By Gerrie Summers
Fans of the hit AMC show Breaking Bad — which concludes on September 29 — know that the Emmy-award winning drama follows protagonist Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a chemistry teacher living in New Mexico with his wife and a teenage son with cerebral palsy. White is diagnosed with Stage III cancer and given the prognosis of two years to live. While most people would probably make peace with God, create a bucket list or spend time with family and friends, Walter becomes “fearless” (what does he have to lose?) and in order to secure his family’s financial security enters a criminal world, becoming a major kingpin in the drug trade.
Not exactly the way the city of Albuquerque wanted to be put on the map, but Albuquerque is now a filmmaking Mecca with great incentives (the “Breaking Bad bill” increased subsidies on film and TV productions shot in the state) and the perfect climate that not only attracts film and television products, but also has become a major tourist attraction in the process. Now most folks can actually spell A-l-b-u-q-u-e-r-q-u-e.
Admittedly, this writer was attracted to the ballooning, New Mexican cuisine and Native American jewelry (contributing quite a lot to the economy—you’re welcome ABQ). But if you’re a Breaking Bad fan you can celebrate (or mourn) the final season in the city where it originates. Here are six ways:
1. ABQ Trolley
ABQ Trolley’s three-hour BaD tour is $65 for a 3½-hour tour. It quickly sells out. The tour is on an open-air trolley covering 38 miles of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s Albuquerque, touring 13 major Breaking Bad locations (including Season 5 locations) like Walter White’s house and condo, Jesse Pinkman’s house and duplex, Gus’s house, The Car Wash, The Laundry, Saul Goodman’s law office, Tuco’s hideout, The Crossroads Motel, Twisters Grill (Los Pollos Hermanos) and The Railyards. Boarding is in Old Town at 208 San Felipe St. N.W. The BaD Tour is sponsored by the Back Alley Draft House (215 Central Avenue NW), which will host viewing of BB Season 5 every Sunday night. ABQ Trolley, 505-240-8000. www.ABQTROLLEY.com
2. Routes Rentals & Tours
A more active way to see Walter White’s world is the Biking BaD tour with Routes Rentals & Tours (1102 Mountain Rd, N.W., Ste 101, 505-933-5667) that covers 11-13 BB sites accessible by bike in and around Albuquerque’s urban area, as well as some underground and little-known locations. Each tour is unique and based on one of five of the show’s main characters (chosen by random lottery at the beginning of the tour). The tours are from 11 am – 2 pm every other Saturday. Like the Trolley Tour it looks like these tours will quickly sell out. The tour is $50 person with rental and $45 with your own bike. Try the store’s comfortable 3-speed yellow-tire City Cruisers. www.routesrentals.com/tours/specialty-bike-tours-abq/biking-bad-tour/
3. Candy Lady
Debbie Ball, The Candy Lady (524 Romero NW, 505-243-6239/800-214-7731) located in Old Town, makes Breaking Bad themed candy (yes, made to look like meth and packaged in little plastic bags). Fans can also buy Cranston’s black hat, Breaking Bad t-shirts, among other things (there’s an x-rated section in the store. Use your imagination.) www.thecandylady.com
4. Great Face & Body
Great Face & Body (123 Broadway Blvd, SE, 505-404-6670) is a spa and natural/organic beauty products store, owned and operated by Keith and Andre West-Harrison. The West-Harrisons make an assortment of Bathing Bad products including bath salts in 8 oz baggies to resemble the blue meth crystals from Breaking Bad and a new Los Pollos Hermanos Spice Rub that is created around the Breaking Bad theme. The products are made from organic ingredients. The blue dye is derived from red cabbage. Our visit, in which we learned how to make the bath salts, inspired Great Face & Body’s Bathing Bad “cooking” class. Customers can learn how to make their own bath salts. Trust me with those two “characters,” the class will be great fun. (Sales of the products support the local charity Enlace Comunitario, a non-profit that helps Spanish-speaking immigrant victims of domestic violence.) www.BathingBad.com www.enlacenm.org
5. El Pinto
El Pinto (10500 Fourth St. N.W., 505-898-1771), serves fresh and delicious New Mexican cuisine, and is a favorite of Bryan Cranston and other celebrities. Nestled within the cottonwoods of North Valley, the restaurant has indoor and outdoor dining, with a number of dining areas—romantic patios, public dining areas and cozy private rooms. The restaurant makes its own salsa on property. And just so that you know, the fresh, handmade margaritas are not making you see double—the owners, Jim and John Thomas, are twins. www.elpinto.com
6. Grove Café & Market
Grove Café & Market (600 Central Avenue, S.E., 505-248-9800) is a favorite of actor Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad). It was also used for a scene in Breaking Bad. The café serves breakfast (all day), brunch and lunch. Be BaD and try the cupcakes—they’re sinfully good! www.thegrovecafemarket.com
Jet Blue now has a direct flight from JFK to Albuquerque.
Two things you can’t miss on a visit to Albuquerque are a hot air balloon ride. My first flight was with Rainbow Ryders (5601 Eagle Rock Ave, N.E., 505-823-1111, 800-725-2477) www.rainbowryders.com) and a “flight” on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway (30 Tramway Road N.E., 505-856-7325) for a 11,000 square mile view of New Mexico above the Sandia Mountains.
Gerrie Summers has been writing professionally for over 31 years in the areas of entertainment, beauty, lifestyle, travel and wellness. A New York-based writer, she has been the Travel Adventures columnist for Today’s Black Woman and now writes the blogs Summers Retreat and The Tranquil Traveler.