Date(s) - 10/02/2019 - 10/11/2019
6:30 am - 8:00 pm
Albuquerque & Carlsbad, New Mexico, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Amarillo, Texas
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a world-renowned attraction and destination for young and old alike. For more than three decades, the first week in October brings the smell of roasting chiles and the beautiful, magical moving picture show of hot air balloons sailing silently through the crisp fall air.
Our tour begins with fun interactive activities to get better acquainted with all the passengers on the tour. Ten days will fly by and the friendships that are made will be special and some even long lasting. Our first night away from home will be in the Kansas City area.
As we make our way to New Mexico we will visit The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. This amazing memorial honors those individuals whose lives were forever changed from the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and has a mission statement that says it all, “We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.” This is truly a memorial you will not forget.
As we arrive in Albuquerque on Friday, we will see people from all over the world that come to celebrate ballooning. Literally hundreds of balloons will be taking flight from the Balloon Fiesta Park this year. From its modest beginnings in 1972 with 13 balloons launching from a shopping mall parking lot, the Balloon Fiesta has grown to a custom designed, 365 acre Balloon Fiesta Park. The Balloon Fiesta, with 700 balloons, is the largest ballooning event on earth and the largest annual international event held in the United States. Imagine 54 football fields, put together – that is the size of Balloon Fiesta Park’s 78 acre launch field! And at this park’s playing field, there are no losing teams and no viewing stands, we can walk the field and be a part of the action. We will be enjoying and joining in as hundreds of thousands of smiling upturned faces, are awestruck by the spectacular beauty of hot air balloons filling the big blue New Mexico sky. What you can’t hear until you walk the field at nightfall is the thrilling roar of hundreds of burners simultaneously igniting, turning the park into a huge lighted Christmas tree of colorful balloons. What you can’t feel until you are there is the massive joy everywhere around you!
Saturday morning is opening day of the Balloon Fiesta with this year’s theme, “Picture Perfect.” Mass Ascension, a launch of all the participating balloons has been a feature of the Balloon Fiesta since its earliest days and is the most spectacular display of sound and color in all of aviation. During mass ascensions, balloons launch in two waves. Weather permitting, balloons begin to launch at about 7:00 a.m. which is led by a balloon flying the American flag to the strains of The Star Spangled Banner.
Following the thrill of the Mass Ascension we will visit Old Town Plaza and Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. The beauty and charm of the area may be a little lost with the mass of people in the area but will still be there to enjoy. Old Town’s narrow streets and century-old adobe houses are home to New Mexican eateries serving enchiladas and sopapilla pasteries, and tiny artisan shops selling jewelry, rugs and pottery. Old Town Plaza is a charming spot overlooked by 18th-century San Felipe de Neri Church. The evening brings us back to Fiesta Park with reserved seating, a heated tent, delicious food, cash bar and much more to view the Balloon Glow. The Balloon Glow is perhaps the most spectacular single moment in all of the Balloon Fiesta. The balloons fire their burners and light up at the same time! The evening isn’t over though as we will enjoy New Mexico’s most impressive fireworks display and beautiful evening in the Rio Grande Valley.
We will attend the Mass Ascension again on Sunday morning before heading to Sante Fe to meet our local guide for a city tour. Sante Fe is New Mexico’s capital and sits in the Sangre de Cristo foothills. A stop is planned at the Loretto Chapel with its miraculous and unusual helix-shaped spiral staircase. We will have free time for lunch and shopping around the plaza before we travel back to Albuquerque. Another marvelous evening is planned to enjoy the Balloon Glow so we won’t miss a “Picture Perfect” moment.
Our time in Albuquerque comes to an end on Monday, but the unbelievable sights continue as we visit the White Sands National Monument. It is a major portion of the unique dune field of white gypsum sand in the Tularosa Basin where a Park Ranger step-on guide will share with us the history of the Park. Our overnight stay will be in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Time permitting we will visit the New Mexico Museum of Space History. This museum and planetarium complex is dedicated to artifacts and displays related to space flight and the space age.
The beautiful natural sights continue on Tuesday with a visit to Carlsbad Caverns where we will have plenty of time to explore the caverns. We will enjoy the short park film, “Hidden World” at the visitor’s center which also has hands-on exhibits to help us understand how the cavern was formed and amaze us with the history of the park before we have free time to explore as we wish. The Big Room is the most popular route with the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America. Actor and comedian Will Rogers called the cavern, “The Grand Canyon with a roof over it.” Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 caves – formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes. The cavern climate averages about 56 degrees year round so a light jacket or sweater is recommended. Comfortable shoes are a must to fully enjoy this amazing attraction.
Continuing our travels toward home on Wednesday we will plan a stretch break in Roswell, New Mexico where we can enjoy and have fun with a photo opportunity including their resident Alien. A visit to the Cadillac Ranch, which is a public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas. Ten Cadillacs (1949-1963) are half buried, nose first in the ground. Today the Cadillacs are the “canvas” of graffiti artists and change constantly. The evolution of the Cadillac’s tailfins is prominent in this unusual but stunning attraction. Before leaving the area we want to visit what is the second largest canyon in the country. Referred to as the Grand Canyon of Texas, the Palo Duro Canyon State Park is a stop we will make to experience the canyon’s rugged beauty and enjoy its colorful history. Our stop for dinner is at The Big Texan Steakhouse that was rated the #1 Steakhouse in Texas in 2017 and is home of the world famous 72 ounce steak dinner. You don’t have to eat it, but what a feat if you could.
Thursday will be a full day of travelling and fun on the motorcoach as we travel toward our last night away from home. Our overnight accommodations will be at the Aloft Leawood-Overland Park in Leawood, Kansas.
As we travel the last leg of our journey home from this exciting and amazing tour of a lifetime, we will have time to reminisce with our travel friends and perhaps make plans to get together for another tour!
We are offering an EARLY BIRD SPECIAL for this tour. Reserve your seat by June 2 and save $100.00 per person.
Reservations will close August 23 for this tour.
NOTE: There will be considerable walking on this tour with most of it at your own pace. Remember we will be at higher elevations than Wisconsin. Albuquerque’s elevation is 5,000 feet above sea level and Santa Fe is at 7,000 feet above. Your health is our concern so please check with your physician if you have any issues that may be affected by this.