There is no better way to experience Albuquerque than to be soaring over it on the winds.
As I started my trip to Albuquerque with a visit to the balloon museum, it seemed fitting that on my last day I should actually take a balloon ride. So that is exactly what I did -- I hitched a ride with the team from Rainbow Ryders, one of Albuquerque's largest and most popular ballooning companies.
The flight last about one hour, and the captain flew the balloon right over the beautiful Rio Grande before landing perfectly in Balloon Fiesta Park. It was one of those bucket list experiences.
With my feet planted firmly back on the ground, I took a tour of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of the Pueblo Indian culture, history and art. There are 19 active pueblos in New Mexico.
After the cultural center, I took a drive about one hour west of Albuquerque to visit the Acoma Pueblo. Known as Sky City and perched on a 70-acre massive mesa that is 367 feet above the valley floor, the pueblo provides stunning panoramic views.
After registering and having lunch at the pueblo's visitors center, I boarded a bus to the top of the mesa to explore the historic pueblo with an official guide. Many of the pueblo's residents have pottery and other native crafts on display and sale. The tour ended with a visit to the San Esteban del Rey Mission and Convento, built in 1629.
To conclude my trip to Albuquerque, I had a toast to the "Duke City" (Albuquerque was named after the Spanish Duke of Alburquerque, Viceroy Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva) at its oldest gay bar, the Albuquerque Social Club. Technically a private club, visitors can buy a membership for a small fee. It is located in the trending Nob Hill neighborhood and is known for its cheap cocktails.
For more information on Albuquerque, please visit www.itsatrip.org or call (800) 284-2282.