Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta by Rail
Visit Albuquerque’s 44th annual International Balloon Fiesta and watch as hundreds of hot air balloons are launched to New Mexico’s sky. Additional highlights include visits to Arches and Mesa Verde National Parks, a journey aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, and a tour of historic Santa Fe.
Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta attracts visitors from around the world to revel in the excitement of this annual event and is the cornerstone of this 9-day autumn tour through the southwest. Your travels begin in Chicago, San Francisco or destinations in-between as you make the overnight journey aboard the California Zephyr to Grand Junction, continuing by motorcoach to the red rocks of Moab, Utah. Visit Arches National Park featuring more than 2,000 natural stone arches as well as the Anasazi Heritage Center, showcasing the history and culture of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Continue to Mesa Verde National Park to see the Anasazi cliff dwellings and journey along the Animas River into the Rocky Mountains aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Travel into New Mexico and embark on a walking tour of historic Santa Fe, New Mexico’s capital city. Board the Rail Runner for Albuquerque, where balloon excitement is palpable! Visit the Balloon Field on opening day and watch as hundreds of colorful hot-air balloons are launched into New Mexico’s sky. Later, tour the city and enjoy the balloon festivities before the evening’s Night Glow followed by a fireworks show, the perfect way to end a truly one-of-a-kind day and a spectacular southwest adventure.
Highlights and Inclusions
- Rail travel on Amtrak (1 night on train)
- Hotel accommodations for 7 nights
- 11 meals including breakfast on the Balloon Field in the Chaser's Club lounge
- Admission to Albuquerque's International Balloon Fiesta including Dawn Patrol, Mass Ascension and Night Glow
- Visit to Arches and Mesa Verde National Parks
- Rail excursion aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
- Walking tour of Santa Fe
- Rail Runner from Santa Fe to Albuquerque
- Driving tour of Albuquerque
- Transportation by deluxe motorcoach
- Services of a professional tour manager
- Baggage handling
Day 1 - California Zephyr to Grand Junction
Depart Chicago or San Francisco aboard the legendary California Zephyr for the overnight journey to Grand Junction, Colorado. Overnight train. (D)
Day 2 - Arrive in Grand Junction
Spend your time aboard the train admiring the passing scenery en route to Grand Junction, situated on the Western Slope of Colorado. Check into your hotel with the evening free to rest and enjoy dinner at your leisure tonight. Overnight Grand Junction. (B, L)
Day 3 - Arches National Park / Anasazi Heritage Center
After breakfast on your own, we depart Grand Junction and follow the Colorado River to Moab, Utah. Our morning stop will be at Arches National Park. On our tour you will discover a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. This Utah wonderland will amaze you with its unusual red rock formations.
Next, we head into downtown Moab for lunch on your own before we drive south for an afternoon stop at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado. The Anasazi Heritage Center (AHC) showcases the culture and history of the Ancestral Pueblo people, and the methods that modern archaeologists use to reveal the past. The museum preserves artifacts and records from excavations in the Four Corners area, and is one of the richest and largest archaeological regions in the United States. After our visit, we will climb to the top of the Mesa Verde where we will be spending the night. Enjoy dinner tonight while you look out over the Four Corners area. Overnight Mesa Verde. (D)
Day 4 - Mesa Verde National Park
After breakfast this morning, we tour Mesa Verde National Park and see some of the cliff dwellings and surface ruins of the ancient Anasazi people. Mesa Verde offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States. We will begin our tour at the Far View Museum for a look at the artifacts that have been found at this site and then take an optional walk to Spruce Tree House, one of the mail Cliff Dwellings in the park. We will continue on what is called the “ruins” road to view some of the other sites in the park. After lunch on your own at the Far View cafeteria, we head east to Durango, Colorado where we spend the next two nights located just 2 blocks from Main Street and an easy walk to all the shops and galleries in town. Your evening is free to enjoy downtown Durango. Overnight Durango. (B)
Day 5 - Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
This morning it is all aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The scenery is on a grand scale this morning as we follow the Animas River into the Rocky Mountains. There are no roads that follow these rails, so we are in true wilderness most of the way to the mining town of Silverton. Be sure to bring your camera to capture this breathtaking scenery. The train arrives in Silverton where you will have time for lunch and to shop and browse the town before we board our waiting motorcoach and head north up the Million Dollar Highway and through Red Mountain Pass to the town of Ouray. This is the heart of fall color in Colorado. We return to Durango early this evening with your evening free to have a leisurely dinner out on the town or do some last minute browsing. Overnight Durango. (B)
Day 6 - En Route to Santa Fe
We depart Colorado this morning and turn south into the state of New Mexico. The scenery of northern New Mexico is lovely as we head through quaint Spanish towns that were founded in the 1700's and earlier. Our first stop will be at the Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant for lunch. The adobe walls of this early 18th-century hacienda are thick and cool and the ambience of this restaurant will take you back to the days of the Spanish settlers in northern New Mexico. After lunch, we will stop at Ortega's Weaving Shop to see the hand woven textiles that this area is famous for. We will also stop at the Santuario de Chimayo, an 18th-century church that is famous for its “curative soil.” Many people take a bit of this healing dirt home for whatever “ails” them. Our final stop will be in New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe. We will spend the night just steps away from the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail and within walking distance of shops, restaurants and galleries. Overnight Santa Fe. (B, L)
Day 7 - Santa Fe Sightseeing / Rail Runner to Albuquerque
This morning we enjoy an informative historical walking tour of Santa Fe. On our walk we will hear about the history of the Spanish colonists that helped found this town in 1610 and see the Palace of the Governors, the oldest public building in the United States. Visit the famed Loretto Chapel, stop at San Miguels, the oldest church, and more. You are free after our walk to enjoy the museums and galleries around the Plaza and have lunch in one of Santa Fe's fine restaurants.
After lunch we will head to the Rail Runner Depot and board the train to Albuquerque. The train takes you past Indian Pueblo villages and into downtown Albuquerque. Our motorcoach will pick us up at the depot and transfer us to our hotel, where there is time to rest and freshen up before we enjoy an early dinner. You will want to get a good night's rest tonight. Tomorrow we are up with the birds to enjoy the opening day of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Overnight Albuquerque. (D)
Day 8 - Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Set your alarm for 0'Dark Thirty this morning. We are off to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Today is opening day and you are sure to enjoy yourself. On arrival at the Balloon Field, we will begin looking into the morning sky to see if the Dawn Patrol is up in the air. These 5-6 hot air balloons ascend into the early dawn sky to check the weather conditions. As they light up in the dark, they look like twinkling rainbow lights above your head. We will have time once we are on the field to enjoy the many arts and crafts booths before the ceremonies begin. Breakfast is included on the field this morning in the exclusive Chaser's Club lounge area. You can eat breakfast and watch the Balloons at the same time, but remember, this is a participatory event. You don't want to just stand on the sidelines and look. You can walk onto the field, talk to the balloonists, take pictures of the balloons as they are filled with cold air, then propane and then as they slowly inflate until the referees in the striped shirts (zebras we call them) tell each balloonist that they can lift off. There could be as many as 600 balloons in the air this morning! It is an event of a lifetime.
After the Balloons have left the field, we will depart for a driving tour of Albuquerque with a stop at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Museum for a tour and time to enjoy the ceremonial dances that are performed during the fiesta time. Then it is off to the Old Town area to enjoy the festivities and to enjoy lunch on your own in one of the many restaurants in Old Town. We return to our hotel to rest and freshen up before we depart again to the Balloon Fiesta field for the Night Glow. Tonight the balloons stay on the ground and inflate on the field and light up the night sky like lights in a holiday tree. Dinner will be at your leisure at one of the food booths at the Balloon Field. We will stay on the field until the fireworks show is over and then return to our hotel about 10:00 pm. Overnight Albuquerque. (B)
Day 9 - Tour Conclusion
This morning is at leisure to pack and get ready for your flight or train home. We also reserve this day as a reserve Balloon day if needed, so be sure to plan for flights or transportation home after 11:00 am.
Train and Hotel Accommodations
Hotels include the Hilton DoubleTree Grand Junction, Far View Lodge Mesa Verde, BW Rio Grande Inn (Durango), Inn of Loretto (Santa Fe) and Marriott Uptown Hotel (Albuquerque).
Amtrak accommodations are available in Coach class, Roomette and Bedroom. Coach accommodations include a reclining seat with leg rest. Roomette accommodations include a private cabin that features two comfortable seats beside a picture window during the day, which converts to an upper and lower berth at night. Bedroom accommodations feature a sofa and chair by day and upper and lower berth by night. Bedroom accommodations also include a sink and self-enclosed toilet and shower. Overnight train accommodations include all meals aboard the train and access to the Sightseer Lounge car.
+Vacations By Rail can supply connecting rail from your closest Amtrak Station.
Dates & Prices
Select from the packages below to view prices for this tour.
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Amtrak Coach: Departs 26th September 2015 ($2,399)
Roomette On Request - Pricing Not Included: Departs 26th September 2015 ($2,399)
Bedroom On Request - Pricing Not Included: Departs 26th September 2015 ($2,399)
This tour can depart from Chicago, Los Angeles and points in-between. Vacations By Rail can supply connecting rail from your closest Amtrak station.