SW National Parks Trip: Rattlesnakes in Albuquerque!


After spending the morning at the Palace of the Governor’s and the New Mexico History Museum, Jon and I got back on the road and headed to Albuquerque. We wanted to check out the old town area. It took a little less than an hour to get there, and one argument about where there would be a gas station (note for readers: it is not in the historic downtown…). We arrived in time for a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant – Jon had a vegetable burrito and I had a delicious taco salad. Yum! The temperature in Albuquerque was much warmer than it was in Santa Fe, so I could actually take my jacket off – and not wear a hat! What a huge improvement!

We spent a little time wandering around old town Albuquerque, poking into shops and galleries. We saw the Iglesia de San Felipe de Neri, a Catholic parish church that was founded in 1706. San Felipe de Neri is the oldest church in Albuquerque, and has been continuously operated since its founding by Franciscan Friars. The original church was finished in 1719 a short distance away, but collapsed after a heavy rainfall in 1792; the current adobe church was built in 1793. The adobe walls are 5 feet thick! The towers on the church were added in 1861.

San Felipe de Neri Church in Albuquerque

San Felipe de Neri Church in Albuquerque

You can visit for free, but they do request donations to help in the upkeep of the church. The interior is beautiful, with an intricately decorated sanctuary.

The Sanctuary at San Felipe de Neri

The Sanctuary at San Felipe de Neri

After we visited San Felipe, we went to the other side of the plaza and found the Rattlesnake Museum. I came across it when we were researching the trip and Jon told me there was absolutely no way he was going into a building with live snakes. It looked cheesy, but I thought it sounded fascinating! Of course, I put it on the things of potential things to do and resolved that I would somehow convince Jon to go. Or just let him sit outside.

When we were standing outside, he told me he would go in with me! The Rattlesnake Museum is a small privately operated museum that is clearly run by a man with a love for these hard-to-love creatures. The museum has quite a collection of snake memorabilia. They have posters, snakebite kits, toys and games featuring snakes, jewelry, clothing, and snake advertising. In addition to rattlesnakes, the museum also contains other kinds of snakes; King snakes and Corn snakes, tarantulas, lizards and a Gila Monster. Gila Monsters are one of only two types of venomous lizards in the world!

Mollie the Gila Monster

Mollie the Gila Monster

But obviously, the rattlesnakes are the real stars here. The museum has more species of rattlesnakes than the Bronx Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, the National Zoo, the Denver Zoo, the San Francisco Zoo, and the San Diego Zoo combined – 34 varieties of rattlesnakes in all. Some of the snakes are very unusual, including an amelanistic rattlesnake (more commonly known as an albino), a melanistic rattlesnake (the opposite of albino – having too much pigment) and snakes with unusual color patterns.

An Albino Snake!

An Albino Snake!

I was fascinated walking through, and loved seeing all the snakes – thankfully tucked away behind glass.  I learned quite a bit too, including the fact that rattlesnakes live in all but four U.S. states: Maine, Delaware, Alaska, and Hawaii.  And did you know that rattlesnakes are born alive?  They have litters anywhere between 4 and 25 after the female carries her eggs inside her body and gives birth to live snakes after the eggs hatch.  And Jon, with his fear of snakes?  He enjoyed himself too! And to prove that we conquered our fears, we each got a Certificate of Bravery. What fun!

A Melanistic Rattlesnake

A Melanistic Rattlesnake

How about you?  Would you dare to visit the Rattlesnake Museum?

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16 thoughts on “SW National Parks Trip: Rattlesnakes in Albuquerque!

  1. Just wondered will you be posting photos of modern Albuquerque too? As a Brit the name has always caught my imagination and I wondered what it was like nowadays. The snakes look amazing and some have such beautiful markings – quite inspirational.

    • Sadly, no. We just had the one afternoon in Albuquerque; we didn’t see the newer downtown section at all. I would love to go back and see more, because we really did enjoy it. The next day we went to Petroglyph National Monument, which is right outside Albuquerque, and I will be posting about that.

  2. What a beautiful church! I don’t really mind snakes, but my poor mum can’t even look at a photograph of one! As a child, we would get the occasional Tiger snake in the garden which was a bit of a worry as their bite is fatal…

    • I loved the church too – so peaceful and I loved seeing it against the blue, blue sky! Yikes, that would be scary having a snake like that in the garden. The good thing about rattlesnakes is that their bites are rarely fatal…

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