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travel blog: albuquerque, nm + international balloon fiesta


I am so excited to finally share our trip to New Mexico with you all! We had such a wonderful time visiting Dave’s cousins Will + Elaine, who were gracious enough to let us stay at their amazing place – and who are potentially the most fun people I’ve ever met. 😀

They had been telling us for years that the International Balloon Fiesta is a must-see, so figured we’d take them up on the offer to visit and attend. We also ate possibly more than I’ve ever eaten on any trip (a-okay with me!), did a gorgeous hike and took a road trip to Santa Fe (which I’m also writing a post on) – so stay tuned.

This is Will + Elaine and the hubs – how cute are they?

They have chickens in their backyard so they always have fresh eggs – can I do that in Chicago? Cuz this might be my new thing.

Elaine showing off the egg haul. 😀

Their home is so welcoming and filled with New Mexican charm – which of course starts with a bundle of red chilis hanging on the front porch, which is a sign of a cheerful welcome – isn’t that lovely?

They have travelled a ton – so we loved hearing about their adventures as we sipped cold beers in the backyard – and adored looking at all the items they’ve collected on their travels.

I was in love with their decor, eclectic and fun, and truly an outward showing of their personalities. So freaking cool.

And don’t even get me started on their doggies. This pup was very photogenic. 😀

Honestly I could have just hung out with them at their place and relaxed the whole long weekend we were there – but boy did we have a lot to do! So let’s get to what we did and where we ate!

What we did:
First things first – of course we attended the Balloon Fest. And get this – Will + Elaine were adamant that we get up at 2:30 AM to get there in time. Say what!? Ha! But our weary butts rolled out of bed, threw on some clothes and headed out. Man – were they right. The traffic was already growing and the place was already packed! The best time to be there is when the mass ascension takes place – all the balloons start taking off at once, and we were right on time.

The insane thing about this experience is that you basically get to walk right up to the balloons – like within about 10 feet or so. It’s bananas and AWESOME. It’s the most photographed event in the world, and I can see why.

Our faces were lit with balloon fire.

When the sun started coming up over the mountains and the balloons were taking off one after another it was just pure magic.

I highly recommend visiting this “fiesta” if you can – it was so worth it, I’d most definitely go again.

After the fiesta we decided to head to the Sandia Mountains and go for a wee hike. It was practically overwhelming to see so much beauty in one day. Geez louise! So gorgeous.

Last, we headed to Palms Trading Company because Elaine said it was her favorite place to buy jewelry and I was hoping to find a little gem to commemorate my trip to the Southwest. I immediately fell in love with this bracelet which I bought and have coveted ever since. It’s a white buffalo turquoise stone. Ah! I love it so.

Alright y’all enough of what we did – let’s talk FOOD!

Where we ate:

One of our first meals was lunch at Garcia’s Kitchen, which has been around since the 70’s, has multiple locations through the city and was swamped, so I knew it had to be good.

I dove right in with the combo plate beef taco, cheese enchilada, pork tamale served with choice of chili sauce ordered “Christmas” style – both red and green. Fa la la la laaaa, la la la la. A big plate of YUM.

For dinner we hit up Casa de Benavidez which was so good and SO cute. We sat outside and had margaritas among the trees and twinkly lights on their back patio – which I took no pictures of, so use your imagination. 😀

We had awesome guac and I ordered the steak fajitas, which are not very New Mexican-y but they sounded good and damn if they didn’t hit the spot.

Our last meal in Santa Fe was fan-freakin-tastic. We went to Frontier for breakfast, which seems like it’s absolutely an Albuquerque institution. How good does all of this look?!

I followed Elaine’s lead and ordered the huevos rancheros, some strong coffee and a sweet roll. And look, I don’t want all my Chicago peeps to totally lose their shit…but this sweet roll may have one-upped Ann Sathers. I know, crazy, right? But true.

And the huevos rancheros were so fabulous on the homemade tortillas, I could have eaten an entire additional plate – easy peasy.

The walls of the restaurant are totally covered with art (a lot of the Duke), which just makes for a bright, fun, cheerful space to eat + hang. Definitely a must-visit if you’re in town.

And that’s a wrap on this piece of our trip – we also hit up Sante Fe and Madrid, which were both spectacular, so I’ll be posting more about our adventure soon!

Hope you enjoyed this little vacay we took and meeting some of our fam! <3


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