Visiting the Land of Enchantment

As much as I love traveling and visiting family, it’s always so nice to get back home.  You may recall my parents came to visit, and I decided to ride back with them to New Mexico, specifically so my youngest son could experience the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  He was only 5 years old, when we moved from New Mexico to Missouri (and later to Illinois), so I knew he had no recollection of this incredible yearly event.  If you have never visited New Mexico, this event should be at the top of your list, but there are many more reasons to add it to your vacation destination list, so I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into what we did there.

albuquerque international balloon fiesta

The Balloon Fiesta occurs every year in October, and draws hundreds of balloonists from around the world and thousands upon thousands of visitors who come to experience it in person.  There is nothing quite like the sight of seeing so many balloons fill the gorgeous New Mexico sky.  There are some things you should know before making plans to attend though.  This event draws more and more people ever single year, which means the traffic increases every year, and the traffic was a nightmare the day we tried to go.  While you can see the balloons in the air from many points around the city, and don’t have to buy tickets to do that, it’s incredible to actually be ON the field as the balloons are filling up and taking flight.

We bought tickets in advance, and packed into my sister’s van to save on parking fees.  THAT was a mistake.  We should have paid to park and ride instead, because the buses carrying park and ride passengers have no problem getting to the event, but the rest of us trying to get to the field experienced total gridlock.  The traffic on the freeways wasn’t moving at all, and the parking lots filled up.  We ended up parking at a gas station, and watching the balloons ascend from there, which means we wasted money on tickets we couldn’t use at all.  It was still an incredible sight, even though I’ve seen it many times, but was a disappointment not to get on the field.  So, use park and ride services if you ever plan to attend!!

balloon fiesta

The balloons begin their “mass ascension” very early in the morning – just as the sun is beginning to light up the sky.  The clouds were very low the day we went, and the colors were incredible watercolor-like shades of blue, pink and purplish-gray.  One look at those skies, and you can understand why New Mexico is called the, “Land of Enchantment”.   The was very little wind, so the balloons hovered a long time, which was wonderful.  In addition to the mass ascensions, there are also balloon glows in the evening, and special shape balloon days as well, so there are lots of different events to attend.

hot air balloon fiesta albuquerque

Once the balloons are gone each day, there are plenty of nearby attractions and activities for a visitor to enjoy.  We boarded the Rail Runner one day, which is a passenger transit train that runs between Albuquerque and Santa Fe (and other directions and stops as well).  It’s fairly inexpensive, and is a scenic way to enjoy a ride to Santa Fe.

New Mexico Transit Rail Runner


I spotted this sign on an old building at one of the stops along the route.  The business is closed now, but riders board and exit the train at this stop.

old sign on building from rail runner to santa fe

Santa Fe is nicknamed, “The City Different” for good reason.  It’s a mix of modern and centuries-old style buildings, art and traditions that offer something for everyone.   I was dying to bring home a beautiful red chile ristra, but they don’t fair well in the humid Illinois climate, and I knew it wouldn’t do well on my train ride back home either, so I had to pass it by.

chile ristras and cow skulls in santa fe

I could spend an entire day, just photographing colorful old doors around town.

old blue door santa fe

Although Santa Fe is a city in the desert, it poured down rain the day we were there.  We still enjoyed wandering through the shops around the “plaza”, and it didn’t stop other visitors from getting a little wet to do some shopping as well.

Santa Fe Plaza old town

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, begs to have its photo taken, and is a beautiful landmark by the Plaza.

Santa Fe church Cathedral Basiica

My sister and parents live about an hour away from Albuquerque, in a small Spanish land grant community, where remnants of old, abandoned adobe and stone homes dot the landscape.

New Mexico old house adobe walls

New Mexico stone walls abandoned house

The old wooden fence around the old wooden outhouse, made me yell for my sister to pull over, so I could snap a picture of it.

New Mexico rustic wooden fence and outhouse

And you know you’re in a small community, when you see a village meeting sign like this one.  This wood shed must be the community sign board, because you can see all the old staples and bits of paper left behind from previous notices.

New Mexico rural village sign

Just before I boarded the Amtrak train to return home, we had a little time to kill, so we wandered around Old Town in Albuquerque, which has always been one of my favorite places to visit – even when I lived there.  The sky was crystal clear blue, providing the perfect backdrop for the spires on the San Felipe de Neri church, a historic church built in the late 1700’s.

New Mexico Old Town church steeples

The pigeons lined up to enjoy the day as well.

red metal roof

In a land of dry desert landscape, and lots of brown stucco buildings, any pop of color really stands out vividly, so many doors, windows and home decor are extremely bright and colorful.

Albuquerque Blackbird Gallery

More chile ristras taunted me to take them home…
New Mexico red chile ristra

Even clay ristras got in on the act.

New Mexico clay chile ristras

and they upped the ante by hanging near colorful benches on a charming patio…

Albuquerque, New Mexico Old Town chile ristras,and patio

but I had a train to catch.  Until next time, New Mexico!

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  1. Sandy McElroy says

    Thanks for the beautiful pictures Angie, so glad you had a great vacation and time with family, wish I would have been along.

  2. Patty Soriano says

    Angie, New Mexico is our vacation of choice when we need to get away somewhere close. We’re in central Texas, and it’s a pretty quick trip by RV. We usually stay in Santa Fe and have gotten to know it well. We’ve been to ABQ once, but I’d like to get to know it better. We went to the balloon festival a few years ago, but it was a wee bit windy that day and the ascension was just a handful of balloons, but still great. There was hardly anyone there and we almost had the place to ourselves.

    We also enjoy Taos, but don’t get there as often. If you haven’t yet visited Chimayo, please do so. I wrote about it a few years ago on a blog that I only used for the trip so my friends at home could see what I was doing. If you’d like to read it, here it is.

    For anyone else who might read this, I’m not a real blogger so don’t expect a wonderful new blog to read. Just some pictures of our trip in 2011. 🙂

    I saw pictures the other day, Angie, of the balloon fest and it looked totally packed! I’m kinda glad we didn’t go this year. We’re off to the Renaissance festival instead !

  3. Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Love all your pictures especially the balloons.

  4. I enjoyed visiting the trip with you through your most beautiful pics! Loved all the Colours!! Just beautiful. I have never been there before , but that will have to go on my “Someday” list of places to visit!

  5. Patricia Chavez says

    I wish we could’ve met you when you were here. Our little shop, Simply D’Esta Vintage Market is just south of Albuquerque in Bosque Farms. I loved your photos.

    • I sure wish I would have known, Patricia – I would love to have visited your shop. Years ago, my parents owned a small restaurant in Bosque Farms, and I used to go in and help them on the weekends. Is your shop online as well?

  6. Going to the balloon festival in New Mexico is on my wish list and has been for a long time!! Beautiful pictures that have made me want to go more!!

  7. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures. I love New Mexico. I used to visit Crownepointe once a year with a group of college students to do a week of service to the Navajo. I miss that. One of the things they did there was make signs on cardboard boxes and put them in the middle of the main intersections in town – that’s how they spread the news of events.

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