Where to Eat, Shop, and Play for Balloon Fiesta

Where to Eat, Shop, and Play for Balloon Fiesta

I woke up at 4:15 this morning to get ready for work, and I realized most people are already on their way to the Balloon Fiesta grounds in Albuquerque to see the "Mass Ascension."  Some may argue that witnessing the flight of hundreds of hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes is some sort of spiritual experience.  It is certainly a must-see!  

This is my 4th year at the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival - Balloon Fiesta Show held at the Sandia Resort and Casino, and my 6th time to Albuquerque this year.  I thought I would share my favorite things to do in Albuquerque for the time you are not on the Balloon Fiesta grounds:


  • Albuquerque is becoming known for being a foodie town.  Since I am a traveling artist, I appreciate good food and good service at a decent price.  My favorite restaurant is Flying Star, where one can find a variety of eats, with vegetarian and gluten free options, and where breakfast is served all day.  Be sure to save room for dessert; their pies are to die for! (My favorite is the Key Lime pie).  Locations in the North Valley and Northeast Heights (Nob Hill location is currently closed for renovation).
  • If you want big portions and good Mexican Food, go to Sadie's on 4th St. In true New Mexican Fashion the green chile sauce is legit and they serve potatoes instead of rice as a side.  You can order margaritas by the carafe for everyone to enjoy.  
  • If you find yourself in Old Town and are looking for a more upscale ambiance, High Noon won't disappoint.  Housed in one of Old Town's original buildings dating back to 1785, dining there is certainly a unique experience!
  • If you want to splurge and have a 5 star dining experience, dine at El Campo on the Los Poblanos Inn and Lavender Farm.  While I have not personally eaten there, I have heard nothing but amazing things from friends and family. More about Los Poblanos in the next section.


  • Whether you want to get a special souvenir or get a head start on your holiday shopping, you can find unique gifts in Albuquerque. During Balloon Fiesta (weekends only), the 31st Annual Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Show is being held under the big white tent at the Sandia Resort and Casino.  Over 150 artists from across the country are selling their handcrafted art.  You can find jewelry (insert shameless plug: I am booth C-28), photography, Balloon Fiesta-themed crafts, and even killer wood cutting boards.  There is live music and great food trucks too!  
  • If you are in Old Town, there are plenty of galleries and gift shops, but if you want to shop a beautifully curated collection of New Mexico-themed  products (and food - they sell the best salsa!) a must is the Albuquerque Museum Store.  They have everything, and I love their book selection (and did I mention the salsa?). Note: the store and museum is closed on Mondays.
  • If you aren't going to eat at El Campo, at the very minimum visit the Los Poblanos Farm Shop, where you can get all things lavender that was harvested just outside of the shop.  Grab a coffee or tea at the Farm Shop cafe and sit outside and enjoy the serene view of the lavender fields and Sandia Mountains.  


  • My favorite thing to do is hike.  For a lung-busting workout you can hike the La Luz Trail on the western side of the Sandias or head to the less crowded eastern side for a number of hikes outside of Cedarcrest.
  • Tram:  if you aren't going to hike to the top of the Sandias, take the Tram to the top and enjoy amazing views.  The restaurant is now open so you can enjoy a beverage or lunch at over 10,000 feet!  
  • Museums:  My favorite is the Albuquerque Museum in Old Town, but there is also the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and specialty museums such as the Turquoise Museum.  There are too many amazing museums to list here; but you can research the top 10 Museums by Trip Advisor.  

I hope you have an amazing time in Albuquerque!  If you took any of my recommendations, I want to hear how your experience was, please contact me!  

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