Feature image by Rich Martello.
I recently returned from a wonderful anniversary trip to attend the International Balloon Festival, and I’m already planning my next visit. In Octobers, Albuquerque, NM transforms into the ultimate weekend getaway destination.
There’s lots to see on a stop in Albuquerque, but to get the true experience, taking the trek to the International Hot Air Balloon Festival is a must. Balloon Fiesta, as it’s called locally, runs for a week every October, featuring hundreds of balloons going up with every launch. You can sign up for a ride in a balloon, or view the magic from the ground. We didn’t sign up for a balloon ride, luckily, because the launch was cancelled due to wind on the day we attended. The static ground display was still well worth travelling to! The festival also features a ballooning museum, where you can learn about the history of the festival and all about how hot air balloons manage to get off the ground.
TIP: Traffic to the festival can be a nightmare. Many tourists in our hotel had their shuttles cancel last minute, and Ubers were backed up at every hotel. We were lucky enough to befriend a driver who offered to pick us up before sunrise, and be sure she got us there in time for the launch.
Even if you don’t go for the Balloon Fiesta, ABQ has plenty to offer. Excellent Mexican food is ubiquitous in ABQ, but some of the best are in the historic district of Old Town. We chose La Placita Dining rooms for lunch one day and were not disappointed in the least. The restaurant is housed in one of the city’s oldest buildings, complete with an ancient cottonwood tree growing straight through the middle of the dining room. La Placita is said to be a hotspot for ghost sightings. While we didn’t see any ghosts, you can definitely feel the history within the restaurant. We ordered the quesadillas and the fajitas, and both came out sizzling, and delicious. Also: save room for their famous sopapillas. Those were worth the meal alone!
Old Town isn’t just for dining – it’s also full of art galleries and shops, where you can find the perfect gift for anyone. Historical tours take visitors into the traditions of the square, and of the city itself, and weekends boast flea markets where you can peruse the crafts of local artists (lots to see for the turquoise lover!). We were able to find the perfect gifts for everyone on our list, and had a blast exploring the talented local artists that were showcased around the square.