Three reasons to visit New Mexico –

  1. Food
  2. Culture
  3. Balloon Fiesta!!

My dad agreed to come and visit me in the US only after I promised him that I would show him that part of USA which usually do not feature on postcards. To keep that word we narrowed down on New Mexico. The timing was perfect! It was my birthday and there was the International Balloon Fiesta – the largest hot air balloon festival in the world!

We woke up at 4am in the morning and headed to the fiesta grounds for the Dawn Patrol at 5.30am followed by mass ascension. When we reached there I realized that I had over enthusiastically bought more tickets than we needed. I made Madhu stand there and sell the extra tickets but since people got very suspicious (given that we were brown and also had 2 tickets on one sheet printed back to back to save paper), we had to give them out for free (they did not care about our skin color then 😐 ). Our day started out with a net loss of $53. But once we were in we just forgot about it. The balloons being fired is so magical in the dark. It just illuminates everything around you and you realize there are hundreds and hundreds of people there!

The mass ascension was so dramatic. It was set against the back drop of Sandia Mountains with sun gradually emerging providing silhouettes of thousands of balloons in air. In less than 30 minutes there were many balloons in air than I could count. Mom and I just wrapped ourselves in blankets and lay on the grass gazing at the sky filled with balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors. 

If that did not inspire you to get to NM, this definitely will. Food is amazing in this part of the world. Being a vegetarian Indian, I absolutely loved the food! It is cheesy, spicy and yummy. They have red/green chili sauce on everything! We even got to eat Indian Naan with Chili on top at one of the many stalls at the Balloon Fiesta. We devoured so much on great spicy New Mexican cuisine that we ended up with stomach cramps. Oh No!

We drove through the Rio Grande Valley admiring the beautiful scenery along the way, stopping at the valley of fire for a short hike.

Our next destination was White Sands National Monument. This is the largest gypsum desert in the world. The sand is so white that it can be confused for snow! We rented a plastic snow saucer to sled down the dunes and that was a lot of fun, My mom and dad were kids again and they we were running up the dunes to sled down and we had to make them stop ;P. This is also a great place for photography as the colors pop against the white background.

Also, do check out the old town Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It has the adobe architecture and some cute little shops and eateries.

Ideal time to visit  – Late July – August

Number of Days – 3 full days at the least.

Balloon Fiesta Tip – Mass ascension is the best, so, rise early or you will be too late.

Photography Tip – Do not change lenses in the desert as it can be very windy and sand can get in.

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