Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

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While COVID is not quite over, if we follow state guidelines, we can finally get out of our homes where it feels like we’ve been serving a life sentence for something we didn’t do. From fireworks to fishing at Tingley, hiking and biking mountain trails to splash pads, outdoor art and cultural strolling to 10K runs, the July 4 weekend offers an escape from the monotony of quarantine and a chance to soak up some sunshine.

We are under stage one fire restrictions, which means people are not allowed to set off aerial fireworks. No worries, as the sky around Albuquerque will be ablaze with fireworks again this year at the several locations.

The Balloon Fiesta Park (4401 Alameda Blvd. NE) presents Fireworks in the Metro on Sunday, July 4 from 6 to 10:30pm. It’s a pre-ticketed event at $20 per vehicle for a maximum of 3,500 people. Bring your own food and picnic on the grass. Food vendors will also be onsite. Gates open at 6pm. Fireworks begin at 9:15pm. A good alternative to driving is Park & Ride from either Cottonwood Mall or Coronado Mall. Advance ticket sales are available only at tickets.holdmyticket.com/tickets/372490. No tickets will be sold at the event.

There will also be a 9:15pm synchronized fireworks display at the following locations that you can watch from the comfort of your backyard: North Domingo Baca Park, Expo New Mexico, Tom Tenorio Park, Ladera Golf Course, Isotopes Park, City of Rio Rancho.

In Los Lunas the Fourth of July Celebration will be held at the Los Lunas Sports Complex (100 Morris Rd.). Fireworks start at 9pm. The Brandon Saiz Band provides the music. This is a free event.

If you’re looking to get active this Independence Day weekend, there are plenty of places and events with lots of options for family fun.

Firecracker Flight ABQ 5K/10K live run/walk is on for July 4 at the Alameda Open Space (9521 Rio Grande Blvd. NW), 7 to 10am. It also includes a virtual run on your treadmill, in your neighborhood or around your favorite route at the park, on your own time. Virtual runners add their time online. To sign up go to runsignup.com/Race/NM/Albuquerque/FirecrackerFlightABQ.

The Rio Rancho Red White & Blue Run takes off on Sunday, July 4. With a 10K, a 4-mile run or walk and a Kids K, there’s something to jump-start everyone’s Fourth of July celebrations. There is an 8am check-in at Rio Rancho Aquatic Center (745 Loma Colorado Blvd. NE). Proceeds from the event benefit RunFit after-school youth running programs and the RunFit “Fifteen and Fit” youth running and fitness school-based programs. Register at irunfit.org.

Live music is returning to Old Town over the Fourth of July weekend. The 44th Army Band featuring the Jazz Collective and Breaking Brass from New Mexico’s National Guard tunes up at the Old Town Gazebo on Saturday, July 3 from 5 to 7pm. The Westside Sound Big Band will perform on Sunday, July 4 from 1 to 3pm.

The New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial Park (1100 Louisiana Blvd. SE) sits on 25 acres of a beautifully landscaped park dotted with dozens of public art installations that pay tribute to those who have served our country. Views of the Sandia Mountains make it a great picnicking spot. It’s open to the public, free of charge, from 6am to 10pm. For more info, including museum hours, go to nmvetsmemorial.org.

The Downtown Growers’ Market at Robinson Park (810 Copper Ave. NW), taking place July 3 from 8am to noon, offers delicious food for picnics over the weekend with a wide selection of locally made food and drink products (packaged and prepared on site). There’s also a great selection of locally grown produce, locally raised meats, eggs and honey as well as local artists and body care vendors. Details about vendors are available at downtowngrowers.org.

The Rio Grande Nature Center (2901 Candelaria Rd. NW) offers an observation pond, a wetlands overlook, the Candelaria Nature Preserve overlook and the Mariposaville Pollinator Garden. There are bird feeding stations, picnic tables and a shade structure. The gates are open, every day, from 8am to 5pm. Cost is $3 per vehicle. Go to rgnc.org for more info.

The mid-1800s Gutiérrez-Hubbell House on the historic Camino Real (6029 Isleta Blvd. SW) offers a great place to stroll outside and learn a little about our city’s history. “Enchiladas: A Global Journey to New Mexico” is the exhibit currently on view. It’s open from 10am to 6pm. The webiste—gutierrezhubbellhouse.org—can help you plan a visit.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center’s new outdoor exhibition space, the Bosque Gallery, consists of 31 panels mounted on 730 feet of fencing along the western border of the campus. The “Desde Mi Balcón/From My Balcony” exhibit is on view featuring 28 large-format photos from the windows and balconies of Spain last year during the pandemic. The center is located at 1701 Fourth St. SW and is open Tuesdays through Sundays, from 10am to 4pm. Timed entrance to the museum’s visual arts gallery is $5 for N.M. residents and $6 for out-of-towners. You can get more info on current exhibits and events at nhccnm.org.

The family can cool off at five public splash pads this summer at no cost. In Albuquerque check out the Cesar Chavez Spray Pad, Wells Park Spray Pad and the Civic Plaza Spray Pad. In Bernalillo County splash at the South Valley Splash Pad (N.M.’s largest splash pad) and the Alameda Splash Pad. Head to cabq.gov and bernco.gov for details.

Tingley Beach at the Albuquerque Biopark (180o Tingley Dr. SW) offers fishing for anglers of all ages and abilities at the Central Pond and the Children’s Pond. (The Bob Gerding Catch and Release Fly Fishing Pond remains closed.) Those 12 years or older must have a current New Mexico fishing license, but can catch their limit of channel catfish. Visit cabq.gov for complete info.

The Albuquerque Museum’s Sculpture Garden (2000 Mountain Rd. NW) is on view 24/7 featuring New Mexico landscapes and historical and cultural stories specific to the Southwest and beyond. The garden has on display over 50 works of art from the museum’s collection and a few works from the Albuquerque Public Art collection. Go to cabq.gov/artsculture/albuquerque-museum/exhibitions/sculpture-garden to get a sneak preview.

The Paseo del Bosque Trail, named one of the 20 best bike paths in the West, an easily accessible 16-mile multi-use route beckoning outdoor enthusiasts, is enjoyed by walkers, runners, cyclists, inline skaters and even horseback riders. It winds along Albuquerque’s riverside forest from Alameda to Bridge (and vice versa).

Albuquerque and the surrounding area is a paradise for hikers and bikers and offers everything from a casual stroll to mountain climbing terrain. The Sandia and Manzano mountains offer some of the best hiking and mountain biking in New Mexico.

New Mexico State Parks are open and operating under limited, day-use only capacity. Public gatherings, events and camping in developed sites are still banned. All public and private developed campsites remain closed. Overnight camping is only permitted at dispersed, remote campsites. Check state websites (emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/) for closures before venturing out to recreate. Practice physical distancing and put on your mask when approaching other groups. Check for fire restrictions on state, federal and private lands. If your chosen place or activity is too crowded, have a backup plan. Bring your own snacks, water and trash bags. Pack it in, pack it out.

Enjoy, and have a safe and fun-filled Fourth of July everyone!

Written by

Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

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