Albuquerque is the seat of Bernalillo County, New Mexico and is the largest city in the state. It is situated in the center part of the state on the Rio Grande. This city covers an area of one hundred and eighty square miles and has a population of over five hundred and twenty thousand residents. As of 2008, Albuquerque was the sixth fastest growing city in the United States and its metropolitan area is the fifty-ninth largest in the country. This city is the home to the University of New Mexico, Sandia National Laboratories, Kirtland Air Force Base and Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute.
Albuquerque can trace its history back to the eighteenth century, when it was founded as a Spanish outpost of Ranchos de Albuquerque. Construction of the town originally proceeded in the Spanish Villa style and contained a central square surrounded by government facilities, houses and a church. Today, this central plaza can still be seen and is known as Old Town. Albuquerque was named in honor of the Duke of Albuquerque (Albuquerque was a Spanish town). In 1706, Albuquerque contained a Spanish Presidio. After Mexico gained control of the area, they also built an garrison in the city. When the United States took possession of New Mexico, there was a Federal garrison established from 1846 to 1868. When the United States became embroiled in a Civil War, Confederate troops marched into the city under the command of General Henry Hopkins Sibley. Upon his subsequent retreat from Union forces, he made a final stand in April of 1862 and fought the Battle of Albuquerque against a Union detachment. A few days later, the Confederate force abandoned the city.
In 1880, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad arrived in the city of Albuquerque, and five years later Albuquerque was incorporated as a town. The first public High school in the city would be established in 1879. By 1902, the town had a population of slightly over eight thousand residents and had an electric street rail, the University of New Mexico and a hotel erected, the Alvarado Hotel. It was during this time, the city received an influx of tuberculosis patients from around the world. These masses of sick patients came to the city because of its dry climate.
In November of 1926, Route 66 was completed and the city received an influx of travelers using the highway for the first time. As a result, restaurants, motels and gift shops sprouted up along the roadside. Route 66 originally cut through the city on a north & south alignment, but in the 1930s it was realigned along a east & west route. In the 1940s, the city would become a major player in the Nuclear Age with the founding of Kirtland Air Force Base in 1939 and Sandia National Laboratories in 1949. During this time the population continued at a steady rate, and by 1960 there were over two hundred thousand residents in the city.
Today, the economy of Albuquerque relies heavily on high tech industries and is located at the hub of the New Mexico Technology Corridor. Prominent employers in the city include Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia National Laboratories, Zomeworks and Tempur-Pedic. The city also has a thriving tourist trade which brings in millions of visitors each year. This is due to the climate and the many attractions that the city has to offer.
A prominent attraction in the city is the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. This museum was founded in 1986 near the Old Town portion of the city. Housed inside the museum is a gift store, the Lockheed Martin Dyna Theater and a cafe. It also houses a number of exhibits which include a virtual tour through history. Sub sections of these exhibits include Origins, Dawn of the Dinosaurs, New Mexico’s Sea Coast, Evolving Grasslands, Age of Volcanoes, Cave Experience and Jurassic Super Giants. The latter exhibit contains complete skeletons of dinosaurs such as Stegosaurus, Seismosaurus and Saurophaganax. The museum also contains the second largest T-Rex ever to be found. The museum is also home to a planetarium and exhibits dedicated to the exploration of space and astronomy.
Another prominent attraction in the city is the Rio Grande Zoo. The Rio Grande Zoo was established in 1927 and covers an area of sixty-four acre. This zoo contains more than two hundred and fifty species of animals. Animals housed in the zoo include wolves, polar bears, giraffes, gorillas, chimpanzees, rhinoceros, sea lions, koalas, zebras, orangutans, tamarins, monkeys, elephants, mountain lions, seals, jaguars, camels, Mexican wolves, hippos and tigers. Exhibits in this zoo include an Africa Exhibit, Tropical America Exhibit and an Australia Exhibit. The American International Rattlesnake Museum is another prominent museum in the city of Albuquerque. This museum is located in the Old Town section of the city and contains a large collection of snakes, with particular attention paid to rattlesnakes. Snakes in its collection include Baja California Rattlesnakes, Tiger Rattlesnakes, Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, Panamint Speckled Rattlesnakes, Costa Rican Rattlesnakes, Prairie Rattlesnakes, Blacktail Rattlesnakes, Banded Rock Rattlesnakes and Mottled Rock Rattlesnakes.
Other attractions in Albuquerque include Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Sandia Peak Tramway, Twin Warriors Golf Course, Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque Museum, Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum of Albuquerque, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Rio Grande Botanic Garden, Old Town Albuquerque, National Atomic Museum, Albuquerque Biological Park, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Cliff’s Amusement Park, Turquoise Museum, Vortex Theater, Pueblo Loft, White Sands Missile Range, Albuquerque Aquarium, Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum, Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, San Felipe de Neri Church, New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, Jimez State Monument, Rodeaway Ranch, Cibola National Forest, Cedro Peak, Center for the Arts, Rio Grande Trail, Volcano Park, University Art Museum, Ortega’s Indian Arts & Crafts, New Mexico Open Air Flea Market, Wright’s Collection of Indian Art, Arthur Sussman Gallery, Lode Star Astronomy Center and Penfield Gallery of Indian Art. The city is also home to a number of fine restaurants, cafes, comedy clubs, shops and hotels.