Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM

For the first half of this trip read the making the best of a situation post.

We had such a good time in Albuquerque and wish we would have spent our entire week here.  After a rough first half of the trip Albuquerque was a breath of fresh air.  Our reason for visiting Albuquerque was to attend Balloon Fiesta but we found there is so much more to do!

I missed the memo that said we were supposed to kneel down.  Oops.

Balloon Fiesta is an incredible sight!  The festival lasts a week and there are different activities for the different days of the week.  We planned our trip so that we would be there for the character balloons which is referred to as the shape rodeo.  The only downside to Balloon Fiesta is the activities are totally dependent on the weather.  The balloons are not able to fly if the winds are over 12mph and the balloons were grounded for several of the Fiesta days this year.  If you plan to attend I would suggest making sure you’re in Albuquerque for at least a couple of days to ensure that you will actually get to see the balloons fly.

The events are broken into morning and evening events.  Very early in the morning, before the sun comes up, there are a handful of balloons that take off and fly in the dark.  It looks so amazing to see the balloons in the dark.  We did not get there that early but were watching them from the parking lot otherwise know as the freeway.  You don’t really notice the balloons and then you see a glow of light.  I am sure we will make it back to Balloon Fiesta someday and we will get there earlier so that we can see the balloons fly in the dark.  From the field though rather than the freeway.

850,000 people attended Balloon Fiesta this year.  Spread that over nine days and you have a traffic mess.  Be prepared for traffic delays around the field and leave early so that you are not stuck on the freeway during mass ascension.  Fortunately this did not happen to us but at one point I thought it was going to.

Mass ascension is when all of the balloons take off around the same time.  If you get there early enough you can watch the balloons being blown up.  I didn’t realize how much work goes into blowing up a hot air balloon but it was neat to watch.  Once the balloons were standing tall the crowd would cheer.

It was really cold so if you go make sure you bundle up.  We wore multiple layers everywhere except on our feet.  Oops.  We’re from the desert so we get a pass.  We don’t know any better.  We learned that if you are wearing multiple layers of clothes you should probably wear multiple layers of socks, too.

It was really incredible being among the balloons and then watching them take off.

After mass ascension some of the balloons participate in a game where they drop a ring out of their balloon onto a poll.  I would imagine this requires incredible skill.  Or luck.  Either way it was fun to watch.

In the evening they have a glowdeo where the balloons are blown up but tethered to the ground.  You can walk around and look at the balloons in the glow of the evening.  Some of the balloons hand out trading cards with their stats.  Think baseball cards for balloons.  The kids were fortunate to collect a few of these during the day because this was one of their main reasons for wanting to attend Balloon Fiesta.  The glowdeo was canceled when we were there due to the wind but the fireworks were not!  After the glowdeo they always have fireworks.  That was a fun treat and helped make up for the canceled glowdeo.

Albuquerque has a great museum complex.  We only had time to visit one museum but I have heard rave reviews of their other museums, zoo and aquariums.  Next time we will definetly spend more time in Albuquerque so we can enjoy more of the city.  The one museum we were able to visit was the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.  We all loved this museum.  Space, dinosaurs, and electronics were the major topics but they also have a planetarium, a 3D theater and special exhibits.

We were only able to spend half a day but would loved to have spent an entire day.  The electronics section was my favorite.  It was fun to show the kids how telephones and computers have evolved through the years and how rough we had it back in the day.  They have a computer programing table that I literally had to drag my kids away from.  Each person has to program their computer to order a pizza and then drive their car to pick up the pizza and take it to a party.  It was so much fun and it was awesome that the kids were able to program at such a basic level.  There were about a dozen commands to choose from and they had to order the commands perfectly or their car would not make it to the party with the pizza.

Some friends of ours used to live in Albuquerque and recommended we eat at El Pinto.  This is now one of my all-time favorite mexican restaurants.  The food was amazing – even the kids agreed.  They have a great gluten free menu and were very helpful.  If in Albuquerque I would highly recommend stopping here.  The restaurant opens at 11am and we were there right at 11 and the place quickly filled up.  Not sure if that is the norm but keep that in mind.  You may want to call and see if they take reservations.    

The only downside to our Albuquerque visit was the lodging.  We stayed at the Albuquerque KOA and I was not impressed.  The bathrooms were very clean but our cabin was less than desireable.  I would not stay in a cabin here again.  The grounds were nice and they have a playground and a dog run.  They even have a made to order hot breakfast so if you have a camper or tent you may be very happy.  A cabin though, not so much.

On our way home we spent one night at the Las Cruces KOA.  We had a nonrefundable reservation so we decided to stay here for a night.  This was the nicest KOA we stayed at on this trip.  After the previous two experiences I was a little hesitant but I was pleasantly surprised.  This trip opened my eye to the fact that not all KOA cabins are equal.  I will have to do more research before booking cabins going forward.  The Las Cruces KOA has gorgeous views of Las Cruces.  It sits atop a hill so during the day you see the city and at night you have the twinkling city lights.  I don’t know what there is to do in Las Cruces but if you have a reason to be in this area I would recommend this KOA.  We were originally planning to stay here on our way to White Sands National Monument.

We don’t have any trips planned between now and summer but we have a fun road trip planned for this summer that should take us through six states and six National Parks!  Between now and then I plan to add information on all of the Arizona campgrounds and parks that we have been to.  Don’t forget to sign up for email updates so you don’t have to worry about checking back.  I’ll just show up in your inbox and what’s better than that!

Happy Travels!

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