Prior to my recent visit, I didn't even know how to spell Albuquerque.
What I did know was that it is located in New Mexico and that it holds a large hot air balloon festival. So, it seemed appropriate that I started my visit at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, located next to Balloon Fiesta Park.
The museum was built at a cost of $12 million and is 60,000 square feet -- a clear indication of how seriously Albuquerque takes its ballooning. Its vast collection of equipment and memorabilia provides interesting insight into ballooning from a historic, scientific and artistic perspective.
I also learned that while ballooning began with the first manned flight in 1783 in France, Albuquerque is now considered the ballooning capital of the world and actually holds the largest ballooning event every October: the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This year will mark the 40th such fiesta, which, in 2010, attracted more than 800,000 visitors and 500 registered balloons from 39 states and 17 countries.
After the museum, I discovered another of Albuquerque's unique offerings -- the Sandia Peak Tramway, the world's longest aerial tramway. The 2.7 mile ride to the top, at nearly 11,000 feet, offers spectacular view of the mountain and the city of Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley below.
My day ended with dinner and wine at the St. Clair Winery & Bistro, located across the street from Hotel Albuquerque and near historic Old Town Albuquerque, where I stayed for part of my trip.
New Mexico is the oldest wine-growing region in the United States, and St. Clair is one of more than 30 winemakers in the state.