theme, like children’s books or the work of famous artists like Marc Chagall. For 2017, all the Advent calendar windows are filled with illustrations by Andy Warhol.

According to Guinness World Records, it’s not the absolute biggest Advent calendar in the world. That record belongs to a roughly 233-foot-high, 75-foot-wide calendar built in London’s St Pancras railway station in 2007. Still, Gengenbach’s may be the biggest Advent calendar that comes back year after year. And as a tourist attraction, it has become a huge success in the last 20 years. The town currently gets upwards of 100,000 visitors every year during the holiday season, according to the local tourist bureau.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]


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