Each year, thousands flock to New Mexico to visit our southern neighbors and experience the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This phenomenon in its 49th year, October 2–10, 2021, is the largest ballooning event on earth, the most photographed event on earth, and the largest annual international event held in the United States.
Albuquerque hotels can fill quickly for the week of the event, but bear in mind that lodging in Santa Fe is always an option. This way you can enjoy both the Balloon Fiesta AND Santa Fe, just 60 miles to the north.
Again this year, TOURISM Santa Fe is offering a daily shuttle, running to and from the Balloon Fiesta Park with the purchase of an advance roundtrip ticket for $40 per person. (Tickets to enter Balloon Fiesta Park and attend the Fiesta are separate and can be purchased here.). Great lodging deals are available in Santa Fe as well. Temps are a bit cooler, the air a bit crisper, and the colors a bit more vivid. Here are a few recommendations to help you experience the Balloon Fiesta in a whole new way, The City Different way.
View the Aspens from on High
Much of the thrill of the Balloon Fiesta is experienced early in the morning. The Mass Ascension launches of 500+ balloons are not to be missed, occurring at approximately 7 a.m. and lasting until about 9 a.m., leaving you the rest of the day to explore. You will find plenty of ways to fill the rest of your day in Santa Fe. October is a great time to get outdoors! Take in the golden aspens shimmering in the breeze at Hyde Memorial State Park. Then, enjoy an aerial view of the fall foliage on a Ski Santa Fe Super Chief Quad Chairlift Ride the weekends of October 2–3 and October 9–10. Bonus: Live music and a beer garden round out the fun!
Enjoy the Many Flavors in Town
Take your adventure from the mountains to the patios with the Santa Fe Margarita Trail. Your adventure begins with purchasing the Margarita Trail Passport at any TOURISM Santa Fe Visitor Center or downloading the app via Google Play or the Apple App Store. With more than 40 margaritas on the Trail to tantalize your taste buds, you’re sure to find a favorite or two! A bonus: Make sure to show your Passport to receive $1 off each location's signature Margarita Trail cocktail.
Get Cultured at More than 15 Museums and Historic Sites
Immerse yourself in the art and culture that only a 400+ year center of history and artistic innovation can deliver. Consider Museum Hill, which offers four world-class museums, all in a single location. If you plan on visiting multiple museums, save considerably on admission with the CulturePass. For just $30, the CulturePass allows one visit to each of the state’s 15 museums and historic sites. The pass is good for 12 months after first use, so you have plenty of time to take full advantage. Perk alert: Should you have children traveling with you, bear in mind that all kids age 16 and under are always free at these museums.
Celebrate Our Rich and Vibrant History
October is also a great time for events in the City Different. Since 2016, the second Monday of October has been proclaimed Santa Fe Indigenous Peoples Day, in honor of the 23 Tribes, Nations, and Pueblos whose influence is evident throughout the region. Santa Fe is deeply proud to embrace its rich cultural diversity and the prolific and profound contributions that its first peoples brought and continue to bring to the City. In honor of these contributions, there will be traditional dance and drum performances on the historic Santa Fe Plaza daily throughout the weekend of October 9–10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Celebrations are also planned at the Institute of American Indian Arts and the Santa Fe Indian School for the actual holiday, Monday, October 11.
Participate in the Fall Harvest
Additionally, October is the time to celebrate the bounty of the harvest. Visit New Mexico’s top living history museum, El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, for the Harvest Festival, October 2–3, 2021. Taste syrup from a burro-driven sorghum mill, help make cider by cranking a traditional apple press, or pick a pumpkin from the scarecrow-guarded patch. For the children, there will be grape stomping, cornhusk doll making, and rolling their own delicious tortilla by hand.