Albuquerque has never been on anyone's bucket list for traveling. But it is a hidden gem with a unique culture & beauty that shouldn't be missed. Plus, it is such an easy place to get to, affordable place to stay, the food will change your life, and the World Famous Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is something different and hasn't been ruined by its popularity. It's not a place to stay more than a few days, but for our weekenders, it is perfect.
when is it
Every year, the first 2 weeks of October > The First Friday Thru The 2nd Sunday.
Where to Stay
Five minutes from Balloon Fiesta Park is a desert oasis, smack dab in the middle of a Navajo reservation. You will appreciate being close to the Fiesta but away from all of the traffic. The resort has a beautiful pool, casino, golf course, and breathtaking views of the Sandia mountains, the city, and you can see the balloons right out your window. The restaurant at the top of the resort is awesome!
From this hotel, you are 45 minutes from Sante Fe, 10 minutes from the tram (more below), 20 minutes from downtown, 20 minutes from the airport, and 1 hour from the Jemez (more below).
if you want to stay in sante fe:
Sante Fe is a cute little resort town with unique boutiques, street venders selling beautiful & authentic turquoise jewelry, great restaurants, and Mexican charm. If you want to stay in Sante Fe, here are the best hotels:
secrets of the locals
1. Balloon Fiesta >> 5am-10am & the glowdeo at night
important information about the morning fiesta
Check the local news before leaving - they will announce if the balloons will go up or not. The first balloons to go up are weather balloons which will make the call for the rest. From Sandia Resort it is a 5 minute drive without traffic / 30 min with traffic >> warning.. Balloon Fiesta traffic is HEAVY and the earlier you leave, the happier you will be - we are talking 4:30-5am to get there...early, but its worth it!! Dress warm and come hungry. There is an entrance fee of about $20/pp and parking is around $10. Balloon Fiesta Website Here
A few nights of the fiesta (usually on weekends) there is a glowdeo. Kids LOVE the glowdeo. The balloons light up & glow but don't leave the ground, and you can walk around and see all of the fun shapes. There are fireworks at the end that you can see for miles away (aka your hotel room).
food at the fiesta
Ok this is the important part.. get a breakfast burrito, cinnamon roll, a bag of mini doughnuts, and hot chocolate/coffee. I know its a lot. Don't share the breakfast burrito, share the cinnamon roll, share the doughnuts (but you wont want to).
take a balloon ride
If you want to take a balloon ride, call Rainbow Ryders. You need to book WAY in advance to do this.
There are activities and events throughout the fiesta, check the schedule if something interests you. The key drop competition is fun to watch > ballooners have to dive down and get keys from poles and if they do they win a car.
2. Hike the Jemez
There are a lot of different places to hike and camp in the Jemez. The hot springs are a great choice. However, the best one is a hike that ends in in cliff diving. It is unmarked <i am finding out which mile marker, check back soon!> Anyway, this hike is incredible! I will find more info out for you.
3. Take the Train To Sante Fe
Taking the train to Sante Fe is a fun, easy way to see the indian reservation and take in the views. There is a stop close to the Sandia Resort and you get off right in the town of Sante Fe. Sante Fe is a fun place to eat lunch/dinner, shop, and walk around. the train (rail runner) website here
4. Take the Tram up the Sandias @ Sunset
For the prettiest view of all, take the tram up the Sandia mountains at sunset. There is a restaurant at the top <most people skip this because its pricey>, and the ski resort is on the opposite side. My advice, bring a picnic, or just go to see the view. The tram costs $20/pp. tram website here
your introduction to the world of green Chile
New Mexico is known for their Hatch Green Chiles and New Mexicans live and breathe it. The locals eat it with EVERYTHING. They throw green chile in eggs, in their pastas, pizza, burritos, make it into sauce.. you name it. They are OBSESSED. So, every chance you get, get something with green chile in it because REAL green chile is hard to find outside of New Mexico, and once you leave, you will crave green chile for months. Some people prefer red chile, which is just a green chile that has been ripened, causing it to turn red and have a different flavor, so try both to see what you like!
1. Dion's Pizza
Dion's is a Pizza/Sandwich chain that is starting to expand outside of New Mexico. The sandwiches are great, but this is what you have to get >> Pepperoni & Green Chile PIzza > it will change your life. Restaurant Website Here
2. El pinto restaurant
El Pinto Restaurant is close to Sandia Casino, the tram, and Balloon Fiesta Park. The food is amazing, as authentic as it gets. The restaurant is beautiful and a great place for events/weddings. Restaurant Website Here