Vista Grande – Albuquerque, NM

Perched on a bluff above the west bank of the Rio Grande, Vista Grande commands a grand view of Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains beyond. Although part of the city, this and other areas that lie west of the river have developed a character distinct from the rest of Albuquerque, enjoying the stillness afforded by miles of desert on one side and a sheer drop to the Rio Grande on the other. Rent in the area sits well above average for Albuquerque, and many residents are employed by the nearby Intel microprocessor factory and other tech firms. Options exist for area dining and shopping, but most locals rely on outlets across the river for the majority of their needs. Most Vista Grande residents commute to jobs outside this quiet area.

Schools in Vista Grande

School data provided by GreatSchools

Restaurants & Nightlife

Dining in Vista Grande exists along Coors Boulevard – the main north-south artery on Albuquerque’s West Side. A slice of Italy occupies the city’s West Side at Mimmo’s Ristorante & Pizzeria. Its noon buffet has long been a favorite for a quick lunch, and dinner options include Italian staples like chicken cacciatore and shrimp scampi. This versatile eatery caters events with salads and subs, and its pizza has a crust that’s particularly thin and crispy. Most items cost around $10. Fresh seafood flies in three times a week to Sushi Xuan, a local Asian grill with great drink specials. Most of its items pack heat and include fiery volcano fish – red snapper with a sauce that’s hot and sweet. Happy hour specials include hot sake and cost less than $3. Albuquerque favorite Perico’s features dozens of burrito variations including carne adovada and sopaipillas stuffed with beans and meat, most of them under $5. The servers at this family-owned restaurant always greet guests with a smile, and locals love to share a six-pack of tacos with a friend and split the $6 charge. Watch the game or catch live music with friends at Effingbar & Grill, where drink specials lubricate the fun. This establishment serves standard bar fare with PG-13 titles, including effingburgers and effingnachos, which receive top billing on the menu. A dozen TVs and friendly staff add to the amusement in this small, comfortable bar with a neighborhood feel. Residents catch the latest feature flicks at Cinemark Movies West just north of Vista Grande or head downtown to Century 16 for an urban movie theatre experience.

History & Culture

Although the west side of the Rio Grande has been inhabited for centuries by Native Americans and later European settlers, development began in earnest in the 1980s, allowing residents of Albuquerque to live away from the bustle of the city. The 1993 construction of a massive microprocessor factory in Rio Rancho created thousands of jobs, and the quietude and expansive view offered by Vista Grande attracted many of its workers. Albuquerque's downtown hosts a number of museums that explain the history of the Rio Grande Valley, and showcase artwork and weapons from the settlement of the west. When it gets hot, a number of SummerFest events take place in and around the city, and although the largest is downtown, all include an open-air atmosphere with shopping and dining accompanied by live music late into the night, and local artists and breweries showcase their wares.

Transportation

Most residents of Vista Grande own vehicles and commute into Albuquerque, which can take as little as 15 minutes. Coors Boulevard runs north-south through the area, and its relaxed speed limit makes it a quick conduit for getting around the area and the rest of Albuquerque’s West Side. Parking stays free and abundant in this roomy area, and although residents often jog and walk on its safe streets, don’t expect to stroll to many shops – the west side of Albuquerque spans 10 miles from top to bottom and is very spread out. Taxi and Uber service can be scheduled, but be prepared to wait a few more minutes than you might for the ride on the other side of the river. Albuquerque’s public transit system sells one-way tickets anywhere in the city for just $2, and can be joined from Coors Boulevard roughly every 20 minutes. The 790 line, the express bus between the West Side and the University of New Mexico area, remains the best bet for getting to center city quickly, offering fewer stops and quicker trips for cross-town travelers. Cyclists have their own avenues in Albuquerque; the city’s network of trails and dedicated bike lanes on city streets makes cycling safe, but Vista Grande’s position across the valley from the rest of the city means an uphill ride will almost certainly be part of the trip.

Cost

Rent for a one-bedroom residence in Vista Grande stays significantly costlier than most other parts of Albuquerque at $1,314 per month. The view of the city and well-manicured grounds of an exclusive private high school to the north add to its allure, and the quickness with which one can get into busy Albuquerque makes it an ideal choice for living outside the stress of the city. Beer averages around $5, and meals average around $7 - slightly less than the cost closer to the center of Albuquerque. Drivers in the area access fantastically low gas prices at around 9 percent lower than the national average, and the price of a bus ticket anywhere in town costs $2.

Shopping

Coors Boulevard’s broad avenues host the major shopping centers in Vista Grande. It swarms with morning commuters who often rely on Donut Mart, an Albuquerque bakeshop with original creations like cookies and cream donuts. More wholesome ways to start your day include bagel sandwiches for around $4. Riverside Plaza’s dozens of shops just north of the area include Twin Suns Comics & Games, a paradise of comics and games with events every day. The events include role-playing card games, and the store welcomes all comers. The experts can appraise comics and consult on other collectibles. An interesting find in the area, about" Jake & Harley’s Cigar Gallery and Smoking Lounge gets its name from the owner’s yellow lab and white Chihuahua and hosts a Wi-Fi-equipped lounge with televisions and a view of the Sandia Mountains to the east. Naturally, it also sells fine cigars and has a humidor with lockers to store your selection. Sip a drink on the patio provided by the bar next door, and live music keeps things light on hot summer days. Nearby supermarkets include John Brooks’ and a Walmart Supercenter, but residents head a couple miles north for the high-quality meat and poultry available at Keller’s Farm Stores in Riverside Plaza – also home to Albertsons and Walgreens for home essentials. The Riverside Plaza area also hosts the simply-named Farmer’s Market, an essential stop for farm-fresh produce.

Parks

A couple blocks west, Redlands Park has four well-maintained baseball fields for softball and youth league, dog owners can head to Ouray Park to the southwest. Other free area parks feature climbing gyms and play areas for small children. Mountain bikers and joggers love Petroglyph National Park’s thousands of acres of high desert scrubland a few miles to the north. The volcanic rocks in this area are inscribed with thousands of pictograms and other symbols made by ancient Puebloans as far back as 2,000 BC, according to scientists. Keep your eyes open and enjoy mysterious images resembling everything from lizards to aliens while riding in the low humidity and thin air of Albuquerque’s West Mesa.
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