{photojournal} Mod Motels and Alien Invasions on Albuquerque’s Central Avenue

In the heart of unassuming Albuquerque, New Mexico, lies a street that’s neat for those who like mid-century masterpieces and sci-fi spectacles. Central Avenue, surrounding the University of New Mexico in a neighborhood known as Nob Hill, is a fun street to walk around and provides surprises and delights at every turn.

The first sighting was a rocket ship and a UFO within a few stores of one another, housing a used clothing store (rocket ship) and a cafe (UFO.)

Next I swooned at the 1950s sensibility of the Kurt’s Camera Corral sign. Plus, I like picturing cameras in a corral. (I was also nostalgic for the idea of a modern store that offered service with the price…)

Hiway House Motel beckoned from across the street–too bad we already had a place to stay.

A few more steps and I saw a concert was playing soon – Mars Hill Church? Never heard of them, but they’re probably the next hot indie band. Or… this is a church that lives in an old movie theater. Yes, it was the latter.

I couldn’t get enough of the ironing guy in Master Cleaners; if this were a video you could see his neon arm moves back and forth, disconnecting from his neon body at the shoulder, as he endlessly irons his neon shirt.

Crossing the street, I was hit with one of the most epically geeky and incredibly rendered murals I have ever seen. The breadth and depth of comic and sci-fi characters in the mural outside the Astro Zombies Comic Shop are amazing. Comic book nerds, this should be a stop on your pilgrimage.

I don’t know who these green guys are- anyone? But I know that only in this mural would they hang out with “Hard Knock Life” version of Dr. Evil and Mini-Me.

All this sightseeing in the desert heat had me ready for some ice cream. Or in this case, frozen custard. I could tell from the sign that the flavor of the day at Chillz would help me beat the heat.

I imagine New Mexicans probably have a pretty easy time dressing up for Halloween… between Masks y Mas and Larry’s Hats (and old jewelry,) they’ve got it covered.

A cold beer on the rooftop deck of Bailey’s on the Beach–a kitschy ocean-themed bar in the middle of the desert–gives you a great vantage point to see the sun set over the University of New Mexico.

The nighttime desert sky beams bright blue with all the neon lights.

(Everything seen here is located on Central Avenue in Albuquerque, roughly between Carlisle Boulevard and Princeton Drive, except Baileys, which is just off Central Ave at 2929 Monte Vista.)

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4 Responses

  1. Mia says:

    That is some fantastic kitsch! At first I thought the green guys were from “Mars Attacks!” but looking at stills from the movie, now I’m not so sure.

    • Karen says:

      @Mia, I think they are supposed to be from “Mars Attacks!” but I’m not sure. That’s what a lot of people have said!

  2. mjskit says:

    OMG! This is my neighborhood!!! I saw these pictures and immediately knew. Of course it’s not hard, because it is QUITE unique. I frequent the Nob Hill shops and restaurants quite often. I guess one could say it’s my hang out! When we moved here all of those stores were empty so it’s great to see how the old Route 66 through Nob Hill now catches the eyes and interests of its visitors. Love the pictures and a great representation of the area!

    • Karen says:

      @mjskit you are so lucky to live in such a cool and interesting neighborhood! I love finding gems like this throughout the US and the world. : )