"Albuquerque where the skies are blue / Gonna take a bus take a train gonna' fly / Prayin' she's there after all this time / Albuquerque my heart aches for you." (-Sons of the Desert, "Albuquerque")
You know that dream you've always had, the one where you hike two hours up a mountain in the warm sunshine, go camping in the wilderness, and then ski right back down the mountain into your own yard? It's not virtual reality you're dreaming about, it's Albuquerque! With over 310 days of sunshine a year, and a very mild, dry winter, people of all ages love the place that the locals call “Burque.” Now we know you've already got your backpack on and you're raring to go camping, but if you ever want to rejoin the rest of us in polite society, you'll need a place to shower after you come back down that mountain and wherever else will you store all your gear? Let's find you that perfect Albuquerque apartment.
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Bumming Around in Burque
We've got some good news. It's totally easy to find a great place to live in Albuquerque. There are a lot of available apartments, houses, and houses that have been transformed into apartments and the prices are amazingly low. While location is important (more on that later), Albuquerque is small enough that wherever you rent, you'll always be right next to the great outdoors. In fact, if you drive forty minutes out of town from anywhere in the city, you'll be in the middle of the desert. Another plus? When we say 40 minutes, we mean it. Albuquerque traffic is virtually unheard of (commuters rejoice!)
Discussing “Heights” and “Valleys” is No Longer Just Bedroom Conversation
Albuquerque is divided into quadrants, bisected vertically by the Rio Grande river, and horizontally by the BNSF Railroad. The city is bounded on the east by the Sandia Mountains, on the north by Sandia Pueblo, and on the south by Isleta Pueblo. Suburbs like Rio Rancho, Los Lunas, and Belen all spread out from the west side of the city. Because Albuquerque is contained on three sides, the urban sprawl factor is low, and the city maintains a charming, small-town feel. Albuquerque has a super laid-back vibe, so the town can be separated into four swinging '60s sections: “Raise Your Consciousness (and Altitude),” “Get Groovy, Baby,” “I Dig It,” and “Be There or Be Square.”
Raise Your Consciousness (and Altitude): The Northeast
The Northeast quadrant stretches from the University of New Mexico's campus, through swanky Uptown and the Balloon Fiesta Park, and finally butts up against the Sandia Mountains (the foothills area is called “The Heights”, and as the elevation rises, so does the price). This area is perfect for studious intellectuals, active retirees, and hardcore outdoors-y types. If you're moving to Burque to get in touch with nature, this is the area for you. You can go hiking, trail-running, mountain biking, and camping . . . then come home from your exhilarating day and easily go grocery shopping or attend night school. Prices vary quite a bit in this area depending on if you're renting a 2BR apartment near Central Ave. in the quite charming “University Ghetto” ($600), or if you're renting a 3BR house in the Tanoan subdivision in the “Heights” ($1250).
Get Groovy, Baby: The Southeast
The bustling Southeast quadrant of Burque is the place to live if you're a boutique shopper, an urban walker, an avid chef, or a sports and music fanatic. Southeast Albuquerque is the home to Nob Hill which is a park, restaurant, and boutique-filled area, and is perfect for young or retired couples, as well as anyone who doesn't want to own a vehicle, because the “Rapid Ride” commuter bus rocks this area! Nob Hill also has the strongest late night scene in the city, but if all-night partying is your thing, Albuquerque may not be your place. The Albuquerque Sunport (that's “airport” to the rest of us) is here, and so are the Asian restaurants and shops (including a fabulous international market named Talin). All of Albuquerque's big concerts also come here; The Pavilion, Burque's largest music venue, is in this quadrant. Although Albuquerque has no professional sports teams, the Southeast quadrant holds all of Burque's sports venues, including Isotopes Park (yes, they were named after the team on The Simpsons). Rates vary here as well; a 1BR apartment closer to the center of town, near Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) would cost very little ($500), but just like in the Northeast quadrant, as you get closer to the mountains the rent goes up. A 2BR near the mountains in the “Four Hills” area would be pricier ($1350).
I Dig It: The Southwest
Southwest Albuquerque, also known as the “South Valley” is a great option for people who want to get their hands dirty. If you love farms, open space, and want to be really close to some awesome CSA's, this is the place for you. The South Valley is a seriously rural area that's still in the heart of the city, and is home to some of the most traditional families, events, and foods in town. Because this is such a rural area, it's easier to find houses than it is to find apartments, but the houses tend to be very affordable, just like everything else in Albuquerque. A 3BR town-home in the historic Barelas neighborhood will take some saving for ($1250), but in the farmland, a 3BR “horse friendly house” on one acre won't cost much at all ($900).
Be There or Be Square: The Northwest
The “North Valley” is great for cultured history buffs. Downtown is known more for its historic buildings than it is for its night-time party scene, but after dark the exterior of the downtown buildings are lit to create a beautiful nighttime view, and the theaters here are great. Downtown has some small music venues, and some college bars, but the restaurants and businesses tend to close after lunch, and the vibe is pretty mellow. Downtown is a wonderful place to live without a car, because it's the central hub for Amtrak, Greyhound, ABQ Ride (the city's bus system), and the Rail Runner commuter train. If you plan to go without a car though, know that there aren't any grocery stores downtown, and you'll have to use that public transportation to buy food. History buffs will love Old Town, which is Albuquerque's original central square. Old Town oozes charm, with its wrought iron lampposts and old-fashioned feel. If you like showing off your Victorian jewelry and clothing, and you frequently go out for high tea, Old Town is where you should be. The North Valley also holds the Bosque park preserve, and opens up to Albuquerque's suburbs, such as Rio Rancho. A 2BR loft apartment in Downtown won't cost much ($900), but for a 2BR in Old Town, all that charm will raise the rates ($1600).
What About Those East Mountains?
The East Mountains area is also technically a part of Albuquerque, but they're separated from the metro area by the Sandia Mountains, resulting in about a twenty minute drive to the city. The prices are pretty steep in many areas of the East Mountains, and the snowfall level is much higher than the rest of Albuquerque, but if rural is your thing and you're one of the ones with dreams of hiking in your own backyard, we recommend giving some serious thought to the East Mountains. Warning though, many areas still don't have DSL access (we're talking log cabins here!) and you'd have to either deal with dial-up, or fork out some extra cash to get satellite internet. Active retirees love the quiet of this area, and with the only five-star rated golf club in the Southwest (Paa-Ko Ridge), the East Mountains are definitely a sweet-spot for many. Note that it's hard to find a small place to live in the East Mountains, and a 4BR will come with a big ticket ($2500).
Other Tips: I Wanna Be Your Dog
If you're planning to move to Albuquerque with pets, you should know about the laws. Burque is a very “dog friendly” town, and there are a lot of dog parks and patios that welcome dogs. However, the city recently passed a law that requires pet-loving Burqeños (as the locals are called) to microchip and spay or neuter their dog or cat. If you don't wish to spay or neuter your pet, you need to obtain an “intact animal permit” from the city for a whopping $150 per year! If you're non-compliant with the law, and the pound picks up your pet, you're in for up to a $500 fine, or up to 90 days in jail! Albuquerque also limits the amount of pets you may own: you can have a total of six, with no more than four dogs. Most Albuquerque apartment complexes frown on tenants with larger dogs, so if you're looking to move with your beautiful Golden Retriever or your intelligent German Shepherd, you'll want to look for a house.
So, future Burqeños, you've already packed your backpack and strapped on your hiking boots. Now all you have to do is saddle up your Subaru Outback with those ski racks, grab your mountain bike, and start trekking toward your new campsite. We wish you the best. Just make sure to take full advantage of that shower!