Breaking Bad – Best Tour in Albuquerque
Holed up at home avoiding the Covid-19 virus, I have plenty of time to think about and write up some of the great places we visited in 2019 and early in 2020 before the lockdown. One of the most pleasant surprises was the city of Albuquerque and the many attractions to be found in the area of Old Town including the excellent Albuquerque Museum. It was part of our two week journey through the Land of Enchantment that saw stops at Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Parks among many great natural and historical sites. Most of the trip was planned out fairly well in advance so that I knew where we would be going each day as we headed out on the highway looking for adventure. The one real exception was when Alison and I were walking around Old Town Albuquerque and came across a beat up old RV that had a very familiar look. Then a lightbulb came on in my head – Breaking Bad – Walter White – Jesse Pinkman. It all took place here!
Before Breaking Bad, Albuquerque was best known as the place where Bugs Bunny perpetually made a wrong turn, but all that changed with this ground breaking series. The story of how a dull, but definitely not dull-witted, high school chemistry teacher could turn into a murderous monster over the course of five seasons and 62 episodes has captivated millions and created a huge fan base. Shot almost entirely in Albuquerque and environs it even has its own Breaking Bad Locations website and as we are about to find out, its own dedicated location tour.
We took a look around and up the street was a small shop advertising Breaking Bad tours so we had to drop in. Inside there was a plethora of Breaking Bad souvenir material and two cut outs that just begged to be photographed. Here I am with Walter White.
And here’s Alison with the ultimate shyster Saul Goodman and the likeable killer Mike.
We immediately booked a tour for the following day. It cost $75 USD each, lasted three hours and included lunch at Gus Fring’s Los Pollo’s Hermano’s and was worth every penny. Here’s why.
The morning tour starts at 10:00 in a parking lot in Old Town and yes it takes place in the RV we saw parked the day before that is an almost exact replica of the one used in the show. BTW, unless you’ve been living under a rock I am presuming you are a Breaking Bad fan and know who the characters are, or else you wouldn’t be reading this post.
The interior of the RV is decked out just as in the show with the meth cooking jars.
A pair of Walter’s tighty-whities hanging from the wall.
A gun and cash in the filthy sink.
And everything is as beat up on the inside as on the outside including the seats. Don’t make the mistake we did of sitting at the back because of the exhaust fumes.
The tour is guided by actors who appeared as background on at least one episode of Breaking Bad or its spinoff Better Call Saul. Our guide was witty and entertaining the entire time and at several locations, video clips from the show enhance the experience. Here is a short video that gives an idea of what it is like riding inside the RV. You can see that the suspension leaves a lot to be desired, but what else would you expect?
Here are photos of the places we saw in the order that we saw them.
Surprisingly close to Old Town in the Huning Castle neighbourhood is 322 16th St. SW, aka 9809 Margo St, where Jesse Pinkman lived first with his dying Aunt Ginny, then by himself until his parents evicted him and finally as owner when he bought it with his drug proceeds. It became party central for Badger and Skinny Pete among others. It was also the scene of the murders of Emilio and Krazy-8.
Next the tour heads past the Wash Tub Laundry which appears in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
Next up is a location that you’ve probably seen, but didn’t know it. This is a very small portion of the mammoth eighteen building Santa Fe Railway Shops which is one of the largest collection of abandoned buildings in the United States. How many movies and TV series end up with some type of chase or shootout in an abandoned building like this? You might now recognize this from Terminator Salvation or The Avengers or a brief scene in one episode of Breaking Bad, although the buildings have also featured in many lesser known movies as well.
Stop #4 is at a place called Twisters which doesn’t figure in any Breaking Bad episode, but its alias sure does. This nondescript looking building is none other than Gus Fring’s cover, Los Pollos Hermanos.
We are stopping here for lunch and once inside there is no doubt where we are, starting with the chicken brothers sign inside the door.
There’s also a nook with this poster inside.
It’s a good thing that Gus made his real living selling meth because truth to tell, his burritos are pretty crappy, but maybe that’s Twisters’ fault and not Gus. Maybe Los Pollos Hermanos were way better. BTW Twisters is a big Albuquerque chain with over a dozen locations so if you are driving around on your own and see a Twisters don’t assume it is Los Pollos Hermanos. The correct one is 4257 Isleta Boulevard SW.
Back in the RV our next location is the Crossroads Motel which is actually a real place at 1001 Central Avenue NE. It definitely has the look of a ‘no tell motel’ and is where the prostitute Wendy plied her trade. Hank Schrader nicknamed the place the Crystal Palace and it appears in numerous episodes of Breaking Bad.
Next the RV heads up into the university district which is like night and day from the Crossroads Motel area. This is the world famous Spaceship House which has no connection to Breaking Bad, but is definitely worth seeing. It was built by a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright and is guarded by a triceratops and a stegosaurus.
The house next door is almost equally as bizarre.
This next picture has nothing directly to do with Breaking Bad, but there is definitely a peripheral association. This is an apartment building where several scenes from the sequel movie El Camino takes place. The movie takes up Jesse’s story from the end of Breaking Bad and Walter White’s death and involves many of the same characters including the neo-nazi Todd Alquist and the stoners Badger and Skinny Pete. Walter White makes a short flashback appearance.
The next location plays a big part in Breaking Bad, both for its physical size and its importance to the plot. This is the AiA Car Wash that Walter first worked at, quit and then purchased as a money laundering operation for his wife Skyler to run. The reason it’s so ridiculously big is that it was built for trucks and not cars, but today is a hands on car wash owned by the Octopus chain.
The tour stops here for a break and inside is possibly the weirdest vending machine ever. It sells only Breaking Bad items and is located in the customer’s lounge.
The final stop on the tour is one we have all been waiting for and that’s the Walter White house, allegedly at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, but actually at 3828 Piermont Drive NE. Somehow it seems smaller and with more light than the perpetually gloomy home in the series. Our guide has a number of stories of how the owners have been harassed by Breaking Bad nuts who simply walk into the house uninvited, so now there’s a fence and no trespassing signs. It can’t be easy living in one of the most famous fictional houses in the country.
The RV makes its way back to Old Town and lets us out in front of the shop. It has been a really interesting three hours that provides not only a look at Breaking Bad locations, but a pretty good tour of Albuquerque as well.
Currently the tours are on hiatus due to Covid 19, but keep an eye on their website to see when they will be starting up again.