Where It’s At: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque’s Nob Hill district is one of those slightly retro spots, full of historic charm, yet upbeat and throbbing with new vitality and energy. Storefronts lining the Central Avenue corridor just east of The University of New Mexico sport stylish new paint and splashy neon, concentrated around The Nob Hill Shopping Center, a remnant of a time before mega-malls and strip centers. Many of the original 1930s-40s era buildings have been given new life, honoring the halcyon days when old Route 66 roared through town, and all are ripe subjects for paintings.

People walk here. They stop in the funky shops, where merchandise spills onto the sidewalk, linger in the various art galleries and antique stores and grab a bite to eat at bistros or on music-filled patios. The streets vibrate with visual stimulation. A visiting artist seeking out an extra brush or needed paper might even rub elbows with famous artists shopping at art store Artisan/Santa Fe (on Monte Vista NE). A short stroll onto the UNM campus leads to The Jonson Gallery (pictured at right), housing a stellar collection of Modernist painters, or The Maxwell Museum, one of the nation’s finest anthropology museums. Nearby is The Tamarind Institute, internationally recognized for its role in revitalizing the art of lithography.

Plan a First Friday ArtsCrawl and wander through galleries open for an evening of fun, food and art. Take a neon tour, highlighted by the brightly lit Nob Hill Gateways along Central Avenue (pictured at right), a project of the City of Albuquerque Public Art Program. Stroll in and out of Pueblo Revival buildings decked out for a festive night of art. Or settle in for a night of delight at the Gruet Steakhouse inside the historic Monte Vista Fire Station, complete with brass pole, and finish your night at local favorite Flying Star Café (pictured at right) with a pastry and coffee.

Travel on the web: www.cabq.gov, www.itsatrip.org, www.unm.edu/~maxwell, www.unm.edu/~tamarind, www.artscrawlabq.org.

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