Albuquerque is the 33rd largest city in the United States with an estimated 494,236 residents. The Navajo described the area as Bee'eldííldahsinil: "bell up in place" describing the bell tower at the mission church that was part of a Spanish colonial outpost established around 1706. The city still has solid connections with its origins. This connection is evident in its culture and architecture; from its traditional Spanish village pattern of a central plaza- surrounded first by government buildings and then radiating out to business and residential neighborhoods- to the many area cultural attractions celebrating their collective heritage.
Alburquerque began as a farming community and a strategic military outpost along the Camino Real. Soon after the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad arrived in the late 1800s, the city began to separate into the Old and New Town districts. Albuquerque is now home to the University of New Mexico, the largest in the state, Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia National Laboratories, and Petroglyph National Monument. The establishment of Kirtland Air Force Base in 1939, Sandia Base in the early 1940s, and Sandia National Laboratories in 1949 made Albuquerque a key player of the Atomic Age. Other companies and organizations in the area primarily support the military and research communities, giving rise to the rapid population increase in the last 60 years.
The city's central plaza has been preserved and is open to the public as a museum, cultural area, and center of commerce. It is referred to as "Old Town Albuquerque" or simply "Old Town." Here visitors can experience the rich heritage of this city.
Popular events in the area include the annual New Mexico State Fair and the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival - the largest and the most photographed event in the world. The city is also home to the annual Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow, an international event featuring over 3,000 indigenous American Indian dancers and singers representing more than 500 tribes from Canada and the United States.