Experience The Ultimate Mother-Daughter Trip to Albuquerque New Mexico, and check The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta off your bucket list!
About a year ago, Lt. Dan and I were watching our children as they teased each other, laughing on the sofa. It was one of those nondescript lazy weekend moments when our family just stopped all the business of life to sit around and enjoy being together.
I looked over at Dan and watched his adoring smile slowly drop, as it suddenly dawned on us both that we (potentially) had only four years left with our daughter at home, and 6 years left with our son.
Where had the time gone?!
Later that evening after the kids had gone to bed, we talked through our hopes for family vacations over the next few years. What adventures would have the most impact on our family? What were the top must-see destinations we wanted our children to experience before heading off to college?
Along with whole family trips we decided it would be a good idea for each of us to take one child on a special weekend getaway each year, to have some focused one-on-one time. This would allow unique memory-making opportunities, and time to talk through some of the tougher topics of adolescence.
The plan was set. In 2017 I took Ava on a girl’s getaway, and Dan took Carson on a boy’s trip. So last fall I set off to plan a special mother-daughter weekend, my big little girl would never forget!
Through a series of events, I decided Albuquerque, New Mexico was the perfect destination. Although Albuquerque is not the most known New Mexican tourist location, it does have a lot to offer.
And it just so happened, that the weekend my daughter had an extra day off of school last fall, was the very same weekend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta kicked off!
So last October, Ava and I set off on The Ultimate Mother-Daughter Trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Ultimate Mother-Daughter Trip to Albuquerque New Mexico
There are so many fun things to do in Albuquerque! It’s a large city, yet is very easy to navigate. With our rental car and google maps, Ava and I were able to explore seemingly every corner of Albuquerque, without any trouble. Here are our suggestions of what to do…
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has been an Albuquerque tradition for over forty years. Each fall, ballooners and balloon enthusiasts come together for the world’s largest hot air balloon launch. The “Mass Ascension” launches take place every morning for nine days in a row, with midday races and night glow events each evening.
Ava and I were lucky enough to go up in a hot air balloon on opening day. What an epic experience!
A hot air balloon ride is a breath-taking adventure on its own. Yet a hot air balloon ride rising in a cloud of 600 hot air balloons is another thing entirely. It was an absolute dream to gently float over the city, with a bevy of brightly colored balloons around us in every direction.
Each step of the process took our breath away…
We watched a field of massive orbs fill with hot air and rise to upright positions. We launched off the ground in a line of enormous balloons, as others waited their turn to be released into the sky.
Hugging my sweet daughter as we ascended above buildings and trees, we circled the balloon basket to take in the fairytale scene before us. Later as we landed and watched other balloons land around us, we felt overwhelmed in the very best sense.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an experience Ava and I will never forget.
It is an absolute “bucket list” travel opportunity, I feel everyone should enjoy at least once it their lifetime. And it’s attainable! Not everyone will make it to Fiji or Mount Everest. Yet, the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival is an affordable road trip (or flight) most of us can plan for and experience.
However, if you can’t make the Balloon Fiesta, there are plenty of companies in Albuquerque that offer balloon rides all year long. It’s still worthwhile to fly the skies in the Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World, no matter when you visit!
Historic Old Town
Old Town is the original pueblo establishment of Albuquerque, founded in 1706. Nowadays, it’s a lively shopping and restaurant district, with engaging cultural street performances that seem to pop up out of nowhere.
Ava and I loved Historic Old Town so much we made a special effort to visit three times in three days. The charming side streets with vibrant banners and dried red chiles swaying in the breeze make it the perfect place for a mommy-daughter lazy afternoon.
Old Town is filled with historic buildings, fun boutiques, and tons of places to get a bite or a beverage.
Take a trolley tour of Old Town to learn the history, or go on a spooky walking ghost tour to hear the terrifying tales of Albuquerque’s wild west days.
You can even visit a rattle snake museum with the world’s largest collection of live rattle snakes!
Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway
Along with ballooning and visits to Historic Old Town, a ride up the Sandia Peak Tram is a MUST when visiting Albuquerque!
The Sandia Peak Tramway is a 2.7 mile ride up to a 10,000+ foot mountain top, overlooking New Mexico in every direction. Once at the top you can hike, mountain bike, ski at certain times of year, or just stare in wonder at the vast beauty below you.
Ava and I hiked around for about an hour before heading back down the mountain. Yet, it would be easy to spend an entire day picnicking or hiking to a remote mountain top pueblo.
Tram ride lines get heavy throughout the day, so it’s best to go first thing in the morning. Tickets must be purchased on location, as weather conditions can cause tram rides to be canceled on any given day.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
One of our most surprisedly and beloved adventures in Albuquerque was a visit to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. This museum is packed with exhibits to demonstrate the history, culture, struggles, and evolution of Native American life in New Mexico.
The building circles around an outdoor space, in which singers and dancers perform each day.
New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science
For another fun educational experience, visit the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science. Ava and I loved perusing the dinosaur fossils found in New Mexico.
Albuquerque BioPark Zoo
The BioPark Zoo, Aquarium, and Botanical Gardens are a fabulous way to spend a day in Albuquerque. Located near downtown, all three parks are easy to find, and can be explored in one day.
Ava and I were surprised at the variety of animals and exhibits found at the zoo. We especially loved watching the orangutans and monkeys play, and visiting the (big) cat walk!
Downtown Albuquerque is another fun area to explore. Close to Old Town, it is an urban oasis packed with entertainment, restaurants, and nightlife. Here you can experience the old and the new. In fact, Historic Route 66 runs straight through Downtown Albuquerque as Central Avenue!
Check seasonal calendars for downtown events and festivals before you visit.
Dining In Albuquerque, New Mexico
Along with endless entertainment opportunities, we discovered Albuquerque has a lot to offer in the culinary department. The blend of Mexican, Native American, and modern American cooking has created a New Mexican cuisine that is utterly unique.
You’ve probably heard the New Mexico state question… “Red or Green?”
(As in, “Would you rather have red or green chile on whatever you ordered?”)
Yet, I didn’t realize just how serious New Mexicans are about chile farming, roasting, drying, and saucing, for lack of a better word. Ava and I learned that red chiles are air dried, then reconstituted and made into a red chile sauce. While green chiles are always roasted, then peeled and chopped.
If you are served red or green chile that is prepared any other way, it is not considered to be true New Mexican food… It may be tasty, but it’s not New Mexican.
However, real New Mexican red and green chile can be found doused on nearly everything! We found chilaquiles made with New Mexican red chile sauce, and Huevos Rancheros with “Christmas” red and green chile instead of Rancheros Sauce.
One of our favorite finds in several popular restaurants were the Green Chile Burgers and Pizza!
We did not have a single bad meal our entire trip. However, here is a list of our favorite food stops…
This Albuquerque landmark has served traditional New Mexican cuisine for decades. El Pinto not only offers a killer menu, with award-winning ribs and some of the best tortilla chips I’ve ever tasted, it also consists of a: wedding venue, massive tequila bar, salsa company, yoga events, greenhouse, chicken farm, and a worm-based compost fertilizing ecosystem to sustain the farm.
Both the grounds and tantalizing restaurant dishes are worth the trip!
Los Poblanos is another Albuquerque landmark you’ve just got to experience for yourself. The lavender farm draws visitors throughout the summer, yet it’s a popular place to stay, shop, and eat all year long!
We had Breakfast at Campo, an elegant restaurant, serving modern New Mexican fusion food. Ava ordered Cardamom Aebleskivers, a european-style donuts, that look like hushpuppies, but taste like pancakes. Heaven!
We also enjoyed the best ice cream we found in New Mexico in the Los Poblanos farm shop, Lavender Lemon Chiffon Gelato. I’ve been craving it ever since we left.
Tucked inside the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is an amazing casual restaurant with tasty Native American inspired dishes. We loved the blue corn onions rings, and the Tewa Taco, an enormous bubbly flat bread topped with taco filings.
This is a great place to stop when roaming Old Town Albuquerque. The outdoor seating area is lovely! We enjoyed the Green Chile Burger, the Street Tacos, and most of all the Tequila Shrimp and Avocado Cocktail.
Close to the University of New Mexico, this casual spot offers killers tacos and cocktails. We loved the duck confit chile relleno and the fish tacos.
Across the street from Zacateca’s, you’ll find one of the best dessert counters in Albuquerque. Splurge on a giant eclair or a piece of creamy key lime pie.
This local favorite offers classic New Mexican diner dishes, with flair! Ava’s peach pancakes were out-of-the-park fantastic. We both were crazy over the dessert case and coffee drinks.
High Noon is located in Old Town, in one of the oldest buildings in Albuquerque. The building’s history includes ranching, a gambling parlor, a well-known brothel, and even three alleged ghosts!
Nowadays it’s a popular dining establishment, with classic New Mexican cuisine, as well as some intriguing fusion dishes.
We loved the Wagyu Green Chile Burger, The Green Chile Stew, and the Chocolate Torte!
What a great find! This old school bakery serves fabulous New Mexican style cookies and pastries, plus unique pizzas. I only wish we had room to try them all.
To sum up our girl’s trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico…
- Colorful cultural experiences
- Close-up encounters with natural beauty
- Power-packed eats and treats
- And an aerial balloon flight that came straight out of a fairytale!
Albuquerque vacations are marvelous for mommy-daughter trips, for couples, and for the entire family! To learn more about Albuquerque, check out VisitAlbuquerque.org.
Disclosure: Our trip was sponsored by VisitABQ. All opinions are our own.