Rumor has it that Vince Gilligan initially planned to set his morality play about a cancer-riddled chemistry teacher-turned-enterprising criminal in California. Fortunately for Vince – and for the masses of rabid fans that would follow Walter White’s gruesome, hilarious, poignant and ultimately tragic exploits across five stellar seasons – the executive decision was made to set the show in the barren lands of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was a fateful decision; it’s very hard to imagine Breaking Bad taking place anywhere else. The deserts, pools, looming Mexican border and relentlessly searing sun are an integral part of the show’s DNA; along with Walt, Jesse, Skyler, Hank, Gus, Saul and Mike, the locations are a character all to themselves.
Because Breaking Bad was shot on location, it’s actually pretty easy to head down New Mexico way and tour the famous sites and scenes from the show. Many of the interiors were studio sets, but a large portion of Walt’s escapades take place outside under the bleaching Albuquerque heat.
If you’re a super fan of the show, seeing these locations in real life (and taking some memorable selfies while you’re there) must rank pretty high on your bucket list. So, check out BUCKiTDREAM to see if any other ‘DREAMERS have made the pilgrimage before you, then keep that BUCKiTDREAM planner handy, as you prepare to tread lightly through the sights and sounds of Breaking Bad’s New Mexico!
Take a Trip to To’hajiilee Indian Reservation Even a casual fan of Breaking Bad will recognize the epic scenery of To’hajiilee; they might even recognize the name, as it’s the title of one of most tense, explosive episodes in the show’s run. To’hajiilee is a pretty significant place for Walter White, and it features heavily at both the beginning and the end of his rollercoaster journey.
In real life the area is magical, featuring huge pillars of orange rock that stretch across a seemingly endless desert horizon. It’ll take you back through all those great cooking montages from the earlier seasons of the show while also reminding you of the dark isolation of the finale. Like a lot of the show itself, it works perfectly on two levels.
Hit up Java Joe’s Tuco’s hideout, which features in a memorable scene from season one, is nowhere near as intimidating in real life; it’s actually a hip little coffee shop called Java Joe’s. The vivid and colorful wall of graffiti on the building’s side can make for a great photo-op when you frame it against the crystal blue of the Albuquerque sky. Joe’s does a great breakfast, a range of tasty baked treats, and an espresso shot strong enough to take half your face off.
Address: 906 Park Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102
Get Nosey Around the Northeast Heights This area of the city provides a perfectly picturesque snapshot of distinctive Albuquerque atmosphere. You can find many recurring locations from the show around Northeast Heights, including Hank and Marie’s house, the car wash that Walt works at in episode one, and of course, the famous White residence, which is located at 3828 Piermont Drive, Northeast Albuquerque. Something to bear in mind when you’re visiting is that the house is owned privately and lived in, so make sure to respect the owners and occupants. Definitely, do NOT throw a pizza on the garage roof!
Stroll into Downtown The downtown area of Albuquerque is very walkable, and you won’t need to rent a car; in fact, the best way to see the sights is by renting a bicycle. Once you’re on wheels you can check out Breaking Bad-famous sites such as Jesse’s house, Jesse’s parents’ house, and that striking multi-story car park where Gus gets a sense that Walt might have just gone and rigged his car with a bomb. Hank’s DEA office is also there (it’s not really a DEA office) and Rebel Donuts (the shop below) sells meth-themed donuts (it’s not really meth). If you want to get the inside scoop, there’s even a Breaking Bad-themed bike tour you can sign up for that’s run by encyclopedic BB fans Josh and Heather. Somewhat inevitably, it’s called “Biking Bad.”
Grab a Bite at Denny’s As any fan will know, Denny’s features prominently in a couple of Breaking Bad episodes, purportedly because Vince Gilligan just really likes Denny’s – which is totally fair enough. So, while you might not be able to grab a chicken burger at the fictitious Los Pollos Hermanos, you can take a break at the next best thing (and maybe buy an assault rifle while you’re at it).
Albuquerque and the New Mexico surroundings are certainly a distinctive place and go a long way towards establishing Breaking Bad’s unique identity. For a fan of the show, there’s no better way to feel a kinship with the sights and sounds that Gilligan and his crew have painstakingly created. You can also nab some pretty sweet merchandise while you’re down there, as Breaking Bad is practically a New Mexico tourist institution! So, what are you waiting for? Book that RV and get rolling down New Mexico way, BUCKiTDREAM style!