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balloon fest and rail...logistics please

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balloon fest and rail...logistics please

Hello and thanks in advance.

We are considering the Balloon fest in October. Can anyone

advise how far this is from the light rail station if we

decide to head to Sante Fe. We were wondering if we could

get by without a car rental.

Also in Sante Fe, is the light rail station walking distance

to the central plaza?

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1. Re: balloon fest and rail...logistics please

Here's what I know about your question. It's roughly three miles from the south end of Balloon Park to Journal Center Railrunner depot. That's a hike no matter which route you take. I'm sure there will be shuttles between the two. It looks like there were last year and looks like the Railrunner had expanded service those weekends. (It would have been their first year in service for the Balloon Fiesta.) Since 100s of thousands come, advise you get train tickets and shuttle passes in advance if you can. (Any advance would probably be good, as it's not typical to buy advance tickets for the Railrunner, unless others catch on. Fiesta tickets don't need to be bought in advance, except when its packaged with shuttle.) The Balloon Fiesta does try to encourage shuttles, such as park and rides from various points, and the shuttles have their own routes apart from the car traffic. I'm sure, however, that you're likely to catch a rush time trying to leave the Balloon Park, so I'd expect waits for any bus or shuttle. On the other hand, I'd also expect parking to be a premium at the Journal Center depot. Free but crowded. There are also bicycle trails that would get you from Balloon Park to Journal Center Railrunner depot and last year they operated a bicycle check in next to the Balloon Museum (south end). Walking along the bicycle trail might shave a little off the distance. There is a free shuttle in Santa Fe to plaza, called Santa Fe Pick Up. Normally, it doesn't operate on Sundays, according to its website. It's usually a circuitous route to the plaza, so you can walk to the plaza from the depot on a good day (which it usually is) and beat the shuttle. Under a mile. The depot area is also a good area to hangout at. You don't need a car for day trip to Santa Fe. Since Albuquerque is a typical Western, spread-out city, a car is usually recommended.

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2. Re: balloon fest and rail...logistics please

Follow up. Here's a link to copy. https://www.balloonfiesta.com/… Looks to me like Fiesta Express buses will be lined up at the Journal Center depot, also called Los Ranchos depot, to take Railrunner passengers between Balloon Park and the Los Ranchos depot. My guess is that parking is going to be discouraged or impossible at the Los Ranchos station. Obviously, you park at another depot and take the train in/out. The Park and Rides are limited to 6 sites, none near a train depot. The only park and ride within walking distance of hotels is the one at the Coronado mall, close to ABQ Uptown. A depot is located downtown, where there's a few hotels, and a depot is located close to the Isleta Pueblo Casino Resort (which may be a Hard Rock by then). You might be able to work something out. Check the website(s). In the end, may be better than sitting in car traffic, but I'd expect the trains themselves to be crowded.

Edited: 02 March 2010, 21:03
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3. Re: balloon fest and rail...logistics please

Or maybe you were thinking of being based in Santa Fe and taking train from there to depot for shuttle to balloon park, and vice versa. That looks doable. I saw only one train leaving Santa Fe early enough to arrive before sunrise, which is when you want to be there for morning events. Better get advance tickets for everything.

Edited: 02 March 2010, 21:12
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4. Re: balloon fest and rail...logistics please

I don't want to discourage you from staying in Santa Fe, but the logistics of the RailRunner, shuttle service, etc. could get complicated, and you could miss out on a lot at the Fiesta. If you do stay in Santa Fe, I would recommend driving down, leaving about 3 a.m., and head for one of the shuttle services, such as the one which leaves from Intel in Rio Rancho. You can leave I-25 at Bernalillo, go west a few miles on US550, and then take NM 528 straight south to Intel. Getting to Intel about 4:00, would be a good time to catch the shuttle to the Fiesta. Incidentally, you pay one fee for round trip shuttle AND entrance to the Balloon Park.

If this doesn't sound feasable to you, then I would spend at least one night in Albuquerque, in the I-25, I-40 hotel area or in the Uptown area close to Coronado Mall, and use the shuttle from there.

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5. Re: balloon fest and rail...logistics please

UPDATE! Sandiaman makes some good points. And I may have been less than coherent as I tried to think your question out. Here’s my condensed version & some important corrections/updates:

1. First the update. The website I found shows a 2010 banner but it is the 2009 form. I found out that there is still some question today about what will be offered between the balloon park and the train depot, and we may not know until late July how it will work. Last year was the second year for the Railrunner service during balloon fiesta and it required two tickets—one for the train, one for the shuttle/entrance. The year before was a complete package. Also, the train schedule linked from the 2009 form is the Railrunner’s 2009 special weekend schedule, which also showed when buses were scheduled to meet arriving and departing trains at the Los Ranchos depot. You can see from the schedule that the only morning trains arrived about a half-hour before dawn. If you factor in the time to board buses and get to the park, dawn patrol would have already occurred and some balloons may already be lifting.

2. The Railrunner will at least be running its regular schedule to Santa Fe and back. Chances are good there will be some kind of shuttle service to the Los Ranchos depot from the balloon park. By the way, you can purchase train tickets online at the Railrunner site, but the site also says that online ticket purchases do not guarantee you a seat. Railrunner can add cars, as I’m sure they would, but it still may be SRO at the popular times.

3. As a general rule, if you’re staying in Albuquerque, most people will recommend you have a car. If you do not have a car and want to get to the balloon park, then you may want a place either near a train depot (assuming there will be shuttles, a good bet) or a park & ride. Those choices pretty much limit you to downtown or uptown. For uptown, you might want to check out new places near ABQ Uptown. The shuttle buses are relatively inexpensive. The price includes round trip and an admission ticket.

4. Even with a car, the park and ride shuttles may be a good option and you could still take the Railrunner to Santa Fe. Pick a less popular time and probably a depot other than Los Ranchos, where parking may be a problem.

5. Without a shuttle or a car, the distance from the balloon park to the nearest depot (Los Ranchos) is nearly 3 miles. (There are pedestrian/bicycle trails that connect the two and bicycle parking was available at the balloon park last year.) Assuming you’re just doing a day trip to Santa Fe after the balloon fiesta, you’d still have to figure out logistics to get back to your place from the depot.

6. The distance between the Santa Fe depot and plaza is under a mile, an enjoyable walk. There is also a free shuttle called Santa Fe Pick Up, which may not run on Sundays. The depot area in Santa Fe is also nice.

7. My favorite events are still the morning mass ascensions. I shoot to arrive on the park grounds before dawn, which comes about 7 a.m. For the full effect (and decent parking), you probably want to be on the park grounds at least a half-hour before dawn, which is when the trains were arriving last year. From that goal you have to work backwards and figure in time either for shuttling or driving. For driving, parking can be amazingly quick once you reach the point for paying the $10 fee, despite the long line of cars. But you also have to figure the time traffic is backed up before the entrance and err on the side of leaving earlier. So the general rule for best results is to dress warmly, take your own coffee and go very early, avoid as much of the backed up traffic as you can, get directed to parking near an entrance gate, walk about the carnival tents in the dark (eerie in the halogen lights and PA system), grab a breakfast burrito, and as soon as you can get yourself onto the actual field and find a favorite balloon about to inflate and ignite its burner. From that moment on, it’s worth every effort you made to get there and by the time all the balloons are in the air, it’s warm and still early enough to go to Santa Fe.

8. For what it’s worth, here’s another link: http://www.balloonfiesta.com/node/42

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6. Re: balloon fest and rail...logistics please

I don't know if there is much more to say!!!...but after 23 balloon fiestas, I'll offer you my suggestions.

1. Please rent a car! So many things to see in the Albuquerque/Santa Fe/Taos areas require side trips. Get your reservations in as early as possible during the Balloon Fiesta.

2. Definitely stay in Albuquerque (or Bernalillo) the night before you plan to attend the balloon fiesta. Ditto the early reservations. We always have at least one or two day's events cancelled because of weather (usually excessive winds) so be flexible with your days if possible. We would hate for you to come so far, and then miss the balloons!

3. While our new RailRunner trains can be fun to ride, I would not want my first "experience" to be during the Balloon Fiesta. It did seem to be operating pretty well last October vis-a-vis the shuttle buses to and from the rail-stop, and the fiesta however.

4. If you are going to drive in to the fiesta, you will want to leave your hotel rediculously early...especially on weekend Mass Ascensions. (Like 5:00am.) Once on the field before dawn, there are numerous tent-shops with varying foods, and souvenirs to keep you occupied however. Try some Indian Fry Bread, or a Navajo Taco. Lift-offs are at approximately 7:10am. You'll want to move out onto the field, in the midst of the inflating balloons, to see the entire process from inflation to lift-off!

5. Have a great time! You might want to save the train for your next visit!

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7. Re: balloon fest and rail...logistics please

Another comment about the Railrunner. I'm not sure they will be running trains to connect to the Fiesta this year. Weekend schedules between Albuquerque and Santa Fe have been cut back and only about 2 trains in each direction in the mornings. I go back to my original suggestion, and concur with NM Photojournalist. Stay in Albuq. and take a shuttle. If you stay near the I-40, I-25 junction, you can drive in about 10 minutes to Coronado Center.

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8. Re: balloon fest and rail...logistics please

Are there any hotels close enough to walk to it and avoid the car, train, shuttle deal? Or at least close enough to take a quick shuttle over to it?

9. Re: balloon fest and rail...logistics please

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