48 Hours in Albuquerque
Come for the balloon fiesta, stay for the farm-to-table food and fitness pursuits.
October is a celebrated month in Albuquerque, New Mexico thanks to the annual International Ballon Fiesta, when more than 500 beautifully designed hot air balloons fill the crisp autumn air. Although the nine-day festival alone is worth the trip, the rugged terrain just outside of downtown is a dream location for athletes. Here’s how to enjoy two days of heart-pumping activities and delicious southwestern cuisine.
Where to Stay
Sleep soundly among 25 acres of lavender fields at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, a family-owned property in the North Valley of Albuquerque. The 50 spacious and breezy rooms feature carved ceiling beams, hardwood floors, antique southwest furnishings, and classic New Mexican artwork. After a complimentary organic continental breakfast, spend a couple hours volunteering on the farm (where the breakfast ingredients were sourced), or sign up for an herb garden cooking class.
Downtown near Historic Old Town is Albuquerque’s first luxury property, Hotel Chaco. Inspired by Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage site in northwest New Mexico and the cultural center for the ancient Pueblo people between 900 to 1150 AD, the space was designed to be a vibrant hub in the heart of the city. The 118 rooms and suites boast a serene neutral color palette, luxury linens, and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Sandia mountains. Soak up desert sunshine at the outdoor pool, or dine on the rooftop at Modern American restaurant, Level 5.
Start the day bright and early with a sunrise hot air balloon flight with World Balloon. After cruising to an altitude of more than 1000 feet with sweeping views of the Rio Grande Valley and Sandia Mountains, toast your return with champagne and fruit with the crew. To fuel up for activities later, head to brunch at Farm & Table, where the menu honors the New Mexico growing seasons, sourcing produce and proteins from the onsite gardens and farm. You won’t go wrong with the farm scramble of eggs and fall vegetables.
After brunch, gear up for a white water rafting experience on the Rio Grande, about a two-hour drive north of Albuquerque, with Big River Raft Trips. Even if you’re a novice, the class III, half-day ‘race course’ excursion is exciting and fun, with drops and maneuvers so manageable that no previous experience is required. Back in the city, enjoy a late-evening dinner of Andalusian tapas at MÁS – Tapas y Vino, where the shrimp with garlic and chorizo and bacon-wrapped dates are to die for.
In the outdoor space of El Pinto restaurant and cantina, partake in the YogaRitas in the Park flow yoga class. Distract yourself from the intensity of the poses with the self-described “best margaritas in the Southwest,” which class attendees are invited to start sipping during the 11:30 a.m. class. Afterwards, dine on pasture-raised eggs collected daily from El Pinto’s hen hotel program nearby.
Your head may still be spinning after yoga and margaritas, so let a professional take the wheel during an off-roading mountain vistas jeep tour with New Mexico Jeep Tours. Keep your eyes peeled for wild Spanish horses that roam the hidden valleys, and look for pottery shards and tools, evidence of the ancestral Pueblo cultures native to the area. For dinner, enjoy New Native American cuisine at Pueblo Harvest Cafe, located inside the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. The seasonal menus incorporate traditional Pueblo flavors and indigenous ingredients, combining them with culinary influences and techniques from around the world. For a taste of tradition, try the posole stew, or bison meatloaf served with white asparagus, smashed buttered potatoes, and mango-chipotle glaze. After dinner, take advantage of your perfect timing and try the New Mexico legends and lore haunted bike tour with Routes Bicycle Tours ABQ, only offered near Halloween but soon to be a monthly tour.