Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Things to do in Albuquerque

Cover: Shopping in Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Albuquerque is a city awash in color. From brilliant blue skies to amazing pink-hewn sunsets against the Sandia mountains, to brightly colored items for sale in boutiques, Albuquerque dazzles the senses.

Things to do in Albequerque: Visit Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Visit Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Richly influenced by the Native Americans, who have lived in the area for thousands of years, Albuquerque is a vibrant, yet relaxing city offering visitors numerous things to do.

Stroll through Old Town Albuquerque

Things to do in Albequerque: Visit Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Visit Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Albuquerque was founded in 1706 when the Spanish settled near the Rio Grande River, in what is now referred to as Old Town. Today, Old Town is a perfect place to grab lunch and enjoy an afternoon leisurely strolling the historic district. Centered around a charming plaza, Old Town is a collection of adobe structures with long porches and bright accents of color.

Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Quiet paths wind through the buildings, leading to courtyards, hidden gardens, patios and water features scattered amidst the art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and museums.

Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A wide selection of Southwestern jewelry, paintings, artwork, crafts, and textiles are available in the 150 shops in the area.

Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Church of San Felipe de Neri Parish

San Felipe de Neri Parish, Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
San Felipe de Neri Parish, Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When Spanish settlers arrived in Albuquerque, the first building they built was a church, San Felipe de Neri. Under the direction of Fray Manuel Moreno, a Franciscan priest, San Felipe de Neri was built in 1706 and first named San Francisco Xavier, after the Viceroy of New Spain. The name was soon changed to San Felipe de Neri in honor of King Philip of Spain. In 1792, the church was destroyed and rebuilt the following year. With the exception of its brick floor, south entrance and tin ceiling, the church visitors tour in Old Town today is the same as it was in 1793.

San Felipe de Neri Parish, Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
San Felipe de Neri Parish, Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Watch 500 hot air balloons take flight at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Every October, balloonists from around the globe gather in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the world’s largest event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Albuquerque’s ideal flying conditions make it a favorite location for ballooning enthusiasts, bringing them back year after year. Each morning the sky fills with hundreds of hot air balloons, as thousands of onlookers watch and photograph the activities.

Go ghost hunting in downtown Albuquerque

Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Blake, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Year-round, Albucreepy Downtown Ghost Walk takes guests on a 90 minute, lantern-lit walking tour of downtown Albuquerque stopping at buildings along the 1.3 miles / 2.1 kms that are thought to be haunted, weaving in historic tales of the area along the way. At each stop, Albucreepy provides some history on the location, the associated folklore, and then leaves it to the group to draw their own conclusions.

View 24,000 petroglyphs at Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located on the west edge of Albuquerque, Petroglyph National Monument is the perfect place to take a hike and explore the 24,000 petroglyphs on volcanic rocks at the park. Several trail options wind through the New Mexico desert next to petroglyphs dating back 400 to 700 years.

Soar through the skies of Albuquerque

Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloons, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloons, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There’s nothing like soaring through the skies in a hot air balloon, taking in the panoramic views, to appreciate the beauty of a region and what better place to do so than in the hot air ballooning capital of the world, Albuquerque. The famous Albuquerque box enables balloonists to journey to the north and then, by changing elevation, find winds blowing in the opposite direction to return them to the launch site. Albuquerque’s outstanding weather and highly experienced ballooning community make it an ideal location to take flight on a hot air balloon adventure.

Hot air ballooning
Hot air ballooning
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Things to do near Albuquerque…

Spend a day in Santa Fe

San Miguel Mission, Santa Fe, New Mexico
San Miguel Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Only an hour away from Albuquerque, Santa Fe is a great day trip destination where you can explore Santa Fe’s legendary Canyon Road art galleries, visit a dozen museums, shop the boutiques and markets, drop by the oldest church in the United States, and answer the lunchtime question, “Red or green?” Referring to the common question when ordering New Mexican food, as in red or green chile sauce, the food in Santa Fe is stellar and, as to how to answer the question – try it “Christmas” or with both.

Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Explore the cave dwellings at Bandelier National Monument at Los Alamos

Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, New Mexico
Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to the Ancestral Pueblo people between 1150-1550, Bandelier National Monument is located in Los Alamos, about two hours outside of Albuquerque. A fascinating spot to explore, Bandelier’s 33,000 acres contain cliff dwellings where the Pueblo people built homes in the rock cliffs, petroglyphs, and evidence of even earlier life when nomadic people occupied the land over 10,000 years ago.

Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, New Mexico
Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Plan early for visiting during Balloon Fiesta. Hotels sell out early during Balloon Fiesta, so plan as early as possible for the best selection of accommodations, especially near Fiesta Park.

Summers are warm & tend to have some daily rain. Temperatures frequently reach the high 90s in the summer and afternoon rain showers are frequent, something to keep in mind if planning on hiking.

Drink water and put on the sunscreen. Albuquerque is at an elevation of 5,000 feet and has an arid climate, so staying well-hydrated will decrease the likelihood of altitude sickness and help your body adjust. Also, remember to reapply sunscreen often as the UV rays are stronger at elevation.

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Old Town, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

 

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta by the numbers

Cover: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


There are quite a few hot air balloon festivals held each year but, each October balloonists from around the globe make their way to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the world’s largest event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Why Albuquerque? In an area that is known for its out-of-the-box artistic creativity, balloonists want to be “in the box” and Albuquerque is ideal for it. The Rio Grande Valley and the nearby Sandia Mountains create a “box”, where cool air from the north takes balloonists in one direction, and then, when the pilots want to return to the launch site, they simply change elevation to find winds blowing in the opposite direction.

These ideal conditions make Albuquerque a favorite location for flying balloons and have brought the balloonists back year after year for the event.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When did the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta begin?

1972

1972 was the first year the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was held with 13 balloons launching from a shopping mall parking lot.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

How many balloons participate in the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta?

500+ balloons

In 2015, 547 pilots registered to fly in the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. A Mass Ascension of hundreds of balloons from the launch site can only be described as a carefully choreographed spectacle of color and grace.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What is Dawn Patrol and Morning Glow?

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Beginning far before sunrise, ballooning fans head to Fiesta Park to watch the pilots and crews prepare for launch. Each day begins with Dawn Patrol – a small group of balloons that lift off in the dark and provide an early assessment of wind speeds and directions at different altitudes. Following Dawn Patrol, about a dozen balloons are inflated on the ground, providing a pre-dawn Morning Glow show for the crowd.

How do all those balloons take off during Mass Ascension?

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

2 consecutive waves

As the sun begins to rise, so do the balloons. As thousands of onlookers watch and photograph the launch activities, hundreds of balloons are filled with air before gently lifting off into the sky. The balloons depart in two consecutive waves from an area of 72 acres of grass (the equivalent of 54 football fields) that contains 208 launch sites, with the Mass Ascension taking up to two hours.

How many countries are represented at Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta?

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 2015, balloons from 17 different countries participated including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Russian Federation, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.

How many people attend Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta?

840,000+ attendees

It is estimated over 848,000 people attended the 2014 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

In addition to watching the magical show of the hot air balloons taking flight each morning, attendees can stroll through a concourse of 43 merchandise concessions, grab a bite to eat at one of the 45 food vendors and pick up a few of the 60,000 balloon fiesta pins sold each year. In the evening, attendees can return to the park for glow shows, fireworks, and musical performances.

The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, which is operated by the City of Albuquerque, is located adjacent to Fiesta Park and showcases a vast collection of balloons, art work, and aerial artifacts.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Book travel early. Hotels in and around the area sell out fast, so booking travel as far in advance as possible is a good idea.

Dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes. Pre-dawn hours can be chilly, with the temperature quickly warming as the sun rises. Enclosed, comfortable shoes are your best footwear choice for the walk from the parking area and for walking and standing in the fields that serve as the launch site.

Leave early – really early. Traffic to Fiesta Park begins to get heavy as early as 4:30am. Park and ride locations are also available. Pricing, parking locations, schedules and other travel information are available on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta website.

Weather can be a factor. Hot air balloons can only fly in certain weather conditions. If the wind speed is faster than 11.5 mph (10 knots) or if it is raining, the event will be delayed or canceled. If an individual flying session is canceled, no refunds are given however, rain checks are issued that can be used for another flying session during the same year’s Balloon Fiesta.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.