One thing that is hard to miss when in Albuquerque is that the locals have a bit of an obsession with chili peppers. There is even a Chile Pepper Research Center completely dedicated to the study of the spicy little capsicum. But there’s a lot more to New Mexico’s largest city than just spicy food, Albuquerque is a thriving and growing cultural Mecca.

With its mix of Pueblo and Hispanic histories, Albuquerque is the gateway to a beautiful rough and rugged landscape, the view of which alone is well worth a visit. It is the ballooning capital of America, and the International Balloon Fiesta which takes place every October is well worth a look. Visitors can take a balloon ride at any time of the year of course, and the experience is one you are sure to remember.

If you wander through the Old Town you will discover a whole amazing world full of fascinating adobe architecture and plazas shaded from the hot sun that simply ooze South Western charm.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center is located in Albuquerque, and is a huge showcase of the work of some of the Latin world’s finest artists and craftsman. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is located nearby, allowing visitors a glimpse into that less understood culture and heritage.

Of course, as the landscape is so very breathtaking, a walk or hike into the hills is a must. You may want to go with a guided party, as there really are rattlesnakes and coyotes lurking on the craggy hillsides, but it is rare that they are of any trouble to tourists.

For the shopper, the number of arts and crafts stores to be found are almost countless. It will not be hard to great gifts and souvenirs to take home with you.

When it comes to places to stay, there is a number of the large hotel chains represented in Albuquerque, all of them very nice. Those looking for a more unique experience however could consider one of the numerous boutique hotels. These smaller and more intimate hotels have a true South Western look and feel about them, and are not too expensive. When the Balloon Fiesta is in town however a room may be hard to find, so make sure to book well in advance if you intend to go.

Then there is the food. Although there is no law, every visitor to Albuquerque should give the different chili dishes a try. Just remember, don’t try to dampen the heat from a hot chili dish by gulping down water, that actually only intensifies the effect. A nice glass of milk should do the trick though. From small roadside stands to huge open plan restaurants that seat hundreds of patrons, great food can be found everywhere you turn when in Albuquerque. Many of the local restaurants sell their food in take away form too, so that you continue your culinary experiments when you leave.

Albuquerque is now the sixth fastest growing city in the United Sates, and a trip there is certainly worthwhile.