After the balloons: Life after the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

What's New — By stevelarese on September 16, 2011 at 4:28 pm

© stevelarese.com

Albuquerque BioPark © stevelarese.com

You’ve been up for hours, gorged on breakfast burritos and hot chocolate, seen the sun flow from behind the Sandía Mountains and watched hundreds of balloons paint the Albuquerque sky and touch back down to earth to be packed away for another day, all before 10 a.m. Now what? Here’s the low down on what to do when the balloons aren’t up.
With Albuquerque’s cottonwood bosque beginning to take on its golden tinge of fall, the Río Grande Nature Center (end of Candelaria Road off of Río Grande Boulevard, 505-344-7240) is the way to see Albuquerque’s natural beauty and get some exercise, especially with the kids. The 270 acres of woods, meadows, wetlands and riparian areas is crossed with hiking trails, and the visitor center features live animal and water displays. Outside, visitors can watch hidden behind a blind as all manner of fish, fowl and furry cavort in a three-acre pond. This is a favorite stop over for sandhill cranes as they make their way to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Reserve near Socorro for the winter. On weekend mornings guided nature hikes are offered if you need a balloon break.
If you really want to get lost, check out the Corn Maze at the Los Poblanos Fields Open Space (daily through Oct. 31, 1700 Montaño Road). Families stroll and explore through a maize maze (a dinosaur this year) mowed through acres of corn stalks in this traditional agricultural area of Albuquerque.
Continue south on Río Grande Boulevard and see what’s new in Old Town, Albuquerque’s plaza surrounded by shops and restaurants, and definitely check out the museums conveniently clustered nearby. The Albuquerque Museum (2000 Mountain Road, NW – 505-242-4600) highlights the history and art of the Duke City; Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum (505-842-1537) lets imaginations of any age run wild; study everything from stegosauruses to stars at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (1801 Mountain Road, 505-841-2800), then blast into the space age at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History (601 Eubank Blvd SE, 505-245-2137).
Still looking for things to do? The weather is perfect for visiting the Albuquerque Biopark, an enormous zoo, beach, botanical garden and aquarium complex all connected by a train (505-764-6200).
Many private companies in Albuquerque offer balloon rides (check the business pages online and make your reservations early, it’s a crazy week for these companies), but you can also rise above it all by riding the Sandia Tram to the top of Sandía Mountain. The 2.7 mile up to 10,378 feet lets you see the beloved mountain up close and personal, and once at the top you can take in the entire city, especially in the evening. Plan on hiking and seeing aspens already changing colors.

Tags: albuquerque, balloon fiesta, balloons, family, things to do, tourism