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First time visit for family of 5, need pointers

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New Jersey
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First time visit for family of 5, need pointers


I am beginning to research all the wonders New Mexico has to offer and thinking of visiting in Oct 2008 for the balloon festival. Our kids will be 14, 9 and 6-yrs-old by then. We will be traveling from New Jersey and besides Disneyworld this would really be our first BIG cross-country trip.

We are looking to go somewhere different, see some different culture and of course have some relaxtion time in a new environment. Some thoughts I had:

- where to stay that would accommodate all 5 of us in one room

- what part of town would be best to see the sites?

- weather this time of year, is it warm enough to swim in hotel pool?

- what are the "must-sees" we should hit during a 6-7 day stay?

I am excite to begin researching this and want to make it as attractive as possible to the rest of the family. I thank you in advance for your advice :)


New Mexico
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1. Re: First time visit for family of 5, need pointers

Aaaaah! nothing like balloon fiesta! I've lived here for 20+ years, and it never gets old. I'm glad to here you will be here for about a week; all too often I talk to people coming to balloon fiesta just for a long weekend, and they end up missing out. Why you ask? The weather! Which is where I will start.

Weather - The weather this time of year can be a bit sporadic. Seriously, it can be 80 and sunny one day and 50 with wind and rain the next. We had some family friends come out last year for a weekend, and never were able to see any balloons because the weather just didn't cooperate; the day they left it was absolutely beautiful and remained that way for the remainder of the fiesta. My wife and I felt so bad, as they had never been here, but we did warn them that 2 days was not enough.

- Bring a variety of clothing (warm weather and cold weather). If you go to the mass ascension, which I'm sure you will, you will want to layer. It is quite cold in the early morning (glove, hat, warm coat) but warms rapidly once the sun is up. By mid morning, you could very well be sweating.

- On average, we're in the mid to high 70s during the day, but as I mentioned above, weather is sporadic. When the sun is beating on you, it can be very intense and hot, even if the air temp seems reasonable. We're a high desert environment, so mornings and evenings are quite chilly. It may be a little cool for swimming unless there is an indoor pool.

Accommodations - Probably the hardest question to answer. This really depends on what you're looking for. We have two large interstates which meet up and run through the middle of the city; all along this stip of interstate are hotels ranging from super 8 and motel 6 types to Hilton and Mariot, with everything in between. There are also some hotels which offer multi room suites. There are also a wide range of B&Bs and quaint local inns.

- As far as what part of town to stay in, this is also difficult in that Albuquerque is the very definition of western urban sprawl. Fortunately, the city is only of moderate size and you can get just about anywhere in town within 15-30 minutes traffic permitting. Note that traffic will be heavier in general this time of year (always screws with my morning commute), so allow extra time to get to the balloon park and any where else you want to go. We locals like to gawk at the balloons too, so everybody is moving a little slower.

Must Sees - Obviously the balloon fiesta (you have to take in at least 1 mass ascension and 1 balloon glow in the evening. Also make sure you stop by the balloon museum, it's great.

- Sandia Peak Tramway - the longest aerial tramway in the world. This will take you to the top of Sandia Peak where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the city below and hike until your hearts content. Keep an eye out for fossils, my wife and I have found numerous fossils hiking the Sandias; nothing big like dinosaurs or anything, but fossils non-the-less. There is also a restaraunt up top; I don't personally recommend the food, but my wife and I like to stop in and have a beer before taking in one of our stellar sun-sets (not to brag, but we have some of the best I've ever seen).

- Old Town - for some good shopping and eats, as well as a couple of museums, including the Natural History Museum and Explora, a childrens science museum (the 9 & 6 year old will enjoy) Depending on your budget, I highly recommend dining at "Antiquity" or "Le Crepe Michelle" one night. These are two of my favorites and neither will disappoint, but may leave your wallet a little thinner.

- Acoma Pueblo and Sky City - This is a great tour of the old Sky City and relatively close to Albuquerque, about 30-45 minute drive West out of town. This is a must for Native New Mexico culture.

- Santa Fe - An hours drive north of Albuquerque takes you to our State's Capitol. You could easily spend an entire week here and in the surrounding areas, but plan on at least one full day if not two. Great place to check out local art, great shopping, and great food. Check out the Guadalupe Cafe for lunch. Tours of the "City Different" are also available, which will take you to the many historical sites within the city, as well as the "Round House" (capitol building) and other points of interest.

Good Eats - Lots of great places here in Albuquerque, but I'll just name a few. Of course, you'll have to try some local New Mexican cuisine smothered in red or green chili (not to be confused with Mexican food or Tex Mex, this is completely different).

- El Pinto - Generally one of the first stops when I have out of town guests. The food is great, but the atmosphere is what really draws the crowds; exceptional patio dining. This place gets packed, especially during balloon fiesta, as it is right down the road from the balloon park and definitely on the tourist trail. Get there early and/or make reservations or you could be waiting.

- Gardunos (on 4th st.) - Another great New Mexican option. Gardunos is a local chain with at least 4 different locations, 4th street is my favorite. This is also relatively close to the balloon park, and can get pretty busy. If you go here, you have to try the Carne Adovada with Red Chili. If it's a cool evening, try the Posole.

- Sadies - only if you've got a taste for adventure. Sadies is one of the many New Mexican favorites of us locals, and offers some of the hottest chili and salsa imaginable. It doesn't offer much in the way of atmosphere, but makes up with exceptional food; Exceptionally tasty, and exceptionally hot. I enjoy bringing out of town guest here just to blow their lids, sick I know, but you've been warned. I think the only place hotter might be Garcia's Kitchen.

Breakfast/Brunch - My favorite is the "Flying Star Cafe" on Rio Grande Blvd. Again this is a local chain with 4 or so different locations, RG is my favorite. Many options here from traditional eggs and bacon to one of the best breakfast burritos on the planet. Try the Juevos Rancheros with Red.

Again, this is just a few of the many great dining options, and yes, we do have more than just New Mexican food, although you will find most restraunts at least have some New Mexico flare. Even the McDonalds serves a green chili cheeseburger.

Edmond, OK
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2. Re: First time visit for family of 5, need pointers

I'd say New Mexico is about the polar opposite of Disneyworld! Definately different.

Kidding aside, log onto www.itsatrip.org (Alb. website) for info on hotels, etc. You should not have any trouble finding a place for 5 in one room. But, make it fast, hotels book up early for Balloon Fiesta. Look for hotels on the north side of town, the balloon park is in NW Alb.

If swimming is important to the kids, you might want to look for a hotel with an indoor pool (there's a few). The desert climate can make it seem chilly on even a warm day when you get out of the water.

Speaking of climate (I'm not kidding on this one): Very dry. Altitude in Alb. is about 6,500 ft. Start drinking alot of water the week before you come. Bring sunscreen, lip balm and hats.

There's tons of things to do and see just in the Alb./Santa Fe area. Some of my son's faves are: Acoma pueblo, Bandelier, Sandia Tram, Old Town-Alb., Plaza-SF, Chimayo-all of it including the drive up there, museums, oldest house in SF.

Hope you have a fun and interesting trip!

New Mexico
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3. Re: First time visit for family of 5, need pointers

You may want to look into the Hotel Albuquerque at least for a starting point. It is located in a beautiful part of town, particularly if you drive north on Rio Grande Blvd. It is not really close to the balloon park, but within walking distance to Old Town and the museums, as well as very near the zoo and botanical gardens.

As the previous poster noted, if you want to be near the balloon park, you need to be on the north side of town. Your options will primarily be along the northern stretch of I-25; not very pretty, but conveniently located near the park, and obviously the interstate can take you anywhere you want to go.

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4. Re: First time visit for family of 5, need pointers


If you plan to travel north of Albuquerque this site may help you:


It was a tremendous help for me when I planned our trip. Got to see 1. Sante Fe 2. Taos and Taos pueblo

3. Rio Grande River Gorge outside Taos 4. Bandelier and we rode the old railroad in Chama--kids loved it

oh, and the Sandia tram ride too! Hope your trip is as rewarding as ours was.

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5. Re: First time visit for family of 5, need pointers

Do you want a suite or two connecting rooms? Nativo is pretty nice and close to the grounds. There is also the Marriot Pyramid and and Hampton Inn. Druiry suites might work if you can get a rollaway bed. The days in early October are warm...but the early am's are cold. Check out the Sandia Tramway, Atomic and Natural History Museum, Rattlesnake Museum, Art and History Museum in Old Town Albuquerque. Have a bite at Church Street and catch a tour of the Ghost Tours of Old Town.

6. Re: First time visit for family of 5, need pointers

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