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Whether capping off a mass ascension morning or bowing to Mother Nature’s inevitable windy or rainy event-canceling fits, visitors to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta will find plenty to explore at area museums.
From art to atomic energy, rattlesnakes to racecars, there’s plenty to keep all ages occupied. Here’s a sampling of the museums that make Albuquerque unique.
American International Rattlesnake Museum
202 San Felipe NW, Suite A; 242-6569; rattlesnakes.com
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday
Enter, if you dare, to see the world’s largest public collection of different rattlesnake species, plus artifacts and a large collection of snake-related art and memorabilia. An educational experience for the family, this animal conservation museum explains the ways that rattlesnakes and other misunderstood animals have influenced our lives.
Albuquerque Museum of Art & History
2000 Mountain NW; 243-7255; albuquerquemuseum.org
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Since 1967, this museum has celebrated traditional and contemporary local art, history and culture. In addition to exhibitions, it boasts classes, live performances, a sculpture garden, store and cafe.
One new exhibit, “Vernacular Architecture of New Mexico: Photographs by Robert Christensen,” features 52 black and white photographs of gas stations, barns, bars, sheds and shops.
Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
9201 Balloon Museum NE; 768-6020; balloonmuseum.com
Extended Balloon Fiesta hours: 5 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 5-13
Admission: $1-$4; children under 3 free
In the heart of Balloon Fiesta Park, the museum is offering a number of special programs to coincide with fiesta. They include:
• Family Art Projects, 9 a.m.-noon during the fiesta except Oct. 7-9. Families can create balloon-inspired art, included with admission.
• Hot-Air Balloon Mail. Collect unique Balloon Museum cancel stamps on mail flown during the fiesta.
• Balloon Explorium, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. during fiesta. Climb in a balloon gondola, try your hand at computer balloon flights, and more, at the museum’s Balloon School.
• Stories in the Sky, 9:30-10:15 a.m. and 11 a.m.-11:15 a.m. Oct. 9. Stories, crafts, music and art for the youngest adventurers, included with admission.
• The Diamond Club, VIP Viewing Experience at the museum during morning launches and evening glows. Includes museum elegance, parking, shuttles and fully catered meals. Tickets are $85 for adults and $65 for ages 3-13. Purchase tickets at balloonmuseum.com. Proceeds support the Balloon Museum Foundation.
• Furry Friends Fiesta Day, 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 5. After the mass ascension, the museum and its foundation, and Travelin’ Jack, the Ambassadog of New Mexico, will celebrate on the field with hands-on exhibits for the whole family, plus food and dog shows. The event is included with regular museum admission.
Special exhibitions include the Federation Aeronautique International Ballooning Commission International Hall of Fame, with displays, portraits and information on more than 40 inductees. It includes artifacts related to this year’s additions: Rocky Aoki, Larry Newman, Ron Clark and Olivier Roux Devillas.
Back by popular demand, the “Children of War, Voices for Peace” exhibition presents information on Japanese schoolchildren in World War II who were recruited to help create “Fugos,” giant balloons armed with bombs and launched across the Pacific.
The recently dedicated Children’s Peace Statue graces the museum grounds as a symbol of hope for a peaceful future.
Explora! Science Center
1701 Mountain NW; 224-8300; explora.us
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $4-$8; children under 1 are free
This Old Town area museum features more than 250 hands-on exhibit activities in science, technology and art.
Explora! bills itself as “part science center, part children’s museum, part free-choice school, part grandma’s attic, part grandpa’s garage, part laboratory, part neighborhood full of interesting people, and part of many people’s lives,” according to its website.
“We do enjoy the Balloon Fiesta crowd and welcome them on those rained out or windy days,” says Elena Baca, the museum’s educator and external relations coordinator.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
2401 12th St. NW; 843-7270; indianpueblo.org
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Admission: $3-$6; children under 5 free
Known as the gateway to the 19 pueblos of New Mexico, the center offers dance, art, history and food.
The center will host Native dances every day during fiesta week, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. Native dances run 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.
The center is launching its first Albuquerque American Indian Arts Festival Oct. 5-6 with an art market, entertainment, food, dances and family fun.
Along with current exhibitions, a new show just opened on the Albuquerque Indian School Retrospective with a Vision Forward.
The Pueblo Harvest Patio hosts live music 6-9:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with free admission Thursdays. Admission of $7 on Friday and Saturday includes all-you-can-eat horno pizzas.
The center also offers free shuttle service between Old Town and the center every day of Balloon Fiesta week.
National Museum of Nuclear Science and History
601 Eubank SE (one mile south of I-40); 245-2137; nuclearmuseum.org
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Admission: $6-$8, children 5 and under free
Visit the nation’s only congressionally chartered museum to learn the story of the Atomic Age. Exhibits trace the early research of nuclear development through today’s uses of nuclear technology.
Exhibits include “Atomic Culture/Pop Culture,” a lighter look at the impact of atomic discovery on culture, including music, movies and TV shows. The exhibit details how the atomic world often influenced the design and name of toys, games, food and appliances.
National Hispanic Cultural Center
1701 Fourth SW; 246-2261; nationalhispaniccenter.org
Hours: For the Art Museum, 10 a.m-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
Admission: $2-$3; free on Sundays and free for children under 16
This world-class center for Hispanic arts and culture includes art, performances, a library and genealogy center, restaurant and gift shop.
Current exhibits include “Stitching Resistance: The History of Chilean Arpilleras,” featuring multidimensional textiles used as works of opposition to authoritarianism, violation of human rights and the disappearance of loved ones under the military government that ruled Chile until 1990.
New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science
1801 Mountain NW; 841-2800; nmnaturalhistory.org
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Admission: $4-$7; children under 3 are free. (Dynatheater and Planetarium admission are extra.)
Watch out for dinosaurs at this interactive, high-tech museum that also preserves and interprets the state’s natural and scientific heritage.
A special attraction for fiesta visitors this year is the Titanic Exhibit, in its final weeks, says Charles H. Walter, the museum’s executive director.
Maxwell Museum of Anthropology
1 University of New Mexico; 277-4405; unm.edu/~maxwell
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
Admission: Free; donations welcome
This museum on the UNM campus features cultures of the world, with a special emphasis on the cultural heritage of the Southwest.
From 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 9, the Maxwell will host Indian Bread Baking. Members of Isleta Pueblo will make fresh oven bread in the museum horno (beehive oven) and serve lunch. Visitors can purchase oven bread, fry bread, Indian tacos and posole.
Current exhibits include: “Woven Stories: Navajo Weavers in a Changing World,” “People of the Southwest” and “Ancestors.”
121 Sandia Crest Road, Sandia Park; 281-5233; tinkertown.com
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily April-October
Admission: $1-$3.50; children under 4 free
Probably the reigning king of eccentric museums in the area, Tinkertown’s 22-room folk art collection features an 1880s miniature wood-carved animated western town and three-ring circus.
Creator Ross Ward spent 40 years collecting, carving and constructing the funky attraction, which started as a hobby.
“We are always delighted to welcome fiesta goers who come up to the cool Sandia Mountains to enjoy the fall colors and visit one of New Mexico’s quirkiest and unique museums,” says owner Carla Ward.
2107 Central NW; 247-8650; turquoisemuseum.com
Hours: During the Balloon Fiesta, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 5-12 (closed Oct. 6); the museum will be open for self-guided tours only.
Admission: $6-$8; children 4 and under free
For more than 40 years, this privately owned and operated museum has helped visitors to uncover the mystery of turquoise, explore its rich history, and learn about mines, specimens and the stories of colorful characters. Visitors can view turquoise from more than 100 mines around the world.
Unser Racing Museum
1776 Montano NW; 341-1776; unserracingmuseum.com
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily
Admission: $6-$10; children under 16 free, accompanied by an adult
Racing simulators, interactive kiosks and lots of memorabilia aim to entice visitors to discover the history, science and engineering of car racing.
The annex includes winning pace cars and race cars, a trophy room, original artwork, restored antique cars and more.