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Ballooning

If you've never been ballooning, you may picture a bumpy ride, where changes in altitude produce the queasy feeling you get in a tiny propeller plane. But the experience is far calmer than that. The balloons are flown by licensed pilots (don't call them operators) who deftly turn propane-fueled flames on and off, climbing and descending to find winds blowing the way they want to go—there's no real steering involved, which makes the pilots' control that much more admirable. Pilots generally land balloons where the wind dictates, so chase vehicles pick you up and return you to your departure point, but particularly skilled pilots can use conditions created by the Box to land precisely where you started. Even without door-to-door service, many visitors rank a balloon ride over the Rio Grande Valley as their most memorable experience.

Several reliable companies around Albuquerque offer tours. A ride costs about $150 to $200 per person.

Rainbow Ryders. One of the best balloon tours is with Rainbow Ryders, an official ride concession for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. As part of the fun, you get to help inflate and pack away the balloon. In case you missed breakfast prior to your flight, a Continental breakfast and glass of champagne await your return. Albuquerque, NM. 505/823–1111 or 800/725–2477. www.rainbowryders.com.

Bicycling

With the creation of many lanes, trails, and dedicated bike paths (by 2013 an impressive 400 miles of designated bikeways were in place), Albuquerque's city leaders are recognized for their bike-friendly efforts—a serious challenge given the committed car culture of its residents.

Albuquerque Bicycle Map. The city's public works department produces the detailed Albuquerque Bicycle Map, which can be obtained free at most bike shops or viewed on their website. Albuquerque, NM. 505/768–3550. www.cabq.gov/bike.

Paseo del Bosque Recreation Trail. The Paseo del Bosque Recreation Trail, which follows along the Rio Grande Valley and runs flat for most of its 16-mile run, is one of the loveliest rides in town. Albuquerque, NM. www.cabq.gov.

Rentals

Bike rental shops have clustered in that area, though rentals can be found closer to the mountains and at the Sandia Peak Ski Area as well.

The Bike Smith. The accommodating proprietors at The Bike Smith can sell you a new bike or fix you up with a rental (and any accessories needed) from an excellent selection of well-maintained mountain, road, and commuter bikes ($35–50 /day). Rio Grande Plaza Center, 901 Rio Grande Blvd. NW, Suite D124, Old Town, Albuquerque, NM, 87104. 505/242–9253. thebikesmithllc.com.

Routes. Tours—by bike and snowshoe—dominate the Routes shop, but straight rentals are also available, by the hour or day. They include, on the bike side, cruisers, mountain bikes, kids bikes, and tandems ($15/hr to $50/day). 1102 Mountain Rd. NW, Old Town, Albuquerque, NM, 87102. 505/933–5667. www.routesrentals.com.

Bird-Watching

The Rio Grande Valley, one of the continent's major flyways, attracts many migratory bird species.

Open Space Visitor Center. Sandhill cranes make their winter home here, or stop for a snack en route to the Bosque del Apache, just south, in Socorro. Albuquerque is right in their flyway, and the Open Space center, which is replete with trails heading down to the shores of the Rio Grande, provides a most hospitable setting for them. The outdoor viewing station is complemented inside the Visitors Center with changing art exhibits and well-informed guides. 6500 Coors Blvd NW, West Side, Albuquerque, NM, 87120. 505/897–8831. www.cabq.gov/openspace.

Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. Good bird-viewing locales include the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park (Exploring, North Valley, above). 2901 Candelaria Rd. NW, Los Ranchos/North Valley, Albuquerque, NM, 87107. 505/344–7240. www.nmparks.com.

Golf

Most of the better courses in the region—and there are some outstanding ones—are just outside town. The four courses operated by the city of Albuquerque have their charms, and the rates are reasonable. Each course has a clubhouse and pro shop, where clubs and other equipment can be rented. Weekday play is first-come, first-served, but reservations are taken for weekends.

Golf Management Office. Contact the Golf Management Office for details. Albuquerque, NM. 505/888–8115. www.cabq.gov/golf.

UNM South. The 18-hole facility at UNM South has garnered countless awards and hosted PGA and LPGA qualifying events; there's also a short par-3 9-hole course. 3601 University Blvd., just west of airport off I–25, Airport, Albuquerque, NM, 87106. 505/277–4546. www.unmgolf.com.

Hiking

In the foothills in Albuquerque's Northeast Heights, you'll find great hiking in Cibola National Forest (www.fs.usda.gov/cibola), which can be accessed from Tramway Boulevard Northeast, about 4 miles east of Interstate 25 or 2 miles north of Paseo del Norte. Just follow the road into the hillside, and you'll find several parking areas (there's a daily parking fee of $3). This is where you'll find the trailhead for the steep and challenging La Luz Trail (www.laluztrail.com), which rises for some 9 miles (an elevation gain of more than 3,000 feet) to the top of Sandia Crest. You can take the Sandia Peak Aerial Tram to the top and then hike down the trail, or vice versa (keep in mind that it can take up to six hours to hike up the trail, and four to five hours to hike down). Spectacular views of Albuquerque and many miles of desert and mountain beyond that are had from the trail. You can also enjoy a hike here without going the whole way—if your energy and time are limited, just hike a mile or two and back. Or enjoy one of the shorter trails that emanate from the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area (www.cabq.gov/openspace), just a few miles south along Tramway. No matter how far you hike, however, pack plenty of water.

For lovely but even less rugged terrain, the Aldo Leopold Forest and trails at the Open Space Visitor Center on the West Side will be of interest.

Kayaking

Quiet Waters Paddling Adventures. The Rio at sunset (or just about any time) is best seen from a kayak or canoe and this reliable outfit offers rentals as well as guided and self-guided tours to help you do just that. A 15-minute drive from Downtown, then you are set for floating down the calm waters of the middle Rio Grande. 105D Pleasant View Dr., Los Ranchos/North Valley, Bernalillo, NM, 87004. 877/453–5628. www.quietwaterspaddling.com.

Baseball

Albuquerque Isotopes. The city hosts Triple A minor league baseball's Albuquerque Isotopes, the farm club of the major league Los Angeles Dodgers; the season runs April through August. 1601 Avenida César Chavez SE, UNM/Nob Hill, Albuquerque, NM, 87106. 505/924–2255. www.albuquerquebaseball.com.

Basketball

University of New Mexico Lobos. It's hard to beat the excitement of home basketball games of the University of New Mexico Lobos, when 18,000 rabid fans crowd into the school's arena, "the Pit," from November to March. Both the women's and men's teams have enjoyed huge success in past years. University Ave. at Avenida César Chavez, UNM/Nob Hill, Albuquerque, NM, 87106. 505/925–5858 or 877/664–8661. www.golobos.com.