A lovely visit to the Albuquerque botanical gardens

The Albuquerque botanical gardens are a local gem in the center of the city. Situated near the Rio Grande River, the gardens boast 36 acres of various plant habitats and exhibitions. They also have a 10,000 square foot greenhouse conservatory. (Source)

I started to become a fan of botanical gardens in my twenties and would visit gardens when I traveled to various cities in the United States. There’s a lot of beauty, peace, and serenity in botanical gardens. One of my all-time favorite places is Cheekwood in Tennessee. It is absolutely stunning.

Since I am a native New Mexican, I’ve visited the Albuquerque botanical gardens from time to time growing up. More recently, my husband and I have taken a couple of trips to see the gardens with our toddler. 

I’m honestly amazed by the transformation of the Albuquerque gardens over the years. They’ve added a few exhibits and made it more interactive and fun for children. Our last few visits have been very nice and enjoyable.

Albuquerque botanical gardens

The botanical gardens are part of the ABQ BioPark, which consists of the zoo, aquarium, Tingley Beach, and the gardens. Although the zoo was first established in 1927, the gardens didn’t open their doors until 1996. (Source)

Tickets to the gardens are $10.00 for New Mexico residents and $14.50 for non-New Mexican residents. They offer stroller and wagon rentals for children. You will also find a cafe for basic entrees like sandwiches and a food cart located on the grounds.

The high desert Southwest

The botanic gardens are home to many high desert native plants, which are showcased throughout the gardens. Some of the specialty areas are Lava Flow, Southwest Sand Hills, and the Mojave Desert.

If you’re looking for plant ideas that will thrive in the high desert southwest, these gardens are the place to go. I was particularly drawn to the different types of agave plants, which I would love to plant at our home.

There’s also a high desert rose garden, which I have yet to see in full bloom. During our visit in early May, the roses were not quite blooming yet. We did get to see them on another visit in August, but it was pouring rain, so we didn’t get to enjoy the gardens as much.

July and August are New Mexico’s monsoon season.

My new favorite exhibit is the Sasebo Japanese Garden. Among other things, it has a zen garden with sand patterns, a temple with a Buddhist bell, and a bamboo forest. The area is very beautiful, peaceful, and serene. 

albuquerque botanical gardens
Buddhist bell in a small temple structure

When you think about the typical Southwest desert vibe, Japanese gardens don’t come to mind. So, it was pleasantly surprising for me.

Kid-friendly exhibits

The great thing about the Albuquerque botanical gardens is that they have more kid-friendly interactive areas than a typical botanic garden.

The Children’s Fantasy Garden and the Heritage Farm were hits for my toddler. The Fantasy Garden is a little maze with giant-sized plants, food, and gardening objects. It was very interesting, almost a little bizarre, like Alice in Wonderland-esque.

albuquerque botanical gardens
In the Children’s Fantasy Garden

I’m not sure why or how the Heritage Farm became part of the Albuquerque botanical gardens. It’s a small farm area with live turkeys, sheep, roosters, and chickens. It’s a fun part of the gardens for small children.

The other big attraction, which we did not get to see, is the BUGarium, which I hear is awesome. The BUGarium houses the largest collection of arthropods in the Southwest (Source), including species ranging from leaf cutter ants to tarantulas. This is definitely an exhibit we want to see.

Seasonal attractions at the Gardens

In the winter evenings, the largest annual attraction is the River of Lights. Every year, the garden grounds host winter festivities by putting up thousands of lights along the garden trails.

People flock to this event every winter to capture the wonder of thousands of holiday lights. If you happen to be visiting Albuquerque in the winter, the River of Lights should be on your list of things to see.

When is the best time to visit?

Spring is peak flower season and a great time to visit the Albuquerque botanical gardens. At our visit in early May, most of the flowers were in bloom. We did miss out on the high desert rose garden bloom though.

albuquerque botanical gardens
Literally gorgeous.

If you plan to visit the gardens in May through September, go early! We arrived at 9:00 a.m. to find perfect garden weather in early May but it was already getting uncomfortably warm by 11:00 a.m. Summers in New Mexico see highs over 100 degrees, so plan accordingly.

Winters in New Mexico are relatively mild, so taking a stroll through the gardens during the winter might be a nice change of scenery.

Visit the Albuquerque botanical gardens

I always enjoy our visits to any part of the Albuquerque BioPark, whether it’s the gardens, the zoo, or the aquarium. They are fun family outings and we usually eat lunch at our favorite local spot, Sharky’s, on Central.

Let me know about your visit to the Albuquerque botanical gardens!

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