A museum dedicated to nuclear science and history might seem a little odd at first, but not after you consider New Mexico's connection to the Manhattan Project (the weapons research and design laboratory at Los Alamos and the Trinity test site). I found Albuquerque's National Museum of Nuclear Science and History fascinating, as I started my morning learning the details of the Atomic Age.
From bombs and reactors, I moved on to fish, plants and animals with a tour of the Albuquerque Biological Park. The park's highlights include a 285,000 gallon shark tank, a four-acre Sasebo Japanese Garden among the botanic garden's 36 acres and more then 200 species of animals in the zoo.
During the previous night's dinner, I learned that the unofficial state of New Mexico question is "red or green?" Meaning do I prefer red or green chili sauce I decided to savor more New Mexico cuisine to help me answer that question. I also decided that just one restaurant would not be enough, so I visited two: Sadie's and Cecilia’s Café.
Sadie's is a size queen's dream -- the portions are enormous. And I fell in love with the Roberto Special, a grilled hamburger steak generously covered with chile con queso, beans, diced potatoes and either green or red chili.
At Cecilia's, the enchiladas were outstanding. And the homemade red chili sauce had my mouth on fire; however, Cecilia (yes, there is an actual Cecilia) rescued me with a spoonful of sweet honey (that also tasted great on her sopaipillas).
Unfortunately, even after two great meals, I wasn't able to decide if I was a red or a green. However, I learned that if you simply say "Christmas" you get both.
Nearly 150 years before the first wines were made in California, Spanish missionaries planted grapes in the Rio Grande Valley. Today, the wine-making tradition is still strong. So, after lunch, I visited the beautiful Casa Rondena Winery and the Gruet Winery tasting room. Both are excellent examples of the award-winning wines produced in New Mexico.
Following an afternoon of eating and drinking, I checked-in to my room at Nativo Lodge, sister property of Hotel Albuquerque and also a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, to freshen up for my evening activities, the first of which being a visit to the National Hispanic Cultural Center, home to a growing Hispanic art collection as well as a sculpture courtyard, visual arts theater and performing arts center. The center's gem is El Torreon, a fresco depicting centuries of Hispanic history on the inside walls of a 45-foot tower.
For dinner, I feasted at Tucanos Brazilian Grill, where cute waiters served me grilled meat from giant skewers. It's also where I spotted Bryan Cranston, star of Breaking Bad, which is filmed in Albuquerque, having a casual dinner with friends.
The evening concluded with a wonderful performance by the National Institute of Flamenco, whose dancers are full of passion and energy. The institute hosts an internal Flamenco festival annually.