I was lucky enough to experience a New Mexico weekend getaway and I highly recommend you plan one yourself. I feel New Mexico is a gem and one of our most underrated states. So I suggest you visit before the secret gets out. You do not need a lot of time to visit, although you will probably wish you had more. New Mexico makes an excellent girls’ weekend getaway.
When time is short
Too often, I have little or no time to do the things I want. Now I am not talking about the day-to-day things that fall by the wayside (ahem, making my bed). I am talking about all of those places, near and far, I so badly want to visit. I am talking about all of the adventures I want to go on. But vacation hours are few and my bucket list is long. So sometimes I have to settle for a small taste instead of the full course meal. But that’s okay. That small taste is often very sweet and it is certainly better than nothing.
In my quest to see all 50 states, I often had to settle for just a small taste. New Mexico was one of those times. But although my time there may have been short, it was no less sweet and I came home with some wonderful memories.
A New Mexico weekend getaway
I arrived in Albuquerque on a gorgeous fall morning and immediately proceeded to explore. I walked a lot. Like a whole lot. I also used public transportation but since I had plenty of time to spare, I spent most of it on my feet. Historic Old Town is cute, albeit a little touristy. And although I figured it would be cheesy, I opted to check out the Rattlesnake Museum. As expected, it was a little on the cheesy side of things, but I still liked it. It is small so it won’t take up much of your time and I learned some interesting stuff.
From Albuquerque, I caught the train (Rail Runner) to Santa Fe. When it comes to train travel, I know I am a little biased. But this really is a great way to travel between the two cities and to see a little more of New Mexico. Plus, since I caught the train later in the day, I was able to see the desert at dusk. It was beautiful.
Now to be honest, Albuquerque was a little less than impressive. However, Santa Fe is a whole different ballgame. I think I could live in Santa Fe with all of its culture and history. I even appreciated that it is located at 7,000 feet above sea level—although it was a little hard to breathe—because the air was so crisp and clear. Again, I did a lot of walking and exploring. I visited the Historic Fort Marcy Park, took in the views from the Cross of the Martyrs, perused countless art galleries and ate New Mexican food (most of which was too spicy for my pansy tongue). I was very sad to leave Santa Fe and I hope to return again someday.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
I caught the train back to Albuquerque to give the city a chance to make a better impression on me—which it did thanks to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Normally I try to avoid events and places that are overrun by tourists. But the Balloon Fiesta is just such a unique experience that I figured it was worth fighting the crowds.
The 4 a.m. wake-up call was a killer, but seeing the dawn patrol was definitely worth getting up early for. Plus, the excitement in the air that early in the morning is very contagious. You’ll want to dress warm since it can be a bit chilly. However, they do have hot cocoa and tasty breakfast items for sale that help cut the cold.
I loved how close spectators can get to the balloons. And there is no way to describe the feeling once the balloons start going up in mass. It was spectacular and worth every effort it took to get there. I don’t know if this is an event I will ever see again, but I’m very glad I attended at least once in my lifetime.
Make a plan
This short but wonderful New Mexico weekend getaway would never have happened if I hadn’t been willing to “settle” on a short trip. Furthermore, it took some creative planning to execute.
I had my eye on New Mexico for a long time. Not only was it on the short list of states I had yet to visit, it looked to me to be the kind of place I would enjoy. But I faced a couple of challenges in getting there; the first being a lack of vacation time, but the biggest being flight prices. I diligently tracked the cost of flights from Boise to New Mexico. But a decent price was hard to come by and on the rare occasion one surfaced, the dates were all wrong. And I just wasn’t willing to fork over the big bucks for what I knew would be a shorter trip.
Piggyback with work
Then one day I realized that a certain conference I attend for work every year was being held in Las Vegas. Although I had not been able to find a decent flight to New Mexico from Idaho, there were plenty of decent options from Vegas. My company pays for me to get to and from the conference. So after I booked that trip, I worked with Southwest to change the date of my return flight as well as the departure airport (from Las Vegas to Albuquerque). They were nice enough to do so for free.
I then bought a one-way ticket to Albuquerque from Las Vegas—which ended up costing around $50. Talk about a deal! Plus, because the conference ate up my weekend at the beginning of the trip, I knew I would have a couple of days off at the end of the week in addition to my weekend. So I got to spend that extra time in New Mexico instead of settling for the quick weekend trip I had originally figured on. (Read my post about six ways to make business travel more fun.)
Travel Tip: never hesitate to piggyback off a work trip. Sometimes all you need to do is get creative with your booking and you will be well on your way to another adventure. However, never take advantage of your company by charging vacation time and/or expenses to your work trip. That seems like a good way to get fired.
Making the most of your time
I knew my time would be limited (even with the extra days), so I had to pick and choose what I really wanted to do. I researched blogs religiously. There were the obvious tourist sights to see, but I wanted to find a local’s opinion from a blog since I do not know anyone from New Mexico personally.
The internet is a wonderful thing and I came up with a pretty good list of New Mexico musts. For example, one thing I read was that you have to try the ranch dressing at Dion’s. Since I am a bit of a connoisseur of ranch dressing, of course it made the list. I also stood in line at what appeared to be a greasy shack just to try one of Blake’s Lotaburger burgers. And then there was the burrito from Allsup’s. (It would appear that a lot of my must-dos revolved around food. Which I guess makes sense. New Mexico definitely has its own style of food that is different from anywhere I have ever been. They are also very proud of it.)
You’ll also want to check out the local calendar to make sure you are aware of any big events. For one, you need to make sure a particular event won’t mess with your plans in a negative way (closed roads, shorter hours, etc.). But you’ll also want to be informed in case there is an event you want to attend.
When I was looking for a hotel in Albuquerque, I noticed the price of a room was a little on the high side. I decided to do some more research and that is when I discovered that my trip fell on the opening weekend of the Balloon Fiesta! How exciting. I booked my hotel right away because I figured prices would only increase from there and maybe even sell out altogether. Then I started planning around the big event because it seemed like an opportunity too good to pass up.
I know that I only scratched the surface with my New Mexico weekend getaway. My time there was short, but my experience was wonderful and I cannot wait to go back some day. Even a short trip can be memorable and fun. Don’t hesitate just because your time is limited. Make a plan and go!