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    State of New Mexico

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    New Mexico is a state in the Southwestern United States. It is one of the Mountain States of the southern Rocky Mountains, sharing the Four Corners region of the western U.S. with Utah, Colorado, and Arizona, and bordering Texas to the east and southeast, Oklahoma to the northeast, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora to the south. The state capital is Santa Fe, which is the oldest capital in the U.S., founded in 1610 as the government seat of Nuevo México in New Spain; the largest city is Albuquerque.

    New Mexico is the fifth-largest of the fifty states, but with just over 2.1 million residents, ranks 36th in population and 46th in population density. Its climate and geography are highly varied, ranging from forested mountains to sparse deserts; the northern and eastern regions exhibit a colder alpine climate, while the west and south are warmer and more arid; the Rio Grande and its fertile valley runs from north-to-south, creating a riperian climate through the center of the state that supports a bosque habitat and distinct Albuquerque Basin climate. One–third of New Mexico's land is federally owned, and the state hosts many protected wilderness areas and national monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

    New Mexico's economy is highly diversified, with major sectors including oil drilling, mineral extraction, dryland farming, cattle ranching, acequia and landrace agriculture, lumber, retail, scientific research laboratories, technological development, and the arts, especially textiles and visual arts. Its total gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 was $95.73 billion, with a GDP per capita of roughly $46,300. State tax policy is characterized by low to moderate taxation of resident personal income by national standards, with tax credits, exemptions, and special considerations for military personnel and favorable industries; subsequently, its film industry is one of the largest and fastest growing in the country. Due to its large area and economic climate, New Mexico has a significant U.S. military presence, most notably the White Sands Missile Range, and many U.S. national security agencies base their research and testing arms in the state, such as the Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories; during the 1940s, Project Y of the Manhattan Project was responsible for the world's first atomic bomb and first nuclear test, Trinity.

    In prehistoric times, New Mexico was home to Ancestral Puebloans, Mogollon, and the modern Comanche and Utes. Spanish explorers and settlers arrived in the 16th century, naming the territory Nuevo México after the Aztec Valley of Mexico, more than 250 years before the establishment and naming of the present-day country of Mexico; thus, the state did not derive its name from Mexico. Isolated by its rugged terrain and the relative dominance of its indigenous people, New Mexico was a peripheral part of the viceroyalty of New Spain. Following Mexican independence in 1821, it became an autonomous region of Mexico, though this autonomy was increasingly threatened by the centralizing policies of the Mexican government, culminating in the Revolt of 1837; at the same time, the region became more economically dependent on the United States. At the conclusion of the Mexican–American War in 1848, the U.S. annexed New Mexico as part of the larger New Mexico Territory. It played a central role in American westward expansion, and was admitted to the Union in 1912.

    New Mexico's history has contributed to its unique demographic and cultural character. One of only six majority-minority states, it has the nation's highest percentage of Hispanic and Latino Americans and the second-highest percentage of Native Americans after Alaska. New Mexico is home to part of the Navajo Nation, 19 federally recognized Pueblo communities, and three different federally recognized Apache tribes. Its large Hispanic population includes Hispanos, who descend from early Spanish settlers, as well as Chicanos and Mexicans. The New Mexican flag, which is among the most recognizable in the U.S., reflects the state's eclectic origins, bearing the scarlet and gold coloration of Spain's Cross of Burgundy along with the ancient sun symbol of the Zia, a Puebloan tribe. The confluence of indigenous, Spanish, Mexican, Hispanic, and American influences is also evident in New Mexico's unique cuisine, music genre, and architecture.

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    State of New Mexico Articles

    Inspiration

    The last pie shop in Pie Town

    When Sarah Joe Montana Chavez first visited Pie Town, New Mexico, on family vacations, three pie restaurants were open for business in the small high-desert town. The town’s love of pie was signified by the summertime Pie Town Pie Festival. Pie Town’s appeal was was based on curiosity from quirky travelers. “Folks look at a map and think, oh, Pie Town, let’s check that out and eat a pie in Pie Town,” says Montana Chavez. Then the COVID-19 pandemic halted mass gatherings and the Pie Town Pie Festival had to be cancelled in 2020. Trepidation lingered for the three pie businesses on whether to open their doors, thanks to the unknown health factors of the virus. After the pandemic hit, two of the three pie shops in Pie Town shuttered, leaving one sole pie shop – the Gatherin’ Place – the last pie shop in Pie Town. Montana Chavez baked at home for fun prior to moving to Pie Town, but didn’t realize that she would be carrying on a small-town tradition of doing just that: baking pie. A Phoenix, AZ native, depending on the day, Montana Chavez is the baker, shipper, cook, and front of house staff for the last pie shop in Pie Town: Pie Town Pies. In January 2021 Montana Chavez was folded into her new role as one of the last bakers in Pie Town. She was in between jobs when her stepmother, Sarah Chavez, decided to purchase a historic Pie Town antique shop, the Pie Town Homestead, which is next to the pie shop formerly known as The Gatherin’ Place. Montana Chavez moved to Pie Town to help her stepmother with the antique business, but when Chavez learned of the opportunity to buy the last pie shop in Pie Town next door, she couldn’t resist. Being able to serve travelers pie in Pie Town was the impetus for Chavez to purchase the Gatherin’ Place and keep the last pie shop in Pie Town alive. Montana Chavez learned all about baking New Mexican pies from the previous baker at The Gatherin’ Place and carries on the unique tradition of home-spun baking. The most popular pie she crafts is the New Mexico Apple Pie, a basic apple pie mixed with green chile and piñon, a treasured Southwestern nut that bursts from clusters of bushy piñon trees across New Mexico each fall. Montana Chavez says she has noticed an uptick in RV travel with adventurers on their way to California and Nevada. However, Pie Town faces distinct challenges in ramping up tourism because even though comparable towns across the state have faced similar travel fluctuations during the pandemic, Pie Town’s problems lie in its rural, serene nature. “There’s just not too much out here. In Santa Fe, there are a lot of restaurants and places to go, but in Pie Town, there is the RV park and a hotel or two. Having the last restaurant here and keeping it open is what makes Pie Town a place to still stop and visit.” As the pandemic hopefully turns a tide that welcomes back travelers to Pie Town, Montana Chavez is confident in the leadership that she and her stepmother can provide for businesses development and the community. “My stepmother is big on helping local artists by selling their goods at the Pie Town Homestead. She works to keep everyone involved to help the town stay alive.”

    Inspiration

    Best spots for fall foliage out west

    New England gets all the credit. It is known for its seasonal changing of the leaves throughout Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont - and you can find a road trip guide to New England here. But this region is not the only part of the U.S. that cast off different shades during autumn. Here is where to see the best fall foliage in the western states. WEST Arizona Outside of Sedona, Red Rock State Park’s riparian zone of Oak Creek Canyon goes by Fremont cottonwood, sycamore, velvet ash and Arizona alder trees on various trails and the path up to the Eagle’s Nest Trail to get a top-down view. See Slide Rock State Park on the same day; trees there also provide a vibrant contrast against the Oak Creek’s red rocks. Idaho The Boise River Greenbelt is a tree-lined pathway throughout the city and connects walkers and cyclists to its various riverside parks. Or head out on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway, as this Highway 75 rolls north past the Harriman Trail and the Galena Summit Overlook, then on through the resort towns of Hailey, Ketchum, and Sun Valley. Great Basin National Park. Photo credit: Sydney Martinez/Travel Nevada Nevada In Eastern Nevada, the Great Basin National Park encourages you to drive around at your own pace. Its Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is a paved 12-mile route leading to an elevation exceeding 10,000 feet and views of groves of aspen trees in yellow, red and gold. New Mexico The Santa Fe National Forest Scenic Byway leads to a 13,000-foot aspen filled alpine wilderness, where the hillsides from Hyde Memorial State Park to Ski Santa Fe shine vibrantly gold. Fall colors hit nicely along U.S. 64, across the Carson National Forest between Taos and Chama and through Tres Piedras and Tierra Amarilla, where the view of the Brazos Cliffs is worth the stop. Wyoming Along Battle Pass Scenic Byway, a 57-mile Sierra Madre Mountains of the Medicine Bow National Forest, see the famous strand of trees known as Aspen Alley. Jackson is a gateway to two of the country’s most beautiful national parks – Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Drive along the Cloud Peak Skyway Scenic Byway, the southern-most route across the Bighorn National Forest, for views of the Bighorn Mountains that are framed by yellow- and gold-hued aspens.

    Inspiration

    Socially distanced scaring at your local haunted drive-thru

    COVID-19 is impacting a Halloween tradition that relies on close contact and screaming: haunted houses. While some attractions are staying closed this October, others have altered their plans to provide socially distanced scaring. This year, you will see haunted car washes, drive through courses, and increased use of special effects. The Rainforest Car Wash in Ohio was ahead of the curve. In 2019, they hosted a haunted car wash with goblins peering in your window behind colorful foam and clowns waving next to air dryers. This is a two-in-one, providing family friendly frights and a clean car. They plan to repeat their one-of-a-kind attraction this year at their Medina location. Dragon's House of Horror, which holds the Guinness World Record for longest walk-through haunted house, in New Mexico transformed the Mile of Terror to a drive-through trail. Visitors can experience the maze with several horror genres entirely from inside their car, which eliminates the risk of virus transmission. Actors won’t touch cars and windows must be rolled up as additional safety measures. Photo provided by The Haunted Road in Florida The Haunted Road in Orlando, Florida is another contactless Halloween drive-through event that has recently emerged, aiming to provide screams with “twisted creatures and theatrical storytelling.” At this attraction, visitors drive scene to scene at night and stop. While parked and trapped inside the car, scare actors appear, visual effects take place, and sound effects are synced to a radio station. Another take on a drive-through attraction takes place at The Horrorland in Miami, Florida. Car passengers “follow Rapunzel’s journey into a world of disarray” happening in real time and sit through six themed passages for a contactless haunting experience. Los Angeles will open an immersive Stranger Things “drive-into” adventure. In partnership with Fever and Secret Cinema, the theme of the attraction is based on the Netflix’s show Season 3 horrors. It will be a multi-level experience with cars stopping at each set like the Starcourt Mall, a subterranean Russian lab, and the Upside Down. Some haunted attractions will continue to be walking experiences but with additional safety and creative measures. Andrew Curran, president of design company specializing in haunted house design Practical Imagination, said, “People like new and exciting—this is the year to create new and exciting.” Curran hinted that use of special effects such as mirrors alter the appearance of distance, plexiglass barriers can be used in hospital scenes, and sound technology tricks will be utilized. Use of props and claustrophobia tunnels will be on the decline and animated figures will be used in close proximity to visitors. For those haunts with the occasional close contact, costumes with built-in PPE gear is recommended. The Dent Schoolhouse in Greater Cincinnati said their monsters will integrate a face mask into their costumes. Reservation-based ticketing is also a tactic attractions are using to reduce capacity and spread out groups. The 13th Floor Haunted House in Denver plans on doing temperature checks, limiting capacity, keeping groups private, and enforcing social distancing with ground markings. Dr. Margee Kerris, a sociologist who studies fear, said in May that COVID-19 should not cancel the spookiness Halloween. “Haunted attractions offer what we could all use right now: opportunities to take control of our fears and to be reminded that we can be brave.”

    Budget Travel Lists

    10 low-key destinations to consider for Labor Day

    Our cruel summer is coming to a close and the upcoming holiday weekend is one of the last chances for people to get out of the house and enjoy the long days of sunshine. Vacation rental manager Vacasa has released its list of top 10 destinations for Labor Day this weekend. ©Marc Muench/Getty Images1. Sun Valley, Idaho Small-town Sun Valley sits at the edge of the Sawtooth and Challis National Forests, and it gets a whopping 15 hours of sunshine per day during the summer months. Hike all the way up Bald Mountain west of town, then order some takeout from one of Sun Valley’s coveted restaurants. Browse rentals 2. Steamboat Springs, Colorado When you reach historic Steamboat Springs, you may feel like you’ve gone back in time. Reminiscent of the Old West, Steamboat is a naturally stunning escape tucked in the Rocky Mountains. Cool off by floating the Yampa River, or take a stroll through town and expect to be greeted (at a distance) by all the friendly locals. Browse rentals 3. Greenville, Maine Greenville rests on the 40-mile-long Moosehead Lake—the largest of its kind in the state. As the name of the lake would suggest, it’s home to many moose, so keep your eyes peeled for these majestic creatures as you hike through the woods or take a private flight. Browse rentals. 4. Eagle River, Wisconsin Along a large freshwater lake chain, you’ll find the laid-back northwoods town of Eagle River. Bike through densely wooded forests, or take a more leisurely method of travel—a guided horseback ride. Browse rentals. ©Keneva Photography/Shutterstock 5. Sevierville, Tennessee Tucked away in the Great Smoky Mountains, Sevierville has hundreds of forest trails and several jaw-dropping waterfalls. Boat along Douglas Lake, take a tour through underground caverns, or just breathe in the crisp air from the back deck of your cabin rental. Browse rentals. 6. Sugar Mountain, North Carolina Concealed in North Carolina’s range of Blue Ridge peaks, Sugar Mountain is a treasure of a village. If heights don’t make you queasy, visit the nation’s highest suspension footbridge, the Mile-High Swinging Bridge, or take a chairlift from the base of the mountain to 1,200 feet up. Browse rentals. 7. Ludlow, Vermont Tourists flock to Ludlow to enjoy snow sports during the winter, but the summer months are decidedly less crowded. Don’t be fooled, though: the tiny town is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise year round. Breathe in the fresh mountain air, and hike to the swimming holes at Buttermilk Falls. Browse rentals. 8. Angel Fire, New Mexico Often called New Mexico’s best-kept secret, Angel Fire is a small village rife with adventure in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Visit the largest bike park in the Rocky Mountains, charting 60 miles of terrain, or hike to New Mexico’s highest point, Wheeler Peak. Browse rentals. ©SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images 9. Helen, Georgia Venture to Helen in northeast Georgia and you’ll feel like you just touched down in Europe. A Bavarian village set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Helen has a storied past and unequivocal charm dating back to the 1800s. While you’re there, don’t miss 300-foot Dukes Creek Falls. Browse rentals. 10. Tannersville, Pennsylvania Nestled in the Pocono Mountains, Tannersville is the perfect destination for big families and honeymooners alike. Take a dip in a unique heart-shaped tub, or zipline through the treetops if adrenaline-pumping activities are more your speed. Browse rentals.

    Inspiration

    Rediscover Colorado: explore rugged Durango in any season

    Editor's Note: Before you head out, please check the Colorado COVID-19 site to determine any local restrictions you need to be aware of. Nestled in southwestern Colorado’s Animas River Valley and surrounded by the rugged peaks of the San Juan Mountains, Durango’s remote location offers unimpeded access to some of the best cultural, historic and outdoor attractions in the state. Road Tripping: Scenic Byways The San Juan Skyway Scenic and Historic Byway travels from Durango and Telluride, to Mesa Verde National Park and back to Durango. The San Juan Byway is a 236-mile loop that winds through dramatic scenery in the shadow of 14,000 foot peaks, including the “Million Dollar Highway” segment from Silverton to Ouray, known as one of the most scenic drives in America. Colorado’s newest byway, Tracks Across Borders, links over 800 years of Colorado history. From the romance of the rails and authentic Native American culture, to breathtaking scenery and endless outdoor recreation, Tracks Across Borders is a richly layered journey through two states. Spanning southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico, the 125-mile route traces the narrow gauge right-of-way of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, connecting over 800 years of Colorado history. Durango’s rich history and cultural attractions are really what sets it apart from other destinations. The top attractions in our area are: D&SNGRR: Travel aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad’s historic 1880’s coal-fired, steam-powered locomotives for breathtaking views of the San Juan National Forest and the Weminuche, Colorado’s largest wilderness area. The Train is tentatively set to open with social distancing measures on June 9th. Mesa Verde National Park: Ancient Pueblo ruins and artifacts dating back over 2500 years were discovered in the San Juan Basin in the 1880’s. Explore the archeological wonders and ancient cave dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or at lesser known areas such as Sand Canyon. *MVNP is currently closed. There is a potential that the park will open later this summer for self guided hiking and exploring. It’s unlikely the ranger-led tours will return this summer. Followed by Outdoor Recreation Durango offers more than 300-miles of world-class mountain biking and hiking within 30-minutes of downtown. The San Juan National Forest includes the largest wilderness area in Colorado – the Weminuche Wilderness – and hundreds of miles of singletrack, world class mountain biking, epic rock climbing and backcountry skiing, plus fly fishing and boating on the gold medal waters of the Animas River. West of Durango, discover the spectacular La Plata Canyon and its beautiful U formation created by glaciers with abundant wildlife, wildflowers, high-alpine meadows, and avalanche gullies. Visitors can go remote backpacking, rafting or enjoy an extensive network of trails within five minutes of downtown Durango, including the Animas River Trail (ART). The centerpiece of the city’s trail system, the ART is a paved multi-use trail stretching nearly 7 miles through Durango’s Animas River Greenway. The ART provides easy access to a variety of parks; open spaces and natural surface trails, the community recreation center, the public library, downtown Durango, neighborhoods and schools. All of Durango's trails are built and maintained by local nonprofit trails group, Trails 2000, which hosts an interactive trail map, trail descriptions and trail conditions report online at durangotrails.org. The following list includes activities that are currently available and safe to enjoy in the Durango area, w/ social distancing and public health orders: https://www.durango.org/covid/. Visit Durango is not actively promoting visitation at this time, but we are making this information available to our industry partners since we understand visitors are still coming. Our goal is to steer people in the right direction and help keep residents and visitors safe. Please also visit our COVID Travel Advisory page for the latest restrictions and guidance for visitors. Historic Hotels The Strater Hotel, built in 1887, is decorated with period decor, beautiful handcrafted woodwork, and the largest private collection of American Victorian walnut antiques in the world. The Rochester Hotel and Leland House, built in 1927 and 1892 respectively, boasts original antiques and woodwork, as well as Western-movie themed rooms. The General Palmer, built in 1898, blends the comforts of modern living with Victorian charm in the heart of the historic downtown. Hotels are taking extra precautions right now.

    National Parks

    How the Great American Outdoors Act will save US national parks

    On Wednesday, Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which combined two earlier bills to commit $900 million a year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and $9.5 billion over five years to address critical infrastructure updates across the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management. “Passing the Great American Outdoors Act is quite simply the most significant investment in conservation in decades," said president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation Collin O’Mara in a statement. “It’s a huge win for wildlife, our natural treasures, our economy, and all Americans, who enjoy our America’s public lands for solace, recreation, and exercise, especially amid this pandemic. All Americans will benefit from this historic legislation, which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, expand outdoor recreation opportunities in every community, and accelerate our nation’s economic recovery from COVID-19.” Rafting tours down the Snake River near Grand Tenton Mountains ©Mark Read/Lonely PlanetThe expansion of access to outdoor spaces, and the restoration of existing destinations is crucial as more and more Americans have turned to outdoor recreation in recent years. Some 327 million travelers a year visit national parks, forests, and Wild and Scenic Rivers from Mt. Rainier and the Rouge River to the Great Smokey Mountains and the New River Gorge, traveling over some 5000 miles of paved roads, nearly 20,000 miles of trails, and making use of almost 25,000 buildings. Back in June, when the US Senate initially passed the Great American Outdoors Act, the Land Trust Alliance noted that the LWCF has "only been fully funded once in its history," despite the fact it's been promised $900 million a year since its inception and supports "over 41,000 state and local park projects, contributing $778 billion to the nation's economy annually and providing 5.2 million sustainable jobs nationwide." Men from the Civilian Conservation Corps finish a shelter house at South Mountain Reservation, New Jersey, 1935. Many such structures are still in use today. © New York Times Co. / Getty ImagesBecause budgets haven't increased even as traffic on public lands has grown, officials haven't been able to keep up with the deterioration of key infrastructure nearing, or past, the end of its lifespan. A significant portion of the federal assets at national forest campgrounds, national parks, and state parks were built nearly a century ago, when the Civilian Conservation Corps was put to work during the Great Depression. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, 70% of the National Park Services' overdue projects pertain to structures at least 60 years old. That's had big, costly consequences that impact visitor experiences. For example, a sink hole nearly the length of a subcompact car opened up in Shenandoah National Park on the busy George Washington Memorial Parkway last May – and it wasn't the first such incident in the park. The series of sinkholes were the result of delays to roadwork and updates to storm water drainage networks, the kind of problems that are cheaper to fix before they eat into an entire roadway. Hunt's Mesa at sunrise, Monument Valley, Arizona, Utah, USA ©Francesco Riccardo Iacomino/500Meanwhile, the Transcanyon Pipeline in the Grand Canyon is fifty years old and perpetually leaky. Built in the 1960s in the midst of Mission 66, one of the last major flurries of upgrades to the national parks system that formed in response to similar concerns about degraded infrastructure and funding, the pipeline has been a focus for replacement for years. Although the pipeline supplies all the potable water to the South Rim of the park, officials have carried on with makeshift repairs because they haven't had the $100 million necessary to build an alternative. "LWCF is an issue I've been working on since my introduction into the outdoor policy world six years ago," said Katie Boué, founder of the Outdoor Advocacy Project. "This week's passage marks a huge victory for so many advocates who have invested years in making it happen. In a time when our public lands and green spaces are more valued and visited than ever before, it gives me hope to see Congress stepping up to support them." High-angle view of Jackson city covered in snow and the Teton Valley. ©Adventure_Photo/Getty ImagesBudget constraints have also made it harder to establish new public lands and expand existing parcels, especially around fragile conservation areas like the Everglades and the Grand Tetons that are experiencing increased development nearby. In January environmentalists celebrated when the state of Florida purchased 20,000 acres of swampland that feeds the Everglades in order to end Kanter Real Estate's multi-year quest to drill oil on the parcel. A greater number of similar deals will be possible at the federal level now the Great American Outdoors Act has secured permanent funding. It's been proven that new national parks can be a big hit, like when visitor numbers soared at Indiana Dunes after it was designated a national park in January of 2019. The same was true for White Sands National Park in New Mexico – the newest of the country's 62 national parks. The increase in funding could aid efforts to upgrade a handful of national forests and monuments that advocates hope could be national parks candidates, like Craters of the Moon in Idaho and Louisiana's Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, without further stretching a cash-strapped National Parks Service. White Sands National Park Yucca picnic area covered in sand in New Mexico. ©krblokhin/Getty ImagesExactly where and how to first apply the funds secured by the Great American Outdoors Act still needs to be decided by multiple federal agencies. But legislature's passage is reason enough for outdoor enthusiasts and activists to celebrate – it heralds the biggest overhaul the parks have received in a generation. And with many grounded travelers turning to road trips and visits to state and national parks in lieu of international travel as a result of the global coronavirus outbreak, the timing couldn't be better for the country's beleaguered public lands. "As an avid outdoors woman and activist, I’ve been going to DC for many years advocating for more funding for our national parks, public lands and green spaces," said Caroline Gleich, an Utah-based environmental advocate and pro ski mountaineer who summited Mt. Everest last year. "As America is dealing with the pandemic, more and more of us are turning to our parks and public lands for our mental and physical well being. The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act gives us something to celebrate. It gives us hope for the future."

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    DESTINATION IN New Mexico

    Albuquerque

    Albuquerque ( (listen) AL-bə-kur-kee, Spanish: [alβuˈkeɾke]), abbreviated as ABQ, is the most populous city in the U.S. state of New Mexico. Its nicknames, The Duke City and Burque, both reference its 1706 founding by Nuevo México governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdés as La Villa de Alburquerque. Named in honor of the Viceroy of New Spain, the 10th Duke of Alburquerque, the city was an outpost on El Camino Real linking Mexico City to the northernmost territories of New Spain. The 2020 census found the population of the city to be 564,559, making Albuquerque the 32nd-most populous city in the United States and the fourth-largest in the Southwest. It is the principal city of the Albuquerque metropolitan area, which had 916,528 residents as of July 2020.Located in north-central New Mexico, Albuquerque serves as the county seat of Bernalillo County. To its east are the Sandia–Manzano Mountains, Rio Grande flows north to south through its center, while the West Mesa and Petroglyph National Monument make up the western part of the city. Albuquerque has one of the highest elevations of any major city in the U.S., ranging from 4,900 feet (1,500 m) above sea level near the Rio Grande to over 6,700 feet (2,000 m) in the foothill areas of Sandia Heights and Glenwood Hills. The civic apex is found in an undeveloped area within the Albuquerque Open Space; there, the terrain rises to an elevation of approximately 6,880 feet (2,100 m), and the metropolitan area's highest point is the Sandia Mountains crest at an altitude of 10,678 feet (3,255 m). The economy of Albuquerque centers on science, medicine, technology, commerce, education, entertainment, and culture outlets. The city is home to Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia National Laboratories, Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, Presbyterian Health Services, and both the University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College have their main campuses in the city. Albuquerque is the center of the New Mexico Technology Corridor, a concentration of high-tech institutions, including the metropolitan area being the location of Intel's Fab 11X in Rio Rancho and a Facebook Data Center in Los Lunas. Albuquerque was also the founding location of MITS and Microsoft. Film studios have a major presence in the state of New Mexico, for example Netflix has a main production hub at Albuquerque Studios. There are numerous shopping centers and malls within the city, including ABQ Uptown, Coronado, Cottonwood, Nob Hill, and Winrock. Outside city limits but surrounded by the city is the location of a horse racing track and casino called The Downs Casino and Racetrack, and the Pueblos surrounding the city feature resort casinos, including Sandia Resort, Santa Ana Star, Isleta Resort, and Laguna Pueblo's Route 66 Resort. The city hosts the International Balloon Fiesta, the world's largest gathering of hot-air balloons, taking place every October at a venue referred to as Balloon Fiesta Park, with its 47-acre launch field. Another large venue is Expo New Mexico, where other annual events are held, such as North America's largest pow wow at the Gathering of Nations, as well as the New Mexico State Fair. Other major venues throughout the metropolitan area include the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the University of New Mexico's Popejoy Hall, Santa Ana Star Center, and Isleta Amphitheater. Old Town Albuquerque's Plaza, Hotel, and San Felipe de Neri Church hosts traditional fiestas and events such as weddings, also near Old Town are the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Explora, and Albuquerque Biological Park. Located in Downtown Albuquerque are historic theaters such as the KiMo Theater, and near the Civic Plaza is the Al Hurricane Pavilion and Albuquerque Convention Center with its Kiva Auditorium. Due to its population size, the metropolitan area regularly receives most national and international music concerts, Broadway shows, and other large traveling events, as well as New Mexico music, and other local music performances. Likewise, due to the metropolitan size, it is home to a diverse restaurant scene from various global cuisines and the state's distinct New Mexican cuisine. Being the focus of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District gives an agricultural contrast along acequias to the otherwise heavily urban setting of the city. Crops such as New Mexico chile are grown along the entire Rio Grande; the red or green chile pepper is a staple of the aforementioned New Mexican cuisine. The Albuquerque metro is a major contributor of the Middle Rio Grande Valley AVA with New Mexico wine produced at several vineyards, it is also home to several New Mexican breweries. The river also provides trade access with the Mesilla Valley (containing Las Cruces, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas) region to the south, with its Mesilla Valley AVA and the adjacent Hatch Valley which is well known for its New Mexico chile peppers. Since the city's founding, it has continued to be included on travel and trade routes including Santa Fe Railway (ATSF), Route 66, Interstate 25, Interstate 40, and the Albuquerque International Sunport.