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10 Albuquerque Gems You Should Know About

Albuquerque has a distinctive flavor and an eclectic, quirky charm. Scratching beneath its veneer to come up with an underlying DNA brought me to a lumbering list of many things that make me love the Duke City. Steering clear of the usual and the obvious, here's a humble start at a huge number of wonderful places, people and things that make Albuquerque what it is.

Skip Maisel's

Aileen O'Catherine

Built in the 1930s, it became a stop off souvenir shop during the Route 66 heyday. Maisel's still carries the kinds of items tourists want to grab on their way out the city's door. Its Native American art ranges from giant kachinas to pottery and squash blossom necklaces, and there are inexpensive items for souvenir seekers. The building's murals and architecture are works of art in their own right, proving that bringing the past into the present works just fine.

Duran Central Pharmacy

Aileen O'Catherine

If you're lucky, you'll stop in when the ladies are making the handmade tortillas that will encase your burrito or sop up the restaurant's signature red chile sauce. The food is like Abuelita used to make and the pharmacy has some of the best knickknacks, kitchen gear, cards and gift items in town. Duran Central Pharmacy is one of those tucked away treasures locals take visitors to for a taste of authentic Albuquerque.

KUNM

Courtesy Katie Stone, KUNM Children's Hour: Chief Engineer, Noah Silver

Sure, other cities have public radio stations, but do they let their DJs play whatever they want? Not likely. KUNM has a bit of everything, the salt to flavor any type of musical or thought food you're taking a bite of. Whether tuning in to Harry Norton and Mary B for alternate Freeform Fridays, Katie and the kids on Saturday morning's Children's Hour, Raices, or any of its other unique programs, KUNM delivers a cocktail of solid news and music with an Albuquerque twist.

Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Aileen O'Catherine

The Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe was the work of a nun, Sister Giotto, who created liturgical art, along with her student apprentices. The chapel itself was crafted by them, brick by adobe brick, with the goal of creating a place where visitors could contemplate and muse and dream. Visitors still stop by to offer up prayers and wishes at the altar, but only those who know it's there, or the lucky few who stumble upon it. Find it in Old Town's Patio Escondido, where you can kneel or light a candle and offer up a thought or two. It's also a wedding chapel these days. 

Globalquerque

Globalquerque

For a decade now, Globalquerque has brought the world to Albuquerque. For several days each September, musical artists take the stage at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, bringing the flavors of the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, Mexico, and other far flung places to the city. It's a smorgasbord of world music that celebrates the global village.   

Downtown Grower's Market

Why the Downtown Growers Market? Every city has them. But this one is home, like family, with the same folks coming back week in and week out, year after year. Art, music, and best of all, food will bring you back and you'll get to know the vendors who are like those relatives you get to see on occasion and wish you saw a bit more.

Rattlesnake Museum

Aileen O'Catherine

The Rattlesnake Museum treasures snakes and crocs and all kinds of amphibians, so stepping inside is like peeking into a young boy's dream. They collect snakes and critters and tell us why they matter. They collect other things too: license plates, bottles, lamps, all dedicated to a tiny slice of life that reminds us there are crocs and critters out there. Watch out. Be amazed.

Model Pharmacy

Aileen O'Catherine

The counter at Model Pharmacy is the real deal, straight out of another era, when milkshakes were king and ice cream wasn't far behind. The Model serves up home cooked food, nothing fancy, just good. Like pharmacies I've seen in Europe, there are specialty soaps, perfumes, hair barrettes, and chocolates. An assortment of mobiles twirls from the ceiling and they have a great selection of cards. Where else can you have lunch, a milkshake, buy a couple of truffles, pick up a prescription and then browse for soaps and perfumes? 

Tinkertown

Tinkertown

They have a map on the wall with pins in it pointing to the places its visitors come from, which is all around the world. Tinkertown Museum was mainly the work of Ross Ward, who collected, carved and assembled the miniatures that he turned into scenes. He created the building as well, which is made of bottles, wheels and other discarded pieces of "junk." It's eclectic and funky, but it's mainly a slice of love, all dished up in one place for the world to see. And he did it all while we were watching television.

Masks y Mas

Aileen O'Catherine

Part art gallery, part Day of the Dead store, part folk art pieces, Masks y Mas celebrates life and the humble art of humble folks. Furniture is simple and rustic, the papel picado streamers are festive rectangles of negative space, and the masks, which come from around the world, provide a cultural glimpse into how we see ourselves.