Route 66 Trip to Albuquerque in New Mexico

Night view of neon on Central Avenue in AlbuquerqueNight view of neon on Central Avenue in Albuquerque

Route 66 1926 Alignment

The original 1926 Route 66 alignment created a large "S Curve" in New Mexico as it headed north to Santa Fe through Tecolate, Bernai, San Jose, Pecos and Glorieta Pass, and then back south to Albuquerque.

The 1926 alignment came into Albuquerque from Santa Fe on Highway 313, and ran through downtown north-to-south along 4th Street. Today the Barelas-South Fourth Street Historic District just south of downtown is a popular attraction, with shops, restaurants and other businesses.

Route 66 then continued south to Los Lunas, where it turned west to Laguna.

Route 66 1937 Alignment

The 1926 alignment was replaced in 1937 with a more direct westward route into Albuquerque along Central Avenue, and then from Albuquerque directly to Laguna, and beyond to Gallup, following the current route of I-40 in many locales.

Earlier Times on Route 66: Central Avenue in Albuquerque New Mexico

With realignments and road improvements, the distance of Route 66 in New Mexico was reduced to 399 miles by 1937.

Dozens of motels, cafes, gift shops and restaurants spring up along the route in Albuquerque. Some of these vintage motels remain, and historic neon signs still glow on old Route 66 through Albuquerque, now Central Avenue.

Tourism, Attractions and the Route 66 Connections

Tourism is a big industry in Albuquerque, hosting large numbers of Route 66 travelers and events such as the International Balloon Fiesta.

Home to eclectic shops and unique restaurants, Route 66 in Albuquerque is adorned with buzzing neon signs, vintage artifacts, and epitomizes the unique ABQ attitude. Visitors can experience an authentic fusion of old and new along Route 66 in Nob Hill, the University area, Downtown, and Historic Old Town.

Central Avenue underwent several transformations that have molded it into the main Albuquerque street that it is today. Present-day Central Avenue connects locals and visitors to the city’s diverse neighborhoods, each offering unique and authentic Albuquerque experiences.

Old Town is the historic heart of Albuquerque, featuring San Felipe de Neri Church, the oldest building in the city, unique museums, and more than more than 100 stores and 24 galleries.

Downtown has gradually transformed into an arts and entertainment district with a variety of bars, restaurants, galleries, and live music venues, as well as new residential space. Here visitors will find bustling nightlife along Central Avenue (former Route 66), including many nightclubs, theaters and restaurants. The Albuquerque Convention Center is located downtown and is close to several major hotels.

Nob Hill is a vibrant district with eclectic shops, swanky dining and chic nightspots. Its Route 66 architecture and neon signs, combined with predominantly locally owned shops, galleries and restaurants, make Nob Hill a hip and fashionable area.

The city offers a variety of attractions and things to do for Route 66 travelers such as:

  • Sandia Peak Tramway
  • Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
  • National Museum of Nuclear History
  • San Felipe de Neri Church
  • Albuquerque Old Town
  • Petroglyph National Monument
  • Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum
  • ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden and Zoo
  • New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science
  • Unser Racing Museum
  • More Attractions & Things to Do in Albuquerque: TripAdvisor

Albuquerque West Central Route 66 Visitor Center

Rendering of the Albuquerque Visitor Center by Mullen Heller ArchitectWest Central Visitor Center rendering by Mullen Heller Architect

Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque are developing the 21,000sqft Route 66 Visitor Center to be located at 12200 Central Avenue, atop Nine Mile Hill, near Atrisco Vista and I-40.

It will capitalize on the historic nature of the U.S. Route 66 and encourage motorists to get off the interstate to visit Albuquerque’s to learn all about the city's heritage with the old road.

The $12 million multi-use facility will also house the New Mexico Music Hall of Fame, a taproom and be available for special events. It is scheduled to open in the latter part of 2022.

More about the Visitor Center at the West Central Community Development Group website

Route 66 alignment in central New Mexico in 1926 and post-1937
Map of U.S. Route 66 alignment in central New Mexico in 1926 and post-1937

Scenes Around Albuquerque

Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque
Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque
San Felipe de Neri Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico
San Felipe de Neri Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Downtown Architecture
Architectural details and archway in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico
Sandia Peak Tramway
Sandia Peak Tramway in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Sunset over Albuquerque
Sunset over Albuquerque
Balloon Festival Overview
Balloon Festival aerial view in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Downtown Skyline
Downtown skyline of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Production Credit Building
Production Credit Building in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Quaint Coffee Shop
Quaint coffee shop at night in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Nearby Bernalillo, New Mexico

The 1950s Cadillac and Route 66 sign in Bernalillo, New Mexico, along the 1926 to 1937 Route 66 alignment between Santa Fe and Albuquerque ... near 241 S. Camino Del Pueblo in Bernalillo ... a great photo op!
The 1950s Cadillac and Route 66 sign in Bernalillo, New Mexico, along the 1926 to 1937 Route 66 alignment between Santa Fe and Albuquerque

Historic Route 66 Rio Puerco Bridge just west of Albuquerque
Historic Route 66 Rio Puerco Bridge just west of Albuquerque View of the switchbacks on Route 66 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque at the top of La Bajada Hill

Lodging & Dining Options in Albuquerque

TripAdvisor

Albuquerque Travel Guide

Hotels in Albuquerque with Traveler Reviews

Albuquerque Restaurant Listings & Review

Attractions & Things to Do in Albuquerque

Interactive Map of Albuquerque, New Mexico

More Information About Albuquerque

Albuquerque Visitor Center: VisitAlbuquerque.org

 

City of Albuquerque website

 

Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce website

 

Albuquerque and Central New Mexico Tourism at NewMexico.org

 

Albuquerque Travel Guide at TripAdvisor: Hotels, restaurants, things to do

Earlier Times: Vintage Views along Route 66 in Albuquerque

Earlier times on Route 66 in New Mexico: Premiere Motel in Albuquerque, New Mexico

 

We have included below a sampling of our collection of vintage travel postcards dealing with Albuquerque and Route 66.

What was Route 66 like in its earlier years, as visitors drove through and around Albuquerque? What did all the service stations, motels and public buildings look like when they were new?

What did the traveling public experience on the Mother Road? We wonder such things when we travel Route 66 today.

Those earlier times in the 1930s, 40s and 50s were not always captured on film. But the use of colorful postcards was common in those decades.

These portray the historic road in its prime and help us to visualize, and appreciate, "earlier times" as we drive Route 66 today around Albuquerque.

Tower Court
Tower Court at 2210 West Central in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Maisel's Trading Post
Maisel's Indian Trading Post in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Texas Ann Court
Texas Ann Court at 2305 W. Central Avenue in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on U.S. Highway 66
King's Rest Courts
King's Rest Courts in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Pueblo Bonito Court
Pueblo Bonito Court in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Arrowhead Lodge
Arrowhead Lodge in Albuquerque, New Mexico on West Central Avenue on  U.S. Highway 66
Silver Spur Motel
Silver Spur Motel on Central Avenue on Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Casa Grande Lodge
Casa Grande Lodge at 2625 Central Avenue NW in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Santa Fe RR Depot
Santa Fe Railroad passenger depot in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Crest-Hi Restaurant
Crest-Hi Restaurant on Highway 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, across from the Hiland Theater
Bow & Arrow Lodge
Bow and Arrow Lodge in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Route 66
Zuni Motor Lodge
Zuni Motor Lodge in Albuquerque, New Mexico
El Don Motel
El Don Motel at 2222 West Central Avenue in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Country Club Court
Country Club Court at 2411 W. Central Avenue in Albuquerque, New Mexico
White Way Court
White Way Court in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Route 66 ... "In the center of the better tourist courts"

A Day Trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe Up La Bajada Hill

Aerial view of present-day La Bajada switchbacks on old Route 66Aerial view of present-day La Bajada switchbacks on old Route 66

Today, the fastest route between Santa Fe and Albuquerque is I-25, a distance of about 65 miles. An alternate route is on the Turquoise Trail, Highway 14, through the quaint villages of Cerrillos and Madrid

In earlier times Route 66 was the primary road northward to Santa Fe.

North of Ambuquerque, Route 66 headed for Santa Fe and made the steep, 500-foot ascent up the La Bajada precipice in only two miles via a series of  26 switchbacks with a 28% grade.

Remnants of the swtichbacks and their scar on the earth can still be seen by hikers and those in high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles, and from satellite photos like the one shown to the right.

In 1932 Route 66 was moved about three miles to the east near the current route of Interstate 25.

Read more about La Bajada Hill and El Camino Real at the NPS website

Switchbacks on Route 66 at La Bajada Hill between Santa Fe and Albuquerque
View from the top of the mesa looking south (left) and from the bottom looking north (right)
View of the switchbacks on Route 66 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque at the top of La Bajada Hill View of the switchbacks on Route 66 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque at the bottom of La Bajada Hill

 

The "Big Cut" on Route 66

The "Big Cut" on Route 66 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico
The Big Cut as seen in this early 1900s vintage postcard

South of La Bajada between Santa Fe and Albuquerque was the "Big Cut". Located near the present-day San Felipe Pueblo, this was an engineering marvel when it was completed in 1909 as part of New Mexico's Route 1. Route 66 passed through the notch from 1926 to 1931.

It consisted of a 75-foot long, 60-foot deep cut in Gravel Hill in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains made by hard working constuction workers with dynamite, picks and shovels. The 18-foot wide roadway was no longer used when Route 66 was realigned in 1931.

Remnants of the cut can still be seen from southbound I-25 at Exit 252 in back of the casinos on the east side of the interstate.


Map of Route 66 from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, New Mexico
Map of Route 66 from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, New Mexico


Nighttime view of Santa Fe and Old Route 66 looking west from La Fonda on the Plaza

Nightime view of Santa Fe looking west from La Fonda on the Plaza

Driving West
on the Next Route 66 Segment?

Holbrook thru Winslow to Flagstaff

Route 66 Road Trip westbound from Holbrook thru Winslow to Flagstaff, Arizona

Travel Guides for Other Segments of Route 66

Planning a Road Trip on Route 66? Here are trip planners for the major segments ...

Historic U.S. Route 66 ... An Introduction to the The Mother Road
Route 66 in Missouri Route 66 in Texas Route 66 Across Arizona Route 66 Across New Mexico
Route 66 Road Trips Across Oklahoma Route 66 Road Trips in Illinois Route 66 Across California Route 66 in Kansas
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