Trust me, you're going to love Albuquerque!
Travels with Deb
From my perch in the sky, the view is sublime. The iconic Sandia Mountains appear as sentinels of the high desert and the rugged lava escarpments provide a Mars-like topography. Below, the Rio Grande snakes through the expansive landscape, while matchbox size houses and buildings look like Lego constructions.
I’m floating high above this stunning panorama in a Rainbow Ryders hot air balloon. Our pilot in command is Troy Bradley, an experienced balloonist with almost 8,000 balloon piloting hours. He also holds 64 World Records in the sport and has claimed the title of New Mexico State Hot Air Champion four times. We’re in good hands!
The wind is gently carrying us up, up and away, as the ground unfolds before our eyes. Minutes ago, the sun rose, streaking the valley with red and orange hues. We are joined by other balloons, which provide pops of bright color against a now bluer than blue New Mexico sky. A few hover above, some below, and one even momentarily “kisses” our balloon. Another dips down into the river for a “splash and dash.”
All too soon, the ride ends and we’re on terra firma once again. Upon landing, we indulge in a post-flight celebration with a champagne toast to our aeronautical journey. We also receive proof of our ascension in the form of a certificate. Something to frame along with all the picture-perfect images!
A hot air balloon ride often ranks atop many travelers’ bucket lists. It’s not hard to understand why, as the experience is magical. It’s an unmatched way to provide a unique perspective of the environment. And what better place to embark on this enchanting journey than Albuquerque, the “hot air balloon capital of the world.”
Home to the famous International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque has long been a magnet for hot air balloonists and fans of the sport. The annual festival, which recently marked its 48th anniversary, draws almost a million people from across the globe. What started as a quaint launch of thirteen balloons is now a massive nine-day celebration with nearly 600 balloons participating, representing forty-one states and seventeen countries.
It’s a veritable feast for the senses, with the sound of balloon burners simultaneously igniting, the aroma of fresh doughnuts and breakfast burritos, the roar of the crowd as the balloons take to the sky and the look of awe on thousands of upturned faces, as they gaze at the stunning op-art canvas in the sky.
To complement your hot air balloon ride in the Land of Enchantment, stop in at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. Exhibits explore the past, present and future of ballooning, as well as subjects related to the science, engineering and technology of lighter-than-air aviation and other innovative forms of flight.
Ballooning is only one of many fun experiences visitors can have in Albuquerque. The city is a culturally rich and naturally beautiful metropolitan area with deep, historical roots. It boasts an exciting food and wine scene, a vibrant public arts program (responsible for bedecking the city with nearly a thousand paintings, sculptures and murals), fifteen museums, several hundred parks and greenspaces, shops and galleries galore and an abundance of outdoor pursuits to appeal to adrenaline seekers of all kinds.