Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta - 10 Day Tour
Experience the flavor of the southwest on this one-of-a-kind rail adventure that takes you from Chicago to Colorado aboard Amtrak’s legendary California Zephyr, where you visit the Colorado National Monument, a series of giant sandstone monoliths, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park as well as enjoy an excursion aboard the popular Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway. Your tour continues by coach to New Mexico for visits to Taos; Santa Fe, known as the cultural and artistic capital of the Great American Southwest; and, Albuquerque for its annual International Balloon Fiesta. Return to Chicago by train, following the Santa Fe Trail as you cross New Mexico aboard Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.
Day 1 – Depart Chicago
Meet your tour manager and fellow travelers at Chicago’s Union Station at 12:30 pm, board the California Zephyr, and settle into your onboard accommodations in preparation of your 2:00 pm departure west toward the Colorado Rockies. Take time today to acquaint yourself with some of the more unique features of the train including the glass-walled Sightseer Lounge car with its comfortable seating and panoramic views of the passing scenery. Overnight train. (D)
Day 2 – Grand Junction
The Zephyr pulls out of Denver this morning and begins the climb over the majestic Colorado Rockies. Throughout the day the train will wind around sharp curves and numerous tunnels, offering fantastic views of fast-flowing streams and valleys far below. The breathtaking mountain vistas will continue until late afternoon and the train’s arrival in Grand Junction, located on the western slopes of the mountains. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. Overnight Grand Vista Hotel. (B, L)
Day 3 – Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
This morning we travel by motorcoach to the famous Colorado National Monument. Seamed with canyons more than a thousand feet deep, it can be viewed from overlooks along Rim Rock Drive, which skirts the canyon rims. Isolated monoliths include Independence Rock, Balanced Rock, Coke Ovens and Pipe Organ. Our journey continues as we head south, stopping for an on-your-own lunch in Delta. Mid-afternoon we arrive at the awesome Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The Gunnison river gorge is one of the most amazing geological displays in the West. Overnight Hampton Inn. (B, D)
Day 4 – Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway
This morning we drive south through the picturesque San Juan Mountains to Silverton, a typical Wild West mining community with an infamous past. There will be time to walk along Blair Street with its false-fronted buildings typical of the Old West and have lunch on your own. A high point of the tour is this afternoon when we ride the famous Durango & Silverton scenic steam-powered train through the San Juan National Forest, following the winding Animas River through breathtaking mountain scenery. The 45-mile 3 ½-hour rail journey ends in charming Durango, the commercial center for ranching and mining enterprises of southwest Colorado. The city thrived as a railroad and mining center in the late 1800’s. Much of the downtown area has been restored to its Victorian past. Overnight Strater Hotel. (CB)
Day 5 – Taos/Santa Fe
This morning we drive south to historic Taos, arriving in time for lunch on our own followed by a tour of the city. Our travels continue to Santa Fe, arriving late this afternoon. This evening brings a unique dining experience at the La Casa Sena Restaurant. The waiters and bartenders are professional singers. After they have taken your dinner order, they present their “Best of Broadway” revue. Past and present show favorites are featured, including a number of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs. Overnight La Fonda on the Plaza. (CB, D)
Day 6 – Santa Fe
Santa Fe is the cultural and artistic capital of the Great American Southwest. This morning we’ll embark on a two-hour tour of Santa Fe. You’ll see the Palace of the Governors, the oldest public building in the United States; the old marketplace; the Museum of International Folk Art; and, travel along Canyon Road, the trail of the Rio Grande Pueblo Indians and route of Don Diego De Vargas. You’re free this afternoon and evening to enjoy the famed Santa Fe Plaza and other popular centrally-located attractions. Overnight La Fonda on the Plaza.
Day 7 – Albuquerque
The morning is yours to pursue some last minute shopping at the Santa Fe Plaza. The Rail Runner is a relatively new rail service that connects Santa Fe and Albuquerque. You’ll depart on one of the colorful double-decker trains and arrive in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city. Embark on a sightseeing tour, including a stop at the Indian Cultural Center. When you enter this unique facility you’ll feel as if you’ve entered another, more ancient world. The building features exhibits on the history of New Mexico’s 19 Indian Pueblos. Overnight Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown.
Day 8 – Balloon Fiesta
Today’s activities are completely focused on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Our day begins early in Fiesta Park with the Mass Ascension, the most spectacular display of sound and color in all of aviation. The participating balloons are launched in two waves. There will be other activities including the Fiesta of Wheels Car Show. We’ll return to our hotel at mid-morning to rest or you can visit a number of area attractions. At 4:30 pm, we’ll return to Fiesta Park for dinner in the Hospitality Tent followed by the Balloon Glow—the sight of hundreds of balloons lit from within at night, like giant holiday ornaments. The Balloon Glow is followed by New Mexico’s most spectacular fireworks display. Overnight Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown. (B, D)
Day 9 – Southwest Chief to Chicago
The morning is free to rest, shop, or prepare for your trip home. We’ll transfer to the Amtrak station late this morning to board the eastbound Southwest Chief, scheduled to depart at 12:10 pm. Relax in your onboard accommodations as the train climbs Raton Pass late this afternoon along the former route of the Santa Fe Trail. Overnight train. (L, D)
Day 10 – Chicago
The Southwest Chief will roll across Northeast Missouri, a corner of Iowa and all of Illinois before our 4:05 pm arrival into Chicago, where your southwest adventure comes to an end. (B, L)
Prices are land-only, per person. Prices are correct at the time of the web page being published; however, prices are subject to change.