Welcome to gay friendly Albuquerque


Photo Provided by the New Mexico Department of Tourism

Hip with a mid-century, quirky chic Albuquerque moves to a unique rhythm with its own distinct personality. Most people used to know of Albuquerque from Bugs Bunny, who would say, ” I shoulda made a left toin at Albuquoique!” Growing up in ABQ, as us natives call it, I laughed to think that my city was recognized by such an iconic figure.

But that’s the past – today, ABQ is a growing metropolis full of whimsical sights, crisp scents, and passionate sounds. You can find anything other metropolitan areas have, but with an ABQ twist I call, “AlbuQuirky!”.

Bugs Bunny wasn’t the only Hollywood star to recognize ABQ. Ethel, (actress Vivian Vance), Lucy’s sidekick on the I Love Lucy Show, hailed from ABQ. In one episode, en route to Los Angeles, they stopped in ABQ, where Ethel’s high school boyfriend remarked, “Ethel Mae Potter, we never forgot her!: The first movie shot here was made in 1898! Films such as the Grapes of Wrath and Easy Rider were filmed here. These days, ABQ is often called “Tamale-wood” for all the movies and TV series shot here, including Breaking Bad, In Plain Sight, Thor, The Avengers, the Lone Ranger, and dozens of others. You can even look for a production filming and sign-on as an extra to find your inner star in Tamelewood!

Downtown Albuquerque offers different cultural festivals, all manner of restaurants, and specialty shops. Nightlife is abundant, and while most are not overtly gay, gay people are welcomed to a booming live music scene or to sip cocktails on a balcony. 1940’s-60’s urban chic, Route 66 (Central Ave), runs directly through Downtown.


Photo Provided by the New Mexico Department of Tourism

East of Downtown is Nob Hill, an eclectic, bohemian area. It’s filled with original neon signs and motels from Route 66’s heyday. Some now function as quirky boutique shops. There is no ‘gayborhood’, but Nob Hill thrives with nightlife, restaurants and all kinds of shops with personality, because most are locally-owned. Sip local sparkling wine or munch a shrimp corn dog while strolling around the monthly Arts Crawl. Nob hill dazzles at night with people – straight and gay, from University of New Mexico Students to active seniors- all under ever-changing shades of neon. This is ABQ at it quirkiest!

Just outside Albuquerque are the Sandia, Santa Ana, Laguna and Isleta Indian Pueblos, each with its own casino and hotel/resort. Instead of taking the highway, drive out on Isleta Boulevard to Isleta/Hardrock Casino, through one of the oldest barrios (neighborhood) in the city, and spot one of my AlbuQuirky favorites, a 30 foot cartoon Roadrunner (Warner Brothers must have loved ABQ!) Also look for my favorite sign, “Phil’s Chile and Brake Repair”. Drive up Gibson Boulevard east of ABQ International Airport and be on the lookout for a sculpture I call “Chevy on a Stick”. It’s a blue-tiled, early 1950’s Chevrolet on a tiled arch.

October is scented by piquant roasting green chilis. And, lighting up the turquoise skies, is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, with 700 multi-colored hot air balloons from all around the world. There are gay balloon pilots, so cozy up to a pilot and maybe you can catch a ride! One of the features of the Fiesta is the car show with 500 classic and specialty cars such as low-riders. It’s organized by the local gay Rainbow Roadrunners Car Club!

Old Town ABQ is the site where the city was founded in 1706 by the Spanish on the Camino Real from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Old Town has wonderful shops, restaurants and sights to discover, but Christmas eve transforms Old Town into a magical place. About one million luminarias, small paper bags weighted with sand and lit by candles, line the sidewalks, the buildings, the Plaza and the San Felipe d Neri church. This is an ancient Spanish tradition meant to light the way for the newborn Christ child. Sip hot chocolate and munch on bischochitos, cookies that are a holiday tradition while you and your partner meander among the romantic, glowing gold of the luminarias. In 300-year-old buildings, you’re bound to have ghosts, so take a ghost tour. Learn about the spirits inhabiting this ancient area- if one appears and you jump into your lover’s arms, even the ghost will smile!

Albuquerque is ringed by gorgeous mountains and extinct volcanoes. One of the top outdoor destinations in the U.S., there are bike trails throughout the city, including along the Rio Grande River Bosque (woods) as well as hiking trails into the mountains. Maps are readily available. Combine art and hiking by visiting the Petroglyph National Monument, where early Native Americans etched life symbols onto boulders. New Mexico Outdoors is a gay group that has outdoor events every weekend and always welcomes visitors.

Celebrate the dead, you say?
ABQ is a cultural melting pot with a strong Spanish/Mexican influence and yes, one of the most festive occasions is the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Marigold Parade and Fiesta in October. The custom is to celebrate the memory of loved ones you have lost by creating a shrine with food, photos and some of their favorite things. The parade features traditional music and dances along with low-rider cars, horses and my favorite- rolling Descansos- memorials to those who have passed before us. (Descansos are roadside memorials put up where a loved one was killed in a car accident, some of which are very beautiful.) Like wearing make-up? Nearly everyone paints their faces like skulls, so get out and paint away! The Fiesta has food, traditional dances, music, vendors and an art show. And while you’re there, take in the nearby National Hispanic Cultural Center, which has often featured gay Latino artists and whose large theater hosts movies for the Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, also in October.

Most cities have drag shows, but nothing like the Dolls! This lively group puts on theatrical performances throughout the year with the most anticipated being the Christmas Show. 2010 brought the release of The Dolls’ first movie, “Malice in Wonderland!”

ABQ is an enchanted , quirky and gay place to live or visit. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else! So get out there and explore all Albuquerque has to offer!