Albuquerque and I always have had a casual relationship with each other. Most of the times I land in Albuquerque International Sunport, I drive directly to my favorite spot in New Mexico, Santa Fe. I never spent much time exploring Albuquerque. But when I heard that it had the largest film production studio in the country (in the COUNTRY?!), I wanted to change the routine and spend some time checking out this Hollywood connection.
I figured the best way to see as many film locations in the shortest amount of time was to do a tour. A bicycle tour with Routes Rentals & Tours was just the ticket. My guide, Bob, was a knowledgeable advocate of the city, sharing information about local history as well as the modern economy. He told me Albuquerque is great for hiking—who knew? He also explained that the community is quite appreciative of what the film industry has done for Albuquerque. “Stars put money back into the community,” he said. “They are good about patronizing local places.”
Albuquerque’s most recent star turn came during Breaking Bad; the show was supposed to take place in the city and was filmed on location quite a bit. During my two-hour biking adventure, Bob and I passed a number of places from the show. Here are some of the most notable hotspots:
Java Joe’s. Upstairs at Java Joe’s is the headquarters for Tuco, one of the bad guys from Breaking Bad. Outside the Park Avenue residence, however, you’ll find a wall of artwork.
Jesse Pinkman’s House. Remember when the bathtub fell through the floor in Breaking Bad? And when Krazy 8 was handcuffed in the basement? Both of those epic moments supposedly happened at this house on the corner of 16th and Los Alamos. It’s hard to believe; the place looks so charming from the outside!
Getrude’s Castle. Not officially in Breaking Bad, this place on the corner of 2nd and Lead is the real-life (and strangely castle-like) home of Gertrude Zachary. Marie stole the tiara she gave to Skyler from Gertrude Zachary’s Jewelry.
The Library Bar & Grill. Remember the scene where the Breaking Bad guys plan their ride? It happened at The Library Bar & Grill on Central Avenue.
Other shows and movies have been filmed in Albuquerque, too. On my ride, I learned the list of TV shows and films based here is extensive. Here is a rundown on some of the other famous (or familiar) spots around town:
Viewfinder Tip: If you’re taking a bike tour, go early in the day, as the summer sun can be brutal.
Albuquerque Rail Yard. It’s ugly. It’s abandoned. But it’s great for movies. This expansive yard on Commercial Street has been featured in numerous movies, including Terminator Salvation, Transformers, and The Avengers.
Downtown. No, you haven’t seen downtown Albuquerque in any movies yet. But while I was visiting, so was Johnny Depp–he was filming his next big blockbuster, Transcendence (which was out in theaters in the summer of 2014). The crew transformed at least one block of downtown to look like Berkeley, California. Apparently it’s cheaper to build an entire set and film in New Mexico than it is to use an existing location in Cali.
There are plenty more movie sites around Albuquerque. Many more. But you should go see for yourself. If you’re looking for a hotel that’s central to many of these locations, try the Hotel Andaluz. It’s the only AAA Four-Diamond hotel in Albuquerque and has gorgeous Andalucian-inspired amenities.
How do you like to tour a city when you visit?