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Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta: Rail & Drive

7 days From $2,215 per person

Colorful culture and vivid vistas welcome you to the vibrant Southwest on a vacation highlighted by travel aboard the scenic Southwest Chief and a visit to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Travel on your own following a well-planned itinerary

2024 Tour code: RM-ABFR-24

About the tour

Wrapped in arid mountains and deserts and brimming with rich history, the Southwest is one of the unique regions in the United States. This portion of the country is a haven for those who appreciate culture and value the artistic inspirations that nature can bring. It is also your destination for this independent journey featuring Amtrak's Southwest Chief. Enjoy the colors of the landscape and the changes each city brings as you travel from cosmopolitan Los Angeles to Albuquerque, New Mexico, on the train. As you arrive, take the reins to your vacation, and enjoy the freedom of having a rental car for five days. Your time in Albuquerque is centered around the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta; however, there is ample time to explore regional attractions, set out into nature, or delve into the history presented at local museums. The journey continues to the dynamic city of Santa Fe. The atmosphere here has been cultivated by Native Americans, artists, foodies, and even tourists throughout the centuries. Enjoy its offerings with a guided gastronomical tour and a visit to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. You also have ample free time to sightsee throughout the city before driving back to Albuquerque and boarding the Southwest Chief once more for your return to California. This trip is your chance to create lasting memories in the beautiful Southwest.

This vacation is also available from Chicago based on your travel preference. 


What’s included


Day 1 – Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to Albuquerque

Your journey begins in cosmopolitan Los Angeles. Transfer on your own to Los Angeles Union Station and board the Southwest Chief for your evening departure. Settle into your onboard accommodations as the train begins its overnight route through the deserts and cities of Southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Overnight train.

Day 2 – Arrive in Albuquerque/Balloon Fiesta Visit

As you wake this morning, the Southwest Chief navigates through New Mexico's wide-open expanses and small towns. The train is scheduled to arrive in Albuquerque late this morning. After disembarking the train, transfer on your own to the Avis car rental facility at Albuquerque's international airport to pick up your rental car for the next five days. Drive to your hotel for check-in, then make your way to Balloon Fiesta Park to experience an annual event that has held the hearts of locals and visitors alike for more than a half-century, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Soak in the colors and ambiance of over 500 hot air balloons as you wander through the grounds and get your first peeks at the magic that only this event can bring. Overnight Albuquerque.

Day 3 - Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

The day is yours to fully immerse yourself in the excitement of the International Balloon Fiesta. There are morning and evening sessions, each requiring an entry ticket. The earlier you get there, the more there is to see. Festivities start at the grounds at 6 a.m., before the sun breaks in the sky, but the gates open around 4:30 a.m. Arrive early to participate in events like the Dawn Patrol, the Morning Glow, the Opening Ceremony, and the Mass Ascension, which all happen by 7 a.m. Other events, including chainsaw carvings, gas balloon inflating, musical fiestas, and more, keep the momentum going throughout the day. The hot air balloons begin their performances this evening with the Night Magic Glow; fireworks conclude the evening. Feel free to spend the entire day exploring the 360-acre park or venture into Albuquerque to explore its offerings. There are fantastic museums in the region, including the Turquoise Museum, the Nuclear Museum, and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Delve into the Native American culture at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center or admire the rugged scenery of the Sandia Mountains from the Sandia Peak Tramway. Overnight Albuquerque.

Day 4 - Travel to Santa Fe

Rise and shine for your final look at the colorful balloons that fill Balloon Fiesta Park's launch field. See the balloonists and their crafts aglow at the Dawn Patrol and Morning Glow this morning, then marvel as the balloons take to the pink sky and begin floating above the arid landscape. Following this morning's excitement, you are free to continue your explorations in Albuquerque. Old Town is brimming with history that spans more than three centuries. Look upon various adobe buildings and traditional homes and structures that have since been converted to boutique shops, art galleries, and eateries. San Felipe de Neri Church, built in 1793, sits as the centerpiece. You could also hike through the Sandia Mountains' foothills or look upon the legendary Rio Grande at Rio Grande Nature Center State Park.

Later today, begin your drive toward Santa Fe. The cities are located about an hour apart, and around them, there are plenty of sites that showcase the beauty of New Mexico. Perhaps stop at one of the nearby national forests, such as Cibola National Forest. Santa Fe National Forest is also close and has excellent hiking trails - some of which lead to natural hot springs. If it is relaxation you seek, there are plenty of spas in the Santa Fe region that utilize the region's hot springs. For an ultra-scenic journey, skip the freeway and join the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway to drive between the two cities and find yourself wrapped in amazing scenery and mining history. After checking into your hotel, take the remainder of the day to get acquainted with this Southwestern hub. Overnight Santa Fe.

Day 5 - New Mexico Gastronomy Tour

Discover the history of Santa Fe through its beautiful architecture, stories, and, most importantly, flavors on today's culinary tour. Alongside an expert guide, sample iconic dishes at eateries surrounding Santa Fe Plaza. Taste must-try dishes, sip classic drinks, and snack on small bites. As you wander through the plaza on foot, look upon historic buildings and listen as your guide tells stories and offers interesting facts about Santa Fe and its past.

Following the tour, you are free to continue your explorations independently. You may wish to visit the incredible "miraculous staircase" at the Loretto Chapel or see the oldest church structure in the United States, the San Miguel Mission. Santa Fe has been a haven for artists for many years. There are many places to enjoy art, including the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, the Museum of National Folk Art, and numerous galleries and markets. You could drive along Canyon Road to experience the historic art district, as well. Of course, Native American culture is prominent here, and there are 19 Pueblos you may visit during your free time today. Overnight Santa Fe.

Day 6 - Museum of Indian Arts & Culture/ Santuario de Chimayo

Continue your explorations in Santa Fe today with a visit to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. This institution has roots that span back to 1909 and has grown throughout the years to house over 80,000 pieces of archeological and artistic history, as well as 10 million artifacts that have been throughout New Mexico. Wander through the interesting exhibits at leisure, and soak in a culture that pre-dates written history. Before returning to Albuquerque, drive further north to Santuario de Chimayo, a National Historic Landmark. Nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Chimayo, New Mexico, this Roman Catholic Church features a charming courtyard, twin adobe bell towers, and an eclectic interior with Native American and Spanish influences. Admire both the property and the surrounding nature during your visit.

As you arrive back in Albuquerque later today, return your rental car and transfer on your own to the city's Amtrak station. Your train, the Southwest Chief, is set to leave the station late this afternoon for the overnight journey to Los Angeles. Settle into your overnight accommodations or make your way to the Sightseer Lounge to watch the sunset over the arid terrain. Overnight train.

Day 7 – Return Home

Your Southwestern adventure concludes this morning as the Southwest Chief arrives in Los Angeles. 

Additional information

Departure times

Departure times vary based on selected rail vacation. This information will be provided in your final documents. For more information please speak with your rail specialist.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular vacation with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.


Amtrak's Southwest Chief